On December 15th, 2019, a group of 22 third-semester Tourism - Travel Services Management students along with professors, Irene Kairys and Anke Foller-Carroll, set out on a one-week FAM (familiarization) Trip to Costa Rica. FAM trips are key promotional marketing tools used to educate travel professionals about the products and services a destination has to offer and an opportunity to network with a variety of suppliers. This hands-on curriculum-based trip was the result of the fall semester elective “TRAV220 – Trip Planning and Experience”.
Based on availability and budget, Costa Rica was selected from six possible destinations. Costa Rica is very popular with Canadian consumers and an industry leader in “Eco and Sustainable Tourism”. In class, students had to conduct an in-depth study of the destination to create, design and deliver a seven-day itinerary that included hotel inspections, major attractions, meals and meetings with local tourism suppliers.
Once there, the students experienced travel from both sides, as a client and as a tour director. The challenges of designing and coordinating a group travel itinerary, staying within budget, managing client expectations, suppliers, and the daily logistics of executing the itinerary on-site as a tour director were all direct learning outcomes that mirror real-life scenarios the students will face once they enter the industry.
Activities included a guided walking tour of the capital, San Jose, visiting major tourist sites such as Arenal Volcano, Tabacon Hot Springs, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Manuel Antonio National Park. The students also traveled to Sarchi, famous for its hand-crafted ox carts used to transport coffee, and the Doka Estate Coffee Plantation, which exports 90% of their yield worldwide.
The students met with representatives of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and a local destination management company and learned about sustainable tourism as a major mandate of Costa Rica’s tourism and economic development strategy.
This elective, through theory and experiential learning, allowed everyone to put into practice everything they knew about developing, marketing, selling, executing and delivering a complete tourism product. A bonus and major highlight were the many native animals that the group saw randomly en route, in national parks, and while visiting animal sanctuaries. “Pura Vida” and yes, sloths do have permanent smiles.