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Royal Roads students take home gold

March 2, 2017

A team of three Bachelor of Arts in International Hotel Management students won the 2017 Winning Pitch Competition at the B.C. Tourism Industry Conference Feb. 23.

Annie Luke, Lindsay Henderson and Darya Nikulenkova won $1,000 in the post-secondary student case competition hosted by go2HR, B.C.’s tourism human resource association, and judged by industry professionals.

The students’ winning pitch “Connect to Adventure” is a proposal for a mobile app that allows visitors to connect with agri-tourism businesses on Vancouver Island. The user-friendly app is location-based and aimed at travellers aged 20 to 65.

“Our main goal was to provide something that everyone could use,” says Henderson. “If people are in the area or have gone to an attraction such as a winery, the app pings them to provide specials that the businesses are offering or notices of festivals coming up and encourages tourists to come back to the area.”

Associate Prof. Eugene Thomlinson offered support as the team’s coach and says this case competition was more complex and detailed than any other competition he’s seen before.

“They were supposed to connect with the agri-tourism here on Vancouver Island and find a way to improve the connections, to be a service to tourism, to try to improve employment and opportunities for them,” says Thomlinson. “Unlike most case competitions, they had to develop this business case idea…and put something together that was actually viable.”

Following their win at the regional competition, the students had only four days to incorporate feedback and prepare for the provincial competition. They revised their business plan, incorporated accessibility components (such as wheelchair access) to align with the Accessibility 2024 action plan and prepared a stage presentation for the provincial pitch.

Luke admits it was nerve-racking to present their proposal in front of a large audience, but knew their commitment and ideas were strong.

“We really challenged each other and I think that’s what brought the best out of each other was doing that—questioning each other and pushing for that extra tidbit of information that would enhance and quantify what we were making,” says Luke.

Despite the heavy commitments of their program of study, Henderson says the pitch experience was made possible because of the support they received from the Royal Roads community.

“We had faculty, we had our cohort, we had other cohorts and that was amazing to see that everyone stood behind us for us to get this done,” says Henderson.

Thomlinson says the confidence gained by the students is an important part of the case competition experience and the student’s idea could be created into a real business.

“Because they had such incredible stage presence, they did really well as far as increasing their recognition. There were so many people that came up to me after their presentation saying ‘we want to talk to them, we want to hire them’,” says Thomlinson.

Nikulenkova says the win created a big shift for her teammates.

“As students, when we go into conferences like this one, we are the ones to approach the giants of the industry—it was a cool experience for us to be the ones approached,” says Nikulenkova.