Canadian Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award

presented by Destination Toronto

This award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution of energy, service and talent towards the growth of the Canadian tourism industry, through volunteer work, service or business accomplishments. Focusing on tourism building, the recipient demonstrates leadership, vision and innovation built on a solid foundation of strong values and sound business strategies.

Nominees for the Lifetime Achievement Award should be individuals who have:

Nominees are generally retired or in the twilight of their tourism careers.

2020 Canadian Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Destination Toronto

This year’s recipients are Todd Brandt & Michele McKenzie

  • Todd Brandt – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

    Todd Brandt, CEO and President of Tourism Saskatoon, retired on September 15, 2020. His departure marks the culmination of a 37-year career in tourism, 22 of those with Tourism Saskatoon.   COVID-19 interrupted his plans to retire earlier in the year. He stayed on longer to complete a solid tourism recovery plan and set some building blocks in place so that the incoming CEO does not have to start in crisis mode.

    Brandt has built an impressive legacy that will long serve Saskatchewan’s tourism sector.

    With an Honours degree in Ecology from the University of Saskatchewan, he was employed as a heritage interpreter and environmental educator during the 1980s. He continued to work in natural and cultural heritage interpretation and programming while employed by the Meewasin Valley Authority for 14 years. During that time, he was closely involved in the development of numerous attractions, including the Beaver Creek Conservation Area, the Marr Heritage Residence and the planning and opening of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where archaeological evidence has shed light on Northern Plains Indigenous culture and traditions dating back more than 6,000 years. His dedication to and advocacy for Wanuskewin continued throughout his tenure at Tourism Saskatoon. Today, Wanuskewin is on Canada’s tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Brandt was Chair of Interpretation Canada during this latter period and worked closely with the Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council to establish National Standards for heritage interpreters that still serve the industry today.

    He took charge at Tourism Saskatoon in 1998 with five employees and grew the organization to a team of 15, plus in-market business development consultants in Ottawa and London, England.

    Brandt has an impressive record of committee work and served on dozens of major bid committees for Saskatoon and the province. He was active on more than 50 host organizing committees during the past 22 years and drove the success of numerous events, such as the 2000 Labatt Brier; 2005 Rendez-vous Canada; 2007 JUNO Awards; 2010 Olympic Torch Relay and planning committee for the Saskatchewan Pavilion at the 2010 Olympic Games; 2012 Travel Media Association of Canada conference; 2013 Canadian Society of Association Executives conference; 2017 Canadian Country Music Awards, 2017-2019 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters, and many others. He was pivotal to bringing the JUNO Awards back to Saskatoon in 2020; however, the gala ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19.

    In 1999, Brandt led the creation of Saskatoon Sport Tourism and served as Managing Director for 14 years. In 2001, he chaired the national committee that created the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (now Sport Tourism Canada). He served on the inaugural board for four years and helped to establish Team Canada’s national presence at Sport Accord, attending numerous events in Greece, Europe, the UAE and U.S. His efforts helped Saskatoon receive recognition from the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance as the top city in Canada (with a population under 500,000) for hosting a national or international sporting event.

    In 2006, he led a movement to establish a destination marketing fund (DMF) in Saskatchewan’s two major cities, working with the Tourism Regina and the Saskatoon and Regina Hotel Associations. He helped mentor nine other cities in Saskatchewan and four outside of the province – providing them with tools and encouragement to implement DMFs that would generate dollars, driven by visitors, to support tourism marketing and innovation.

  • Michele McKenzie – Mississauga, Ontario

    From 1979 – 2004 Michele McKenzie has worked and advocated to grow the tourism industry in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada and nationally for decades. In Nova Scotia, she was instrumental among many projects, in luring the first (and lucrative) International Gathering of the Clans event to the province (1979) which became a staple in the tourism development inventory.

    As Director of Marketing, Michele navigated through government and was instrumental in out-sourcing to efficient private sector hands, the call-center/ direct response tourism services, and her leadership in streamlining marketing efforts resulted in three TIAC awards for outstanding campaigns over 5 years. Tourism in Nova Scotia grew measurably under her tenure as Director of Marketing and as Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Michele was instrumental in organizing Nova Scotia’s first public-private partnership for tourism development – the Nova Scotia Tourism Partnership Council. From 2005-2014 Michele was appointed the CEO of Canadian Tourism in 2004, a role she held through 2013.

    Prior to Michele’s tenure, the Canadian Tourism Commission had experienced several CEOs at the helm in quick succession since its inception first as a Special Operating Agency in 1995 and then a Crown Corporation in 2001.  Michele brought stability, strategy, research, and smart focused marketing and operations to Canada’s National Tourism Organization. Under Michele’s leadership, a national tourism brand Canada Keep Exploring was developed supported by strong research focused on values-based psychographic segmentation, called the Explorer Quotient. This was a research tool that was so leading edge that the time that it was quickly adopted across the country by Canadian partners. Under Michele’s tenure, the Canadian Tourism Commission developed strong programs to leverage the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, to raise the profile and benefit all of Canada, and also led Canada’s tourism response to the Global Financial Crisis through innovative response and recovery programs such as the highly successful domestic program Locals Know.

    While not widely understood, when Michele assumed the helm of the CTC in 2005 it did not effectively measure its business results, drawing unwanted scrutiny from the Office of the Auditor-General for not being able to clearly attribute results from investments into the organization having inherited an organization whose 2005 special examination revealed significant deficiencies.  Michele turned that around.  By the end of the tenure, the Office of the Auditor not only prescribed a series of clean bills of health but the Canadian Tourism Commission (by then renamed Destination Canada) had become a highly regarded low-risk organization within the federal family for results-based management.