It’s not a bad way to spend a whole summer: sailing between the Gulf Islands and as far north as Kitimat as a crew member on a Vancouver-based charter yacht. However, for Abby Rothwell, spending her summer on a yacht was more than just a job. The experience was the basis for the realization that her deep love for the sea could become a fulfilling career.

As part of her co-op placement with Capilano’s Tourism Management program, Abby spent the summer helping guests discover marine life and introducing them to B.C.’s natural beauty.

“The best experience was putting people on kayaks who have never kayaked before—and then catching and eating our own seafood,” she says.

Abby remembers one guest in particular, a young boy who felt nervous being out on the water. By the end of the trip, however, Abby says he couldn’t get enough of being outdoors, and would spend his entire afternoon riding the slide that ran from the top of the yacht out into the water.

“To see kids experience nature… I think there’s a big lack of that [now],” Abby says. “There was no cell service and no Internet, but by the end [of their trip], they were jumping into kayaks!”

Growing up on Saltspring

Abby and her younger sister, Kimberly Rothwell, are both students in Capilano University’s Tourism Management co-op education diploma program. Raised on tourist-friendly Saltspring Island, the two sisters are a year apart in age, but study in the same year of the program.

Having grown up around the ocean on Saltspring Island, the placement on the yacht was a natural fit for Abby, who is used to working around boats and marinas and says she lives for marine adventures.

Kimberly’s co-op placement was a completely different experience, however. Her love for the hotel industry saw her give up Internet access for an entire summer to work the mountainous backcountry of the Delta Kananaskis resort in the Alberta Rockies.

Kimberly grew up working in the Saltspring food service industry, so having the chance to put her skills to use in a backcountry resort environment was a logical next step. Kimberly’s role in the food and beverage services at the resort saw her working with a tight-knit community of hospitality workers. As a banquet server, she was responsible for set-up, take-down and serving at large events in the resort’s banquet hall.

Kimberly’s fondest memories from her placement include sharing the best hikes with visitors and working night shifts with her roommates at the resort.

“I really like the personal aspect of providing a service for someone, and getting to know someone in just an hour or two,” says Kimberly.

A personal touch

Abby says the most significant aspect of Cap’s tourism program is the way it gives students a better scope on the breadth of the tourism industry in B.C.

“They explain the different sectors and how things work,” she said. “When you’re looking at it [from an outside perspective], you don’t fully understand the scope of the industry.”

Although they worked on tourist-friendly Saltspring Island during their youth, neither Abby nor Kimberly had ever seriously considered tourism as a career choice. Both sisters were taking general studies at different universities, neither of them quite sure exactly what they wanted to pursue.

“I just thought of it as a job, not really for school,” says Abby. “It was a choice near and dear to my heart, growing up in that industry.”

What persuaded the Rothwells to join Capilano’s program was the small class size and the tourism program showcase event.

“All the teachers have a lot of experience in the industry as well,” adds Kimberly. “They’re teaching from personal knowledge.”

Abby describes her course as being like a business program, with an emphasis in tourism. For her, getting practical experience in marketing for resorts and outdoor adventure companies is time well spent.

“We’ve been doing lots of outdoor activities too,” she adds. “We went to Sewell’s Marina, where we went on a sea safari, and we got to go to the Sea to Sky Gondola. It puts industry and school really close together.”

What’s next?

The Rothwells only have a year to go in their program. Having already had first-hand experiences of the types of tourism jobs they both love, both say they have a steady future direction.

After finishing the program, Abby plans to travel. “I find the “dream job” question difficult to answer,” she says. “But I’m definitely going to do something in marine tourism that’s adventure-based.”

Kimberly eventually plans to finish Capilano’s Bachelor of Tourism Management program, and says she wants to get more experience under her belt.

“I want to get out there, work at some boutique hotels,” she says, “just play the field and see what I like.”

Both say the program provides a great opportunity for those who are unsure to dip their feet into the industry.

“It’s a great experience to have under your belt,” says Abby. “I’d say if you’re unsure, just go and experience it.”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing, written by GP Mendoza.

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The Capilano University Tourism Management department will hold an Information Night on December 7.