PITTSBORO — Vacations and travel are getting “greener” as people opt for visiting national parks, taking nature adventures, hiking, biking, birding, or any of the many leisure activities that involve getting closer to nature.
According to the travel web site, www.tripadvisors.com
, more Americans plan to be environmentally conscious about their travel and vacation decisions. Seventy-three percent said they plan to visit a national park, up from 62 percent a year ago. Forty-seven percent plan to engage in a nature adventure activity, up from 40 percent in 2008.
Enjoying nature as it is, without damaging the environment or ecological system, has spawned a branch of the tourism industry known as “ecotourism.” Tourism industry workers trained in ecotourism are needed to serve this growing industry.
Starting with its summer session, Central Carolina Community College will help to meet this need. The college’s Continuing Education Department will offer an Ecotourism Certificate, the first in the North Carolina Community College System.
Students will be able to take classes at the college’s Chatham County Campus for personal enrichment or to earn the certificate. The program was developed in conjunction with an advisory committee led by the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau, and including recreational and environmental organizations in the county.
“The development of this program has been a wonderful collaboration of the college and community organizations, said Dr. Karen Allen, the college’s Chatham County Provost. “The college is pleased once again to be able to identify an employment need and work with the community to provide the training.”
The Chatham County Economic Development Corporation recently unveiled a plan for the county. It noted that “quality of place” is necessary for economic development. Chatham County offers many locations for nature-based activities: Jordan Lake State Recreation Area; Lower Haw State Natural Area; many nature preserves; Jordan Lake State Educational Forest (and its Talking Tree Trail); championship golf; birding, hiking, and cycling trails; three rivers — Deep, Rocky, and Haw; and much more.
The report said that Chatham needs to capitalize on these substantial natural and cultural resources, promoting these amenities to both residents and visitors. The partnership with the college in developing an ecotourism program is helping the county toward this goal.
On April 6, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of the college’s ecotourism program.
“We are very pleased to offer support for the new ecotourism program at Central Carolina Community College,” said Chatham County Commissioner Carl Thompson Sr. “Chatham County is ripe with nature-based assets. The introduction of this program is therefore most timely, appropriate and needed. It will also impact directly on our economy by generating new ecotourism entrepreneurs and tour guides, thereby creating more green jobs and businesses.”
Courses to be offered include Introduction to Ecotourism, Natural and Cultural Resources, Safety and CPR, Interpretation and Guiding, Nature-Based Law, and Business of Ecotourism. The program will appeal to a variety of audiences, including students who might go on for higher education in tourism, business owners, and entrepreneurs who might be inspired to venture into ecotourism.
The 10-week courses to be offered in the summer session are:
Introduction to Ecotourism, which will meet 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays, May 26-July 28;
Natural and Cultural Resources, which will meet 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursdays, May 28—July 30;
And, Safety and CPR, whose meeting times will be announced later.
“We are delighted to see a certificate program offered through the community college that considers the growing trend of our largest visitor draw, the nature-based traveler,” said Neha Shah, director of Travel & Tourism for the Pittsboro-Siler City CVB. “It is exciting for Chatham County and for tourism. We hope to see students who take what they learn one step further, whether higher education, further certifications, developing current nature-based ventures and/or creating an entirely new venture that serves a tourism niche to further enhance what we do.”
The college is seeking individuals interested in teaching ecotourism classes in the fall semester. Contact its Continuing Education Department, (919) 542-6495, ext. 223, for more information. For more information about the ecotourism program, go online to www.cccc.edu
or call the Chatham County Campus, (919) 542-6495. For more information about Chatham County tourism, contact Shah at (919) 542-8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org