Looking into the future for B.C. parks

Okanagan College students earned second place in a case study competition looking at B.C. Parks.

Okanagan College students hooked themselves a second place finish with their recent presentation on BC Parks at the Tourism Industry’s 2011 Student Case Competition in Vancouver.

“It was a really tough competition,” said Laura Thurnheer, a professor in Okanagan College’s School of Business. “The students spent weeks preparing for this.”

The six teams, all post-secondary students specializing in hospitality and tourism, prepared some of their material in advance—all focused on BC Parks.

Once the competition got underway, the teams received their official task: craft a 15-minute presentation on how Tourism BC, Tourism Info-Centres and B.C. Parks can work together to market specific regions. The teams then had five hours to prepare and rehearse.

“Once we were in lockdown we realized we had lots of material we couldn’t use, but it was great to see how we pulled it all together as a team. It showed us how we could push past our comfort zone,” said Nathan Milligan, who along with Jena Huber, Shelby Franson, and Jordan Lacroix, made up the College’s team.

“Their delivery of the solution was very real,” Thurnheer said.

“They brought a budget to it, they had their quantitative research, and what they created was a most viable and workable solution for B.C. Parks.”

Following the competition, the students attended the full conference, all paid for by industry.

“It’s great that the college gives us this opportunity, and it was great to meet all these other people from the industry,” Milligan said.

The team’s strong showing is the latest example of how hospitality and tourism students at Okanagan College take advantage, and excel, through a wide-range of opportunities.

Business students specializing in hospitality and tourism also had an opportunity to attend the three-day B.C. Hospitality Industry Conference and Expo held earlier this month also in Vancouver.

This year faculty selected Stephanie Belland, a fourth-year student who already holds a diploma in hospitality management, to be a delegate.

The conference includes sessions on everything from a panel discussion featuring Liquor Control Licensing branch manager Karen Ayers, to a debate over which industry is best “optimizing revenue” —hotels or airlines.

“These are high level discussions, and important complex ones for our industry,” Thurnheer said.

Earlier this year, Kali Mulholland travelled to Perth, Australia, through the Kelowna-Ogopogo Rotary Club’s annual tourism exchange program, designed specifically for the college’s tourism and hospitality students.

While there, Mulholland attended a marketing session of the Western Australia Tourism Council where she learned the council has to regularly overcome the challenge of Perth being the most isolated capital city in the world.

“Here in the Okanagan we’re trying to draw people in from Vancouver, so it was interesting to see that they used similar tools to us. Things like attracting visitors by highlighting their wineries, their surfing, their natural beauty and character,” she said.

Okanagan College regional dean Heather Schneider, who sits on the local Rotary selection committee, said students truly benefit from the experience.

“Perth has a very similar environment with an active eco-tourism industry, aboriginal tourism, and wineries. It’s a perfect experience for students from here,” Schneider said.