You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been on campus since December, and there’s a good reason. This quarter, I am a visiting professor in the Tourism Management Program at the Canary Island’s campus of Universidad Europea (UE), located in La Orotava on the island of Tenerife. UE is affiliated with Kendall College through Laureate International. Kendall’s current visiting professors Javier Perez Exposito and Ines Martin De Santo, along with previous visiting professor Alberto Moreno, came to Kendall from EU’s Madrid Campus. I am the first Kendall professor to visit EU, although several Kendall faculty members have coordinated online global classroom projects with UE faculty in the past.
While at UEC, I am teaching basic hotel and food and beverage management courses to nine second-year tourism management students. They are all Spanish and the majority are from the Canary Islands, which is one of the leading tourism destinations in Europe. These courses are being offered in English for the first time at UEC. The students are eager to learn about U.S. tourism practices and trends and to practice their English. Although the students have varying levels of English proficiency, so far they have been able to keep up with the lessons. With their help and the help of my colleagues, my limited Spanish is improving, too.
My passion for sustainability is never very far below the surface. Tenerife is a great laboratory in which to explore sustainable tourism in practice. It is a high volcanic island with a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. Over 47% of the territory is classified as protected and there are several noteworthy UNESCO World Heritage sites. Tenerife is the most populated of the Canary Islands with about one million residents and receives over five million tourists a year, primarily from Germany, England, and the Spanish mainland. There are a wide variety of hotels ranging from budget to upscale and hundreds of restaurants serving everything from traditional Canarian cuisine to avant garde concepts. You can find just about any imaginable ethnic cuisine on Tenerife, including sushi, Italian, Chinese and of course German and English, along with American fast food. Wine is a local mainstay. The Canary Islands were historically a wine producing region and working vineyards are still in production on the island of Tenerife.
Given all this hospitality-related activity, the Canary Islands face a set of environmental issues common to island tourism destinations: notably, continuing access to high-quality water and waste management. How the hotels and restaurants here cope with these issues is an ongoing conversation in my classes. I have already lined up field trips, tours and guest speakers who can shed more light on the realities of hotel and restaurant management in the Canary Islands, including how they address sustainability. Since sustainability is an increasingly important issue in hotel and restaurant management overall, it is only makes sense that these students should be exposed to the concepts and practices they will encounter in their future tourism careers, wherever it leads them.