Tourism grad finds niche in offering local, non-traditional travel experiences by Raina Debrouwer and Lisa MacNeil of MSVU
Most of us have dreamt of the careers we wanted as early as childhood. As we grow older, we experience hardships and struggles but we are still determined to finish our studies and fulfill our goal. But some of us don’t get to stick with our dream job. Some tend to change paths because of personal reasons, but others just realized that it is not for them.
Growing up, Shannon Paquette (BTHM’21) always thought she would become a dentist. But two years into her Bachelor of Science degree at Dalhousie University, she realized that dentistry wasn’t for her. Despite good grades and apprehension from her family, Shannon paused her studies to follow a lifelong yearning for travel instead.
Shannon loves adventures and exploring the world. She was backpacking across Asia and lived in Netherlands for 6 months. She also explored Southeast Asia where she met a yacht captain who encouraged her to get certified to work in the yachting industry. Her mind quickly turned to all the possibilities. She was torn on the decision whether to pursue this opportunity in front of her or find a way to explore her love of travelling in a more sustainable way.
Shannon began researching post-secondary options online. The Tourism and Hospitality Management program at MSVU stuck out to her because of the co-op option – a chance to get some additional hands-on experience and build connections. She took advantage of extra-curricular opportunities like the Learning Passport program and the Learners and Leaders conference. At an industry event, Shannon made a move that would ultimately change the trajectory of her career. “I saw a man standing alone, and decided that I was going to go talk to him. He turned out to be the co-owner of Schools Out Tours. We got chatting and he offered me a position on the spot to host a group of students from Ontario during the Halifax Jazz Festival. I thought, ‘This is incredible. This is what they mean when they say just go up and talk to people’.”
The experience in her first co-op influenced her decision to pursue this new venture of hers. She immediately applied for a Tour Director posted by the Atlantic Tours & Travel. She had a great interview and quickly found herself thrown into the world of commercial touring.
She also had her second co-op with the same company but her third were stopped by the pandemic. During these times she was able to flesh out an idea that had been percolating for some time – one that focused on showing smaller groups the breadth of what her home region has to offer.
Shannon dreamed of her own tours. She wanted to introduce small, authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences. She wanted to promote sustainability and stimulate economic growth throughout the province, not just in traditional tourism hot spots. She wanted to integrate local people and traditions. She also wanted tours to be physically active — “rather than driving through the Cabot Trail, let’s get out and go for a hike!”
An independent study course at MSVU called New Venture Creation allowed Shannon to turn her vision into a solid business plan, including detailing exactly what she wanted to offer guests and implementing her plan on a trial basis. Thus, Ocean Playground Adventures was born.
More on this story at https://www.msvu.ca/tourism-grad-finds-niche-in-offering-local-non-traditional-travel-experience/