The Dryden Observer

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Virtual classroom brings Confederation College Tourism program to Dryden students

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Jon Thompson

The digital world hadn’t fully arrived until you could get a diploma in tourism without leaving home.

Giannina Veltri has been the program coordinator for Confederation College’s Tourism, Travel & Eco-Adventure Program for 18 years. Between that time and her service with airlines before that, she couldn’t name all the countries she has visited over her career.

She’s now adventuring closer to home, bringing 35 virtual students from across Northwestern Ontario into her Thunder Bay-based classroom over the Internet. It’s a major change for the program that was once focused on canoe trips in Quetico Park and Wilderness First Aid and will now include knot and airline demonstrations through videoconferencing.

“We used to just take them outside and do things. Now, we can’t do that with Sentra (computer software). We’ll have the students here in the classroom. We’ll make it work,” she said. “We understand they’re here (in Dryden) for a reason. If they could come to Thunder Bay, they’d probably do that there.”

The last major shift to the program was a little over a decade ago when it grew from training travel agents and the airline industry to include what was called “eco-tourism” and is now known as “sustainability.” Veltri sees the potential of land-based tourism in Northwestern Ontario and while it’s taking time to develop, she sees room for growth.

“It’s in the budding stage. Tourism is really slow everywhere in the region. They always talk about next steps and the next steps never really happen. They happen in increments.”

She noted particularly aboriginal tourism has been up-and-coming for quite some time, referencing discussions of the Kingfisher Train running from Lake Nipigon to Terrace Bay with authentic Anishinaabe cultural experiences stationed along the tracks.

While niche small business opportunities exist in the region, Veltri sees the world as tourism’s classroom, where students guide or travel the world.

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