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Taking advantage of a conference to attend in London on the Monday and Tuesday, I headed for Faversham on the morning of Saturday, June 11th to visit Harold and Kate for a long overdue catch up.
I took the new high speed train from St Pancras, a surprising treat; but it was the memories that came flooding back when passing through Rochester and Chatham that were overwhelming! Can it really be nearly 14 years since I and my 8 fellow classmates became the first intrepid entrants into Harold’s world of responsible tourism in academia?!
That first year the course’s home was Bridge Warden’s College in Chatham’s Historic Dockyard, part of the University of Kent, and the ICRT was just a dot in its Father’s eye, so to speak. The MSc in Tourism and Conservation was what had drawn us to this locale, and what a mixed (some might say ‘motley’) crew we were! Part-time study over 2 years (the full-time option only became available the following year), drew students from London, Oxford, the New Forest and elsewhere in Kent, although I was the only one to relocate (from Manchester). This first year focussed on nature tourism and bulking out our numbers were members of DICE’s MSc in Conservation Biology; from the very British, to the wonderfully Peruvian and the dedicated African, all added to the experience. By our second year we had lost a couple of the crew and looked forward to welcoming the first full-time students and shifting our focus to cultural tourism.
It wasn’t all work and no play! There were after class pub sessions and a rather infamous weekend social in a converted barn. Friendships were forged, some for life, and we, The Intrepids, picked up the flame and carried it forward. Some still do! On finishing, I spent the best part of 6 amazing years in Uganda, Botswana and Gabon working in community tourism, community development and cultural advocacy. Since then I have been diverted off the path, not by choice, although I have returned a couple of times to Botswana; but I hope one day to return to ‘the path’ proper.
And what of the course, the ‘cause’ even? Well, as have we all, it has undergone a number of changes, some radical. From the geographical: starting at the University of Kent in the Historic Dockyard, it took a short hop over the road to the University of Greenwich, where the International Centre for Responsible Tourism took hold; and from there it headed north to the Leeds Metropolitan University with satellite ‘sister’ Centres in The Gambia, Canada, Belize, Germany, India and South Africa. At Kent I found one of the most impressive aspects of the course was how current it was, which was made possible by Harold’s active involvement in a range of consultancies; so it comes as no surprise that as well as the geographical progression, the course itself and the name it goes by, have moved forward in line with industry and research trends, environmental pressures and the needs of those in tourism destinations. ‘Tourism and Conservation’ blossomed to incorporate the commitment du jour and became ‘Tourism, Conservation and Sustainable Development’, which has since expanded to ‘Responsible Tourism Management’. I look forward to seeing the developments yet to come.
Over these past 14 years, hundreds have started on the path to Responsible Tourism and to all those who still carry the torch, and to those yet to step onto the path, I cry ‘Hail’; but the biggest ‘HAIL’ has to go to Harold: our teacher, our friend, our challenger and our inspiration!
Alison White University of Kent MSc in Tourism & Conservation