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New Fall Harvard Extension School Course Explores Sustainable Tourism

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CAMBRIDGE, MA — Tourism is considered by the United Nations as one of the largest industries in the world, but its diverse, global footprint can threaten ecosystems and local cultures worldwide. Recognizing the need for formal training in the area of sustainable tourism, the Harvard Extension School this fall offers the new course, Environmental Management of International Tourism Development—both online and on campus—as part of its Graduate Program in Sustainability and Environmental Management.

Taught by sustainable tourism expert Megan Epler Wood, the course lays out specific methodologies for managing tourism sustainably worldwide. Lectures and readings on the global tourism industry’s business and supply chain models preface an in-depth review of how mainstream tourism companies can more effectively take on the challenge of environmental management worldwide.

Explains Ms. Wood, “Industries around the world are making environmental management an integral part of their business strategies. However, tourism companies have been slow to adopt environmental management practices, frequently undertaking simple measures that are easy to publicize to their guests, without managing a program that will have long-lasting effects. A more thorough approach is needed.”

Presently valued at 6 percent of the global economy, the tourism industry managed more than 800 million trips in 2005. As volumes increase, the challenge to manage tourism continues to grow. The relatively new field of sustainable tourism seeks to develop tourism with lower environmental impacts, social and cultural benefits, and positive economic opportunities for countries around the world.

To give students a real-life look at this growing field, course guest speakers from the sustainable tourism industry give presentations throughout the semester. Organizations represented include Wyndham Hotels, Sabre Holdings, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Rock Resorts, and Green Seal.

Megan Epler Wood, MS, is principal with EplerWood International. She is the founder of The International Ecotourism Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the development of sustainable tourism worldwide. EplerWood International helps some of the poorest countries in the world develop sustainable tourism, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka.

“Megan Epler Wood is a truly inspirational leader in the field of environmental tourism,” says John D. Spengler, director of the sustainability and environmental management program at Harvard Extension School. “She’ll bring to the classroom real world experiences from her extensive consulting with government, NGOs, and important leaders in the hospitality and cruise line industry.”

Course enrollment is open to all.

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