As I stepped up to the podium to offer a few remarks at the Vancouver Tourism Awards (VTA) Gala Breakfast the other day, I marvelled at the size of the audience. Some 400 award nominees were among the 740 attendees who came together to celebrate and recognize fellow colleagues for the extraordinary service they deliver to visitors each day.
The excitement and the energy in the room was palpable. The fact that myriad sub-sectors of our industry were back together at this event for the first time in three years brought both relief and a deep sense of satisfaction to VTA’s Board of Directors.
Aside from a hearty breakfast, dozens of prizes, music, and visiting with colleagues and friends, there was a serious component to the event that garnered the attention of nearly everyone in the Vancouver Convention Centre ballroom. Under the theme of resilience, special guest speaker, Dr. Susan Biali Haas (a Vancouver-based medical doctor, coach, health writer & author) introduced the signs of burnout and talked about coping mechanisms, as well as methods to deal with the effects of chronic fatigue…something all too familiar in our sector, especially since the start of COVID.
Given that I always look for practical solutions to problems, I was particularly intrigued by the homework assignment Dr. Haas gave attendees, which included a task to identify four life priorities that essentially drive us. She then suggested that we rank the ‘health’ of these areas on a scale of one to 10. To complete the process, we would need to define one simple way to take better care of each area of neglect.
Identifying one’s priorities (e.g. family, work, travel, exercise) is relatively easy. Doing an honest self-assessment of each and implementing practices to address areas where we’re struggling is decidedly more difficult.
Suffice it to say, it was a heavy subject and one not usually associated with a celebratory event. However, Dr. Haas’s presentation was both welcome and appropriate considering that so many in our industry continue to struggle with mental health.
This past Monday was World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the pandemic created a global crisis for mental health, fuelling short and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions.
WHO’s goal is a world in which mental health is valued, promoted, and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where every individual can access the mental health care they need. I’d venture to say virtually everyone in our sector can stand behind WHO’s vision.
As I concluded my remarks at the VTA gala, I referenced the hardship that many colleagues experienced during the peak COVID years. I also spoke about the strength and resiliency of our sector and expressed confidence in a better future in the years ahead especially considering the talents and skills of the hundreds of tourism professionals in the room who remain committed and keen to serve visitors to our destination.
Finally, I also offered my gratitude to VTA Executive Director Peggie Terry and the entire Vancouver Tourism Awards board and committee for recognizing the importance of this event in bringing the industry back together to celebrate the best of the best.
I trust VTA committee members know that this wonderful demonstration of gratitude made a huge difference in the lives of more than 700 front-line tourism employees this week.