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On day 4, the internationally focused course took a step back and deeper look into local impact with guest lecturers Ann Nygard,  UVM professor Dave Kestenbaum and the Vermont Fresh Network’s Executive Director, Meghan Sheradin.  They also explored certification standards with Green Seal representative, Rani Bhattacharyya.

Guest lecturer, Ann Nygard, takes questions during the lecture on National Geographic’s Geotourism Program.

The morning began with an overview of National Geographic’s Geotourism Program.  Ann Nygard spoke on geotourism’s special niche within the sustainable tourism industry as a sub-category that adds to sustainability principles by emphasizing a destination’s distinct “sense of place,”  to benefit both the tourist and resident.

Kestenbaum provided personal insight to Vermont’s relationship with the National Geographic geotourism program and the opportunities and challenges associated with such a partnership.

UVM professor, Dave Kestenbaum, on geotourism and the Vermont Fresh Network's impact on the local farming economy.

In the afternoon, the students heard from Meghan Sheradin, Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network, a local NGO focused on building relationships among farmers, food producers and chefs to promote Vermont chefs and restaurants that use Vermont grown and produced foods.

Sheradin and Kestenbaum provided excellent insight into how these regional connections have contributed to stronger communities and their economies, the expansion of the colorful foodie culture and the growth in cuisine tourism that Vermont has experienced in recent years.

Meghan Sheradin on creating the Vermont Fresh Network.

Certification

In addition to exploring tourism’s local impact in Vermont, day 4 also featured guest lecturer, Rani Bhattacharyya of Green Seal, a non profit, independent certifying body whose role in tourism certification increased as they partnered with the lodging industry, the nation’s second largest employer, to promote environmentally responsible products and practices within lodging properties.

Guest speaker, Rani Bhattacharyya, on certification.

All the presenters have been very beneficial.  It’s great to get both the theoretical and practical view, and of course I loved hearing from the Vermont people!  – John, UVM grad student

Megan Epler Wood and Bhattacharyya spoke on the fundamentals of the certification industry, its role in the sustainable tourism industry and touched on specific certification items such as waste minimization, energy efficiency and water resource management.

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Megan Epler Wood presents during the UVM summer session.

Megan Epler Wood presents on her field experience and research duing the course

Megan provided insights from her 8 years of working in challenging field situations as an international development consultant, where tourism can be a lifeline for people living far from the benefits of the cash economy and globalization.

Her passion to direct the attention of sustainable tourism professionals to the growing importance of tourism in the global economy and the need to make it work on behalf of peoples living in rural areas motivates her drive to build the knowledge base for tourism development professionals.  Megan works with local people who treasure the nature and biodiversity around them, want to preserve their culture, and yet are naturally keen on obtaining more health and education benefits in their distant locales.  Some cash is required, but with local people and businesses in the lead developing viable small and medium enterprises is key and that is what the course sought to demonstrate via a wide variety of cases.

In this session,  Megan talked about the people she collaborated with with in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Sierra Leone, and El Salvador. The was class full of good questions, interactions, and thoughtful discussions.   Folks from class seemed to appreciate the process of both learning, discussion and facilitation. Megan talked about how meaningful she finds her work,  but she also communicated her concern about the limited training available for sustainable tourism development professionals. Tourism NGOs, consultant and local staff often lack the tools they need to advance sustainable tourism planning in a real world local context.  Given the momentum of tourism development in this new Millennium, the need for more effective capacity building programs, collaborative learning, training and greater innovation in approach to the development of destinations will only become more critical to the tourism industry.

I’ve really enjoyed how Megan can pull all of these concepts and relationships together for us, over and over throughout the week.  I love how she is passionately involved and open about sharing her vast personal experience.  It’s been so valuable from all different perspectives.

-Melanie, student

This session also included a discussion about connecting tourism products to local supply chains. It was a concrete example of an opportunity to build truly sustainable foundations for responsible tourism. In this case study, we looked at howVermont has created a booming local food economy that has farmers selling roughly $16 million dollars per year, with more every year, to chefs working in hotels and restaurants in the State. This was an important opporunity to emphasize how making sustainable tourism an economic driver for better purchasing practices can make such a difference.  Base upon the  student question and comment period, this was one of the most exciting topics in the course!

Even with no field experience, I now feel that I have a voice if I go back to Ecuador; I feel that I could give my opinion now with confidence, having learned from this excellent personal and professional experience.

-Priscila, student

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