Claudia Blair cheerfully admits to having had no experience in tourism when she was hired her to run the Williams Lake Visitor Information Centre part-time 20 years ago. But she enjoyed it so much, she began taking advantage of courses, seminars and workshops to augment her daily learning in what soon became a full-time job.
Blair now performs two roles, acting as executive director of both the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce and the information centre. She says that while she enjoys both jobs, she particularly loves working with tourists, although there is much more to running an effective information centre than just answering tourists’ questions.
The centre promotes the city and region through trade shows and other marketing exercises, and the small staff helps people from all over the world plan their holidays, providing detailed local information a travel agent wouldn’t have.
Though the centre is open all year round, it is busiest during the summer. To cope with the increased demand, Blair hires seasonal workers. She has an informal policy of trying to “focus on students who want to go into tourism,” as do other such centres, and she works closely with local high schools to provide opportunities for their students.
If you are interested in tourism as a career, Blair recommends that you “start with the basics, find out what tourism is all about and what sort of opportunities there are to do what you like.” She says tourism is an evolving industry with opportunities opening up almost daily, and she points to adventure tourism, and event planning and management, as niches almost unheard of a decade ago.