Tourism Vancouver

Creating new enterprises

Creating new enterprises, and new systems, and new ways of doing things is often much easier than trying to change the enterprises, the systems, and the ways we are doing things now. Creating Tourism Vancouver was a good demonstration to me of how creating a new enterprise can not only be easier, but can also create more possibilities than trying to deal with the constraints and limitations and ideas established in the way we are doing things now.

As the opening day for Expo 86 was approaching there was increasing concern about whether we would have any tourism information services available for visitors. The funding for the Greater Vancouver Visitors and Convention Bureau had fallen to less than $300, 000 and they had decided to focus their attention on marketing to the convention industry.

I was working with the British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, the British Columbia Pavilion Corporation, and some others in the hospitality community and could see what was happening. So I approached the Vancouver Hotels Association, The British Columbia Hotels Association, the Downtown Vancouver Association, the City of Vancouver, and the Ministry of Tourism who all invested in hiring me to explore what could be done.

It became apparent fairly quickly that finding a solution which involved the Convention and Visitors Bureau, with the concerns, relationships, and ideas that were revolving around could take a long time and might not even be possible. So instead I set out to create a new organization. I liked how Trans Canada Airlines had changed their name to Air Canada so I called it Tourism Vancouver.

I recruited a Board of Directors of leaders who represented each of the communities of interest who were part of the tourism and hospitality community and who could benefit from and contribute to the enterprise and asked Graham Clarke of Harbour Ferries to serve as the first Chairman. I recruited John Munro from Canadian Airlines who knew the business and who had created the Canadian Airlines frequent flyer program which was a leader in the customer loyalty world. I created a relationship for the Bank of British Columbia as an investment partner. And we acquired a space on Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver and opened a crisp new tourism information centre in time to welcome and create services and connections for Expo 86 visitors.

Tourism Vancouver opened its doors with more than $800,000 in the bank for the first year of its operation and after the new organization was in place I invited the Greater Vancouver Convention Bureau to become part of the new enterprise and work together as a community around our common interests. All of this took about eighteen months.

The ideas

Tourism Vancouver was created on the foundation idea that it is easier to create new enterprise and new ways of doing things than to change the interests, relationships, ideas, thinking, attitudes, and ways of seeing and doing things that we have invested in. These are the other ideas on which the new enterprise was created.

A place on the Board for every community of interest contributing to creating experiences and services for visitors and to exciting interest in Vancouver as a place to visit to give everyone a part in the conversation of what Tourism Vancouver could do, and how it could develop, and how we could use all the resources of the community, – to ensure the interests of each community of contributors were considered in the evolution of their community enterprise, – and to draw the interests of participating communities toward making their community marketing enterprise more successful.

A Board Chairman chosen for his ability to facilitate conversations and relationships and an Executive Director who was a leader in the world of marketing with a demonstrated ability to get things done.

At least one creative relationship with an investment partner who could benefit from contributing to the financial stability of the enterprise to supplement membership fees and other earned revenue, and the ongoing interest and financial support of the City of Vancouver Government and the Government of British Columbia, both important players in the development of the industry and in the delivery of the visitor experience. The Bank of British Columbia which was located immediately across the street from the location of the new visitor centre and positioned as British Columbia’s Bank could benefit from creating connections with new businesses and people who might become attracted to creating a place for themselves in the community.

A plan to explore other ideas to finance the ongoing viability of the enterprise and strengthen its ability to increase the size and contribution of the tourism and hospitality community to our economy and to our image as we present ourselves to other communities within and outside British Columbia and Canada. The idea of having the Provincial Government direct part of the hotel tax or add to the hotel tax to create an ongoing revenue stream to finance Tourism Vancouver was one of the ideas pursued. The hotel tax is a source of revenue from and familiar to travelers. And the return on investment doesn’t take much analysis in the world of business and marketing.

An investment in creating the enterprise by the keystone players in the community whose interests would be most affected and who could benefit most from having good tourism information services in place to capitalize on the millions of visitors expected over the summer and fall of 1986.

This, and a directed attention in getting the enterprise operating as quickly as possible with the active participation of everyone contributing their ideas, resources, and abilities and working collaboratively around getting the job done.

The result was a fresh breath of air.

My observations

In my experience it is not only easier to create a new enterprise than change existing enterprises, it is also, for many reasons I can see, likely to be more successful.

Creative connections

Think Vancouver