The Chorotega Regional Headquarters of the National University (UNA) through the Business Management of Sustainable Tourism career and with the support of the Vice-Rectory of Extension through Funds for the strengthening of student capacities (FOCAES) and Regionalization Funds, leads to carry out the project “Strengthening Community Organizations in the Tourism Exchange, a proposal from teaching”, which seeks to link the student with the communities in their different courses, through teaching, extension and a part of research.
“What we do is link theory-practice, giving the theory and the students apply it in their practice through extension and research, which allows them to know the environment and the reality of the communities. These activities are with rural and women’s organizations, or small businesses, for example, and what is sought is the comprehensive training of students, who know their reality, and provide alternatives that promote tourism in these places,” says Sandra Lezcano, Academic at UNA Chorotega Headquarters and head of the project.
This project began more than four years ago, and during this time it has sought a way to collaborate in the development of communities and in the comprehensive training of students, through processes in which they prepare, with extension tools, they carry out their supervised practices, in communities or companies in the rural area of Guanacaste.
How do community interest projects work?
The experience began with third-level students, where four of the courses that are developed are articulated to develop a single work project in a community applying the knowledge of those courses. Progress has been made and currently it starts from a first level with a further research process, starting with the identification of tourist attractions. This information is subsequently used by students from the second level to the third level. At the fourth level, some students have decided to carry out supervised internships in those organizations or communities.
The food of each community not only in terms of consumption but also the process, or the landscapes of each place, are potentials that the inhabitants cannot discover, until the students share their knowledge and vision. “They manage to revalue the environment in which people live, and make the community see that same reality with different eyes, especially tourism,” said Lezcano.
More active communities
After identifying the attractions of the communities and proposing tourist experiences, an action plan is generated for the organization to start working. For example, through this project, the joint work with the Municipality of Abangares stands out, in which the students elaborated a proposal called “the Golden Route”, presented to the Regional Development Council (COREDES), in order to know the suitable places to make investment.
Work has also been done with the La Cruz Chamber of Tourism Association (ASCATUR). “The people helped us make the chamber entrepreneurs project, which was presented to INDER and approved; It has also been shared with other institutions for the quality of the work. In addition, they designed logos of typical food with the map of La Cruz, the Raíces Cruceñas logo and logos for each of the entrepreneurs whom they also helped with marketing issues”, commented Marina Peña Cerdas, President of ASCATUR.
In the Bagaces Chamber of Tourism, the students gathered information on attractions and possibilities of tourist experiences, and at the same time supported themselves with the design of logos and marketing themes for small companies. We also worked with the association in charge of the “Río NaranjoTurístico” fair, Las Lilas in CañasDulces, with the Liberia Chamber of Tourism, INDER, CoopeSanGui, among others.