By: Shelly Zornes | CWU gradudate student
Posted: May 10, 2011
Ecuador will once again be the destination hot-spot for Central Washington University students to study sustainable tourism this summer.
The Recreation and Tourism (RT) course, RT 398 International Perspectives on Sustainable Tourism: Ecuador, now in its second year, will provide students with “a unique opportunity to examine the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts and opportunities across a range of geographical and socio-economic landscapes,” according to Kenneth Cohen, assistant professor of the CWU RT program, who created the course.
“Through experiential learning, students will better understand their place in a world-wide movement and the economic, ethical, personal, and professional intersections that are reconciled to advance sustainable tourism.”
This year, 13 students — nine RT majors and four from other majors — will participate in the program from June 21 to July 5. According to Cohen, that more than doubles the number of students who attended last year.
“This year’s itinerary is a bit different, but equally challenging,” Cohen said. “We’ll be studying water conservation efforts high in the Andes, learning about efforts to protect the Andean Condor, tracking hump back whales and visiting with representatives of the Rain Forest Alliance to discuss how sustainable tourism is playing a role in conservation efforts.”
Students generally stay in Ecuador two weeks, however, Carina Booth, a student who attended last year’s trip, chose to stay in the country three extra months to experience the culture, people, language and traditions as much as possible.
After CWU students departed Ecuador, Booth stayed behind and spent the remainder of her time working as an intern for an organization. She gave tours and coordinated outdoor trips to waterfalls, archaeological sites and historical sites in the city of Cuenca.
“I enjoyed every second of my three months in Ecuador,” said Booth, a recreation management major and environmental studies minor.
This year, RT 398 will take students to several regions, including the Secoya territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Northern Andes and the coast and immerse them in the cultural lifestyle of the Ecuadorian communities they visit.
According to the syllabus, “Students will experience sustainable tourism policies and practices first-hand by attending lectures delivered by national and regional tourism representatives; engaging directly in ecotourism activities; visiting sustainable tourism destinations; participating in home-stays; and reflecting on their experience to deepen their learning and enhance their understanding of this complex industry.”
Last year student participated in activities including native rituals such as sunrise storytelling, guided jungle hikes to identify medicinal plants and fermenting of the traditional drink, chicha.
Booth added, “While doing a home-stay in the Andes with families, we had the opportunity to help the families with their daily tasks such as cooking, corn picking, feeding their animals, etc.”
Booth said this class opened her eyes to a new country, traditions and people, and challenged her physically, emotionally and mentally.
“Just being able to understand sustainability on this large of a scale makes this trip incredibly valuable to my future career,” explained Booth, who is hopes to find a career in sustainable development in Parks and Recreation.