Whether it’s boomers checking off their bucket list or millennials looking for that ‘unique’ experience, one thing is for sure — tourism is big business.

Travelling, which just over a century ago was the privilege of very few, has evolved into a mass obsession with over one billion people travelling the world today. 

Like many countries, Canada’s tourism sector is vital to its economy. Travel is now a $102 billion sector that is larger than agriculture and forestry combined. In fact, 1 out of every 11 jobs in the country is involved with travellers. Yet, no matter how magical a destination is, it’s the people we meet that make our experiences so memorable. 

“My favourite part of the job is turning an angry, upset guest into a loyal customer.”
–  Laura Burgham, Westin Hotel

For Laura Burgham, Housekeeping Manager at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, working in tourism is all about people-pleasing. “My favourite part of the job is turning an angry, upset guest into a loyal customer,” says Burgham. “There’s a certain amount of pride in being able to do that.”

Burgham credits much of her success to Algonquin College’s Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Management (Honours) program. The four-year degree program, one of only a few in Canada, provides students with up-to-date industry information as well as hands-on experience, including two paid 500-hour co-op placements. 

The program not only allowed Burgham (and many others) to secure a job before she graduated, but also prepared her perfectly for the world of work. “Many times since graduating,” says Burgham. “I’ve had that ‘aha’ moment; where what I had been taught in class was being put to use on my job.” 

And that is exactly what an education for the real world is designed to do.