A team from the UST College of Tourism and Hospitality (CTHM) composed of six students under the Tourism Management program ranked fifth in a global competition organized recently by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held virtually through Zoom.
The UNWTO Students’ League is a competition for travel and tourism students that aims to foster creative, innovative, and sustainable solutions to pressing topics facing the tourism sector. The proposed solutions must be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The CTHM group, who answers to the name ‘Thomasian SDG Keepers,’ joined the League under Rural Development Challenge for Undergraduates category. The team members were: Ms. Mary Maureen Cucio, Mr. Mark Endrinal, Ms. Floresca May Martin, Ms. Tiffany Montances, Ms. Gershei Mae K. Quirao, and Mr. Al Reile Dela Torre.
Mr. Arnulfo Ricardo A. Butiong, Mr. Avi Ben P. Andalecio, and Mr. Jame Monren T. Mercado, faculty members from CTHM served as the team’s coaches.
Being a virtual competition, the challenges were uploaded, and the teams were given a few weeks to conceptualize and later present their solutions and tourism plans for Paranas, Samar.
According to the team, the entire process of conceptualizing their tourism plan deepened their knowledge of different strategies, methods, and skills in analyzing problem-based tourism concerns. Their proposed solutions and plans included the analysis of the destination’s target market, budgeting of possible expenses, scope and types of solution options, and categories of marketing, among others.
Moreover, through the online training sessions provided by the UNWTO during the competition, the team learned the importance of conceptualizing and implementing activities that would engage both the tourists and the locals, without neglecting the value of respect and understanding of differences of cultures, livelihoods, and capabilities.
The team was supported by the CTHM administrators led by its Dean Atty. Gezzez Giezi G. Granado, DCL, the Department of Tourism – Region 8 (DOT R8), the Municipality of Paranas, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Tour Guides and Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization (TORPEDO), and the Tenani Association for Women and Development (TAWAD).
Inspired by the stories of the community members on how tourism helped in improving their lives and motivated by the potential positive impact of their proposal, the team’s solution and tourism plan for the community in Paranas, Samar landed 5th place in the international competition.
Team member Cucio shared that, “More than the satisfaction of being part of the Top 5, what I am grateful for is that we were able to talk and communicate with the locals of a real community in our country. This competition made me realize that our industry creates a ripple of events that will have corresponding impacts on people’s lives. It goes to show how actions like these can help our country progress in these times.”
Highlighting that the UNWTO Students League Competition Rural Development Category has opened opportunities for underrated local destinations to emerge, Cucio added that the team was proud to represent the University and country in a global competition.
At the same time, the students found fulfillment in knowing that their output can empower any chosen locality, that their consolidated ideas can put some of the less-known destinations in the country in the global context, following tourism sustainability and ethical standards.