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Mar 12, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – March 8, 2024


As the tributes and accolades poured in for Brian Mulroney from all corners of the world last week, I was reminded about my own encounter with Canada’s former prime minister when he was in Vancouver to open a technology conference in the early nineties.

The event attracted hundreds of international delegates including several high-ranking government officials, as well as Canada’s national media who followed PM Mulroney across the country.

I had the honour of emceeing the opening ceremonies but for some inexplicable reason was not included in the pre-ceremony briefing. Nonetheless, I took the mic and introduced several dignitaries in the room, all of whom were to stand, wave to the crowd and sit back down. Proceedings took an interesting turn when I acknowledged a Saudi sheikh who jumped on stage, walked over to the centre podium (I was positioned behind another podium – stage left) and started speaking about Canada’s leadership in the technology sector. He even referenced Scottish-Canadian Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone.

As the sheikh spoke, I could see reporters doubled over in laughter. Prime Minister Mulroney was sitting in the front row and looking at me with a big smile on his face while also quietly communicating with his handlers. The conference manager was pale white with a look of panic on her face as she motioned for me to cut the speaker off. Just as I figured out how to politely tell the sheikh to wrap it up, he suddenly stopped, mumbled thank you and returned to his seat.

Cleary, the pre-event briefing instructions got lost in translation and the Saudi official took it upon himself to present Mulroney’s speech until the notes turned to French, a language he obviously didn’t know. I then called the PM to the podium and he very smoothly and seamlessly continued the presentation in French before transitioning to English and eventually wrapping up. No one in the audience knew what had just transpired except the PM’s handlers, the conference manager and me, and of course the media who had a copy of Mulroney’s speech.

That incident taught me to expect something to go sideways no matter the event or the level of planning. Hence the reason I’m always on guard, especially when it comes to the annual BC Tourism Industry Conference (BCTIC) which concluded with a wonderful gala awards ceremony last night (hosted by Indigenous Tourism BC) where we honoured 10 deserving recipients and 20 nominees. While we’ve faced various challenges in each of the previous conferences and were prepared for another obstacle, thankfully this year we managed to avoid any major incidents to host a memorable event for all attendees.

BCTIC 2024 was outstanding in so many ways, not only because of the content but because of the calibre of workshop presenters and plenary speakers, as well as the special guests, delegates, and sponsors. One of the highlights was Premier David Eby’s participation where he spoke to the audience for a few minutes then joined me for a Q&A on a variety of subjects. He was engaging, funny, empathetic, informative, and very supportive of our sector. Delegates gave him a standing ovation. Premier Eby was the first provincial leader in more than a dozen years to attend the conference. Similarly, BC’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport, Hon. Lana Popham, addressed delegates, as did federal Tourism Minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada who joined me for a Q&A and also participated in a workshop on emergency management.

While I don’t have space to mention them all, allow me to thank a few key organizations including our presenting partner, Destination BC, along with our hosts, Destination Greater Victoria for their valuable support. A special thank you to Indigenous Tourism British Columbia for hosting the gala awards last night. It was so wonderful to celebrate BC’s best with close to 400 tourism and hospitality professionals. Thanks also to the host Empress Hotel, Victoria Conference Centre, and the Royal BC Museum for their service, generous contribution, and hospitality.

To all of our workshop speakers, plenary session presenters, the province of BC (Premier Eby, Minister Popham, Parliamentary Secretary Anderson, Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport), Indigenous Tourism BC, Destination Vancouver, Destination Canada, go2HR, Tourism HR Canada, Air Canada and dozens of other sponsors and supporters that helped make the conference such a success again this year. A final thanks also to TIABC’s staff and Board of Directors (including event emcees Nicole Ford & Miranda Ji), the conference program advisory committee, and our conference management team – ConnectSeven Group – for an outstanding job.

I am pleased to announce that next year the BC Tourism Industry Conference will return to Vancouver at a venue yet to be announced. Stay tuned.

I didn’t follow politics closely in the early nineties but I knew Canada’s prime minister was respected and admired by his compatriots around the world. And to this day I’ve never forgotten the incident at the technology conference that Mr. Mulroney so deftly handled on the fly and no one would have known about had it not been the lead story on national television news that night. Now you know too. Thank you for the warm memory, Mr. Mulroney. May you rest in peace.

Walt Judas,


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