A group of nine University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration students presented plans to help further develop ecotourism in Guyana’s interior over spring break. The group led by Dr. J.K. Osiri, director of the international business program and associate professor of practice in management, and Guyanese native, Dr. Colin Ramsay, E.J. Faulkner professor of actuarial science, traveled with the students as part of the global immersion program at CBA.
To prepare for the eight-day trip students communicated several times with government officials of the Caribbean nation. They completed industry analysis, market research, and conducted surveys to form business and marketing plans aimed at furthering ecotourism in Guyana.
“We had strong interest and participation from all aspects of the Guyanese government. In researching for the trip, we were able to have Skype sessions with the Guyanese Minister of Business and Tourism, Mr. Dominic Gaskin to discuss their needs. Students used the Surama Ecolodge in Surama Guyana, our first destination, as a case study to focus their research,” said Osiri.
Students experienced ecotourism first-hand during their trip. They stayed at the Surama Ecolodge and presented their plans to the Touchow or village chief and the council of seven.
“We were able to meet with the Touchow and village council and get feedback on our work directly. We had open sessions with the workers and residents in addition to the council. It was so valuable to ask questions and adjust our presentation to better reflect their needs and share knowledge,” said senior Courtney Van Hoosen, an international business major.
The group also served as consultants, advising the council on finances, management structure and how to sustain growth. They brainstormed new ways to reach an international audience through marketing.
“Their business is much more concept-oriented. They don’t have the same ideas on things like cost of goods and services or profits that we do. We were able to advise them in those areas of business and progress,” said Ramsay.
Owned and operated by the community, the Surama Ecolodge is a community-run business. This means residents work at the Ecolodge and profit benefits the community. The Touchow and the seven-member village council serve as the management and board of directors. They report back quarterly to the village, as they are shareholders in the business.
“From a management perspective, this is an interesting model. The Surama residents are very community-oriented and focus on stewardship of the land in addition to business. Residents work at the lodge for one month and then have one month off. This allows them time to maintain agriculture, cultural practices and family,” said Ramsay.
In conjunction with a group of students from the University of Guyana (UG), CBA students also presented their plans to officials in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital. More than 70 members of the Ministry of Tourism, Guyanese tourism operators, indigenous people, and UG students, faculty and staff gathered at the University of Guyana. The larger project included three parts: increasing tourism from within Guyana’s own population, Guyanese who migrated out of the country and the international audience. Students from UG presented on native audiences while Nebraska students focused their work on international audiences.
“We packed a lot into our time in Guyana. We visited markets in Georgetown, attended a leadership seminar, danced with children at a local school and walked in the rain forest. Studying abroad is a great time to learn about yourself and bond with fellow students while experiencing a new culture and seeing how business works outside the United States. The most valuable part though, was the process of self-discovery. Doing the project and seeing the application of your work in the future is so rewarding,” said Van Hoosen.
Students who traveled to Guyana were:
Yahao Fu, Jingyuanm, Tianyuan, China, Junior, Marketing
Jackson Grasz, Omaha, Nebraska, Junior, Management
Kathleen O’Toole, Wilbur, Nebraska, Senior, Marketing
Jacey Olmer, Humphrey, Nebraska, Junior, Marketing
Rick Palky, Dorchester, Nebraska, Junior, International Business
Kathryn Shehan, Omaha, Nebraska, Junior, Accounting
Michael Siefert, Hickman, Nebraska, Senior, Actuarial Science
Courtney Van Hoosen, Omaha, Nebraska, Senior, International Business
Rucao Wang, Lincoln, Nebraska, Senior, Marketing
To learn more about international business and the global immersion program, visit: http://cba.unl.edu/current-students/study-abroad/