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Nov 3, 2023

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – November 3, 2023



The other day I saw a photo on Instagram of friends on vacation together in Palm Springs. I knew seven of the individuals but couldn’t place the eighth although he looked somewhat familiar. I finally texted my buddy who posted the image to ask who it was. Turns out I knew the guy but he had physically changed so much over the last decade, I didn’t recognize him.

Unfortunately, the older one gets, the more often these kinds of situations happen. Similarly, many times I’ve visited a destination several years after my first visit and forgotten what I had seen on previous trips, partly because the place itself has morphed into something different.

On that note, earlier this week I joined a few professional colleagues for Air Canada’s first Vancouver to Dubai direct flight for a series of meetings with United Arab Emirates (UAE) business leaders and associations. By way of background, I was part of the lobbying effort to convince the federal government to approve a new bilateral agreement between Canada and UAE (Air Canada and Emirates Airlines) on this new venture…hence the reason I was invited on the trip.

The last time I visited this Middle Eastern hub was more than a dozen years ago when the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa) had yet to open. I was with Tourism Vancouver at the time who, along with Visit Dubai, was a member of the BestCities (meeting) Alliance.

To say Dubai has changed since my last visit would be a gross understatement. The city is exploding with development consisting of thousands of new office towers, condos, hotels, marinas, restaurants, shopping centres, highways, rapid transit, attractions and more. Everywhere you look there are cranes in the sky as yet another project is completed at Mach speed. I almost didn’t recognize the place.

Nearly four million people now call Dubai home, 75% of them ex-pats. Some 40,000 Canadians live there lured by the exceedingly friendly business climate which makes it easy to move to the United Arab Emirates, set up a company, and service the needs of countries in the Middle East, Africa, India, Europe, and beyond.

From a tourism perspective, Visit Dubai is active in 50 markets worldwide with offices in 22 cities overseas. Their role extends well beyond what most DMOs do to include responsibilities such as issuing licenses to new tourism businesses, training tour guides, providing incentives to prospective tourism entrepreneurs, and assigning a rating to each of the 820 hotels in the city that remit a visitor tax commensurate with their ranking. With 170,000 hotel rooms and 87% average occupancy for all but the summer months, Visit Dubai’s revenue and budget is what most DMOs could only dream of. Hence the reason the city attracts upwards of 16 million international visitors annually.

To a person, every executive our delegation (Air Canada, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, YVR, Vancouver Hotel Destination Management Association, TIABC) met with during our whirlwind visit was thrilled with the new Air Canada direct flight from YVR to Dubai.

All cited tremendous opportunities for partnerships across British Columbia’s major business sectors, including tourism. Many businesspeople from UAE have significant business and real estate holdings, including hotels, in British Columbia. Others are looking to invest in tourism products such as resorts and events. Their enthusiasm for BC was infectious.

The priority now is to leverage the contacts our group established with directors of the Canadian Business Council of Dubai, the UAE-Canada Business Council, Visit Dubai, Dubai World Trade Centre, among others and link them with key sector and business leaders in Vancouver and other parts of BC to steadily build long-term relationships that benefit both cities and our province.

Although Dubai is not a key visitor market for BC or Canada (at least not yet), the potential is there especially considering its main airport is the world’s busiest for international passenger volume with easy access to India, Africa, Europe, and now Western Canada. Air Canada anticipates the Vancouver-Dubai route to be immensely popular. Although limited to three times a week seasonal service for now, daily flights are a realistic goal vis-a-vis trade and tourism opportunities between BC and UAE’s largest city in the ner future.

At the rate they’re going, Dubai will have changed significantly again by the time I visit next. The city prides itself on seizing business opportunities, planning/building for the long term, getting things done quickly and easily, securing partnerships, solving problems, and helping entrepreneurs succeed. Notwithstanding other issues the country faces or will need to contend with, from a purely business perspective, it’s a model BC and Canada could stand to learn from.

Everyone we met with was grateful to call Dubai home. By the same token they absolutely love British Columbia and see it as a desired business and leisure destination for Dubai residents, especially during the summer when the desert heat is unbearable.

Several of my new Dubai contacts have already reached out to connect through LinkedIn or other channels. One in particular took a photo of the two of us and linked it to her contact information so I could put a face to the name each time we touch base. Brilliant! Unlike the old friend in the Instagram post that I didn’t recognize, I won’t forget her anytime soon and look forward to establishing a long-term working relationship for the benefit of BC’s visitor economy.

Walt Judas


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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