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When a group of students in Caraguatatuba, Brazil set out to see what the impediments were to developing community tourism in their region, they discovered that people didn't want to visit their coastal community because it was so dirty. So they got together with local businesses and the mayor and created a clean-up and environmental awareness campaign.
The students were all participating in a research competition run by the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership education programme (GTTP). The GTTP is an industry philanthropic program started by American Express in 2006 and now supported by 11 global corporations and several thousand local businesses. In its first year there were 36,000 students. Now there are 440,000 students from 5,000 secondary schools spread across 12 member countries.
The programme is designed to introduce secondary school students to the challenges and possibilities of working in tourism at the point where they are most wondering about decisions that affect their career. The support of some of the largest travel companies in the world means the GTTP can turn to these experts for professional levels of learning support. So when the partnership designed a customer service module, it had the heads of training for Hertz International and Le Meridien to make sure it was fit for purpose.
A central component of the coursework is an emphasis on developing students' respect for their culture, heritage and environment, along with those of other cultures too. Each year students research topics and compete in an international competition with participating schools from each of the member countries. In 2014, the topic was "Technology and Sustainable Tourism."
Although not every student will win the competition, or go on to work in the travel industry, the vast majority will end up as tourists. And thanks to the training provided by GTTP, they will all be more aware of the issues that will confront them.