Chilliwack teens taking local tourism site global

Students Ashley Fisher and Megan MacDonald, chose Handpicked in the Valley, an innovative tourism website as their topic.

G.W. Graham tourism teacher

They’re Chilliwack teenagers proud to represent their country, the Fraser Valley, and the province of B.C. in a research competition.

A pair of students are taking a local tourism initiative all the way to the global stage — at a conference in Monte Carlo, Monaco this week.

Ashley Fisher, 17, and Megan MacDonald, 18, will represent Canada with their ‘Handpicked in the Valley’ research project at the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership (GTTP) conference, along with teacher CATT Cheryl Tourand from G.W. Graham middle-secondary.

They found out in March that their case study proposal had been selected by the Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism (CATT) to represent Canada in the competition.

The students, Ashley Fisher and Megan MacDonald, chose Handpicked in the Valley, a tourism based website, as their topic to illustrate the 2012 conference theme of “innovation in tourism.”

“I think the girls did an excellent job with their presentation,” said teacher Cheryl Tourand. “They defined innovation in tourism, and they chose something that was researchable.

“They made connections in the industry. Right off the bat they went above and beyond and that really shone through.”

The students zeroed in on the website, Handpicked in the Valley, with its snappy tag-line “where adventures take route.” It’s an online marketing partnership by a trio of tourism organizations in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley, which helps visitors and day-trippers with pre-planned itinerary suggestions that are “handpicked” or creating their own day trips based on interest in events, attractions, local facilities, and accommodations.

Once they get to the competition in Monaco, they’ll have an hour to present and defend their PowerPoint version, with heavy graphics and animation, along with a 50 page report.

The project can then be used as a teaching tool, Tourand said.

Ashley Fisher said she appreciated how the three organizations came together to make Handpicked in the Valley a reality.

“It showed good community spirit and at the same time, it’s innovative,” she said. “It puts us in the spotlight and gets our name on the map.”

Her research partner Megan MacDonald said they discovered during the research phase that not many people knew about the Handpicked website yet, which tries to span all sectors of the tourism industry in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley and offer “custom” or “handpicked” itineraries.

“It’s amazing for us to be able to do something to represent Canada,” she said.

Tourand said it’s not just the competitive aspect that’s important at the international conference.

“It’s about students coming together, building excitement about the industry, becoming aware of the possibilities, and building global ties.

“It’s an opportunity to see what they can do globally.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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