After 20 years heading one of the world's most dynamic destination marketing organizations, Tourism Vancouver's President & CEO Rick Antonson will leave to become a full-time book author in June 2014.
Tourism Vancouver board chair Bob Lindsay made the announcement today, saying, "We began planning this over two years ago at Rick's request, so the transition is strategic. Tourism Vancouver and our industry are heading into some of the most exciting and successful years, so the timing for this transition is very good."
Metro Vancouver welcomes approximately 8.3 million visitors each year and they spend nearly $3.6 billion annually, making tourism the largest industry in Vancouver, a significant employer and a strong link between Vancouver's cultural community and the rest of the world. Vancouver enjoys a diverse tourism mix of international conventions, cruises, tour groups from around the world, and individual visitors.
Antonson said, "I've always seen myself in this role similarly to the third runner in a four lap relay. If you want to be on the winning team, it's all about the next runner - and that means the handoff has to be perfect. Management and the Board have had lots of time to plan this transition, so it will go smoothly and set up the organization and our tourism industry for continued successes with the new CEO."
Lindsay noted that under Antonson's leadership, Tourism Vancouver has played a significant role in shaping Vancouver and B.C.'s future. Tourism Vancouver launched the bid for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games where Antonson served as a Games Ambassador. Tourism Vancouver also initiated the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Taskforce, which led to the new centre that is partially funded by Tourism Vancouver's $90-million investment. A wide range of programs began during Antonson's watch, including the organization's partnership with the City of Vancouver on Keep Vancouver Spectacular (an annual clean-up initiative now in its 19th year), Canada's largest restaurant promotion, Dine Out Vancouver Festival (now in its 12th year) and Tickets Tonight, which sells over $3.5 million in performing arts and event tickets each year.
Antonson chaired Destination Marketing Association International (based in Washington, DC), served as deputy chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (based in Bangkok, Thailand), was a founding board member of the Canadian Tourism Commission and is currently president of Pacific Coast Public Broadcasting. He also chaired development of the TaxiHost driver training program, which has seen thousands of drivers graduate from the Justice Institute's program in the past 17 years.
Capilano University awarded Antonson an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2011, and he has been inducted into the Canadian Tourism Hall of Fame. Last year, he was presented with the IMEX Academy Award in Europe. Antonson is also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is regularly invited to speak all over the world.
Rick is author of the widely acclaimed book To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa. He also authored Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America's Main Street, which the New York Times called "one of the best books of the bunch" in their year-end travel book roundup (2012). He is co-author of the B.C. bestseller Slumach's Gold: In Search of a Legend. His forthcoming book is Full Moon Over Noah's Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat. Antonson said, "I've long wished for a few years to concentrate on book topics I'm interested in researching, and I'll now pursue a writing career full-time."
Antonson will remain as CEO until June 2014 or until such time as his successor has been hired. Tourism Vancouver has retained the executive search firm Odgers Berndtson to conduct an international search for the organization's next president and CEO. The Board of Directors has established a search committee to oversee the selection process.
Tourism Vancouver's focus is on building exceptional customer relationships with meeting planners, travel influencers, travel media and independent tourists, and is a not-for-profit association with 1,000 members and a $14 million budget, 60 full time staff and 200 volunteers.