When your workplace is on fresh powder at a ski resort, a whale-watching boat bobbing on the ocean, a zip-line flying through the forest, or in the cockpit of a seaplane, it’s never just “another day in the office”, for those who work in tourism.
During Tourism Week 2023, we celebrate the employees, business owners, and volunteers who show up for BC’s tourism sector, every single day, to create remarkable experiences and memories for our visitors. And that includes those who work at Destination BC.
With 37 years of experience in tourism, Destination BC’s Kathleen Harvey, Manager, Visitor Services, loves working with frontline teams around BC. “We get to work with the 130+ Visitor Centres across BC that assist over 2 million visitors a year.” Kathleen also takes great pride in leading Destination BC’s accessibility initiatives. “Our goal is to help ensure every person can participate in BC’s transformative experiences.”
Joanne Motta, In-Country Manager, Australia & New Zealand, has spent over 20 years with Destination BC, and the variety of her work across industry is a constant. “Two days are never the same. This is what I love about the work.” Her work takes her across the globe, connecting BC’s tourism industry with the travel trade and media in Australia and New Zealand. “I work with BC tourism partners to help them understand how to work with the Australia and NZ markets, and to match them up with travel trade who can best promote what they offer.” Joanne also works with Oregon and Utah.
This kind of global teamwork takes place from Vancouver, too. “An awesome part of my job,” says Destination BC’s Alison McKay, Vice President, Destination Management, “is that we often get calls or requests from around Canada, North America, and all over the world—from organizations that look to our tourism industry here in BC, the way we work together, the innovation and success of entrepreneurs, the decades of leadership in Indigenous tourism, as best practices, as doing things right, as ways they want to aspire to.”
For Destination BC’s Seppe Mommaerts, Manager, Destination Development, tourism offers an opportunity to connect with passionate people in all parts of our province. “It’s often the interactions with community leaders and tourism champions whose passion, plans, and dreams are infectious and inspiring.”
Their love for the industry extends to the personal memories they’ve captured while traveling, here in BC. Seppe remembers the first day-hike he ever did with his family in Strathcona Provincial Park, and watching grizzly bears feasting on salmon in the Atnarko River. And a highlight for Joanne was meeting the people of the Gitga’at First Nation and viewing a Spirit Bear, with their knowledgeable guides.
Beyond the lasting impact of BC’s natural wonders, these tourism professionals are motivated by the people they meet and the joy they bring to their experiences. Kathleen remembers a moment that touched her heart while leading a tour group to Victoria. “One of my guests, an older woman from New York, told me she was fulfilling a bucket list adventure before she passed on—coming to BC, going on a ferry, and seeing Victoria. She had saved money for many years. I felt humbled and honored, and a tremendous sense of responsibility as we headed on our way. This woman entrusted me to fulfill a dream. That’s what we can do for people.” Seppe knows that traveling can also open our minds to new perspectives. “I believe that when leaving home, one is more open to learning new ways of doing, understanding others and other cultures, and taking a different perspective on things.” And Alison agrees, “Economic benefits, supporting local entrepreneurs, community pride and connectedness, social awareness, understanding of different cultures, race, traditions, practices, learning about the truths of history, the environment, the land that hosts us…tourism is a catalyst for positive change.”
Despite challenging global events, the tourism industry in BC remains resilient. And the positivity that tourism brings to people’s lives is more important than ever. As Joanne says, “No one comes back complaining about the Canadians they meet and the experiences they have, in BC. It’s this positivity that’s infectious.”
BC’s tourism industry offers an incredible range of career opportunities, from working on the front lines with visitors to promoting tourism development from behind the scenes. And for those who love to travel, the experiences and memories gained from working in tourism are truly priceless. As Seppe puts it, “It’s a privilege and honour to work in the tourism industry, and, in particular, promoting British Columbia. It’s a joy to share these experiences with our visitors and locals, and I’m excited to continue learning and growing in this amazing field.”
How long have you worked in tourism?
Alison: 23 years
Kathleen: 37 years
Seppe: 6 years
Joanne: 26 years
What do you love about working in tourism?
Joanne: The people. All of them are amazing and passionate about the industry they work in. The highlights are connecting the businesses and seeing successful outcomes, when BC tourism providers see financial results and visitors, as a result of this perfect matchmaking.
Alison: Cheek-hurting smiles, belly laughs and warm, caring people—I love tourism and hospitality for that. Tourism, when done right, is such a catalyst for positive change – in every sense of the word and ways.
Seppe: It’s often the interactions with community leaders and tourism champions whose passion, plans, and dreams are infectious and inspiring.
Kathleen: Regarding the guest from New York, this woman entrusted me to fulfill a dream. She gave me a big hug at the end of the day and said she couldn’t have imagined her day any better. That is why I love tourism.
A parting thought?
Kathleen: While I am not the first to say so, I truly believe that travel—the kind of travel that gets you into communities, talking to the locals, getting off the beaten track—does lead to the breaking down of barriers and differences between people, and leads us to the space where we can learn, grow, and nurture peace.
Joanne: Tourism reaches far and wide, into the community and the economy. This was so obvious when we were in Covid-19 lockdowns. Tourism isn’t just an attraction, a business, or a hotel. It fuels the whole economy for the greater good. We need tourism.
Tourism Career Opportunities
Destination BC: https://www.destinationbc.ca/work-with-us/
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