Inge Wilson finally has an opportunity to explore the province she’s promoted for 30 years.
As the face of tourism services in Hope for three decades, she is now embarking on a new chapter in her life – retirement.
“It’s been a wonderful ride and I’m really going to miss my time at the visitor centre talking with travellers,” said Wilson.
“I always loved what I did. So many of the things I worked on, it was so gratifying to see them come to reality. I thank everyone who helped me to do that.”
Wilson was a University of British Columbia grad, newlywed and recent arrival to Hope when Dave Neilson and Archie Springman hired her to work for the local Chamber of Commerce on April 26, 1984.
She spent 18 years as Chamber manager and played an integral role in the development of numerous projects, including the salmon enhancement project at Thacker Creek, the development of the Othello-Quintette Tunnels area, the construction of the Memorial Park playground and bandstand, the Sixth Avenue Park sports lighting improvement project, and the start of the Hope chainsaw carvings collection.
“She had the kind of attributes we were looking for to be able to impress people with the wonders of Hope and be able to put forward a positive image,” said Neilson.
“She was obviously the right person for the job and the longevity of her stay is a testimony to the fact that she knew what she was doing and was appreciated for what she did do.”
When the Hope & District Chamber of Commerce surrendered the sponsorship and operation of the Hope Visitor Centre in 2003, Wilson saw an opportunity to continue her passion of interacting and informing travellers, while encouraging business to the Hope area. She submitted a bid to operate the local visitor centre and museum under her own enterprise, Destination Hope & Beyond Services. That contract came to an end on Dec. 21.
In addition to her contributions to the tourism industry, Wilson has served on countless committees, community organizations, task forces and advocacy groups. She also worked on the local Spirit of B.C. Committee leading up to the 2010 Olympics and was chosen as a torch bearer for the Paralypmic torch relay.
About 65 people who have worked with Wilson over the last 30 years gathered for a surprise farewell celebration at Owl Street Cafe last Friday.
Guests included past employees, local dignitaries, representatives from Destination B.C., and John Winter, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.
“Inge is very much an institution and her commitment to tourism in British Columbia goes far beyond Hope,” said Winter.
“At the Chamber when we had tourism issues, it became custom ritual that Inge would be consulted. As a very important part of the Chamber network over the years, Inge has certainly played a significant leadership role and she’ll be significantly and severely missed.”
Jennifer Handley, with Destination B.C., acknowledged Wilson’s ongoing commitment to provide the very best products and services to each visitor to the community. She also pointed out that the Visitor Centre Network in B.C. would not be what it is today without the involvement of people like Wilson, who in the late 1980s and early 1990s helped establish the guidelines and parameters under which the program would operate.
“This program is very strong and is internationally recognized,” she added.
“It’s because of people like Inge that stepped up to the front line and stepped beyond their community to provide constructive comments, suggestions and recommendations.”
It’s estimated that Wilson directly or indirectly through her staff has positively influenced the travel decisions of 1.6 million people over her 30-year career.