Career Path

Ty Spear

A native of Atlanta, the new president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver brings with him deep experience on large-scale events — including serving as deputy CEO of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and director of client services for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.


How did you get started in the events industry?

If I point to the one thing that sort of pulled me in the direction of major events, it would be many years ago [Advantage International, the sports-marketing firm he worked for,] had the opportunity to pursue a piece of business for a company that was sponsoring the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. We got that piece of business, and as I was an Atlanta native, the company asked me to go back down to Atlanta and start a satellite office and build up what I could around the Olympic Games for 1996.

What was it like transitioning up to working on the Olympics?

The big thing about the Olympic Games which you really see clearly from the inside is just the scale of what needs to be developed and delivered. Just a mammoth undertaking, and as with lots of big, complicated, temporary projects, it’s an enormous undertaking but it’s compressed into a short space of time with a fixed deadline.

At the same time, what is fantastic about a project like the Olympic Games and certainly similar to the Commonwealth Games is, you have this great emotional momentum behind you. You have an enormous number of people that, for no other reason than they want to celebrate, they’re there wanting you to succeed. It’s a really fascinating dynamic.

What made you want to move from that over to a destination marketing organization?

I would be remiss not to say the place was a lot about what drove my decision. I’m just a big, big fan of Vancouver and this part of the world. I think the other thing that really was interesting to me was, I wanted to move out of the temporary-project business into an ongoing business. And that was driven by wanting to take on the challenge of having to build on the last year, learn from what you did in past years, apply it and grow and innovate and challenge yourself and the organization to continually be better.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of your new role?

Well, I think that the enduring challenge for everybody in this industry — and this is both what keeps you up at night but also keeps you motivated — is it’s a global business that changes every day. If you’re not on top of what you need to be on top of to best position the city to be competitive, somebody is going to be ahead of you.

What advice would you give to someone who is just entering the industry?

First is to understand the skills that you’re developing and the skills that you need to be developing when you come into a sector, because skills are what are transferable. It’s not just enough to understand how an industry works. You have to understand and be building up the skills along the way.

And the second thing which I think is critical is understanding that a customer is not just who buys your product. A customer is everybody that you touch along the path of getting from start to finish, and making sure you understand that you’re constantly in a world where all kinds of different customers are going to have all kinds of different needs, and you’re going to be successful if you’re aware of that and if you’re meeting those needs.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.