Students Study Sustainable Tourism in Thailand
August 23, 2011

UNT Hospitality Management faculty member, Dr. Dan Spears, lead a group of fifteen UNT Emerald Eagle Scholars to Thailand for their fifth annual study abroad tour. While in Thailand, students spent six to seven days each in three parts of the country including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. During the study abroad, each student participated in the SMHM 2800 Foundations of International Travel and Tourism course, in which the prime focus was studying "the triple bottom line." Each team of students focussed on one of three areas including economic impacts, environmental impacts, and social and cultural impacts of tourism in Thailand.

At each of the three destinations, students were able to interact with the local institutes including, Mahidol University International College in Bangkok, Payap University in Chiang Mai, and Prince of Songkhla University in Phuket. While in Bangkok, they attended a lecture from Dr. Chirapol Sintunawa about Green Leaf Certification, which focuses to encourage and improve the efficiency of hotels and related businesses in the tourism industry to respond to environmental development and protection.

One of the many highlights of the trip included visiting the ancient city of Ayutthaya, which is one of the few UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated World Heritage Sites, as well as meeting representatives from UNESCO at their location in Bangkok.

A great example of sustainable tourism was experienced by the students at their visit to Chiang Mai, which is home to many villages that handcraft goods to sell to tourists. The student group studying economic impacts reported, "The [sale] of these items fits into the cycle of generating more money directly to the Thai citizens, instead of the money going into an outside economy. It's interesting to process these marketing methods with our own eyes."

Toward the end of the trip, the students also participated in a "voluntourism" project. This project required students to volunteer in different projects such as handcrafting picture frames to sell to tourists to help benefit the areas in Phuket that were devastated by the 2004 tsunami.

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