University of Utah

Rivers Fiji co-founders, Nate & Dr. Kelly Bricker from the University of Utah run an 18-day study program on sustainable tourism development in Fiji.

Helen is part of the teaching team specialising in mangrove ecosystems marine resource management and tourism interactions with charismatic megafauna.

This course provides students of all majors with an understanding of both theory and practical applications of concepts surrounding sustainable tourism development. Through on-site visitations and selected texts and readings, students will explore social, cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism and planning issues.

Sustainable Tourism in Fiji - University of Utah Program
Sustainable Tourism in Fiji – University of Utah Program

They will also examine the development and meaning of ecotourism, alternative tourism, adventure, natural, cultural and heritage tourism options particular to the Republic of Fiji. Case studies from the South Pacific and other parts of the world will be drawn upon in order to gain a global understanding of issues and practical applications of solutions.


The course is delivered as a field-based course, which is offered through the study abroad program. The course will spend 18 days in the country of Fiji. Students will also be expected to do preliminary course work prior to departure. This includes at least two pre-departure meetings, course project, on-line scuba instruction, and miscellaneous pre-departure assignments. There are no easy answers, and the course will raise at least as many questions as solutions. Students are expected to bring with them a willingness to share their own experiences of travel and tourism and a readiness to join the debates and to seek out examples of good (and bad) practice from the South Pacific.

The main objectives of this course are:

  • To develop an understanding of sustainable tourism’s role within the range of social and environmental questions, issues and problems facing Fiji and the South Pacific region;
  • To develop an awareness of the principles of sustainable tourism development and its relationship to ecotourism;
  • To be familiar with the economic issues in ecotourism tourism development;
  • To develop the ability to describe the importance of addressing the cultural/social, environmental, and economics of ecotourism within a sustainable tourism context;
  • To examine successes, problems, and challenges associated with the implementation of sustainable tourism development within Fiji and the South Pacific region;
  • To understand marine ecotourism of small island nations through scuba certification and participation in an marine environmental education program;
  • To understand Fijian village life and various constraints and benefits to tourism development in the rural areas of Fiji.

University of UtahPROGRAM LOCATION

The program will be conducted in the Fiji Islands. From pristine marine ecosystems, providing kayaking and diving opportunities, to the highlands which offer whitewater rafting and trekking opportunities, Fiji, a country located in the Asia-Pacific region, has unlimited potential to develop a wide range of nature-based experiences.

Specifically, the course will operate from two areas; the highlands and coastal area of Viti Levu and the Yasawa island group. These two geographic locations will give the students a sense of the diversity that exists within Fiji.

Fiji is an excellent laboratory in which to study ecotourism development. In February of 1999, the government of Fiji recognized this potential by adopting policies and strategies specifically focused on nature- (from hereon referred to as “ecotourism”) and village-based tourism.

As a result, the Fiji Ecotourism Association has been rejuvenated, a sub-program in ecotourism has been implemented to encourage human resource development in rural areas, ecotourism has been recognized in the national development plan, and industry efforts to develop a ‘best practices’ program have been introduced.

In addition, The World Tourism Organization held the South Pacific regional ecotourism conference in Fiji during the spring of 2002, and therefore the topic of ecotourism development continues to be both timely and relevant.


The following topics will be integrated into the 18-day program in Fiji. These do not necessarily follow a particular order, but will be addressed throughout the program:

Module 1: Introduction to Adventure-based Tourism Programs

  • Whitewater Rafting in the Highlands of Fiji
  • “Leave No Trace”
  • Sea Kayaking at Beqa Island
  • Coastal Sea Kayaking
  • SCUBA certification (PADI)
  • Marine ecosystem orientation and research relevant to tourism development

Module 2: Government and Policy Development

Discussion with key organizations involved in ecotourism in Fiji, potentially including:

  • Tourism Fiji
  • Ministry of Tourism
  • National Trust of Fiji
  • WWF South Pacific
  • South Pacific Tourism Organization
  • Native Land and Trust Board

Module 3: The Socio-Cultural Issues of Sustainable Tourism Development

  • Community-based tourism development
  • Visit village-based program

Module 4: Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development

  • Introduction to ‘alternative’ forms of tourism
  • Policies and practice
  • Best practices in design and structure of ecotourism

For additional details, visit the University of Utah – Study Abroad website

The University of Utah

Learning Abroad
200 S. Central Campus Drive, RM 159
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0511

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