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Exploring 77 countries, organizing tours all over the world and helping save a provincial park.
Roland Neave of Kamloops-based Wells Gray Tours (which also has offices in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Victoria) has packed a lot into his lifetime.
Thus, the 2023 'lifetime achievement award' he's just won from the National Tour Association -- the Lexington, Kentucky industry group representing 700 tour operators, travel agents and destinations.
The associaiton lauded Neave as a "venerable figure in the travel and tourism industry, stands as a testament to unwavering commitment, pioneering spirit and an enduring passion for environmental preservation."
Neave's Wells Gray Tours has been a member of the association since 1983 and he's been part of the group's Canadian Members Committee, spoke at its conferences and helped bring the association's 2007 Spring Meet to Kelowna and exposing the city to hundreds of travel decision makers and trend setters.
Neave started Wells Gray Tours in 1972 as a university student and over the past 51 years has built it into a going concern that plans and runs about 100 all-inclusive tours from Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Victoria to points around the globe.
The success of the business is based on Wells Gray doing all the planning and taking care of all the logistics so that all travellers have to do is pay, show up and enjoy.
All forays go with a tour director to handle anything that comes up for the duration of the trip.
The all-inclusive vacations can be as short as a bus ride to Vancouver to see a musical (like the smash-hit Hamilton) or as far-flung as a tour of Egypt and Jordan, a cruise above the Arctic Circle in Norway or a river cruise on the Douro in Portugal.
In fact, Wells Gray has tours that go to all seven continents.
As the name of the company indicates, it started in 1972 when Neave organized a one-day bus trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park north of his home in Kamloops off Highway 5 at Clearwater.
The purpose of the outing was to show people the beauty of the park, which at that point was subject to a BC Hydro proposal to put in seven hydroelectric dams that would flood most of the park including a portion of Helmcken Falls, the fourth largest waterfall in Canada at 464 feet.
People on that tour signed as petition as did guests on subsequent tours and lots of other citizens so that BC Hydro eventually abandoned its plans.
Neave is in good company with his 'lifetime achievement award.'
Past winners over the accolade's 17-year history includes Jay Smith of Sports Travel & Tours in Massachusetts, Paul Nakamoto of Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco and Lois Anderson of Gadabout Tours in Palm Springs.
At age 71, Neave is still actively involved in all things Wells Gray Tours, but his son, Fraser, now does most of the tour planning.