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Erik Graff Awarded Prestigious WorldHost Customer Service Award from BC Tourism Industry

Erik Graff

Last month Erik Graff was awarded the prestigious WorldHost Customer Service Award from the BC Tourism Industry. This fantastic achievement only goes to one person each year in recognition for their outstanding contribution to enhancing the travel experience for visitors to British Columbia. Erik offers 9-hour guided tours of Vancouver and the surrounding area and has been a volunteer with Hostelling International for 17 years. We are really proud of Erik and so pleased he has received this award in recognition for his love and passion for his work. We contacted Erik and asked if he would be so kind to let us know what he thought about his award and in his own words, we would like to share them with you here.

Dear Erik.

As per the voice mail left for you by TIABC’s CEO, Stephen Regan, I would like to congratulate you on winning the 2011WorldHost Customer Service Award! This year is the twelfth annual BC Tourism Industry Awards where we showcase the brightest and best stars in our industry in a variety of categories. The Award Gala will be held during the 18th Annual BC Tourism Industry Conference, October 25 at the Victoria Conference Centre. Further details below:

12th Annual BC Tourism awards
Tuesday, October 25
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm (we ask that you arrive by 5:40 pm for a pre-event briefing)

Margaret Ross
Events & Communications Coordinator
Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC)

I’m sure that you can appreciate my disbelief, when I read the above letter, no less than incredible!!!

View of downtown Vancouver from the Lookout Tower at Harbour Centre - Author MagnusL3D
Downtown Vancouver from the Lookout Tower at Harbour Centre – Author MagnusL3D

When I arrived in Vancouver 49 years ago in 1962, the most important industry in B.C. was forestry, mining and fishing whereas tourism was on a small scale, to say the least, and Vancouver was rather little known.

Since then, tourism has grown out of leaps and bounds in our province, with tens of thousands of people employed in that industry, from hotels, lodges, restaurants and bars, to all the many, many tourist attractions and special sights.

As such, I’m convinced that out there ‘somewhere’ are people more deserving than myself, to qualify for this distinguished award but then, the B.C. Tourism made their choice and I’m totally thrilled of course, that I should be that person and I feel so honoured!

When I think of the many special situations, challenges and wonderful events throughout my life, nothingreally could match that of October the 25th of this year!!!

Every year, 8 awards are handed out but of those eight, only one is for an individual, chosen from those who have been nominated from the 135,000 people employed within the tourist industry. The others are for hotels, lodges, restaurants, commercial tour excursions, attractions, and special innovations within the tourist industry, etc.

During the first dinner course, the first 4 awards were handed out, followed by the main course (beef fillet Mignon). Then another 3 awards were given. However, the delegates were left in suspension, awaiting the most important award presentation of the evening: “The Tourism World Host Award”

After the dessert and coffee had been served, the two gigantic screens (on either side of the conference room) had the words: B.C. Idol written in huge letters and as I knew that it referred to me, it was just such an awesome realization, indescribable

When receiving the award, I was to deliver a 3-minute acceptance speech and I dare say that yes, I was nervous!!!

Sure, I’m used to speaking to groups of people on my own city-tours, but, it is a totally different story when speaking in front of 350 conference delegates, many of them extremely important people within the tourism industry. Before being called up to the stage, a Conference Manager spoke to the delegates, about my endeavours as a tour guide, as follows:

Awards Presentation

For our final presentation, I would like to call up Yavhel Velazquez, Manager of the World Host Customer Serviceprogram to the stage to announce our winner.

Erik is a Dane, who had been planning on immigrating to Australia, but after seeing one photo of Vancouver’s mountain and ocean beauty, taken from an airplane, changed his life plans and ended up in Vancouver.

He volunteers at Hostelling International, providing tours of Vancouver and area 7 months of the year. Erik’s tour is a 9-hour Vancouver and area tour, led twice a week. Due to the popularity of this tour, Erik has received recognition in high profile guide books, such as the Lonely Planet.

Erik has been doing his twice weekly tours for the past 17 years, promoting Vancouver, British Columbia, and the rest of Canada to his guests from around the world. He has become well known in the backpackers industry, and has never missed giving his twice weekly tours in seventeen years.

Erik has at least 1,100 guests each year on his tours and since starting them in 1995 has had over 16,000 guests attending. Erik is not only a longstanding volunteer for Hostelling International, but also for the Pride Parade, The BMO Vancouver Marathon, and other organizations in Vancouver as well as being a previous Volunteer Fitness Instructor, for 16 years at the Downtown Vancouver Y.M.C.A.

Erik truly characterizes the spirit of hospitality in our industry. I am pleased to welcome Erik to the stage.


As I walked to the platform, the type of music played was like that, which might accompany an army general, wow… I then did my 3 minute ‘thank you’ speech which however, became 6 minutes long. During the week-long conference, a number of important people had spoken at the conference but only one, our B.C. Premier: Christy Clark received a standing ovation.

Then as I finished my speech, I received one heck of a long applause but because of the strong spot light beaming towards the stage, I could not see the audience that clearly and, it was only when I returned to the table, that the other people told me that I had received ‘a standing ovation’ my goodness what can I say!!!

Later, I lost count of just how many people who came over to congratulate me and the word that was repeated again and again was the word: Inspiration! In my speech, I covered a lot of areas, even the early days in Denmark, when at the age of 19, I began doing tours as a volunteer, for the young International tourists at the Copenhagen hostel. I do wish that I had a copy of the speech that I gave!

Erik graff with AwardThen the award itself is almost bigger than those they give to huge sports stars! So big in fact, that the tourism committee insisted that they bring it back to Vancouver, making it easier for me, as I was traveling by bus and boat. Later, a group of the younger delegates, did not want me to return to my hotel but insisted that I join them at a bar (a real nice lounge) where I was treated to a full bottle of a white wine of excellent quality (you have earned it they said!).

This past month has just been so fantastic and who could have thought that back in 1995, when I spent one hour going by bus all the way out to the Jericho hostel (we had no downtown hostels back then) to meet with the guests and then, spend 9 hours walking all over Vancouver and the North Shore, then should wind up for me, the way it did this week; almost incomprehensible!

Best of greetings, Erik Graff.

If you would like to meet Erik and experience one of his legendary Vancouver and surrounding areas tour, then why not stay at one of our Vancouver Hostels. Erik’s tours have now ended for this year but there will be plenty more next year! There is also more information about Erik’s Tours here.

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