Tourism Richmond’s new CEO sees a healthy tourism sector as a vital component of a sustainable city.
Bruce Okabe, whose official, first day on the job is today (March 15), told the Richmond News this city is in a unique position to build on substantial, complementary services and attractions that support a burgeoning, local tourism industry.
“Richmond enjoys both a lot of infrastructure and physical advantages that other municipalities don’t,” Okabe said. “First and foremost is the airport, which is one the world’s top-ranked.”
And spiralling out from YVR is an array of tourism-related businesses.
“We have a huge number of hotels that serve our visitors coming in and returning. So, as a result, there’s a lot of funding infrastructure here. And when that’s present, there’s a natural tendency to have a more tourism-focused economy.”
And that has Okabe — who replaces Tracy Lakeman, who served for close to 13 years — honing his vision for local tourism by leveraging Richmond’s advantages to promote the city as a destination, especially for those seeking outdoor activities.
“We have a longer, warmer season than most other places. And that, combined with our relatively flat terrain, gives people plenty of hiking and biking opportunities,” Okabe said.
“I also want to do my part of building a sustainable, active, healthy city,” said Okabe, who, as a newlywed back in the 1980s, lived in the Francis Road and Railway Avenue area. “And I believe tourism is a very critical leg on a stool developing that.
“In my opinion, it needs to have the three elements of live, work and play, whether you’re an economic development (planner) trying to attract head offices, or a corporation thinking about moving here — you’re going to want an infrastructure with arts, culture and physical recreation that serve and benefit those workers.”
Overall, it’s a team environment, Okabe said, when it comes to producing a desirable, sustainable community.
“My vision is to work closely with the city, promote the wonderful things we have, like 58 miles of cycling trails, the Olympic Oval and Steveston Waterfront. I think at the end of the day we have a great opportunity to punch above our weight.”
“Bruce is an exceptional leader who has an outstanding track record with DMOs (destination marketing organizations) and large businesses in Canada,” said Eda Koot, chair of Tourism Richmond, in a news release. “We are very fortunate to have him lead our organization in the next phase of its evolution. His vision and leadership will be a tremendous benefit to our stakeholders and destination.”