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ECU Tourism students take the trip of a lifetime

Friday, 27 May 2011

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Tourism students at ECU recently enjoyed the trip of a lifetime through the diverse landscape of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Fifteen undergraduate and two postgraduate students embarked on the nine-day Borneo Study Tour last month.

Students had an action-packed itinerary over the nine days, with activities designed to expose them to tourism in practice. Activities included nature walks, viewing local traditional dancing displays and attending the ANZAC Day dawn service at Sandakan War Memorial.

The students visited a variety of tourist attractions during their trip. These included the Kundasang War Memorial, Mt Kinabalu National Park, Sabah Tea Plantation factory, Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Agnes Keith Museum.

The trip created a positive impact on the local community, with students participating in volunteer work. On their first day, the students visited and distributed books at Emmanuel House. Based in Kudat, Emmanuel House provides a home and school for disadvantaged teenage girls.

Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Management student Kate Fuller said that visiting Emmanuel House was one of the most moving parts of the trip.

“It's hard not to put your life into perspective when you see how happy those girls are. They have very few possessions, live away from their families in crowded accommodation. But, they are so bright and happy, and gracious. It was an amazing experience,” said Kate.

The students donated $2000 worth of piping to a well project in the village Terongkongkan Darat in Kudat. They helped connect the water pipes, providing local people with easy access to clean drinking water.

In addition, the students completed conservation work while staying in the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, planting trees nearby in the rainforest. The Lodge is owned and managed by ECU Adjunct Lecturer Mr Albert Teo. As well as hosting the students at the Lodge, Mr Teo took the time out to share his perspectives on tourism in the Sabah region and ecotourism in general.

Students engaged with Australian Government officials as part of their tour, participating in a workshop with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, entitled Sandakan Memorial Park experiences and tourism opportunities. The workshop assisted the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in identifying how to improve the tourist experience for young people in the Memorial Park and other Australian war sites around the world.

The tour was organised by Foundation Professor of Tourism Professor Ross Dowling OAM, and Tourism and Hospitality Program Co-ordinator Dr Dale Sanders.

“The trip is a high-quality, international learning experience, that exposes students to tourism on the ground,” said Dr Sanders.

“Students encountered intriguing and diverse natural environments and unique local cultures first-hand, and saw ecotourism, cultural tourism, wildlife tourism, military tourism and heritage tourism in practice. They gained a fresh perspective on tourism as a whole.”

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