University of South Carolina

HRTM students land in paradise for May session


Check out graduate student Katherine Magner's blog about this course at


For ten university students in the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management, it's the ultimate classroom with a view — the beautiful island of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. 

Punta Cana is a popular tourist destination best known for its beaches, which face both the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans. However, the six undergraduate and four graduate students are not down there just to work on their tans. They are conducting important work for the Dominican Republic International Airport.

The students of HRTM 389 and HRTM 590 are surveying passengers about their impressions and their satisfaction with the airport, its amenities, and services. Punta Cana International Airport is the world's first privately owned airport, and is one of the busiest and best connected airports in the Caribbean. In 2008, more than three and a half million visitors from around the world passed through.

The Carolina students arrived on the island May 11 and went to work right away.

"This class is actually a very interesting and useful look at international consulting and the real work that it entails," said graduate student Katherine Magner, who is blogging for the group.

For two weeks the students have worked all day at the airport interviewing every tourist leaving the Dominican Republic via the Punta Cana International Airport. They worked in three shifts, collecting the data and crunching the numbers.

But it's not been all work and no play, said Dr. Rich Harrill, faculty advisor to the students.

"We've also had fun, and I think the best part of the trip for the students was taking them out in boats to a large shallow part in the ocean to swim and snorkel," he said. "They they took pictures of the beach, palm trees, and green-blue water. Several students commented that they felt like were stepping into a postcard."

They are also learning about the stark contrasts one might find in a developing country.

"We visited several large five star hotels after traveling through shanty towns that supply the labor for the tourism industry," Harrill said. "It is gratifying as an educator and researcher to provide these lessons in person to augment what they learn in the classroom back home in Columbia."

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 05/20/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 05/26/10 @ 4:09 PM | Permalink