Written by: Raina DeBrouwer, Co-op Coordinator, Co-operative Education
Tourism has long been the world’s largest service industry and the second largest industry overall. Despite the challenges introduced to the industry by the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality remains that for many places around the world, tourism is one of the main sources of economic growth. In 2019, over $105 billion was spent by domestic and international tourists in Canada, and over 2 million Canadian jobs were directly supported by tourism. These numbers both declined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts are finding that travelers are mentally ready to travel once again.
For those considering careers in the tourism industry, job security isn’t the only attractive factor – the tourism industry is also an exciting, vibrant and rapidly growing sector. Beyond hotels, restaurants and resorts, tourism is about customer engagement, adventure tour companies, destination planning, marketing and boutique inns. The profession is ultimately about creating experiences and memories that last a lifetime. These are just a few reasons Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) was the first university in Atlantic Canada to establish a program dedicated to Tourism and Hospitality Management in 1986.
Over the many years that the Mount has offered a bachelor, a diploma, and a certificate in Tourism & Hospitality Management, countless domestic and international students have jumped on the opportunity to become part of the exciting industry. In 2021, the programs consisted of 12% domestic students and 88% international students, with 41% hailing from China, 25% from India, 10% from Vietnam, and 14% from other countries around the world. Students cite flexibility, international and domestic opportunities, and career growth potential as factors in deciding to pursue careers in the field.
One of the best features of the Mount’s various tourism programs is the ability to participate in co-op or work experience terms. This is particularly beneficial to international students, as they can either bring their skills back to their home country or start a career with the connections they have made here in Canada upon graduation.
Interested in studying tourism and hospitality at the Mount? We have asked some international students about their experiences studying, working, and growing as a tourism and hospitality professional here in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What would you advice international students considering doing the Tourism & Hospitality Management program at the Mount?
The Bachelor of Tourism & Hospitality program is a great opportunity to find what type of job you want in the tourism and hospitality industry. When I first choose my program, I didn’t connect the program with a career path – I just knew I liked to travel. However, the three co-op work term opportunities helped me enter the industry and apply my knowledge from the courses. When I completed my first co-op and went back to class, I realized the content from the textbooks are real problems that I could encounter on the job. – Jin (Mandy) Guo
What were the benefits of doing co-op as part of the tourism program?
Co-op provides you with relevant work experience in the tourism industry. It also gives you an opportunity to participate as a team member and expand your network. For international students, it gives you the chance to improve your English communication skills and experience Canadian workplace culture. – Tony Xiao
What types of work experiences did you have during your co-ops? What were your favourite experiences?
During my work terms, I worked as a housekeeper at the Barrington Hotel, a tour guide at Segway Nova Scotia, and in operations at HFX-eScooters. My favourite position was the tour guide role because I was able to interact with the public and tourists. It also improved my English-speaking skills and taught me how to connect with customers. – Duxiu Luo
There are many different types of jobs you can apply for. I was able to work at Murphy’s The Cable Wharf as a commentating deckhand for my first co-op and at Marriott International as a front desk agent for my second work term. My favourite experience was at the Marriott. The Marriott is an international hotel with a fantastic training program and a great working environment. I learned a lot through the five-month work term. Although sometimes the job was high pressure, it forced me to improve my skills. My co-workers all treated me so well and helped me to adapt to the fast-paced working environment. – Jin (Mandy) Guo
How was your experience working in the Canadian tourism workplace culture?
People who get involved in the tourism industry are all very nice. They are passionate about helping guests and offering a quality experience. Canada is a country with lots of people from different backgrounds and the tourism industry here is equally as diverse. You will work with people from different backgrounds. As an international student, I was originally concerned about whether the tourism industry would accept me, but as I got into the workplace my worries disappeared. If you are professional and have a willingness to adapt to the workplace, you should have no problem. – Jin (Mandy) Guo
At the Marriott, the workplace culture was less formal and hierarchal than I expected. The relationship between me and my manager was like a friendship. If I had any issues, I could talk with them and they would help. It was surprising at first – I thought work was just work, but now I feel like it’s a combination of many things. You build relationships, experience emotions, and learn skills. I’m glad to have experienced all of these things. – Tony Xiao
Where are you working now? Were you confident in your job prospects post-graduation?
Right now, I work as a barista within a large hotel and am training to become a food runner. I feel confident in my work experience. It’s a great starting position that I’m happy with at this stage in my career. – Tony Xiao
I just graduated in May 2021 and applied to the Marriott Voyage program in China. I was asked to do the first round of interviews with human resources, and they were impressed with my resume. We had a positive conversation about my past co-op experiences at the Marriott. It is my hope to secure this job in China. – Jin (Mandy) Guo
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience in the program?
The Mount’s tourism and hospitality management program provides students with a good opportunity to experience future career options. With the co-op or work experience programs, students will be more competitive than other students in finding jobs after graduation. – Duxiu Luo
The co-op program is a really good opportunity to find what type of job you would like in the tourism and hospitality industry. I think every international student can find where they belong after they complete the program. – Jin (Mandy) Guo
If you are interested in learning more about the Mount’s tourism and hospitality management programs, contact the Student Recruitment Team. International students can also contact the International Education Centre.