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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 2:56 AM 

Getting to know tomorrow’s travel experts

Getting to know tomorrow’s travel experts
From left: Melissa Medeiros, chapter liaison, PR manager, YTP; Kevin Smith, program coordinator for Tourism Management Travel Industry Services at Humber College; Jenni Berg, regional business development executive, Contiki Holidays Canada.

The students of Humber College’s Tourism Management and Travel Industry Services program are eager to see the world, and get a job. Otherwise, in the eyes of these future travel professionals, the inner-workings of the industry is a pretty big question mark.

Approximately 30 first- and second-year students came out last week (Nov. 3) to the second annual YTP-TO + Humber College speed-networking event in Toronto, meeting with 15 young travel professionals for a series of six-minute meetings in the hopes of learning more about the business.

The inaugural event was held last year to great success, and according to Kevin Smith, program coordinator for Tourism Management Travel Industry Services at Humber College, proved essential in introducing students to the most important element of finding success in the industry: networking.

“There’s only so much we can teach in the classroom to set the students up for success,” he told PAX. “So connecting them with professionals currently working in the industry holds a lot of value.”

Today’s travel industry hopefuls experience unique challenges when it comes to determining their paths in this field, Smith pointed out, mostly because the majority of people don’t understand how lucrative tourism really is in today’s world.

“A lot of times, when young people decide that they want to study travel, their parents don’t understand,” he said. “They think it’s a dying industry, so why would anyone want to work in it when everyone is buying online?”

This misconception deters a lot of youth from digging deeper, and if they do proceed to join the program, Smith explained, the struggle continues from the industry side.

“It can be very hard to get [the trade] to engage with our students,” he said admitting trouble when it comes to finding guest speakers and sponsors for student events.

“The industry doesn’t seem to consider the fact that these students are going to be their employees... that they are the trade’s future.”

Contiki Holidays Canada is the exception in this case; the organization sponsored last year’s speed-networking initiative and took on the role once again because, according to Jenni Berg, the company’s regional business development executive, there are many advantages to getting involved at the pre-graduate level.

“This is the trade of the future, so we want to make sure that we’re supporting the people who will be supporting us in the industry tomorrow,” she told PAX, adding that engaging with students is also an opportunity to familiarize them with Contiki’s products today, so they can sell them tomorrow.

As the meet & greets commenced, some students seemed unsure of how to start, but most were outgoing and eager to broaden their understanding of what these seemingly elusive jobs in tourism entailed.

For the most part, they all asked the same questions: “How did you first get your start in the industry;” “What is your job, exactly?” and “What is the best way to get hired?”

“They do get jobs,” Smith said of the program’s graduates. “Most will start working right away. But we want them to build careers, not just get a job.”

With the nature of the nine to five workplace always evolving, investing in new blood – who might turn around and abandon the company six months later for a better opportunity – is a common concern among industry professionals, and travel advisors in particular.

According to Smith, injecting the industry with young talent is crucial to its continuation, and retaining that talent is in the hands of the employers.

“The industry needs to start paying a little more at the entry-level to make a career path more viable,” he said, adding that Humber College has had several high-level meetings recently with the Ministry of Tourism on this very subject.

“It’s pretty lucrative at the management level, but it’s extremely difficult when you first start out.”

Toward the end of the evening, PAX sat down with several of Smith’s top students to get a sense of their goals for the future. Here’s what we found:

Dhvani Gandhi (27) – Tourism Management Diploma, year two
Dhvani Gandhi .jpg

After graduation, she hopes to be... “Working for a tour operator who puts a focus on sustainable and responsible tourism practices.”
In 10 years, she’ll be... “Implementing innovations in sustainable tourism practices at a large tour operator such as Intrepid Travel or G Adventures.”

Megan Gillard (26) – Tourism Management Diploma, year two Megan Gillard .jpg

After graduation, she hopes to be... “Working in groups, meeting and incentives, planning itineraries in adventure travel specifically.”
In 10 years, she’ll be... “Running my own bespoke adventure travel business.”

Nisha Patel (18) – Tourism Management Diploma, year one Nisha Patel.jpg

After graduation, she hopes to be... “Starting out as a travel advisor specializing in the cruise industry before moving on to work in product development in the cruise industry.”
In 10 years, she’ll... “Have travelled as much as possible, and explored as many aspects of the industry as possible. To be doing something that I really want to do.”

Julie Taylor (21) – Tourism Management Diploma, year one Julie Taylor.jpg

After graduation, she hopes to... “Have completed an internship that has helped me realize what field I want to focus on – it’s always changing!”
In 10 years, she’ll be... “Working abroad as a manager for a European tour operator, or on the marketing and communications side. Or maybe back in school.”

Travis Goodburn (25) – Tourism Management Diploma, year two Travis Goodburn.jpg

After graduation, he hopes to be... “Working in trade up in the Yukon, or South America. Hopefully to work on the marketing side with G Adventures, or even Contiki.”
In 10 years, he’ll be... “Running a local tour company on the ground in Kenya.”

Michael Bauda (29) - Tourism Management Diploma, year two Michael Bauda.jpg

After graduation, he hopes to be... “Using my former marketing degree and learn as much about the field of branding as I can.”
In 10 years, he’ll be... “Working for myself, making people happy and sharing my passion for travel with others in a marketing and PR capacity.”