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Tourism students hit the road for exciting Borneo study tour

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Tourism students will soon embark on an exciting nine-day trip to Borneo as part of their course. The action-packed tour will give 18 students from the units MTL3700 Business Study Tour and INB5702 International Study Tour valuable insight into their future industry, as well as the chance to experience another culture.

The Borneo study tour is a part of the Faculty of Business and Law’s Tourism Program, which is the longest-running program of its kind in Australia. Such study tours have previously been organised for the units, including a trip to Shark Bay in 2005, and a former trip to Borneo in 2006. The tours provide students with first-hand experience of international business operations.

This year’s tour will start on Sunday 17 April in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Students will visit a wide range of places while there, including:

  • Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital;
  • Kudat, at the tip of Borneo;
  • The Sabah Tea Plantation;
  • Sukau, where the group will plant trees in the rainforest;
  • Sepilok, and its Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre; and
  • Sandakan, to participate in the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Sandakan War Memorial.

The Sandakan War Memorial honours the Australian and British prisoners of war who were located in Sandakan between 1942 and 1944. Originally sent there to build an airstrip, the Japanese decided to move 2,000 of the prisoners westward when Allied Forces began to advance toward Borneo in 1944. This move became known as the ‘Sandakan Death March’, as most of the prisoners died or were killed along the way. With only six Australians surviving, the Death March remains the single greatest atrocity committed against Australians in war.

The students will play a small role in paying respect to these Australians in this year’s ANZAC Day Dawn Service, by assisting in the laying of wreaths at the memorial. In addition, the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be hosting a workshop for the students on the last day of the tour, entitled ‘Sandakan Memorial Park experiences and tourism opportunities’.

Mr Albert Teo, an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure at ECU, will also run a workshop for the students in Borneo. Mr Teo is the Managing Director of Borneo Eco Tours and the highly-acclaimed Sukau Rainforest Lodge, where students will stay for part of the trip. Mr Teo has 34 years of experience in the tourism industry, with a special interest in ecotourism, and will share his knowledge of tourism in the Sabah region with the students.

The comprehensive tour has been organised by Professor Ross Dowling, who was recently awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the hospitality and tourism industries, education, and to the development of ecotourism.

“The trip will be a huge learning experience for the students, as they immerse themselves in local cultures and work alongside Rungus communities in northern Borneo. Such experiences will include cultural, heritage, eco, wildlife and volunteer tourism, all in a range of third world environments. Previous students said the tour was life-changing and I am sure that the lucky students on this trip will feel the same way when they return,” he said.

Local communities in Borneo will also benefit from the visit, through the students’ program of volunteer activities, which includes tree planting, donating books to a local secondary school library, and connecting water pipes in three villages. The pipes are part of a well project that was previously started by ECU Tourism students in 2006. $2,000 was raised towards the building of wells in three villages so that the local people could have access to clean drinking water.

The Business Study Tour is anticipated to run in future years with planning in place for a similar tour to Hong Kong, China, in Semester Two, 2012.

More information

For more information about the Borneo Study Tour, contact Professor Ross Dowling.

Foundation Professor of Tourism
Professor Ross Dowling
Phone: (61 8) 6304 5891


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