The purpose of my Sustainability Capstone project was to identify different forms of sustainable tourism and how they best impact the host community. I used this research to inform the student body about sustainable tourism through a series of blog posts and presentation at the pre-departure orientation for study abroad students. The results revealed that university students can become leaders for responsible tourism.
To address the rise in students traveling abroad and their global footprint, I sought to define different forms of alternative travel: responsible travel, ecotourism, and “voluntourism.” Responsible travel is the idea of engaging in the complexity of the community while minimizing the costs on the host community, and thereby holding the tourist responsible for those costs. Ecotourism is a type of responsible travel that focuses on the travel to natural environments while supporting the local culture. Voluntourism is the form of travel with the purpose of a service experience in a usually impoverished area. Together, these identify the main facets of alternative travel.
At the University of Notre Dame, there was a large gap in orientation materials regarding alternative travel for university students studying abroad. With a focus on study abroad, the students most identify with responsible travel. The method of my execution was extrapolating scholarly studies and real life experiences to create blogs for the university student. Additionally, the material was relevant in a presentation at the study abroad pre-departure orientation. As a result, students had a largely positive and intrigued response. More than anything, there was a surprise that this type of travel existed for those traveling to big cities and not necessarily focusing on national parks.
Going forward, this discussion must continue for students traveling abroad. Both Notre Dame International and the students have expressed a demand for a continuation in educating students on sustainable travel at Notre Dame. The global student is going to continue to have more international experiences. This is the perfect opportunity to develop leaders for alternative travel. With this growth, tourism truly can become an effective tool for sustainable development.