Undergrads Presenting Tourism Research at National Conference

May 20, 2014 - 8:45am

Two Vancouver Island University (VIU) Bachelor of Tourism Management students are presenting their research this week at a conference in Halifax involving leisure academics from around the world.

Natalie Drope and Genevieve Huneault have been invited to attend the 14th Canadian Congress on Leisure Research (CCLR) May 21-23, where they will present findings of research they conducted on a VIU Study Abroad trip to Ghana in 2013.

Huneault, who graduates in June, and Drope, who has completed her third year in the program, both accompanied Dr. Aggie Weighill to Ghana in April 2013 on a five-week Study Abroad experience. The students joined in a group research project at the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary before departing to conduct their own research projects in Busua, a coastal town in Ghana known for its beautiful beaches, surfing and other leisure opportunities.

Drope’s research examined the perceptions held by backpacking tourists of the local beach hawkers selling their wares in the area. While hawkers of many kinds of goods are commonplace throughout the country, fewer were found in the beach community – initially a surprise for her.

“It wasn’t what I expected at all,” Drope said. “It did expose a unique context, in Ghanaian tourism at the time of the research, which was that it was an acceptable level of hawking. It wasn’t in your face, it wasn’t aggressive and the backpackers and other tourists liked that.”

Huneault will present research she conducted in Busua with fellow student Mercedes Beaudoin-Lobb, examining how local women and female tourists viewed each other.

“The data collection was really interesting as we got to immerse ourselves in the community and really hear the local women’s perspectives of how they viewed female tourists, which was really how they felt about us!” Huneault said.

Conclusions from the research, which touched on attitudes, cultural customs, identity and behaviours, could lead to a better understanding of the relationships and interactions between guests – the female visitors – and hosts – the local women, Huneault said.

Prior to their departure to Ghana in 2013, Drope, Huneault and Beaudoin-Lobb presented their research proposals to VIU’s Research Ethics Board for review and approval. After collecting and analyzing the data they collected in Busua, the students made public presentations at VIU’s International Education Week event in November, and at the CREATE (Celebration of Research Excellence and Knowledge Transfer Event) in March.

Drope and Huneault have appreciated the opportunity to present their research prior to going before colleagues at a national conference.

“It really makes me feel like all the hard work I have been doing on this project has paid off,” said Huneault. “Of course when I think about presenting at a national conference full of academics I start to feel some butterflies!”

Drope, who hopes to accompany Professor Weighill on another Study Abroad trip in her final year, said while she is nervous to present as well, she likes to focus on what she has learned from her first research experience.

“It brought me back to being a more mindful researcher, and how to be careful in a community that’s not my own,” she said.

Other VIU representatives presenting at the congress are Caleigh Ellis, a Master’s in Sustainable Leisure Management student, and faculty Tom Delamere, Peter Briscoe and Rick Rollins.

Dr. Weighill said she will be attending the CCLR conference and looks forward to supporting the undergraduates as they make their presentations.

“It’s a wonderful accomplishment for them to be invited to present at the Canadian Congress on Leisure Research, which happens only every three years and puts them on stage with leisure experts from around the world,” Weighill said.”


Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
P:250.740.6443 C: 250.618.1535 E: Communications@viu.ca T: @viunews

Tags: Research

Sign up for our VIU news & experts email