The availability of skilled labor and institutions of higher education that can contribute to human capacity building are prerequisites for tourism-dependent nations like vietnam. The exploration of students motivations is one way in which the role of institutions of higher education in capacity building and tourism development can be further understood. This research explores students motivational orientations related to enrollment in tourism degree programs in vietnam. Three key categories emerged: enthusiasm for travel and tourism; employment; and contribution to national industry. The findings are linked to the basic psychological needs of self-determination theory, namely autonomy, competence, and relatedness. 2017 Asia pacific tourism association.