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Mar 28, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – March 28, 2024


Whenever I visit the Fraser Valley, it evokes childhood memories of when, on the first Sunday of every month, my mom and dad would pile their four kids into the car and drive east to visit our grandparents in Chilliwack. Sometimes we’d arrive just in time to slip into the back pew of the old Evergreen Baptist church to watch my grandfather sing in the choir. Most of the choir members couldn’t carry a tune so it was painful to listen to but entertaining at the same time.

Although visits to grandma’s house generally meant a great meal, there wasn’t much else to do in a sleepy community of mostly retired folks where virtually everything except gas stations, restaurants, drugstores, and churches were closed on Sundays.

Fast forward 50 years and I hardly recognize Chilliwack or many other parts of the Fraser Valley anymore. The pace of development, especially over the past couple of decades, is remarkable. The communities of Abbotsford, Harrison, Hope, Langley, Mission, and Chilliwack have collectively added tens of thousands of residents, housing units, services, schools, businesses, and new infrastructure to become extremely desirable and popular places for residents and visitors. In other words, there is plenty to do and see.

Moreover, community development plans show further growth opportunities in the coming years that will make the Fraser Valley a truly powerful region that can stand on its own without looking to Metro Vancouver for jobs, expertise, amenities, and other necessities.

Earlier this week I joined colleagues from Tourism Abbotsford (Clare Seeley, Barb Roberts) and Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism Region (Chad Wetsch) to meet with Sumas First Nation to learn of their exciting plans to transform a large parcel of land next to Hwy. 1 into a tourism hub that will add tremendous benefits to the Fraser Valley from an economic, cultural, social, and environment perspective. The project is truly a game-changer.

Sumas First Nation is also working to launch an agri-tourism business near Agassiz that would allow visitors a glimpse into land and water-based farming practices. Clare, Barb, Chad, and I toured an indoor fish farm just outside of Chilliwack where Tilapia are being raised and sold to suppliers in Metro Vancouver. Eventually the fish farm will be open to tourists and residents who wish to learn more about Indigenous culture and horticultural practices. Plans also call for similar operations elsewhere in the Fraser Valley in the coming years.

Seeing so many new Indigenous businesses thriving in Abbotsford and proposals for new Indigenous attractions, hotels, restaurants, meeting venues and other tourism related products and experiences is exciting and encouraging for our industry. As I’ve been preaching for a long time, British Columbia needs new tourism products and experiences to continue to attract visitors and further develop our visitor economy.

You may be thinking…why was I part of this tour? The answer is pretty straight forward. In order for Sumas First Nation and other entrepreneurs with ambitious plans and ideas to move forward, they need support from advocacy partners like TIABC to work with all levels of government on policies that create the right climate for investors, accelerate approval processes, and resolve some outstanding issues such as land use. I look forward to seeing this and other projects unveiled in the years ahead.

In my pre-teens, my parents would send me to my grandparents’ old house on Reece Avenue near downtown Chilliwack for nearly two weeks every summer. Those were hazy, lazy days where I passed the time by borrowing a bike and venturing out to explore the neighbouring communities of Rosedale, Agassiz and beyond, often riding on farm roads and occasionally sneaking onto someone’s property to pick fruit or vegetables for lunch. Thankfully much of the countryside I enjoyed in my youth still exists for visitors to (re) discover. Along with new amenities and impending developments, the Fraser Valley’s potential from a resident and tourism perspective is anything but sleepy.

Walt Judas,


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Meet Dave Butler, Vice-President, Sustainability at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, as he joins TIABC's Voice of Tourism host Walt Judas to discuss his career path, his work in sustainable tourism, and the challenges business owners and operators are facing in the province today.

You can listen to the Voice of Tourism podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Check us out on Apple, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon Music, Deezer, Podcast Addict and Podchaser. Or listen through the link in bio. 👆
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📈 With a view to building a stronger and more strategic relationship, TIABC CEO Walt Judas Met with Joe Baker, Dean of the Okanagan College School of Business in Kelowna. 

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👥 TIABC's Membership & Communications Committee convened at the Richmond Oval recently for a strategic planning session that encompassed topics such as values, benefits, structure, fees and opportunities. 

Pictured left to right:
- Deb Kulchiski - TIABC
- Ceri Chong - Tourism Richmond
- Chris Lewis - Tourism Kelowna
- Nicole Ford - Rocky Mountaineer
- J.J. Belanger - Crystal Cove Beach Resort
- Jamie Cox - St. Andrews by the Lake
- Walt Judas - TIABC
- Mike Retasket - CCCT
- Joanne Burns-Millar - Pacific Destinations