Rick Antonson

Rick Antonson

Former CEO and President of Tourism Vancouver, Award Winning Business Innovator and Author

Rick Antonson

Rick Antonson enjoyed over 30 years as a leader in the international tourism industry, and is the author of seven books, among them four acclaimed travel books.

Rick served as board chair of Destination International (DI) based in Washington, D.C., and as deputy chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) based in Bangkok, Thailand and as a Games Ambassador for the 2010 Olympic Winter & Paralympic Games held in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada. He was also President of Pacific Coast Public Television, CEO of Tourism Edmonton, and Managing Director at the start of TIABC. He was a founding member of the board for the Canadian Tourism Commission.

These and many other volunteer roles anchored Rick’s full time career as President & CEO of Tourism Vancouver, an international award winning, 1,000 member organization widely recognized as a global leader in destination marketing, sales, management, and visitor experiences. Under his leadership, Tourism Vancouver played a significant role in shaping tourism’s future including initiating the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Taskforce, which led to the new centre funded by Tourism Vancouver’s $90-million investment along with investments from the federal and provincial governments.

A wide range of community and tourism 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 25th year), Canada’s largest restaurant promotion, the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, and co-creating Tickets Tonight, selling over $4 million in performing arts and event tickets each year. He also chaired development of the TaxiHost driver training program, which has seen thousands of drivers graduate from the Justice Institute’s program.

Capilano University awarded Antonson an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2011, and he has been inducted into the Canadian Tourism Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was presented with the IMEX Academy Award in Europe. Antonson is also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Rick Antonson is the author of seven books including To Timbuktu for a Haircut; A Journey Through West Africa, and Route 66 Still Kicks; Driving America’s Main Street, and Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark; An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond. His most recent bookWalking with Ghosts in Papua New Guinea: Crossing the Kokoda Trail in the Last Wild Place on Earth, was released in September 2019.

He travels extensively around the world for business, speaking engagements and on personal journeys and is a firm believer that Tourism is a vital force for peace.

  1. Cathedral Thinking

    The concept of thinking like ‘cathedral builders’ is, in Antonson’s mind, synonymous with long term planning. Cathedral Thinking has been applied to space exploration, city planning, corporate mandates and other long-range goals that require decades of foresight and preparation so future generations can enjoy their full realization. Though there are many instances in which Cathedral Thinking can be applied, they all require the same foundation: a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to long-term implementation. In the process of laying out this facinating concept, Antonson asks each person in the audience to consider collectively and individually “What is your Cathedral Thought?”

  2. Why the Tourism Industry Scares the Life out of Me

    Rick Antonson has spent 30 years experience in the Tourism industry and it has given him great insight into the Industry. He brings a wealth of International experience, disruptive thinking and a provocative perspective to the podium.

    “Tourism is about to become the biggest industry on the planet. It will also become the largest industry the world has ever seen. And that scares the life out of me.”

    Riddled with telling vignettes, examples and encounters, Antonson’s tale is one of an industry absolutely unprepared for the onslaught of media and consumer scrutiny that will take on tourism more brutally than it has accosted forestry or mining. Antonson’s antidote is simple yet complex (and is it almost too late?). He advocates for “community embraced tourism,” thereby ensuring a long term fit between the industry and the host community it calls home. Where there’s a disconnect, there’ll be a dollar disaster. As he admonishes: “It’s not what we do that matters, it’s what we cause to happen that matters

  3. How Ideas Percolate their Way to Acceptance

    Former CEO Rick Antonson shares his five principles that he has proven will take an innovative idea from concept to acceptance.  He asks the audience:  Where do ideas come from?   What is the difference between creativity and innovation?  He then moulds the mandate: “The only value in having a good idea and being creative is to eventually have it accepted by other people and implemented”. Antonson is clear about the journey an idea travels from the moment of conception through to it eventually being accepted by other people. His precise and concise formulae is based on the notion that “ideas percolate their way to acceptance” and he’s outlined five steps or what he calls his Percolating Principles to help you get your idea accepted.  Loaded with real-life examples of Percolating in Practice, and by destroying  a dozen common misconceptions about ideas, Rick’s presentation demonstrates how ideas are born and how they achieve success — or don’t

  4. MEA CULPA; Seven Mistakes We Leaders Can Make

    Former CEO Rick Antonson candidly talks about some of the mistakes he has made and witnessed in his role as Leader and why it’s important to learn from our weaknesses as well as our strengths.  Some of the mistakes he shares include:

    • Being ‘the leader’ does not make one ‘a leader’: Antonson is clear that the job title does not define the person, just the workload. Many leaders never define their personal leadership style and supporters often wonder where they’re going.
    • Embrace another person leading from the centre of your pack: Often it’s crucial to have someone else on the team take the lead role, with your support, yet “leaders” often feel the need to hog the limelight-of-recognition for things they’ve done precious little to deliver.
    • Rewarding short term thinking imperils the long term goals unless one  action leads to the other: Motivating short term results often distracts a team’s sense of forwarding motion and distorts their end game by camouflaging the future.
  5. Managing Volunteers

    It’s tough to fire a volunteer, so manage them better instead!

    Having worked with countless volunteers in every role from being the board chair, as a fellow board member or in his role as CEO of Tourism Vancouver with 200 volunteers (a number that increased to 300 during the 2010 Olympic Games), Rick says managing volunteers can be the toughest – and the most rewarding – assignment. How do you attract the (diligent) right volunteers and avoid the (enthusiastic) wrong ones? What motivates volunteers to outperform full time staff? What frustrates good volunteers so much that they’ll leave you for some other manager?  Loaded with proven examples and humour, Rick demonstrates how to build a volunteer action force.  He’s been a volunteer, he’s coerced, motivated, hired and fired volunteers, and he thinks they are one of society’s best inventions.

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