Gabaineele Modirapula, Children in the Wilderness Botswana Programme Assistant, visited the USA in May to attend the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP), the US Department of State’s premier professional exchange programme. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the country first-hand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.
Gaba shares her insights from the programme:
It has always been my wish to visit the USA, thus it was a privilege to be nominated by the US Embassy to participate in the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) on ‘Sustainable Development in Tourism and Economics’.
The US Embassy has been working with our organisation, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) since 2014, and has provided funding for one of the communities with whom we work, the Shashe Adult Eco-Club, in order to get their business started, and recently funded another community, the Gunotsoga Adult Eco-Club, for their beekeeping project.
The US Embassy gave representatives from 17 countries the opportunity to attend a three-week study tour in different states and cities, meeting various tourism business enterprises and organisations, sharing their professions and experiences with us. It was amazing for me to experience a new country’s outlooks, customs, activities, the terrain and natural wonders, museums, tourist destinations, landmarks as well as the history of the USA.
The goal of the programme was to examine strategies and policies to promote tourism in the United States locally, regionally and nationally (using marketing, infrastructure, public safety, customer service and other links).
We explored trends in tourism such as adventure tourism, cultural tourism, food tourism, family tourism, heritage tourism and ecotourism, as well as examined concepts of sustainable and responsible tourism and the role of small business in the tourism industry.
Our journey started in Washington DC with a city tour and introduction to the federal programmes and policies that create economic growth and jobs through travel and tourism. Every country representative had the opportunity to formally introduce themselves and give a brief description of their programme during the official opening.
ROCHESTER AND BUFFALO, NY
We travelled from Washington to Rochester and then Buffalo in New York State where we learned the importance of involving public-private partnerships, entrepreneurs and small businesses in the tourism economy, as well as economic development initiatives and safety at public venues.
Rochester and Buffalo are post-industrial cities that have diversified their economies by implementing tourism initiatives including Niagara Falls, Canalside, Silo City, Black Button Distilling, the City of Rochester Public Market, the New York Culinary Centre and the Lilac Festival – all destinations from which Botswana, and Maun especially, could take tourism lessons.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
San Antonio is a premier tourism destination which works with both private and public entities to promote the state of Texas.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
This was the final destination on our study tour before our departure back to our home countries.
After this informative study tour I have now a much better understanding and appreciation of the American people, and the country’s tourism model as well as its history.