Good thing brewing in capital, Algonquin dean says

Elizabeth Howell
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Local craft beer is a trend in Ottawa, with establishments ranging from the Clocktower Brew Pub to the Mill Street Brewery offering it in their restaurants, and providers such as Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. and Big Rig Brewery selling it direct to consumers.

Jim Kyte, dean Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism

This is one of the things on which Jim Kyte, the new dean of Algonquin College’s school of hospitality and tourism, has his eye for future program development. 

“We are looking at starting a program for brewmasters and microdistillers, certainly, down the road and also looking at industry partners to participate with us in creating these types of programs,” Mr. Kyte said in a recent interview with OBJ.

It’s part of the creative thinking that has brought Mr. Kyte through his career. He spent 13 seasons in the NHL, including one in Ottawa in 1992-93, the Senators’ first season back in the league. An automobile accident ended his playing days in 1998, but he quickly poured his energies into sports tourism.

In 2002, he created the sport business management program at Algonquin College, then progressed in 2007 to academic chair of marketing and management studies in its business school. He also found time to help bring the 2009 world junior hockey championship to Ottawa as co-director of the volunteer division.

“I’ve always been involved in the hospitality industry,” he said. “It’s really what professional sports is: it’s professional entertainment. You’re dealing with clientele and you’re dealing with the fans. You want to put a good product on the ice.”

And that’s the same thing he wants to offer at Algonquin. While students are the clients, the true customer is industry, Mr. Kyte said. An “active” advisory committee helps keep Algonquin’s hospitality school on track for future programming. 

Among the committee’s recommendations is an emphasis on “work-integrated” learning, in which students do apprenticeships to gain industry experience even before graduating, with events such as Bluesfest and the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival, for example.

When asked about where Algonquin could fill in the gaps in Ottawa’s tourism industry, Mr. Kyte said as a new dean he is still learning that himself. But there are industries in high demand across Canada that also have relevance locally, he said.

“We’re looking at, for new programming down the line, the importance of retirement homes and the importance of food supply in terms of food science,” Mr. Kyte said. 

Anecdotally, as a father of three teenagers, he has observed them carefully looking at the labels on what they eat. The wider trend is spurring Algonquin to look at ways to integrate this type of awareness into a degree in food science, although the ideas are still being fleshed out, he said.

Ottawa is generally hitting a high point in sports tourism, he added, with the new RedBlacks CFL franchise making its home debut at TD Place this month. The team’s agreement with the league also will bring the Grey Cup game to the city.

But the key is making sure the region’s infrastructure is up to the task. Ottawa could use more direct flights to Europe, Mr. Kyte said, beyond its existing routes to locations such as London and Frankfurt. And two hotels downtown – the Holiday Inn and the Minto Suites Hotel – are being converted for other uses, which will drain an already shallow pool of hotel spaces in Ottawa’s centre.

“To attract international events, you need more hotels,” he said, calling for flagship franchises such as the Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons to come to Ottawa. 

He sees these elements as all part of the package that showcases tourism – and his focus area of sports tourism – to the world. 

“In the end, it creates jobs, pays for infrastructure or creates the infrastructure not just for sports tourism, but tourism altogether,” he said.

Organizations: Algonquin College, NHL, Holiday Inn Minto Suites Hotel Four Seasons

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Europe London Frankfurt

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