Get a Step Ahead: Student-Professional Networking Session

Student-Professional Networking Session

Student-Professional Networking SessionAt this year’s ESTC, we are offering an interactive student-professional networking session “Get A Step Ahead” (Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, 15:30 – 17:30, Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa), which will connect industry leaders working in the fields of ecotourism and sustainable tourism with students – aspiring tourism professionals and future leaders of the industry.

This session is open to public (free), and we encourage students from the local areas to join, as well as any of the ESTC attendees who are:

  • Students and Young Professionals: University and graduate-level students engaged in various tourism and sustainability-related programs.
  • Industry Professionals: Tourism industry professionals working in the fields of ecotourism and sustainable tourism and those who would benefit from input from students regarding product development ideas and market trends.

Interview with Frances Figart

Frances FigartFrances Figart, who serves on the ESTC Advisory Committee and is a passionate advocate for education and networking in the field of sustainable tourism, is one of the industry experts who will share their insights at the “Get A Step Ahead” session. See our interview with Frances below to get a glimpse of what you will discuss and learn at the ESTC!

(Interview conducted by Ayako Ezaki, TIES Director of Communications)

TIES: What do you enjoy most about your career?
Frances: The type of writing I do to support responsible forms of tourism, much of it being marketing oriented, is enjoyable because it allows me to make a difference not only to the consumer choosing to travel responsibly, but also to the ecosystems and local peoples benefiting from their visits.

TIES: What advice would you give someone just starting in this career/business/major?
Frances: To those going into any aspect of ecotourism business, I say: Find a truly unique niche or destination to focus on so your product will appeal to special interest groups, and not be lost in the ever growing number of businesses who are marketing to would-be ecotourists. To those who aspire to freelance write for a living in support of responsible travel, as I have, I say: Spend time studying the business of ecotourism from every angle and know as much as you can about the business of tourism, the psychology of marketing and the science of ecology.

TIES: What professional skills might separate a potential employee from other interviewees?
Frances: Impeccable communication skills including foreign language, and demonstrable cross-cultural sensitivity, awareness and literacy.

TIES: What would you do differently if you were starting over in your field?
Frances: Learn more languages as early as possible; travel globally as extensively as possible; pursue specific study in sustainability and tourism. When I was in college, these subjects were not as accessible as they are in today’s curricula.

TIES: What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession since you chose it?
Frances: While it was rare to hear talk of sustainability or ecotourism in the mainstream travel industry a couple of decades ago, now this language is fairly commonplace. That is indicative of both a paradigm shift in mainstream travel moving to more green thinking and also a general adaptation of greener marketing terminology where actual sustainable practices that take into account the triple bottom line may not yet exist. Simultaneously, we have more and more focus on sustainability in learning institutions, and more young people graduating with degrees in sustainable and responsible forms of tourism. These future leaders are charged with helping to make the entire industry accountable and to ferret out and dispel the green-washing that still exists.

TIES: What trends do you foresee in your area of expertise?
Frances: I recently did some research for Sustainable Travel International and studied the Sustainable Tourism Ministers Briefing 2010/2011, which created a Sustainable Tourist Report that says the coming green economy is likely to be characterized by the following facets:

  • A dramatically aging population supported by few workers pro-rata
  • A focus on happiness rather than wealth
  • A focus on health rather than consumption
  • A focus on renewability rather than obsolescence
  • Parsimoniousness regarding waste and energy use
  • A movement of global power eastwards and southwards

The report goes on to show that, in this coming environment, tourism is bound to change to reflect these realities:

  • BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries become major top 10 tourism source markets
  • Domestic and regional tourism takes (even more) center stage
  • Carbon neutral (and carbon reduced) destinations become star destinations
  • Destination transportation options become more choice-critical
  • Long haul travel becomes longer duration too
  • Fewer trips per tourist, more destinations
  • Health becomes a major constituent of travel offerings

Once again, the future leaders of the sustainable travel industry need to be ready to accept the torch being passed to them and to rise to the challenges inherent in these trends, predicted by the travel futurists.

TIES: Thank you and I am looking forward to seeing you and working together in Hilton Head.
Frances: I appreciate the opportunity to serve as advisor and speaker this year, as in the past. This has been fun. See you soon!