woman in travel: Chyanne from Homalco Tours

Women in Travel: An Inspiring Conversation with Chyanne from Homalco Tours


International Women’s Day 2024

Interview by Pamela McGarel, Founder & CEO, Mosaic Earth Travel.

As a woman-owned business, we are proud to support other women+ through our operations and partnerships; to elevate the voices of women and underrepresented communities where we travel; and to create experiences that seek to build understanding and respect between diverse groups.

We have the pleasure of working alongside incredible women every day – from our clients to our industry partners, colleagues, and friends.

women in travel: Chyanne from Homalco Tours
Chyanne in her happy place.

This year we are shining a light on Chyanne Trenholm, General Manager of Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours. Chyanne is from the Homalco First Nation, located just outside of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC. For over 20 years, Homalco has guided visitors through their traditional territory along the Salish Sea to experience the spectacular wilderness, wildlife, and Indigenous history in this region.

I first met Chyanne at a tourism conference and have since worked with her and Homalco to book many of our visitors on these incredible experiences.

Chyanne is passionate about the outdoors and sharing her cultural heritage through Indigenous Tourism. When asked what inspires her most about the tourism industry, her response was one I’m sure we can all relate to:

“Connections – in every shape and form. Human, nature, food – it is all related to tourism and is such an inclusive space.”

I’m pleased to share her story with you today.

PM: Tell us about your journey and what led you to a career in tourism.

CT: My journey to tourism was a fun one! I got my first taste of outdoor adventures and guiding in 2012, and thought about pursuing my kayak guide certificate, but was not sure how to do that. Fast forward to 2015 and I got a fun job at WildPlay in Nanaimo, where I was going to school for a degree in Physical Education. I switched my studies to Tourism Management that year (2015) and have not looked back.

PM: What motivated you to start working for Homalco, and in Indigenous Tourism more broadly?

CT: I did not have a clear goal to work with Homalco Tours when I first got into Tourism Management Studies; I just thought I would give it a go. A pivotal moment for me was in university, around 2018, I was introduced to an Indigenous mentorship community within the University called ‘Su’luqw’a’ or ‘Community Cousins’. This opened my eyes to some cultural ‘gaps’ in my life that I had been seeking while trying to figure out who I was.

Once I tapped into my cultural heritage, I was drawn to Indigenous Tourism as a focus and the benefits it brought with it, like self confidence and identity. It was something to help further understand our cultural background. There are so many benefits to Indigenous tourism, I could write a whole story about this! I wanted to bring that back home, and luckily, my Nation already had a tourism business that I was welcomed to be a part of.

PM: What is something you’re really proud of that you’ve accomplished in your career?

CT: This place, right now – being GM at Homalco Tours. I started as a summer student in 2018, finished up my degree in 2020, and then joined the team full-time. I started as Social Media Specialist, turned Office Manager, turned Assistant General Manager, and I am now the General Manager – all within the span of 4 years.

I’ve said ‘YES’ to many opportunities, even though they scared the life out of me! I knew if I could grow with all these changes, and do it well, I could succeed.

I have also been invited to present at several events, conferences, and even at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, Germany in 2023, which has been super fun and I have met many wonderful people along the way. I am recognized as a leader within the industry and I think that is pretty cool. I look forward to what the future holds.

PM: Why do you think Indigenous Tourism is so important? How can we encourage more travellers to seek out these experiences?

CT: Indigenous tourism is about more than just the money. While the money and financial health of a business is always important, we also put the social, cultural, and environmental health at the forefront.

Indigenous tourism is a way for Indigenous people to share their culture, on their terms, and be welcomed to it all. They get to share their stories, connect with other people from around the world, and spend time learning about themselves. There are many training initiatives out there for Indigenous people to get involved in tourism, which is a great way for someone to learn about the industry and themselves.

Homalco Guide, Cassandra, sharing a traditional welcome song.

When travellers support these types of businesses, it benefits the entire Indigenous community, or family (depending if it is community-owned or individually-owned).

Overall, supporting Indigenous tourism supports Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, where Indigenous people tell their stories, the way they want.

PM: How have you prioritized sustainability in your life and work, and why is this important to you?

CT: As a business, we care about the environment, culture and social sustainability. We operate as a social enterprise with 4 pillars, focused on Cultural Revitalization, Conservation & Regeneration, Career Development and Economic Independence.

These pillars are recognized within my own personal beliefs. They have helped shape my own life, how I wish to live it and interact in the world.

PM: Can you describe the challenges you’ve experienced as a woman in travel, and any advice for women+ in the industry?

CT: I’ve experienced a plethora of challenges being a young Indigenous woman in a male-dominated sector of marine/wildlife tourism. Many people have been welcoming, however I’ve had to learn how to take up space and make sure my voice is heard. I grapple with impostor syndrome, and all the fun (sarcasm) that comes with that.

My advice for women wishing to pursue the travel industry, or those currently in it: know your worth. Confidence goes a long way, and your thoughts and opinions are valued. Stand up for what you believe and lead with your heart. And the most important thing – have fun!!

PM: What do you love most about living/working on Vancouver Island?

CT: Oh that is a tough one! I’ll name three:

The nature – Mountains, water, greenery everywhere, and wildlife abundance.

The people – Vancouver Island hosts many diverse individuals, and most people I have met are truly welcoming and care for our little piece of heaven on Earth.

The access to recreation – If there is one more thing I am passionate about, that is outdoor recreation. There are many hikes, trails, swimming holes, and places to visit that never get old.

PM: What is your favourite outdoor activity in your area? Favourite restaurant or other business to shout-out in your community?

CT: My favourite outdoor activity here is mountain biking. It’s a fun way to get outside, challenge yourself, and see some amazing places.

For businesses, I can’t name one so I’ll name three: Java Shack is a welcoming space with great food and drinks (it is also right across our office space downtown). Quest Clothing is one of my favourite places to get quality and sustainable clothing and the service is always so friendly. Session (studio/spin/restaurant) is focused on community development so I really enjoy supporting them and participating in their activities.

PM: Any final words for the readers?

CT: Office dogs are the BEST. I have a dog name Kami, whom my partner and I rescued from Mexico in 2023. She is the company’s office greeter, she comes to work with me every day and everyone who walks in the door LOVES her.

If they come back the next day and we aren’t there, they ask “awe, where is the dog? I wanted to say hello again”. She makes for a very fun and positive work space!

Thank you, Chyanne, for sharing your story with your story with us!
And thank you to all the women+ leaders, partners, travellers and allies in our community for your interest and support of our woman-led travel business.

To learn more about Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours – visit their website or connect with Chyanne at: gm@homalcotours.com.

To start planning your next adventure to wild British Columbia, including day tours with Homalco, check out our guided and self-guided tours, and connect with our team today!

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Guest Experience Specialist

Emma McLachlan

As a recent graduate with a Bachelors in Tourism Development, Emma has used her education and career opportunities to explore Canada, from coast to coast. Her previous experience in hotels, adventure guiding and travel consulting has relocated her to Lake Louise, Whistler, Montreal, Banff and Toronto.

Her exploration of the west coast ignited her love for adventure tourism, but also opened her eyes to the communities marginalized at the hands of the tourism industry. This flourished her passion for creating a more thoughtful relationship amongst tourism suppliers, local communities and tourists. With Mosaic Earth Travel, Emma is connecting her passions in regenerative tourism and travel.

Originally from Ontario, Emma’s various relocations exposed her to her favourite activities; including back-country camping and hiking, rollerblading, snowboarding, rock climbing and dreaming of her next adventure. Emma is based in Montreal, QC.

Photographer & Guide

Josh McGarel

An avid photographer for over twelve years, Josh has gained experience with local and international businesses, world-renowned athletes, and individuals to build professional content and brand presence across a variety of platforms.

He has worked on assignment for an expedition cruise operator as Photographer in Residence along the East Coast of Canada, South Georgia, and Antarctica. Here, Josh connected with his love of travel as he documented daily excursions, wildlife, and life onboard, and shared his knowledge of photography through presentations and workshops for passengers.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Josh has lived in BC since 2014. He spends his time exploring the area by mountain bike and dreaming up crazy photo projects with friends.
Founder & Lead Guide

Pam McGarel

With a Masters of Science in International Development and Sustainable Tourism, Pam has dedicated her career to harnessing the power of travel to support the wellbeing of our planet and its people. She is an experienced guide, planner and project manager with a knack for logistics.

Prior to launching Mosaic Earth, Pam worked in sustainable tourism consulting where she helped develop a globally-recognized certification program for tourism businesses and destinations.

She has experience in public-private partnerships with a polar expedition cruise operator where she built relationships with world-leading field scientists, conservationists, and educators to facilitate their projects alongside the traveller experience. Pam is a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Women Travel Leaders, and loves to connect with values-driven tourism professionals.

Originally from Ontario, Pam moved to BC in 2016 seeking outdoor adventure, with favourite activities including hiking, sea kayaking, snowboarding, and road trips around this beautiful province.