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Nancy Small continues Tourism Richmond's big plans

Lorraine Graves   Aug-17-2018

Nancy Small, the new chief executive officer of Tourism Richmond.

Photo by Chung Chow

Nancy Small, the new chief executive officer of Tourism Richmond, comes to her job with a wealth of experience.

After studying for her Bachelor of Commerce degree at Memorial University, Small worked at an ad agency for four years in the ‘90s, “when advertising was fun,” she says.



From there was a stint in Toronto before she was off to live in Australia for three years.

Since then, Small has called Vancouver home. Coming to Tourism Richmond from a similar job in Burnaby, she compares the two cities,.

“I know Burnaby has 1,500 hotel rooms, while Richmond’s a smaller city, by population, and has 4,500 hotel rooms,” she says.

“Richmond is the fourth largest city in B.C. We do punch above our level in terms of hotels.”

Small notes it is one of the benefits of having the Vancouver International Airport, within Richmond’s city limits.

Our municipality is a national standout for hoteliers in yet another way, she says.

“Richmond actually leads the country in occupancy levels in the hotel industry and has done so for a couple of years,” Small says.

What are her hopes for the future?

While there’s a high demand during the peak season, Small says she would like to smooth out the demand for the rest of the year.

British Columbia has 55 destination marketing organizations. Tourism Richmond, funded through a small fee on each hotel stay, is considered one of the top destination marketing organizations in Canada.

“We work to attract people here. It could be for a meeting, a conference or an event—basically anybody that would come into Richmond, would be appealing to us. We would try to give them the reason to come to Richmond over anywhere else.”

Small says they promote anything that drives people to stay overnight.

“Richmond actually, more than other cities this size, has a lot of events happening especially over the summer months. It’s exciting to see a lot of these things that are happening in this city.”

Tourism Richmond looks for more than simply attracting events, she says.

“It’s about packaging us and positioning us in a really unique manner that’s going to drive long term visitation, not only one-and-done events. One of the things we are really trying to push is the food tourism aspect,” says Small, citing the New York Times article that named Richmond the best Asian food destination in North America.

Richmond is well-positioned, Small says, for bicycle tourism because of our extensive, high-quality bike infrastructure, including our scenic dikes.

Speaking of Richmond’s lush avian wildlife, Small mentions another attractive angle to Richmond: “Birding is really trendy right now.”

People who come from out of town to eat at Richmond restaurants and visit the Richmond Night Market, are “a big driver of our economy.”

“I grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland on the other side of the country, way east,” she says with a laugh.

Small adds: “It’s about the total experience, not just a concert on a Saturday night.”

When asked what her immediate plans for Tourism Richmond are, Small pays tribute to the team and to former leader, Bruce Okabe.

“It’s early days. I’m hoping the team will be consistent and stable. It’s a very, very strong, energetic, dynamic team with a great board of directors. That consistency is one of my goals. Tourism Richmond is on a really great path that Bruce put in motion.”

A big part of that is the new branding: Pacific. Authentic. Richmond BC.

“It’s a dynamic and strong strategic plan that will really focus the organization in the coming years and I’m not going to change that. It’s a very smart, sound plan.”

“I suggest people take a look at our website,” says Small

“It’s not about Tourism Richmond getting famous. It’s about Richmond getting famous.”

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