Dr. Viren Lends Sustainable Tourism Expertise

Viren lends sustainable tourism expertise to Lithuania and Estonia in U.S. State Department-sponsored speaker program.

Paige P. Viren, assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks, Tourism & Holistic Health, traveled to Lithuania and Estonia in November 2019 to lead a U.S. Speaker Program on Economic Prosperity: Sustainable Tourism. While visiting local communities known for adventure and ecotourism, Viren gave presentations addressing how environmental sustainability and eco-tourism align with the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia (ECA) Economic Prosperity policy priority.

The U.S. Speaker Program, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s International Information Programs Bureau, sends experts from the United States abroad, either in person or virtually, to engage and consult with key foreign audiences on a variety of technical topics. U.S. speakers address topics identified and developed by U.S. missions, generally U.S. embassies and consulates, worldwide.

During Viren’s Speaker Program, members of the tourism industry and representatives of tourism-related government officials participated in a series of discussions and lectures on topics of consumer behavior and eco- and adventure tourism; innovative tools in promoting adventure/ecotourism; developing community-based ecotourism; and attracting foreign tourists to travel outside of capital. The program primarily targeted young entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses and government officials in communities across Lithuania and Estonia. These communities also happen to have the greatest demand for tourism resources.

Viren’s expertise is grounded in more than 15 years of conducting research on tourism and natural resources, focusing on planning and development, marketing and sustainable tourism in rural areas. Her research focuses specifically on consumer behavior and tourism, specializing in adventure travel and sustainable community-based tourism. She has extensive experience working with rural communities; developing sustainable local tourism focused on economic diversification, protecting and enhancing the natural, cultural, and historic resources. She has previously completed U.S. Speaker Programs in Albania, Kosovo and Azerbaijan.

In Estonia, coordinating partners were Enterprise Estonia (established and funded by government with goal to enhance and promote businesses in Estonia through support and consulting) and Estonian Travel and Tourism Association, an umbrella organization for Estonian tourism companies. The United States and Estonia support common positions that affect the U.S.-E.U. trade relationship and grow bilateral economic cooperation across various sectors, including energy, science, technology and innovation. Viren’s area of expertise taps into Estonia’s prowess with e-services, desire to increase development in areas outside of major urban centers and focus on sustainable development.

Viren’s expertise also has strong relevance in Lithuania, where the Ministry of Environment and the tourism industry partnered to host a series of discussions on advancing ecotourism and national parks. The Ministry of Environment, as well as local mayors, are focused on development of rural economies and rural tourism, and the government is interested in building awareness of the country’s national parks as both domestic and international tourism destinations.