Future of Tourism Series | Guest Blog
By Patti Balsillie


I have resided in Canada’s north for over 30 years of my young life, passionately investing in tourism, the visitor economy, travel, adventure and exploring. In my work and volunteer life for the
North and Canada, I have long championed the visitor economy as a vehicle to prosperity if done well and with collective benefit.

Since March of 2020, I – like thousands around the world – began to grieve this joy, slowly watching flight schedules decrease, restaurants close, theatres shut their doors, and friend and family
gatherings cause us to question each other and ourselves. Last March, the world thought we would see a six-month recovery, and then maybe winter 2021, and now hopefully spring 2022…… Grief.

Bike spokesSwitching gears, pardon the pun… I want to talk about bicycles. Having been an avid bike rider my whole life, I find many analogies that fit to life and circumstances. Where a bicycle may be a broadly universal symbol, I illustrate my perspective through this lens…

Spokes reinforce the wheel. They help distribute the load carried while riding and keep the rim supported; together, spokes provide some fantastical engineering feat in both form, function and physics. Ever had a stick in your spoke? Two things happen: You lose a spoke or you wipe out.

COVID has been such a stick. Slowly and persistently we have seen this pandemic take out or impact pieces of our way of life that we may have taken for granted, changing how we have always rolled. A flight to see an ailing father. A milestone birthday that can’t be celebrated. The inability to keep doors open because the restrictions prevent profitability and we can’t pay staff and overhead.

But what if we redefined our spokes during recovery? What if we realized that we could travel within our own country and bolster us all back up a bit? What if we bought LOCAL as much as possible? What if our pent up travel demand dollars could be invested domestically, exploring parts of our country we loved or have yet to discover? What if we could reinforce our rim with new spokes?

While we balance our sense of health for ourselves and our ability to travel, we consider the resident sentiment in the places we’d like to visit and explore. And now we need that new SPOKE – that of our fledgling economy. Our dollars will buy goods that support wages, that contribute to taxes that can bolster our economy back.

Be a SPOKE! Consider how you can make a difference at home first so we have a better chance to come back to some new normal sooner.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Help your country ensure we have all the spokes so we can keep moving and regain our balance. Be a spoke!


Destination Canada

Patti Balsillie
Patti Balsillie
BA, CAE, ICD.D, Specialist, Tourism, Governance and Northern Development

Patti brings over 20 years of experience in strategy, governance and development for the private and non-profit sectors in Canada’s North.  Tourism planning for UNESCO sites, First Nation governments and communities, public engagement and more comprise Patti’s expertise.

She is a passionate strategist, facilitator, builder of capacity, a community mentor and advocate of women in leadership and business. For the past twelve years, Patti has worked tirelessly to support innovation that builds capacity throughout Northern Canada. She is recognized nationally and internationally for her expertise in the development of sustainable rural and remote tourism initiatives and her commitment to good governance – great outcomes.

Today she serves as a Director with Destination Canada and a community volunteer. In 2019, Patti completed a 3-year term as the Inaugural Chair of the Trust for the Arctic Inspiration Prize, under the Rideau Hall Foundation and many other leadership roles in local and national education, sports and industry organizations. 

Originally from Nova Scotia, Patti holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary’s University, is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and is a Certified Corporate Director (ICD.D) with the Institute of Corporate Directors. She recently completed an on-line certificate program from MIT Sloan in Design Thinking, constantly striving to bring fresh approaches to traditional problem-solving.


Photo by Joris Beugels on Unsplash

Photo by Odd Sun on Unsplash