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Chapter 1: Understanding Tourism

Article from WTTC Human Resource Centre publication

Steps to Success: Global Good Practices in Travel & Tourism Human Resource Development


Source: Steps to Success, Vol.2, No.2 (Dec 1998)
Organization: Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism, Canada

Profile of a Tourism Human Resource Council - A Partnership that Works

...A successful institutional mechanism that provides leadership for growth in an expanding tourism economy.

The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism responds to British Columbia's tourism industry needs by coordinating education and training programs throughout the province. This non-profit service organization promotes quality training with a focus on industry-developed standards. It is also involved in the development of an integrated tourism learning system.


British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province, has been experiencing vigorous and competitive expansion throughout its tourism industry over the last decade. Growth in tourism has coincided with a dramatic shift toward a service-based economy, dependent on a professional, well-trained workforce. Prior to the mid-1980s, the BC economy was largely dependent on forest products, mining, fishing, and primary processing of natural resources. As employment in traditional resource industries has declined, tourism has become a higher economic priority. As a result, major gaps in the education and training of a professional tourism workforce have become evident.

Traditionally, tourism education and training has been highly fragmented -- private school programs were not compatible with the public school system and college programs lacked coordination and consistency. Most industry in-house training efforts were also non-transferable, and occupational standards had not yet been developed. In addition, there was no focused effort to attract the best and brightest young people into the tourism industry.

These and other gaps were identified during the year Vancouver hosted the 1986 World Exposition when much attention was focused on the provincial tourism industry. The same year, a milestone report titled Tourism: The Quest for Professionalism was prepared by Ann Pollock at the request of the provincial government. The report made an important recommendation: a central provincial coordinating agency was needed to ensure that the expanding education and training needs of tourism would be met effectively.

The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism was established in 1988 to promote, coordinate, and integrate tourism education and training within the tourism industry, and throughout the public and private education system. An initial objective of the Institute was to promote tourism as a professional career for young people, while creating a seamless system of tourism education from high school to degree level.

The institute now provides extensive information, support, and assistance in promoting the education and training of industry employees. The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism, in partnership with industry associations and public and private educators, was instrumental in creating a professional association for active industry personnel. As one of the 12 tourism education councils now existing in Canada, the Institute is actively involved in the creation, design, and operation of numerous projects central to the building of the British Columbia Tourism Learning System.


It was critical to the long-term success of the Institute that key industry leaders should be involved from the onset. An officially recognized Board of Directors was appointed by the provincial government. Ensuring wide representation of interests, the Board now includes influential and respected leaders from the eight tourism sectors, and senior administrators from a range of public and private educational institutions.

Base funding is provided by the government of British Columbia. Financial support, at a core level, was obtained from the provincial Ministry of Tourism (now Tourism BC).

Additional financial support, primarily for specific products, was obtained from industry associations and other government resources. More recent support has come from the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) which coordinates the efforts of the tourism education councils at a national level.

From a fund-raising perspective, it is important that the Institute operate as an incorporated, non-profit society rather than as a government agency. This independence allows the Institute to serve more effectively as "change-agent" and to assume a neutral, facilitative role.

After initial efforts raised the profile of the Institute's role, support was obtained to start a more coordinated approach to British Columbia's human resource development in tourism. In 1992, the Institute initiated and coordinated an extensive year-long strategic planning process in which all key stakeholder groups worked together to develop a commonly accepted professional development plan for the industry. Funding was obtained from both provincial and federal government departments responsible for education and human resource development.

Focus groups were held with all stakeholder groups including representatives from industry, education, and government. An analysis of current industry human resource needs was conducted, and primary research was initiated to develop focused tourism labour market information. Hundreds of individuals were actively involved.

Tourism: the Professional Challenge: A Framework for Action was the result. The Framework outlined a common mission for tourism human resource development throughout the province, encouraging "cooperation, communication, and collaboration" amongst all government, industry, and education partners in reaching a series of goals vital to this mission.

The strategic planning process helped to increase awareness of the value of coordinated efforts and assisted in establishing initial partnerships. The Framework was instrumental in creating the blueprint for many of the elements of the present BC Tourism Learning System. The Framework has since triggered an integrated planning process for Tourism BC and all government agencies with a mandate for education and training in the tourism field. The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism serves as secretariat to this joint effort. Attention has been directed towards expanding labour market information and its link to programming and the integration of tourism human resource development as a key component of an overall, industry growth management strategy.

Some of the other key activities of the Institute include:

  • Coordination of the national industry awareness program (A Career in Tourism - You Decide How Far To Go ...) delivered by industry volunteers to thousands of 15 and 16 year olds.
  • Organization of a biennial Tourism Career Expo which attracts 100 exhibitors and 6,000 participants.
  • Development of tourism occupational standards (as part of a national CTHRC coordinated process). Over 50 sets of standards listing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for competent job performance are now available.
  • Promotion of standards-based workbooks and training resources for numerous key occupations.
  • Coordination and delivery of a national “Train-the-Workplace-Trainer” workshop.
  • Administration of occupational certification for numerous positions.
  • Development of a process and designation indicating formal industry validation of programs: Programs for the Tourism Professional, (PTP).
  • Operation of British Columbia's successful Tourism Resource Centre including an extensive print collection and extensive range of training videos used by industry and education subscribers.
  • Production of tourism directories and career planning tools.
  • Involvement in projects to develop industry endorsed common core curriculum (PTP) for secondary tourism career, preparation program, college level diploma, and university degree programs in tourism.
  • Establishment of the Institute's independent credentials arm, The Association of Tourism Professionals.
  • Delivery of customer service programs, including SuperHost
  • Design and development of numerous, tourism employment projects including an initiative for youth and one to implement new approaches for apprenticeship.


The Institute has been instrumental in changing the face of tourism human resource development in British Columbia. In ten years, most key industry organizations and educational institutions have developed awareness of its mandate and are supportive of its role. The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism is a busy agency serving hundreds of industry professionals, tourism educators/trainers, and students every week.

Since inception, the Institute has learned that developing meaningful partnerships takes time and nurturing. The Institute has found a need to remind industry and government representatives of its function as a coordinating mechanism that ensures a trained, professional workforce for the province. A continued objective of the Institute is to increase awareness throughout the tourism industry of the importance of developing a strong, continuous, and standardised training culture. With the tools and credentials recently developed, work is carrying on in the implementation of the BC Tourism Learning System, a system in which all training -- in-house or classroom -- is based on consistent, industry-validated learning outcomes.

WTTC Human Resource Centre COMMENT:

The Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism has been the central agency in creating the industry awareness, training tools, training culture, and Tourism Learning System that have maintained and developed British Columbia's professional tourism workforce during a critical period of economic restructuring. The Institute has emerged as a national innovator in tourism education and training, initiating development of tourism learning systems in other provinces across Canada.

Chapter 1 Suggested Web Sites:

1. Canadian Tourism Council (CTC) and

Tourism Reference and Documentation Centre (TRDC)

Created in 1995 to promote Canadian tourism, the Canadian Tourism Council (CTC) markets Canada as a desirable travel destination and provides timely and accurate information to the Canadian tourism industry to assist in its decision making. The CTC has an extensive amount of useful information on their web site suitable for students, employees, and businesses alike.

For students, the Tourism Resources link is where one finds the CTC’s newsletter Communique on-line; CTC news releases; Tourism Highlights - daily news articles compiled weekly by the TRDC relating to all sectors of tourism; CTC publications that are viewable on-line and/or available for ordering; and valuable research and statistics. The Reference Centre is your link to the CTC library - called the Tourism Reference and Documentation Centre (TRDC). This on-line catalogue contains over 5,000 books, conference proceedings, and reports as well as 400 journal titles. For researchers, there is also an annotated directory of Canadian tourism research professionals - a “Who Can Do What” list along with other web links. The Partnerships link is where tourism businesses can find information on partnership programs, product development, merchandising, and opportunities.

2. Statistics Canada (StatsCan)

Statistics Canada is the country’s national statistical agency, with programs organized into three broad subject matter area: demographic and social, socio-economical, and economic. If looking for tourism related statistics in such areas as Canadian domestic and international travel and transportation, the StatsCan web site is a wealth of information.  Publications of interest include: Travel-Log (Touriscope), International Travel: Travel between Canada and other countries (Touriscope), and the Canadian Travel Survey. There are also various transportation statistics such as rail, bus, and air travel, all of which are available through regional offices or downloadable for a fee through the on-line catalogue of products and services.

Daily News contains highlights of newly released data, schedules for major releases and announcements of new products and services. Census is the free tabular data from the 1996 Census, including the Statistical Profile of Canadian Communities and information on the 2001 Census. Education Resources offer programs and products to integrate Canadian statistical information into teaching and learning. In depth includes selected articles from our analytic periodicals. Service centres list the information on our regional offices, libraries and other distributors of Statistics Canada data. Other links include: Employment opportunities; Links to other sites; Canada quiz; Canadian statistics - free tabular data on aspects of Canada's economy, land, people, and government; Products and services; Catalogue; CANSIM and Trade statistics; Year 2000; as well as Seminars and conferences.

3. The Canadian Tourism Research Institute (CTRI) of The Conference Board of Canada

The Canadian Tourism Research Institute (CTRI) is in the business of providing insightful interpretation and timely communication of travel research information. The Institute is a centre of The Conference Board of Canada and operates as a not-for-profit research organization obtaining its funding through membership fees, subscriptions, seminars, and contract research. By specializing in travel forecasts, travel trend analysis, technology solutions, and economic impact modelling, the CTRI’s reports inform other tourism organizations, industry, and the public on tourism’s past performance and anticipated future. This web site offers information on how the Institute can help specific tourism organizations, and offers access to its publications, research and information services, conferences and councils, and a direct link to The Conference Board of Canada.

4. Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA)

The Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) is an industry-led national trade association representing the retail travel sector of Canada’s tourism industry. Links on ATCA’s web site include media releases, newsfax listings, an industry events calendar, member search capabilities, ID card registration for travel agents, on-line supplier registration, and ACTA’s call to action. The site presents an overview of the issues facing Canada’s travel trade professionals, and offers insight for those looking at a career as a travel agent. Students will learn about the association’s mandate and vision, and ATCA’s commitment to: (1) advocacy and lobbying; (2) research; (3) education and training; and (4) membership development.

5. Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC)

The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) promotes and enhances professionalism in the Canadian tourism industry through industry standards, training, and professional certification. As a national non-profit organization, the CTHRC has been successful in bringing together businesses, labour unions, associations, education/training providers, and government to address Canada’s tourism industry’s human resource needs. Tourism Education Councils in each of the provinces and territoires are founding partners, and are the delivery agents of human resource products and services for the Canadian tourism industry.

The CTRHC web site links explain what the Council has to offer private and public employers, employees, youth, and tourism students. The Training Resources link explains all the available national training resources (including workbooks, trainer’s guides, train-the-trainer resources, and videos) that can be used in the workplace, classroom, and for self-directed study in Canada’s eight tourism sectors. The Occupational Standards link allows you to access all the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for competent performance in each of the standards profiles. After learning about how standards are established and how they can benefit you, find out the benefits of Professional Certification to gain a competitive edge! Other useful links include: HR Studies/Publications; Interesting Links; and the Product Catalogue. Students, check out the Youth Program and learn how this sector-based youth internship program with the transition form school to work is preparing young people between the ages of 18 and 30. The Canadian Academy of Travel & Tourism is also part of the CTHRC. The Academy through support and guidance of education and industry partners, offers tourism courses, projects, and activities as part of the high school curriculum (grades 10,11,12) in selected schools across Canada.

6. Travel Industry Association of America (TIA)

If you are looking for United States domestic travel research information, the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) web site is the place to find it. TIA’s research department, the U.S. Travel Data Center, collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates economic and marketing research highlighting the economic significance of the travel and tourism industry at national, state, and local levels. The TIA site map offers non-TIA members access to the Press Room and a Fast Facts link to information on: business travel; domestic travel; economic impact; family travel; international travel to the United States; sports and travel; taxes; tourism promotion; travel and the Internet; traveller spending; travel trends; and world tourism.

7. World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is recognized as the global business leaders forum for travel and tourism. WTTC’s central goal is to bring industry and governments together to realize the full economic and sustainable impact of the world’s largest generator of wealth and jobs - travel and tourism. The WTTC site provides the latest travel and tourism satellite accounting statistics in league tables organized by region and country across the globe. These tables and many of WTTC’s reports and publications are downloadable (for free) in .pdf file format. The Publication Library offers key-word search capability for locating publications by pre-defined categories: aviation; taxation; region; statistics; environment; education and training; organization; GATS; media; tourism; strategic; and employment.

8. World Tourism Organization (WTO)

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) is a leading international organization recognizing governments’ vital role in tourism, and exists to help nations maximize the positive impacts of tourism (such as job creation, new infrastructure, and foreign exchange earnings), while minimizing negative environmental or social impacts. WTO thus serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and is a practical source of tourism know-how. WTO is the only inter-governmental organization that offers membership to the operating sector -- in this way offering a unique contact point for discussion between government officials and industry leaders. For students, the site provides an array of information including WTO publications, statements and declarations referring to sustainable tourism, an events calendar, press releases, WTO’s inventory of newsletters, speeches, and the world’s most comprehensive source of tourism statistics. Its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) link provides a thorough overview of how to use the on-line service and various tourism definitions.

9. Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a non-profit travel trade association servicing government tourist offices, airlines, hotels, and other travel-related companies throughout the Pacific Asia region. Useful information links include events and trade shows affiliated with PATA, member related destinations, airline information, a searchable publications library, a membership database, and career link. The careers area of PATAnet is a free job posting service available to all PATA member organizations. Those interested in browsing through the openings can do so by category or by type of business. Each posting includes a brief job description and information about how to apply for the position.

10. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Tourism Committee

OECD is considered a think tank or monitoring agency providing governments a setting in which to discuss, develop, and perfect economic and social policy. The 29 member body seek answers to common problems and co-ordinates domestic and international policies toward forming a web of even practice across nations. This club of like-minded countries provides the opportunity for participating members to reflect and exchange perspectives with other countries similar to their own.

The OECD Tourism Committee promotes tourism and is the only global forum for discussions of tourism policies among industrialized countries. Once a year, the OECD brings together senior policy makers in the tourism area to discuss major industry developments, takes action when required, assembles material on policies, and contributes

to the work of other parts of the OECD. Where necessary, action is taken. The OECD Tourism Committee also co-operates with the World Tourism Organization, the European Union and the International Labour Organization. It engages in dialogue with non-member countries, and provides a forum for discussion with industry, academia and other groups through consultation and seminars. To find out more information on forthcoming events, recent conferences, and to learn about the work of the OECD Tourism Committee, visit their web site. Specifically, see the following papers:

(1) Examination of National Tourism Policy:

(2) The socio-economic significance of tourism in OECD countries:

(3) Performance of OECD tourism policies:


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