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Students in the HTM-445: Community-Based Tourism Planning course traveled to Ecuador to work on a sustainable tourism plan to help communities balance economic development with preservation.

Students in the HTM-445: Community-Based Tourism Planning course traveled to Ecuador to work on a sustainable tourism plan to help communities balance economic development with preservation.

Students take service-learning to Ecuador and work on a community-based sustainable tourism plan

In 2008-2009, service-learning courses continued to be a popular choice among students who want to weave civic engagement into their academic study. One such course is HTM-445, the Community-Based Tourism Planning Course. For the third consecutive summer, Dr. David Cardenas, faculty member in the Department of Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Management, will take a group of students to Ayampe, Ecuador, to work on a community-based, sustainable tourism plan. Cardenas, an Ecuador native, created the course, which is a 22-day trip designed to help communities consider sustainable tourism as a means of balancing economic development with the preservation of social and environmental resources to teach students about international tourism planning. During past trips, students have collected data about the use of locally grown ingredients in area restaurants, interviewed local leaders about the direction of tourism development in Ayampe and performed service projects. This summer, they plan to work on a town park and help in the renovation of their local school. “We’re hoping this will eventually be a model for small, rural communities around the world,” Cardenas says. “Whether in Mebane, North Carolina, or Ayampe, Ecuador, the principles remain the same.”

Cardenas and fellow faculty member Erick Byrd are currently working on an assessment tool to measure stakeholders’ understanding of sustainable tourism with the goal of developing education programs and increasing engagement in the planning process.