29 January 2010

South America has been labelled "the next frontier" for research, student recruitment and tourism partnerships, with academics from The University of Queensland at the forefront of the trend.

Academics from UQ’s School of Tourism have been asked to chair a tourism taskforce in Peru, work with the Colombian Government to build its tourism industry and education programs and bid for a research project in Chile.

School academic and director of industry and government partnerships, Dr David Solnet, said it made sense to invest in these countries, given their rapid economic growth.

"South America is, in many ways, the next frontier,’’ Dr Solnet said.

"It is a group of developing countries with a growing middle class, increased infrastructure and a hunger for economic growth, improved lifestyle and education.

"In addition, tourism is a very important part of the governmental initiatives in these countries, knowing that sustainable tourism provides clear and effective economic benefits.’’

Dr Solnet said South American countries were important in helping the university become truly international.

"What we do as educators and researchers centres on the international nature of the tourism sector,’’ he said.

"By growing our research catchment area into other parts of the world, we provide valuable data to publish high-level academic papers and enhance our international reputation and credibility as a school.’’

The moves would widen, rather than displace the school’s interest in Asia, as a source of both research projects and international students, he said.

UQ had 278 enrolled students from South America in 2009, up from 234 in 2008, with Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Chile the greatest sources.

"Diversifying the student base and experience, and gaining international exposure in other places are all part of a strategic decision-making process to invest in Latin America.’’

Many of the South American countries did not have universities offering research-intensive studies in tourism, making UQ an obvious choice for young people interested in entering that field of employment.

"Our school is well placed to capture interest in tourism and hospitality programs, which can lead to research partnerships, education agreements and a range of related activities of long-term value to UQ.’’

Media: Erik de Wit (0417 088 772)