Stories, Jim Byrnes and Why #BCTourismMatters

Jim Byrnes in Victoria @TIABC
I'll never forget the time back in 2012 in Prince George BC when I did the presentation for the annual conference of the Northern BC Tourism Association. The mayor of Masset - on Haida Gwaii - was in the audience and the story of the Golden Spruce that forms the top of the guitar had an extra emotional impact on me, on him and on so many in the audience that night. So I was so much looking forward to doing the presentation this past Friday for the conference of the larger Tourism Industry Association of BC in Victoria - I knew that there would be people from that earlier audience among the group and we'd have an even greater chance to have that story resonate among a group of people who really care about telling the story of British Columbia in a visceral way for their own visitors - whether they be hoteliers or wineries or adventure companies or hostels or campgrounds.

Sure enough, the story of the Golden Spruce and many others resonated with the audience but stories really were flowing in all directions that day. Our old friend, bluesman Jim Byrnes added a couple of his own stories with a couple of powerful songs in the "performance pocket" near the end of the presentation and TIABC CEO Walt Judas made a really compelling case about why tourism matters in the global context of being able to share each other's stories as a balm against the division and xenophobia that seems to be re-asserting itself around the world these days. But the stories really continued to flow in the anteroom where Doug and I were set up to do portraits with attendees. So many people had stories and connections to share but two really stand out:
one was J.J. Belanger, who let me know that his father, Pierre, had been the announcer at the Montreal Forum the night of the famous "Richard Riots" in March of 1955 and again the following year when the mighty Habs took the Stanley Cup back from the Detroit Red Wings;
the other was Alistair McLean - the death of whose brother, Stuart McLean, had so saddened the country just over a week earlier. Alistair came up to thank me for the presentation and suggest that we might find something of Stuart's to become part of the strap or case. We are pursuing that conversation but mostly I was glad to be able to share with Alistair the story I shared with the audience of teachers on February 17th in Ottawa: that the presence of the wooden nickel from the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls was there as a direct result of having heard Stuart's masterful telling of the story of Roger Woodward's survival of his trip over the Falls as a young boy while the older Woodword listened silently on the other end of a phone line in Alabama. Funny how a tourist attraction in Niagara Falls formed a link at a tourism conference in BC!

Thanks so much to our volunteers at the portrait station, Stanley, Matt, Jonathan and late-inning pinch hitter Vince. Thanks to the amazing AV crew from [....] for great sound and projection in the main room and a very special thanks to Nora Cumming of Chemistry Consulting for being so great to work with in organizing this event with my friends at the National Speakers Bureau. Thanks also to Louise MacDonald of the Victoria Community Foundation and Louise Roulstone and Paul O'Brien for stopping by for portraits and to my sister, Annalisa, and nephew and niece, Callum and Anika, for giving me a reason to stay in beautiful Victoria for an extra day!

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