Megan Epler Wood

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Following the video conference from Africa, Megan led a great session on creating tourism models that bring new economic benefits to rural peoples.  In recent years, sustainable tourism development has become an interesting new opportunity for post war countries.   Megan guided the class through her firm, Eplerwood International’s (EWI), experience in Sierra Leone and the different opportunities and challenges that were facing the struggling economy during her work there.

"It all makes sense now!" - Star

After lunch, Epler Wood and EWI consultant, Holly Jones, then presented on the firm’s 3 year project in El Salvador, EcoExperiencias, which has built ecotourism from the ground up–fostering the growth of microenterprises through strategic business planning, targeted capacity building, a solid marketing mix and a cutting edge website that brings the beauty of El Salvador to the world for the first time.

Great dialogs!

Students commented that the El Salvador case study did an excellent job of piecing together all of the different stakeholders’ roles and strategies that the course had covered throughout the week.

Each student could see where they fit into the broader picture of the tourism supply chain!   A great case study for the last day of class!

I came into Gap Adventures from college and this has been my 1st career.  I didn’t learn a lot about this in college. During the days of this course, we learned a lot about NGOs and public sector that I didn’t even think of before; a huge lightbulb just turned on with the EcoExperiencias El Salvador case study.  Every single component was all tied together.  -Star, student & Gap Adventures sales manager

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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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The week started off running with Megan Epler Wood’s orientation lectures and a great kick-off presentation by Peter Shumlin, VT Gubernatorial Candidate and Senate Pro-tem leader.

The discussion for the night’s events centered around how sustainable tourism can better benefit local economies. He was joined at the podium by internationally renowned corporate CEO, Bruce Poon Tip of Gap Adventures in Toronto, Canada. Together they officially launched the new short course, Global Sustainable Ecotourism currently being conducted from July12-16 at UVM as part of the Continuing Education Program.

David Kestenbaum of the UVM Extension Tourism Data Center facilitated and Meghan Sheradin Executive Director of Vermont Fresh Network  co-hosted.
Shumlin discussed his work with his family firm, Putney Student Travel, and the positive economic impacts he has seen from sustainable tourism, both in Vermont and around the world. Bruce Poon Tip, who launched his innovative firm 20 years ago this year, discussed how through incorporating sustainability into all corporate operations has helped to make Gap Adventures the largest independent adventure travel firm in the world. Meghan Sheradin, Executive Director of Vermont Fresh Network provided data on how the tourism and hospitality industry is a primary driver for Vermont’s local food economy.

Kick-off for first annual UVM Summer Program for Global Sustainable Tourism

Peter Shumlin, VT Gubernatorial Candidate delivers the opening remarks.

Participants enjoy the opening day reception.

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Sustainable Ecotourism

Lead Instructor: Megan Epler Wood, Lead Lecturer and owner, EplerWood International2

Global Sustainable Ecotourism Development: Achieving Economic Growth, Alleviation of Poverty, and Environmental ConservationA Five-Day, Intensive Summer Program for Professional Development or College Credit

Dates: July 12-16, 2010
Time: 8:00AM – 5:30PM and 6:00PM -8:00PM Monday, July 12, 2010
Location: UVM campus
Registration: Five day intensive either taken as a professional certificate program;
or three college credits.(View enrollment options3.)
Fees: Depend on the enrollment option you select. (View enrollment options3.)
Schedule: Daily program schedule for the week4

imageProgram Description:
In the past 20 years, ecotourism has emerged as one of the most dynamic and discussed tools for sustainable development. In the last 10 years, the field has been much enriched by a broad array of disciplines, particularly economic development and social/pro-poor development techniques. Ecotourism is now broadly and appropriately applied as a rural economic and sustainable development tool. Its successful application is based on a set of methodologies that all students and development practitioners require to be successful.

This course will look at the big picture of tourism development impacts and approaches to deliver low impact development. It will teach a holistic approach to planning and tourism development that reviews governments’ and international donors’ role in rural land development, stressing bioregional planning as a key tool for governments and their donors to move rural areas into a more thorough process for sustainable regional development.

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