Leonie Bowles
Leonie Bowles
13 August 2010

When in Spain, do as the Spanish do. It's a principle Leonie Bowles is sticking to, allowing her to immerse herself in the country's history and culture, while learning to speak the language fluently.

Ms Bowles says she has been given an "invaluable experience" to see much of the country and get to know its people - all while learning the ropes in a new career.

Since graduating from The University of Queensland's School of Tourism late last year, Ms Bowles has started an internship at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters in Madrid.

She has been helping developing nations juggle the economic benefit of tourism with retention of cultural identities and natural environments.

"Living in Madrid has provided a really nice opportunity to be fully immersed in a culture," the 21-year-old said.

"There is always somewhere new to eat or something new to do. It also provides the perfect opportunity to learn Spanish.

"I spent two weeks in June driving around Spain with my parents. It is such a diverse country and has many beautiful natural attractions, as well as some wonderful history and culture."

Ms Bowles said she was part of a friendly and supportive team at the UNWTO, while gaining a new set of skills and learning about the tourism industry.

She has helped edit UNWTO publications, become responsible for online marketing co-ordination, drafted press releases, liaised with speakers for a major conference and organised both technical missions and official visits for Secretary-General Dr Taleb Rifai and Asia Pacific Regional Director Xu Jing.

"I have enjoyed the variety of responsibilities I have been offered and the diverse range of people both within the organization and from our members states I have had the opportunity to interact with.

"I have learnt a lot from a number of our member states about how tourism is run in their countries, as well as how the UNWTO contributes to this."

Ms Bowles has joined forces with School of Tourism lecturer Dr Lisa Ruhanen to research best practices in ecotourism, with the project expected to be completed in mid September and published as a book, offering a user-friendly guide for the tourism industry.

"I have been responsible for liaising with organizations from all member states in the Asia Pacific region to receive case study submissions for our research.

"The foundations that were laid through studies at UQ have been put into practice with this research.

"The studies, including the school's Tourism Regional Internship Project, provided a great opportunity to interact with tourist operators and to work on tasks where problem-solving and teamwork are involved."

Ms Bowles has seen diverse regions in Spain's north and south, as well as travelled to England, Portugal and France.

She has plans to also visit Morocco, Switzerland and Italy in the next two months.

Media: Erik de Wit (0417 088 772)