Capilano University bachelor of tourism management enables students to work in foreign lands

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      Imagine enrolling at a local regional university to study tourism and finding out that it includes a six-month work term at Walt Disney World. Or signing up and discovering that it involves travelling to Vietnam to learn about a community-based tourism project.

      Those are just two possibilities for students seeking a bachelor of tourism management at Capilano University.

      “Our mission is to inspire and educate every day,” program cochair Stephanie Wells told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      She said the co-op work term, which is accredited by the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education, is a “cornerstone piece” of the degree. Students accumulate 500 hours of work experience after selecting where they want to learn from a long list of high-profile employers with a relationship with Capilano University.

      “Once students secure their co-op work term, they create learning work outcomes,” Wells explained.

      As an example, she said, a student might have a work term at the information desk for Tourism Vancouver. However, their learning work outcomes could include meeting with a member of the executive team or being part of an event committee, so they will strive to meet those goals.

      There are two streams within the four-year bachelor of tourism management program: a hotel and resort concentration and an adventure concentration.

      The hotel and resort specialization has eight courses designed for that industry, including sales and marketing, revenue management, and hotel financial management. The latter concentration emphasizes sustainable and environmental perspectives, as well as an understanding of risk management.

      The next intake of students will take place in January, and high-school grads must have a C+ in English and have sufficient math skills.

      “If you meet the requirements, then there’s no interview and no cover letter,” Wells said.

      To obtain a degree, there are some nontourism courses that students must take, including English 100. 

      Program cochair Stephanie Wells says the faculty's mission is to inspire and educate students every day.

      Tourism’s gross domestic product in B.C. grew every year from 2007 to 2015, according to the latest data from B.C. Stats, rising 31 percent over that period to reach $8.3 billion.

      Total employment in this sector reached 127,700 in B.C., which means there is no shortage of opportunities.

      “We have a grad who’s an owner of a sightseeing tour company, so there are certainly some of those more traditional avenues,” she said. “We have graduates who are front-desk managers in hotels, who work in sales within hotels. They’re working in meetings and events and selling Vancouver as a destination.”

      She also said that professional sports teams such as the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Whitecaps attract tourism. Then there are big tourism employers such as Rocky Mountaineer, which offers luxurious train service through some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada.

      Wells pointed out that a bachelor of tourism management degree gives a graduate a full sense of the interrelationships within the tourism sector. One student, for instance, discovered a passion for accounting while working as a hotel night auditor.

      “We think of tourism as being very front-facing—the face of the city when people come to Vancouver—when a lot of the work is done behind the scenes, whether it’s sales or night audit or product development.”

      The rising popularity of social media has added a new wrinkle to the degree program. Next year, Capilano University will offer an upper-level course called applied digital strategies in tourism.

      In the meantime, Wells said, there’s no shortage of school spirit among tourism students. There are two groups in the department, the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Student Association (TRESCA) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), which are involved in various community activities.

      This month, TRESCA will work with Landsea Tours on a charitable event called “Stuff the Bus”.

      “Everyone brings in bags of clothes and blankets and we try to fill one of the Landsea sightseeing buses,” Wells said.

      She added that PATA recently organized a weekend shore cleanup, reflecting the group’s interest in sustainable development.

      “They’re engaged in their own learning as well,” Wells said. “We’re very pleased with that.”

      Capilano University's School of Tourism Management will host an information session from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on November 28 in Room 216 of the Birch Building (2055 Purcell Way) on the North Vancouver campus. For details, visit