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Undergraduates Help Small Business Owners in Galapagos Embrace Best Practices for Tourism

July 30, 2013
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Students led workshops for small business owners on best accounting and operational practices .

In May of 2013, five undergraduate School of Business students spent part of their summer break helping small business owners in the Galapagos Islands’ nascent hospitality and eco-tourism industry.

The students, as members of the School’s Hyperion Council, helped business owners on Isabela, the archipelago’s largest but least developed island, implement best accounting and operational practices. These students included Jasmine Holmes, Shannon Nurse, Curtis Oseola, Ana Ruiz Villalobos, and Alban Harrison.

As part of this year’s initiative, the students held workshops to improve local accounting practices. They also worked with Isabela’s local Office of Tourism in their expanded efforts to help the tourism sector provide higher quality consumer experiences and discourage customer poaching. According to Harrison, a low level of internecine warfare exists between established hotels and local hostel owners. The smaller family hostel operations attempt to steal customers away from established hotels by undercutting the hotel’s prices.

“Before the tourists get to the hotel,” Harrison explains, “these businesses try to offer an accommodation for eight to ten dollars a night. That creates a problem for the hotel owners, since it drives away interest from the tourists.” The prices these small hostel operations charge are unsustainable, and as result the owner/operators are unable to cover the costs of variable expenses such as water and electricity.” The students worked with the well-established hotels on securing reservations and developing a plan to reinvest profits into the hotels’ facilities, in order to retain customers and create a better customer experience.

The students also offered suggestions to the smaller hostel operations by helping them create more effective promotional materials and implement different marketing tactics. The introduction of more effective social media practices were particularly useful in helping both kinds of businesses offer incentives that would keep customers engaged with their pre-selected hotel.

The students also met with Carla Flores Sáenz, director of tourism for Isabela, and discussed macroeconomic perspectives with Isabela mayor Bolívar Tupiza.

“This has been the perfect opportunity for our students to take their experience abroad, challenge themselves, and support small businesses in need,” says McPhillip. “The School of Business offers an excellent program for these students to cooperate and introduce the best business practices to encourage more effective, modern, and sustainable financial planning by these small companies.”

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