Thinking about your summer travel plans? So are tourism industry executives in vacation spots around the globe.
Which destinations will attract tourist dollars depends on more than the allure of stunning vistas, entertainment and exotic food. More than ever, discerning travelers want assurances that their adventures won’t leave a giant footprint in the sand or on the rainforest floor.
Sustainable tourism reflects this growing awareness of the cultural, environmental, economic and political impacts of travel.
“It’s more than green tourism,” said Vinod Sasidharan, coordinator of the recreation and tourism management program at San Diego State University. “Sustainable tourism supports the economic viability of a city or region’s industry while respecting the local ecology, resources and culture.”
SDSU is the only program in the U.S. to offer a sustainable tourism curriculum at the undergraduate level. The four-year degree allows students to explore issues at the intersection of the tourism industry and the community, such as transportation, migration, communication, education, natural resources and economic development.
“Our students understand the sustainability of the business of tourism, which is a broader concept than “tourism management,” Sasidharan said. “We teach them that green tourism and corporate social responsibility are not separate pieces to be shoehorned into existing operations.”
The program is one of 11 at SDSU that requires an international component. Students have traveled as far afield as Finland, Romania, South Africa, Fiji and Turkey to study sustainable tourism practices.
Sasidharan, whose research has been funded by the Peace Corps, the National Park Service and the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said SDSU’s program is training critical thinkers with hands-on experience in global tourism sustainability from both operational and management standpoints.