The Rules of Attraction

Petti Fong You haven’t even officially started yet. What’s the first touristy thing you want to do when you’re an actual local?

TY SPEER Run around Stanley Park. It’s one of my favourite runs in the world, and I enjoy running. Then I promised I’d do the Grouse Grind.

PF Be prepared for the Vancouver question: What’s your best time? The record is an insane 23:48.

TS I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be breaking that record.

PF Your first visit to Vancouver was back in 2008, when you were in your role as client services director for the 2012 London Games. What were your thoughts about the city at that time?

TS We did some outdoor activities, an extensive tour of the Olympic venues. I remember, as we were being taken around, that the positioning was extraordinary: how close the mountains were, that there was a great sense of a concentrated downtown core where people were working, living, and playing.

PF You grew up in Atlanta. What was your first memorable trip?

TS I was eight or nine and we had an aunt who moved to New York. I remember looking out the window and just thinking of all the cars down there. It was fascinating — such a contrast. I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood with yards and trees.

PF Why do people travel?

TS Some are looking for what they know — it may be a trip to the beach; others travel for what they don’t know, to be outside their comfort zone and for a while put themselves in others’ shoes: “Why do people in Spain eat tapas at 6:00?” “Why do people in London go to pubs?” That’s the challenge to understand and tap into.

PF Why is tourism a challenging business?

TS It’s all about choice. There is an extraordinarily wide set of options, literally thousands of other cities and regions doing the right thing. It’s about being in the right place at the right time so we can be positioned as one of the options.

PF Isn’t it enough that we’re pretty in the places tourists want to see?

TS That’s a great base, but it shouldn’t translate into complacency. We’re beautiful, but as those who work in tourism know, people don’t want to come here only because of that. It will never be enough just to be beautiful.