From unruly pioneer to industry leader, Capilano University’s faculty of tourism and outdoor recreation is celebrating a significant milestone this year.
Forty years ago, the university’s inaugural outdoor recreation program welcomed its first 18 students to class. As was characteristic of the ‘70s, the program thrived on a reputation of being on the fringe, comprising of a collective of students and instructors who marched to the beat of their own drum.
Today, close to 3,000 graduates, including some of British Columbia’s most innovative tourism entrepreneurs, call themselves alumni of Cap’s faculty of tourism and outdoor recreation. Their leadership has been pivotal to the growth of tourism in B.C., contributing to the province’s rise to become one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Dr. Brian White and Don Basham pioneered the outdoor recreation program.
“We were a pretty unruly outfit in those early days; the science students didn’t like us too much,” recalls White, who remained at the helm for 35 years. “It was the ‘70s…we did some very cool stuff, went on incredible expeditions, and didn’t play by the rules a whole lot. But we were focused on serious work. There was a lot of concern about training and public safety as people started to embark upon backcountry pursuits. We helped to professionalize the industry.”
Those first students embraced a curriculum that took them on lengthy backcountry expeditions to Garibaldi and Cathedral Provincial Parks, cross country skiing expeditions to 108 Mile House in the Cariboo, and hiking or kayaking trips to Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail and the Broken Islands.
While such trips are still a core part of the outdoor recreation and advanced wilderness leadership programs, the faculty has expanded to offer the province’s first bachelor degree in tourism, Canada’s only professional scuba dive certificate and North America’s first mountain bike operations certificate.
Roy Jantzen was an outdoor recreation student in 1988 and has been an instructor within the faculty for the past 13 years.
“Being part of the outdoor recreation program and the broader expansion of our faculty has been an incredibly rewarding journey,” he said. “Through recent decades, B.C. as a global tourism destination has exploded onto the world map, with outdoor recreation being one of its key drivers. Today our province is recognized for its array of authentic adventure tourism experiences, and Capilano University’s programs have been feeding off this growth and evolving in a parallel way.”
Graduates from the faculty of tourism and outdoor recreation now hold senior level industry positions across the province in such organizations as: Alpine Club of Canada, B.C. Ferries Vacations, BC Parks, Bluewater Adventures, Cypress Bowl, Landsea Tours and Adventures, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Shangri-la, Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler, Vancouver Parks, and Ziptrek Ecotours, to name a few. Many grads remain connected to Cap and offer work practicums, host field trips, and return to the classroom as guest speakers, providing invaluable connections to real world settings.
‘Gaining The Edge,’ a strategy for tourism development in B.C. over the next five years, positions tourism as one of B.C.’s leading economic sectors with benefits extending into every region of the province. During the last decade, tourism in B.C. grew more rapidly than our economy as a whole, despite challenging international events. With targets to grow five per cent annually to achieve sector revenue of $18 billion by 2016, go2, a resource for people working in the tourism industry, predicts B.C. will need 84,000 new tourism workers over the next decade.
“We will continue to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities that the tourism industry will present throughout our next 40 years,” said Dr. Chris Bottrill, dean of the faculty of tourism and outdoor recreation. “Our 40th anniversary is a wonderful milestone to celebrate for alumni, current students, our employees, and the university at large.”
Located at the heart of some of the world’s favourite tourism and recreation-based destinations, the faculty operates out of Capilano University’s North Vancouver, Sunshine Coast and Squamish campuses, offering students the benefit of being fully immersed in learning, both inside and out of the classroom.