Stuart Cottrell, associate professor and global tourism coordinator in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, spent two weeks this past summer in rural Estonia teaching the benefits of sustainable tourism at Kuressaare College of Tallinn University of Technology as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program.
The college’s Summer International University Sustainable Rural Tourism Program brought together undergraduate students and professors from Estonian tourism colleges, as well as from universities in Latvia, Finland, United Kingdom and France to study rural sustainable tourism. Jana Raadik, CSU doctoral candidate from Estonia, was the academic coordinator of the summer university program.
The project was developed to help improve the quality of tourism development in the rural countryside and widen the scope of international cooperation between higher education institutions in the teaching of sustainable rural tourism in Europe and former Soviet-occupied nations. Cottrell was the keynote speaker and one of the lecturers on sustainable tourism development and visitor management at this first-time event.
The summer university program addressed six topics including heritage and rural tourism; landscape perceptions and rural tourism; visitor management in protected areas; recreation management and rural adventure tourism; events in rural environments; and innovations in rural tourism. Cottrell was responsible for providing daily discussion sessions to link the various topics covered to the overall theme of sustainable rural tourism development.
Part of the curriculum for addressing innovations in rural tourism included creating an interactive Estonian rural wedding reception ceremony as an illustration of cultural heritage. Class participants dressed in period costumes and visited a rural heritage farm museum to partake in the reenactment of a wedding reception.
Students left the program with knowledge of the sustainable rural tourism development possibilities on Saaremaa Island as an alternative to the mass tourism model that is currently in place.
Funding for a second Summer University Sustainable Rural Tourism series has already been obtained for 2010 due to the successes achieved during this first summer session.
The Fulbright Specialist Program unites U.S. academics and professionals and their abroad counterparts to strengthen the development of higher education institutions through collaborative work. The program awards grants to U.S. faculty who travel abroad to more than 100 countries worldwide to work and participate in two-to-six-week projects. Eligible projects include teacher training, short-term lecturing, conducting seminars, special conferences or workshops, and collaborating on curriculum planning or institutional/faculty development.