Friday, October 30, 2009

Encouraging Youth to Consider Careers in Tourism

With high school , college and university curriculum in full swing this time of year, its also the time we ramp up the educational elements of our tourism mandate, speaking to students from grade 8 up to 4th year university about the local tourism industry.

Over the past few weeks, we've taken our message to Churchill High school's Grade 11 I.B. geography program, Confederation Colleges second year marketing program and most recently, Lakehead University's second year "issues in tourism" class. Hats off to educators in our secondary and post secondary school systems who understand the value of tourism and want to integrate our work into their curriculum.

Reaching out to the next generation of potential marketers, entrepreneurs and outfitters is always a rewarding part of our mandate. Sharing our marketing strategy, consumer research, industry performance and product development focus with youth helps them with their studies and raises the interest and awareness in tourism. Our focus has been diverse, ranging from a workshop on geography's role in shaping our tourism focus to our other topics including marketing strategy, product development, social media in tourism and data analysis.

I always start a presentation with asking a few simple questions. "How many of you have grown up in the City?" and "How many of you want to make a career for yourself here after you graduate?" The first question solicits mixed results based on the audience, with the majority of high school students having lived here since birth, whereas the university groups typically have a 80-90% out of town residency rate. The second question, at all levels, sees very few wishing to stay here after school. That is something we have to change and the small percentage of those who want to stay -usually 10-20% are going to have to be the leaders to create new opportunities so that others will want to stay. Its also important to recognize that we'll never be everything to everyone. some people love big cities and some people love small cities. Youth have a natural exuberance to explore and see the world beyond their city limits. Some, as we are seeing now, eventually return to set down their roots and help grow the community.

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry right now is the recruitment of motivated customer oriented employees and we see this as a way to encourage them to consider career opportunities within the hospitality and tourism sector. Its also an industry that needs new ideas and enthusiasm to meet the changes in the industry and take advantage of new opportunities in a proactive and constructive entrepreneurial manner. Thunder Bay has a lot more potential to become a world class destination than many give credit too. It simply takes people with a positive attitude and a spirit to see it through to that level. Encouraging them at an early age when they are forming their opinion about the city, presents a perfect chance to gain their support.

We're always happy to share our presentation materials with groups and individuals alike. You can email me at to get a copy or book myself or one of our team to speak to your work, social or educational group about elements of our tourism economy.

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