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TourismU brings industry to school

October 31, 2012
Geoffrey Bird, associate professor, School of Tourism and Hospitality and TourismU facilitator.

A successful tourism operation is about more than location and service. Operators need industry savvy and an understanding of their story.

That’s why three Royal Roads University faculty members are gearing up for TourismU Nov. 4. Through a blended approach of online resources and face-to-face sessions, TourismU is a preconference for HOST BC, the annual tourism and hospitality industry conference starting the same day. Attendees do not need to be conference delegates and the sessions have value for anyone curious how applying a more academic approach to business will strengthen the bottom line.

“Tourism is one of the No. 1 employers in the country, yet when we talk about innovation and research and development those terms are often seen as being more relevant to oil and gas or the high-tech sector,” says Geoffrey Bird, associate professor, School of Tourism and Hospitality and TourismU facilitator. “We need more research and a higher level of sophistication in the industry.”

Canada is relatively new to the scene in regards to post-secondary education for the tourism sector. Undergraduate degrees became available in the 1990s and Royal Roads has been leading the way in programing, Bird says, but there is a lot of learn from the industry in countries such as Germany and Australia which have had an educational focus for longer.

There needs to be a change in the industry in regards to the value of post-secondary education, he says. That is one of the topics he will be covering in the plenary address at TourismU. “There is a lot of information out there, in terms of statistics and trends that some businesses don’t have the capacity to fully identify and fully understand and implement into their strategies,” he says, noting that is where education comes in. The concept has been coined as “absorptive capacity,” which essentially means a business’s ability to understand information and make adjustments to their business to take advantage of opportunity, Bird explains.  

He will also be covering new innovations from across Canada as well as the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Two breakout sessions include a talk on the value of social media storytelling by Brian White, director of the School of Tourism and Hospitality; and a discussion of corporate hotel strategy with Bill Lewis, general manager of the Magnolia Hotel in Victoria and associate faculty at Royal Roads.

Tourism operators should be taking stock of their business, looking at unique selling features and anticipating challenges, Lewis adds. That means looking at your business inside and out to understand all the impacting factors.

That knowledge will help people create and build a brand through storytelling, which is what White will address. “Stories are essential. They represent the richness of a community. They give meaning to a place. They give a sense of the past, of continuity or belonging,” Bird says. “They are why a place a matters.”