Earning a Seat for Students in the International Tourism Dialogue

CapU students launch PATA-oriented podcast 

Carma Chan
Contributor and photography 

It is notoriously easy for students to feel like their contributions toward their intended industries do not matter. After all, the high turnover rate at entry-level jobs reinforces the sentiment that young people are replaceable and have not yet earned a seat at the big table. However, the Capilano University Student Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is setting out to earn a place for tourism students in the industry’s international dialogue.   

The newly launched PATA CapU Podcast is a virtual meeting place where student hosts speak with tourism professionals about important and innovative issues that are just emerging or are already revolutionizing the industry’s landscape. Each half-hour episode features an interview on topics such as blockchain in disruptive travel technology, digital nomads who work remotely from a different country each month or elephants that work in tourism attractions. This podcast provides a meaningful platform for students to connect with local and international professionals who have a wealth of knowledge to share about their amazing work. 

In the inaugural episode of the PATA CapU Podcast, student hosts speak with Thailand-based Bjorn Harvold, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of Travelkoin and Traveliko. They discuss fragmentation within the travel industry, which is characterized by hundreds of small companies that perform a few of the many necessary functions. Blockchain, the technology behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, has the ability to unify the international marketplace and revolutionize it for the greater good.  

When asked about his work at Travelkoin, Harvold explained, “The topic of blockchain kind of came up and we discussed how could that make our industry better. And there were some real applications to it that we think that can change how we do business and at the end of that, provide greater customer value.” He expressed relief that the initial hype around blockchain has disappeared, leaving “real businesses and real technologies” to make the industry better. The term blockchain is not usually mentioned to clients because “it can’t be sexy – do not have it sexy,” he explained.  

The episode discussed ubiquitous problems in travel distribution, why loyalty programs do not work, how companies can create customized experiences that are actually valued by guests, consolidating an industry through game theory and removing or limiting volatility from blockchain. Drawing from his experience, Harvold advised students to first spend a few years learning from the industry to identify some of the many opportunities for future entrepreneurs to offer solutions and make travel more fun. 

PATA is a not-for-profit membership association that was founded in 1951 and acts as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia-Pacific region. It advocates for tourism-related issues, provides research and hosts informative events for its members, which include over 800 organizations around the world. 

While there are 22 Student Chapters internationally, the PATA Capilano University Student Chapter is the only one located in the mainland of North America. It was founded in March 2017 and recently won the PATA Student Chapter Award of Excellence 2018 in Malaysia for achievements in its first year. This award is currently on display in the trophy case of Cedar Building’s third floor. With the support of CapU’s Department of Tourism Management, the CapU Student Chapter is working hard to bring home this prestigious award again in 2019. 

Some of their other projects include the annual Shoreline Cleanup at Crab Park, which promotes environmental stewardship of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches, and the High School Case Competition, where high school students were invited to present concepts, they developed about a specific tourism issue to a panel of industry guest judges. These initiatives promote sustainable travel, community partnership and the creation of opportunities for new generations of tourism professionals. 


Students who are interested in participating in, producing or hosting the PATA CapU Podcast are encouraged to attend a chapter meeting to learn more about this ongoing project. Meetings are bi-weekly on Thursdays throughout the Fall 2018 semester from 1-2:30 pm in LB145 (18 Oct., 1 Nov., 15 Nov., 29 Nov.). Additional details are available online at www.patacapu.com. Students can also participate through the CapU Chapter’s technical partner, Capilano Radio

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