UNT MIST students pioneer the world of sustainability in tourism

UNT MIST students pioneer the world of sustainability in tourism

UNT MIST students pioneer the world of sustainability in tourism
February 22
17:40 2017

Keoni Holoman | Staff Writer

UNT graduate students in the MIST program will set off to Costa Rica this summer in an effort to satisfy the country’s tourism goals while maintaining the integrity of their natural resources.

The 16 masters of science in international sustainable tourism students will live in Costa Rica for the next school year with the CATIE, Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center where they will research and partner with local tourist organizations to help achieve this economic-environmental balance.

Six students in the program are currently living and researching in Costa Rica while the other 10 will make their way there in August.

“We will be in Costa Rica for an entire year,” MIST program student Kristi Ingram said. “From there we will start developing and working with companies and institutions to help them become more sustainable and that’s a really important aspect of our program and the Costa Rican lifestyle.”

According to Ingram, Costa Rica has “surprisingly” been sufficient on its own resources for the past year and is now looking for methods to remedy the growing effect tourism has on their economy.

While all of the MIST students will conduct individual research in different parts of Costa Rica pertaining to their particular interests, the main interest of the group is to find out what sustainable practices will work in order to preserve the country’s environment.

“I want to focus on preservation of historic and ancient cities,” MIST program student and study abroad program assistant Hailie Pelka said.

Pelka will be working in the city of La Fortuna to conserve the strong ancestral ties the natives have to the land.

“What’s really interesting about La Fortuna specifically, it that it has a socialistic point of view,” she said. “There are four original families that settled in La Fortuna and their ancestors are still there today and donate land to schools for football fields and other community events, so it’s a very community-based agency.”

Both Ingram and Pelka hope their findings will contribute to Costa Rica’s tourism sustainability, but also to tell millennial travelers and UNT’s study abroad student participants to be mindful of their footprint.

“[Millenials] are the fastest growing generation and the next tourism market,” Ingram said. “People will go to these places like Machu Picchu and more that are rapidly being worn down and these places can’t handle the tourism influx that’s being created.”

MIST program students, including Ingram and Pelka, have discussed the specific factors that contribute to the demolishing of foreign countries natural habitats via tourism.

“In some areas of the U.S., there seems to be a little bit of a resistance to sustainability, because it’s new and it’s change,” Ingram said. “We’re a capitalist society, I mean, it’s about money. It’s not about what is best for the environment.”

BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have experienced a growth in millennial travel to their countries that has placed strain on certain historical and environmental monuments. Pelka and Ingram said this could be attributed to a lack of sustainability education.

The UNT study abroad office does not currently track UNT’s environmental footprint students create when traveling.

At this time, UNT does not keep track of each program’s environmental footprint abroad,” said Orie Varner, study abroad assistant director. “Often times, it is through a study abroad experience that students are truly exposed to real life applications of good environmental stewardship that permeate every aspect of everyday life with ease.”

Pelka hopes that the MIST as a whole is able to find answers for Costa Rica’s tourism market and make a difference.

“We’re all very young, and it’s refreshing to see young people step up,” said Pelka. “I think that’s why we’re all in this program because we want to see change in the tourism industry.”

Featured Image: A map of Costa Rica. File Photo

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North Texas Daily

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