From November 7 to 9 the Havana Melia Cohiba Hotel hosted the CETA International Conference on Sustainable EduTourism attended by Canadian, Cuban and international speakers and tourism industry representatives.
The conference was organized by the Canadian EduTourism Associates Cooperative LTD and was supported by the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, the Canadian Embassy in Cuba and other international partnerships. The event explored the benefits that exist when educational, cultural, environmental and tourism sectors join to promote a region's edutourism offerings.
Attendees were welcomed by CETA Conference Chair Lana Wood and Canadian Ambassador in Cuba Matthew Levin. In his introductory speech, Ambassador Levin stated that tourism is a pillar in the relationship between Cuba and Canada and, in turn, creates many other relationships between the Cuban and Canadian peoples. "We see this event as closely aligned with our efforts at the Embassy to facilitate a broad range of contact and engagement between Canada and Cuba, as a means of exploring and promoting our many areas of shared interests." added Ambassador Levin.
While all participants showcased their experiences concerning edutourism from different angles and examples, the principal topics centered on understanding the international importance of edutourism, as well as identifying potential partnership opportunities.
As Michael Haywood, president of the Haywood Group stated: "Edutourism creates personalized, inclusive and innovative travel and tourism opportunities. It satisfies people's insatiable desire to connect and deepens our understanding of cultures while enriching individual interests."
The conference also served to view examples and simply learn how to combine edutourism with sustainability and the preservation of environment. Such was the case of the conference led by Michael Haywood on Sustainable Edutourism and the Sable Island Preservation Trust presented by Rick Welsford.
Although there were participants who, although already introduced to edutourism, found its concept somewhat vague, the positive and fruitful combination of education, tourism and learning was clearly seen in the presentations by Stuart Moss, from Leeds Metropolitan University and the Dalhousie's University Cuba -Canada Programmes: presented by Marian MacKinnon and Donna Rogers.
Also attending the conference was Kristin MacQueen representing WoWCuba, a Canadian-Cuban company that, as an example of edutourism offer, promote cycle tours of Cuba that provide learning about the areas they travel through as well as interact with the locals, adding to the social and financial fabric of the society.
These and several other presentations enriched CETA's intent to increase international understanding of the important social and economic value of sustainable tourism, through the incorporation of education, culture and environmental protection with tourism.
There will be a follow-up Symposium to further explore Cuban EduTourism issues in April of 2011 in Havana, and the 2nd Annual Conference will take place in the fall in Halifax, Nova Scotia.