Monday, 9 November 2009

Behind the scenes

Sunday November 8, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

EVERY semester, students who take the International Tourism module at KDU College get to choose an international destination to visit.

The place is voted upon by the entire class from a shortlist of five or six determined by module head Gabriel Lau.

According to Lau, who is also the college’s School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts Teaching and Learning Academic Department head, this shortlist is based on a few factors.

“The flight time must not be more than four hours, otherwise we waste half a day travelling.

“And safety is important. For example, we scraped off Jogjakarta in Indonesia (this year) because of the Padang earthquake,” he shared.

Price is also a factor.

“KDU subsidises up to RM1,300 per person, and then the students are informed how much they need to top up for each destination, if necessary,” he said, adding that for this semester’s trip to Cambodia, the students had to fork out an additional RM500 each.

Lau also works closely with Pride Travel and Event Management managing director Lim Weng Sia to organise the study trips.

Having worked with the college since 2007, the travel agent is familiar with the requirements of such trips.

Aside from suggesting destinations, Lim also handles the visa applications, proposes the itinerary, sorts out various “what if” scenarios with Lau, and may even go on a reconnaissance trip to the proposed destination to ensure that everything is in order.

“This type of trip is different from regular trips because the students are studying and we have to take into account the requirements of the subject, and also their safety,” Lim explained.

“Usually, the practice is to have one tourist guide per bus, but for these trips, we have two guides per bus so that the students have more people to refer to and also to take care of them.”

Aside from highlighting the trip’s requirements and safety dos-and-don’ts with his Malaysian colleagues, Lim also informs the local guides that this is an educational tour so that they would be prepared to answer the students’ questions.

The students themselves also help in the organisation of the trip through the formation of a committee elected by the class.

One for the album: The students in front of the Royal Palace

This semester’s committee chairman Joey Liew explained that the committee is made up of the chairman, the medical officer, treasurer and four team leaders.

Their jobs are to collect all the information necessary to book the flight tickets and apply for visas, as well as medical information and emergency contact numbers for each of their classmates.

Team leaders also help to ensure that everybody is present and accounted for during the trip itself.

Said Joey: “Everyone was cooperative, but it was not easy collecting all their details because we had nearly 80 people to deal with.

“We also have around 15 to 16 other nationalities in our class, so we had to wait for some of them to renew their student visas in order to apply for visas.”

And while it may sound like just a fun trip, the students were expected to do their homework before and during the trip.

Twenty percent of their total marks for the module is based on a group report of the chronology of events during the trip – along with criticisms or compliments and recommendations – from both a tourist and a tourism practitioner’s point of view.

Another forty percent is given for an individual report on one of four given topics, which include sustainable tourism issues relating to the Angkor Wat and how Cambodia manages its cultural tourist attractions.

The remaining forty percent is counted from a group assignment where the students have to research the tourism issues in a randomly-picked country, and come up with an action plan to boost tourism to that country.

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