I have recently made a a career change. Two years previous I found myself either cooking or tour guiding in the busy tourist town of Whistler, BC. Now in my final year of completing a degree in Tourism I have discovered that there is more to tourism than competing for market share an increasing the bottom line.
Recently I traveled to Vietnam. There, I found myself working for a Responsible Tourism company (Footprint Vietnam Travel) developing their Community Based Tourism Products. The job would be the vehicle that would help me attain my visa and pay for my living expensive.
While I was in Vietnam my primary focus was CBT and was a volunteer for a number of CBT efforts including the project entitled: POVERTY REDUCTION THROUGH CBT IN RURAL VIETNAM (SAPA). It was here that I truly saw the significant impacts of tourism and vowed to do my very best to use tourism as the catalyst for positive change.
I have found success in working with all stakeholders in the tourism experience; the tour company (private sector), the tourist, and the host community. Further, I have played the role of teacher and student and seen the changemaking possibilities each can have when there is enthusiasm, creativity, openness, and passion.
I found a special connection in the small community of Taphin, near Sapa, Vietnam. It was here that I was a student volunteer in a CBT Development Project sponsored by CIDA. However, a more profound experience was when I had the opportunity to live with the hilltribe people (the Dao) of the area.
I was invited to stay for an extended length of time, not as a teacher but as a friend. My days were filled with everything Dao; I would eat, sleep and work as they would and I would end up learning a new way of life. A way of life that at a special connection with the earth as well as a interdependence on community and family.
It was truly a life changing experience that taught me more about the Doa and about myself. I am now proud to say that I have 'family' in Taphin who I miss every day that I am not there. And, we will be a part of eachother's life forever.
I want to see people's view of tourism change. Tourism can play a contentious role in any community and often is associated with negative impacts. But, each tourism product, if managed properly, can do more than make someone money or create lasting memories for a vacationer.
It is hoped that someday every business, marketing, master or strategic plan include a core section that will be focused on a quadruple bottom line (economic, social, environmental, climate) and that every tourist will have the motivation to make choices that will inflict positive change.
Now almost fifteen years in the tourism industry working as a cook, tour guide and then into marketing and operations I have made a personal choice to take what I have learned about tourism and use it as a tool. After completion of a Tourism diploma, I began a mix of part time study towards a degree and travel. Most recently I spent a year and a half in Southeast Asia, mainly in Vietnam, working as a Tourism English Teacher at a Hanoi University and a marketing and product development consultant for a local tour operator. However, my focus in Vietnam was not to work but to volunteer in order to gain valuable experience towards a new career in tourism. My community contributions have included many international experiences. Highlights being: research and conservation of leatherback sea turtles, grassroots English schools for hilltribe teens and street kids, CBT training in the hilltribe communities of Sapa, and most recently a CBT project in Paraguay.