Photo: Rob Newell

As a boy, Mario Hardy’s wandering mind made school a challenge. But decades later, it actually helped earn him an exemplary academic achievement: an honorary doctor of letters from Capilano University.

After all, it was Mario’s curiosity that brought him to six continents, inspired him to live and study in seven countries, and—as CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)—drove him to lead nations and businesses in developing tourism responsibly and sustainably. And it’s those impressive accomplishments that have culminated in his honorary doctorate.

A life of achievement

Hardy flew to Capilano U from his home in Bangkok to receive his degree at the June 6, 2016 convocation. Sitting amongst hundreds of graduating students, his sense of accomplishment was clear, he says. “This is a life achievement that I’m really proud of.”

Yet the honour is just one in a life filled with impressive achievements. In addition to his work with PATA, Hardy helped develop a school for underprivileged children in Cambodia and is an entrepreneur and angel investor in innovative start-ups. And he has been integral to CBT Vietnam, a joint project between Capilano University and Hanoi Open University.

Tourism done responsibly

Funded by the PATA Foundation, CBT Vietnam is a community-based tourism training project in Ta Phin and Lao Chai, two ethnic-minority villages in northern Vietnam’s Sapa region. The project helps ensure that the benefits of increased tourism are distributed widely in the villages, that each community’s cultural integrity is maintained and that the tourist experience is a positive one for both visitor and host.

“The nature of the project fits really well with the objectives of the foundation,” says Hardy. “We believe that sustainable tourism development is a way to help communities in need to improve their livelihood. It also gives an opportunity for travellers to experience real, authentic lifestyles.”

Bolstered by the volunteer efforts of approximately 60 students and faculty from Canada and 40 from Hanoi Open University, the results of CBT Vietnam have been impressive. Forty homestay businesses have been established by hill tribe women; more than 60 local guides have been trained; and villagers’ annual income has risen from US$500 to $2,400.

“CBT Vietnam has brought to the communities a regular source of income and helped provide a better education for their children,” says Hardy. “It has been one of the key highlights for the PATA Foundation and a leading example in community-based tourism development, which we hope we can, over time, replicate in other parts of the world.”

“We’ll continue to work closely with Capilano University and support their initiatives to help develop sustainable tourism in Vietnam and other destinations.”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing

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