P3 - The Possibilities

Student-operated travel office opens

Another living classroom takes flight at SAIT Polytechnic, providing valuable, real-life experience for students in the Travel and Tourism program.

Destinations travel office is now providing flight, hotel, car and insurance bookings for SAIT staff, students and alumni. All research, quotes and reservations are performed by students. Gerry Suffield, Academic Chair for the Travel and Tourism program, says the facility gives students the chance to apply the theory they learn in the classroom to serving real customers.

(L to R) Travel and Tourism students Corrina Naismith, Kelsea Wilk and Alicia Dyck. "In the past we had the students do role-play but we found they didn't feel as engaged in the process," says Suffield. "By bringing them into the travel office, they get real-life experience by actually talking to SAIT staff and students on campus. Customers can bring in their requirements and have the students do the research under instructor supervision and then, using the software in the lab, the students can follow through and actually book the trip here."

Learning to create the perfect getaway

Groups of six to eight second-year Travel and Tourism students will spend 15 hours a week in the office for three-week periods in both the fall and winter semesters. Instructor Stephanie Mercredi says it's a busy period for the students - when they're not dealing directly with a customer, they're doing research.

"We have assignments or case studies for the students to perform so they can familiarize themselves with the websites and the software systems," says Mercredi. "I'll ask them to find some flights or hotel rates and availabilities or some activities that a customer could do in a certain city or destination."

Destinations is equipped with the latest industry booking and accounting software. Students also have agent access to all major airline and tour companies. Second-year student Corinna Naismith says the new classroom is an enormous boon for those looking to go into an agency when they graduate.

"It gives us the practice without the added pressure. I like having the opportunity to have the person in front of me and ask those questions so I can do the best research for them," says Naismith.

The office has already helped several staff and students book vacations - the most popular requests have been for sunny escapes over the Reading Week break.

"We've done a lot of research on sun destinations like Mexico and the Dominican. We've also looked up some information for a trip to Hawaii next summer," says Mercredi. "We've also done some hotel-only or car-only bookings as well as insurance."

Find your destination

SAIT staff, faculty, students and alumni can make a travel inquiry by visiting the office located in room NN121 on the main floor of the Senator Burns Building. The office also accepts phone inquiries at 403.284.8455 or via email at destinations@sait.ca. Office hours are Mon. to Fri., 10 am to 4 pm.

Suffield says the office is not open to the public because it is not intended to be a competitor for existing agencies.

"This is all about enhancing the students' experience here at SAIT. We feel this class will make them more comfortable going into the industry because they've had that real-life connection."

Oct. 4, 2012


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