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Learning the Business of Eco-Tourism
Start date: Nov 1, 2009,

Eco-tourism is a segment of the tourism industry that is growing rapidly in popularity. The importance of eco-tourism as an agent for economic growth in remote areas of Europe and in areas witnessing declining income and opportunities through conventional agriculture means it is imperative appropriate educational supports are developed to encourage and enhance its potential. Since it is destined to become a substantial part of the 21st Century travel industry, it is important to create an understanding of what eco-tourism is; what its goals are; what benefits can accrue to local communities; what barriers remain and how they can be overcome. The International Eco-tourism Society (TIES) defines eco-tourism as: "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare and economy of local people". Eco-tourism means education, for both tourists and residents of host communities. Essential to good eco-tourism are well-trained, multilingual naturalist guides with skills in natural and cultural history, environmental interpretation, ethical principles and effective communication. Central to the growth of eco-tourism as a viable economic tool for rural development is the provision of appropriate training and educational content that is relevant and accessible to those living in eco-tourism destinations but removed from core education service provision whether for reasons of distance or disposition.N8URjob will address current educational deficits regarding eco-tourism by developing and piloting a comprehensive e-learning training and education platform. The objectives of the project are to design and pilot a modular online eco-tourism curriculum, the Eco-tourism Certificate, encompassing the ethical, environmental, ecological, business development, language and ICT skills necessary to develop a sustainable eco-tourism enterprise. It will also develop a new pedagogical strategy and tutor induction programme for adult educators to ensure that learning opportunities provided are relevant and appropriate to the target audience.Research conducted in partner countries has identified middle-aged adults as the most likely potential learners. Courseware and curricula developed will be designed to take due cognisance of preferred learning styles, learning habits and learning potential of the target group. Curricula developed will be competency based, describing specific learning outcomes for each module and appropriate testing and accreditation. They will also facilitate the accreditation of prior learning. Accreditation will be sought for the online courses from national accreditation bodies and bench-marked against National Qualification Frameworks, where applicable, and EQF to facilitate transferability, mobility and recognition. Curricula will include a range of core and elective models to allow for the wide range of environments and cultures represented among the project partners. Curricula will be available in all partner languages as appropriate.The multi-faceted curriculum will address a range of diverse areas such as; the role of ethics in eco-tourism; eco-tourism typologies; developing eco-tourism products and services; business management of eco-tourism; marketing and branding of eco-tourism using GPS and other ICT tools; language requirements of eco-tourism enterprises; eco-labelling; social and ecological impacts of eco-tourism.Eco-tourism can be a constructive component of strategies to promote both environmental protection and development of private enterprise. N8URjob will provide technical and management training to promote new livelihoods, including eco-tourism based employment, as an alternative and/or supplement to agriculture in remote locations in the partner countries. The project will stimulate the development of eco-tourism strategies that are informed by a bottom-up approach and encourage the development of trans-national eco-tourism cooperatives and/or associations.
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