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Greater Mekong Sub-region Virtual University (GMS-VU) Project

Ecotourism in Laos

The Greater Mekong Sub-region Virtual University (GMS-VU) Project was launched in 2001 under the initiative of UNESCO Bangkok in collaboration with Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) and SEAMEO Regional Centre for Higher Education and Development (RIHED).   

The original idea of GMS-VU is to establish a Virtual University to offer distance learning programmes, preferably on-line courses using advanced Information and Comunication Technology, to students in all the six countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, namely, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province in China. In the initial expert group meeting which was held at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University in 2001, it was decided that the project should pilot test the feasibility of offering distance learning programmes in three fields of studies - IT, Tourism, and Mekong Studies.

A task force meeting on GMS-VU Tourism was held in May 2002, further identified partner universities for this project, agreed on the structure of the certificate programme on Tourism and assigned responsibilities to develop the modules for this certificate course to various partner universities.   

Currently, the partner universities are

  • Royal University of Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
  • Yunnan University (China)
  • Yunnan Radio & TV University (China)
  • National University of Laos (Lao PDR)
  • University of Distance Education (Myanmar)
  • STOU (Thailand), and Hanoi Open University (Vietnam).

Since then, UNESCO Bangkok has been working closely with the partner universities to develop a certificate programme on Tourism in the GMS, which consists of one core course (equivalent to three credits) and an elective course (three credits), to be delivered by distance mode using CD ROMs.

The core course is made up of six modules:

  1. Definitions, Concepts and Components of Tourism
  2. Tourism Marketing and Promotion
  3. Socio-Cultural Impacts of Tourism
  4. Impacts of Tourism on Natural Environment
  5. Economic Impacts of Tourism Module and 
  6. Overview of Tourism in the six GMS Countries. 

Elective courses are: Tourism Resources in Thailand, Sustainable Tourism in Vietnam, Tourism Resources and Environment in Laos, Ethnic Tourism in Yunnan, Eco-tourism in Yunnan, and Community-based Tourism in Cambodia.

To review the certificate programme developed by the universities and to discuss plans on how to pilot test this certificate course in the sub-region, the Technical and Vocational Education Workshop on Tourism by Distance Mode was held at STOU on March 14 - 15 2006.  During the workshop, the participants reviewed the five core course modules and one elective course which had already been developed and discussed the production of the last module of the core course and five elective courses.

The core and elective courses have been prepared by the end of 2006 for the pre-pilot test scheduled for January 2007, and the pilot test was conducted in September 2007.