SOU to offer ‘sustainable tourism’ degree – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

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Program builds on Ashland school’s certificate program in the same field of study

Indigo Creek Outfittters takes customers through Nugget Falls on the Rogue River. Indigo owner Will Volpert, an SOU grad, credits his rafting guides as being “the best stewards of some of these special places we visit.” [Mail Tribune/file photo]

Starting fall term, Southern Oregon University students will be able to take courses toward a new degree program emphasizing environmental sustainability in the tourism industry while also teaching them how to be business leaders in the field.

The university recently announced the approval of a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Tourism Management, consisting of such courses as “Sustainable Tourism,” but also “Tourism Policy and Planning,” as well as “Case Studies in Corporate Sustainability.”

The new degree is possible, in part, through the work of Pavlina McGrady, SOU associate professor of business, who has worked at the Ashland institution since 2016. In that time, she developed the sustainable tourism course and a certificate in sustainable tourism management.

“This is kind of the culminating point with this new program — a full degree,” McGrady said, “and, I don’t know, hopefully, in a couple years, we’ll work on a graduate degree, as well.”

Asked to define “sustainable tourism,” McGrady used the same definition as the World Tourism Organization, which defines it, in part, as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts.” It’s a definition that reflects the industry’s evolution, according to McGrady, and is a reason why SOU sought to create a new degree around sustainable tourism.

“Now is also a good time to stop, think, re-strategize and, maybe, come up with new models because, previously, tourism was mainly focusing on marketing,” she said. “You can market and get more people, but you don’t think about the impacts of that.”

She described the state of the tourism industry as at a “tipping point,” with pressure from stakeholders and consumers who want more sustainable products and services.

“There’s really, I’d argue, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the industry, globally, as a sector,” McGrady said.

To graduate with a degree in sustainable tourism, students must complete 36 credit hours of required lower division coursework in business, environmental science and tourism, and 52 credit hours of required upper division coursework.

“The student graduating will have this long-term, systemic thinking,” McGrady said. “Any business, whether it’s tourism-related or not, cannot be successful in the long term if there’s no sustainability mindset. The purpose should be bigger than making money; you have to think about all of the people, the environment. All these elements help you be successful and stay in business.”

Will Volpert is the owner of Phoenix-based Indigo Creek Outfitters, which offers professionally guided whitewater rafting tours in Southern Oregon.

But Volpert, who graduated with a business degree from SOU, has an opinion on what “sustainability” means, both from the business and environmental perspectives.

Whereas “business sustainability” means following an operating plan to keep something going without additional resources, Volpert said “environmental sustainability” for Indigo means “responsibly offering tours … that do not have a negative impact on the resource,” be it the river, access points or camping areas, for example.

“Sustainable tourism takes into account all of these different lenses,” Volpert said, “and especially looks at potential impacts that bringing visitors to a rural community could potentially have, and figuring out ways to make sure that it’s a positive impact. But if there are potential negative impacts, there’s work that can go into mitigating those.”

Volpert credits his rafting guides as being “the best stewards of some of these special places we visit.”

Maybe future guides could have a bachelor’s degree in sustainable tourism management.

“We take very well-educated, smart, caring people on these trips,” Volpert said. “It’s important to them that we operate in ethical ways that promote the health and vitality of the places we visit. Having an employee base that understands the importance of that, down the road, is going to be really important for places like the Klamath River. Not only do I think it’s the right thing to do — I also think it’s good for business.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.





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