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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,


Related Posts

TIABC Director Dennis Innes (VCC Dean of Hospitality, Culinary & Baking) and CEO Walt Judas joined term 8 hospitality students, industry leaders, recent graduates, and faculty for a Philosopher's Cafe to discuss the state of the tourism and hospitality workforce this week at VCC's downtown Vancouver campus.
TIABC CEO Walt Judas with Tourism Abbotsford’s Barb Roberts & Clare Seeley, as well as VCM’s Chad Wetsch on a site visit to a land-based Tilapia fish farm owned and operated by the Sumas First Nation who are expanding their Fraser Valley holdings with ambitious plans to bolster Abbotsford’s tourism infrastructure and experiences.
As he does regularly, TIABC CEO Walt Judas recently presented to tourism students and faculty at @westerncommunitycollege's (WCC) Surrey campus, focussing on industry issues and TIABC's advocacy priorities. Walt also serves on WCC's Program Advisory Committee (PAC), as well as the PACs of @capilanou and @myvcc.
🍽️ What an incredible farm-to-table experience! Backyard Farm Proprietor and Chef Chris Van Hooydonk welcomed TOTA's Board of Directors and guests Walt Judas, Richard Porges (DBC CEO) and Scott Fraser (DBC Chair) for a memorable meal in Osoyoos this week.

Chris's culinary philosophy focuses on utilizing the freshest, locally sourced ingredients to create unique, tailored menus for each visit. With a commitment to true hospitality, the experience is marked by attentive service and a passion for showcasing the beauty of the South Okanagan.

Also pictured, Destination Osoyoos Executive Director Kelley Glazer, TOTA CEO Ellen Walker Matthews, and TOTA's Jane Parece. 

A huge thank you to Chris for providing such a delightful culinary experience! 🌿
🎉 Highlights from the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Conference in Victoria! 🌟

Close to 450 tourism industry professionals convened in Victoria last week for the annual 2024 BC Tourism Industry Conference, hosted by TIABC. Industry leaders representing businesses, sector associations, regional and community destination management organizations, First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as non-government organizations gathered for the two-day event. 

Anchored by the conference theme - Shaping Our Future Together - the outstanding program provided both a knowledge and skills track via plenary sessions and workshops. Here are just a few highlights:

▪️ Opening keynote speaker Shaun Boothe shared a unique and emotional celebration of some of the world's most influential cultural icons. His energy and messages set the stage for the entire event.

▪️ Hon. Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport kicked off the conference by welcoming delegates and sharing her own personal story of working in BC's tourism industry.

▪️ Plenary Remarks by Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada: Insights from the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development Agency of Canada highlighted the industry's significance.

▪️TIABC CEO Walt Judas engaged in a compelling conversation with Premier David Eby whose remarks underscored the vital role of the tourism industry in British Columbia, earning him a standing ovation.

▪️ Opening Reception at the Royal BC Museum

A big thank you to all our sponsors for making this event possible! 🙌
Join us in celebrating the remarkable winners of the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Awards Gala presented by @indigenoustourismbc! 🎉✨ 

Ten awards were given out to recognize and celebrate excellence, leadership, and innovation within British Columbia’s tourism and hospitality sector. These awards showcased the province’s most exceptional leaders and positive change-makers this past year.

The winners of the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Awards are:

Business Woman of the Year Award - Sponsored by Prince of Whales
⭐ Winner: Ingrid Jarrett, @bchotelassociation 

Community Contribution & Impact - Sponsored by Tourism Richmond
⭐Winner: @princeofwhaleswhalewatching 

DMO Professional Excellence - Sponsored by BC Regional Tourism Secretariat (BCRTS)
⭐Winner: @visitrichmondbc 

Employees First - Sponsored by go2HR
⭐Winner: @golfbc 

Inclusive and Accessible Tourism Experience - Sponsored by Destination BC
⭐Winner: Vancouver Aquarium

Indigenous Operator or Experience | Sponsored by Indigenous Tourism BC and Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
⭐Winner: @homalcotours

Innovation | Sponsored by Tourism Innovation Lab
⭐Winner: @tourismnewwest 

Remarkable Experience | Sponsored by BC Destination Management Organization Association (BCDMOA)
⭐Winner: @nimmobayresort

Sector Association Excellence Award | Sponsored by Acera Insurance
⭐Winner: Sport Fishing Institute of BC

Sustainability Excellence | Sponsored by Nanaimo Airport
⭐Winner: @40knotswinery 

📸 @arkitekcreative