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Lithuanians study Niagara tourism at college
By Mark Tayti
Two Lithuanian educators have spent the last two weeks learning about tourism and hospitality Niagara style.
Jolanta Valiaugiene, head of international relations and marketing, and Audrone Luksaitiene, head of tourism and hotel management, arrived in Niagara on Nov. 16. Both are from Lithuania's Kaunas College.
They are here to continue a partnership that began in 2001 and has since resulted in a Niagara College graduate traveling to Kaunas College on a six-month internship.
Camille Chaumont - the intern who has since been hired by Niagara College - has organized a full schedule of activities to showcase Niagara and what the college has to offer.
The seeds of the trip wee planted two years ago when Welland resident John Kwekkeboom was on assignment with the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO). It was then Kwekkeboom met Valiaugiene and passed her name along to Jos Nolle, director of international education and development, at Niagara College.
Nolle was able to secure government grants to send Chaumont on the initial internship to help Lithuania nurture its own tourism and hospitality training program, a new concept for the former Soviet Block nation.
This year, the college received funding for Part 2 of the "Partnership for Tomorrow" program, funded through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The two visiting Lithuanian educators have been impressed with Niagara, its hospitality industry and the work being done by Niagara College to support that industry.
Valiaugiene said she was particularly impressed by the partnerships that exist between education and the tourism industry. She hopes ideas leaned in North America can serve as the model for Lithuania's emerging tourism programs.
She said the country is gearing up for when Lithuania becomes part of the European Economic Union in 2006. She said Lithuania has plenty of untapped tourism potential.
"We hope to continue this partnership in the future," she said. "We are impressed by what we have seen. There are many new ideas and many differences."