UNT and Costa Rican institution to offer graduate degree in international sustainable tourism
May 18, 2010

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Travel and tourism is the second-largest services export industry in the U.S., with the industry being one of the nation's largest employers. Sustainable tourism -- tourism development that strives to meet the needs of the present tourism market without compromising the resources of future generations -- is a tourism specialty that balances environmental, economic and socio-cultural benefits and concerns.


A new master's degree in the University of North Texas School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management will educate students for management and leadership positions in this specialty as UNT's first joint international graduate degree.


The degree is the first of its kind in the U.S., offering students an interdisciplinary perspective on sustainability and tourism with one year of study at UNT and one year of study in Costa Rica. Recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the master of science degree with major in international sustainable tourism will provide students with 36 hours of coursework at both the UNT campus and CATIE, an international higher education, research and development center in Turrialba, Costa Rica.

Dr. Lea Dopson, chair of the Hospitality Management program and administrator of the new degree at UNT, said students who enroll in the degree program "will receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to study sustainable tourism issues in a country that has positioned itself as a leader in the field.


Costa Rica, a pioneer in environmental conservation, enjoys more than 2 million visitors each year and generates more than $2.2 billion in tourism revenues. The country's network of national parks and conservation areas, biodiversity, innovative policies and exceptional geographic location make it ideal for scholars and institutions devoted to uses relating to natural resources, Dopson said. "It is vital for successful tourism development professionals to understand the interdependencies between the three pillars of sustainable development -- economic benefits, environmental impacts, and social and cultural resources," she said. "Our students will be learning to solve practical sustainability issues. Some will graduate with a policy focus and work with local, regional and national governments to affect change. Others will have an operations focus, working with tourism companies and hotels to develop companywide sustainability initiatives."

Many worldwide hotel and resort companies already have incorporated sustainable practices, including Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International and Walt Disney World. The field or research experience required in the degree program, Dopson said, could result in a student studying eco-lodges near Costa Rican volcanoes, working with governmental agencies in policy development or researching the preservation of beaches and natural resources surrounding a resort hotel.

She noted that the unique features of the master's program are its international scope, the hospitality services/operations focus of sustainable tourism and application of sustainable tourism in different nations.


"The partnership with CATIE will contribute to the international objectives of UNT and has the potential to increase participation among interested students in all majors," Dopson said. The degree program, she said, should be of interest to students with bachelor's degrees in anthropology, biology, ecology, environmental science, business, public administration, recreation and leisure studies, sociology and many other areas in addition to hospitality management and tourism.


For more information about the new degree program, contact Dr. Lisa Kennon, associate professor and graduate coordinator, at mistinfo@unt.edu or 940-565-4257.


About CATIE: With its headquarters in Turrialba, Costa Rica, CATIE is an internationally recognized research, higher education and technical cooperation center for agriculture and natural resource management in Latin America and the Caribbean. It has 13 member countries that reach from Mexico to Paraguay and the longest-running graduate program in agriculture and natural resources in Latin America. 



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