NANAIMO, BC—Ask co-owner Angie Barnard to describe her 20-unit guesthouse in downtown Nanaimo, and she’ll say it’s a mixture—part boutique hotel, part urban B&B, and part international hostel.
From May to September, the Painted Turtle Guesthouse—which has operated as a hotel since 1875—caters to a traditional leisure tourist market.
But starting in September, with an intake for ESL students in October, the core clientele is international students from Vancouver Island University, a 10-minute bus ride away.
The guesthouse, which Barnard and her husband purchased in 2004, offers rooms with queen or single beds, cooking facilities and shared bathrooms for $3,200 per term (four months) or $2,550 (three months).
But the guesthouse offers far more than just a place to sleep, eat and study.
One of Barnard’s goals is to help international students at Vancouver Island University connect with the local business community. The guesthouse has begun a series of extra-curricular programs targeting international students—including skills training, workshops, networking events, destination tours—to help foreign business and other students gain exposure to
Nanaimo’s vibrant economic landscape, as well as the many amenities the city has to offer.
There are in-house Canadian cultural activities such as pumpkin carving and an ‘Orphan’s Christmas.’
The guesthouse also features an online job board, which will post internships and select jobs for international students wanting to gain experience with Canadian businesses, says Barnard.
International and MBA students have indicated a desire to practice their English in a professional business environment. The Painted Turtle meeting room is the setting for meetings where local businesses, such as manufacturing and export companies, send executives to talk to groups of 12 to 15 students.
They also charter buses for on-site tours of facilities such as Nanaimo’s world-class methane plant.
“I’m wearing my ‘destination development’ hat in that I want students to fully experience the city and to help them make the contacts they need in Nanaimo’s business community,” Barnard notes. “So far, we have had incredibly positive feedback from students and the business community.”
The Painted Turtle essentially operates as a tour booking agency, with activities such as kayaking and dive training available year round. These activities suit the international students, people visiting the students, and businesses that want an urban retreat facility for team building.