Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade, at Al Hilal Bank during the organization’s trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai last April. (Photo: submitted/SBOT)

Culture first, business second on Global Trips planned by Surrey Board of Trade

Flights to Australia and China/Hong Kong are on 2017-18 calendar

Surrey Board of Trade is in the business of hosting an increasing number of trips to places around the world – but the expeditions aren’t focused on business opportunities as much as you’d think.

The organization’s Global Trips are organized as a way for locals to “learn more about international markets, create new contacts and expand your business,” as described at businessinsurrey.com.

The board has partnered with Indus Travels Inc., a Richmond-based agency, to market several overseas trips in 2017 and 2018, including stops in Australia, China/Hong Kong, Bali, Budapest, Costa Rica and South Africa.

“Our Global Trips are 80 per cent cultural and 20 per cent business,” Anita Huberman, the board’s CEO, told the Now-Leader.

“The one to Australia, for example, people can set up business meetings on the side, if they wish, but really the reason we’re calling it a Global Trip is for people to understand the culture of that area, before they, A, engage in business or, B, they just go there for a vacation, with an organized, reliable trip provider.

“The one to China and Hong Kong, there is no business component to it, it’s simply cultural,” she added.

The board’s first Global Trip was to China 10 years ago, and a second one experienced India in 2011. A third trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi took place last April.

“We had 12 people go with us, and I organized about seven business meetings for the whole group,” Huberman said of the most recent trip.

“Then we were able to really learn about the history of the Middle East,” she added, “and we were the only B.C. business organization that has even gone to the United Arab Emirates. So we visited the Canadian consulate in Dubai, and they were actually surprised we were visiting them, trying to learn about economy and the market there, how it’s the gateway to the Middle East.”

Of the three Global Trips she’s experienced, Huberman said Dubai was the most interesting destination.

“I really liked that trip because everything was so new to me,” she said. “I didn’t really have a lot of knowledge of the Middle East, apart from what I read in the media. And really, when you go there, it’s completely different from how the media represents the Middle East.”

The typical Global Trip traveller, she said, is a member of the Surrey business community who brings along his or her wife or husband. For the flight to China a decade ago, more than 100 people booked, and the trip to India saw 27 travellers, she said.

”The smaller the group, with 12 or 20 people, it’s much more manageable for me, in terms of their needs and anything else in terms of business meetings,” Huberman explained.

“I haven’t really seen any repeat customers,” she added. “What happens is, sometimes residents want to go on the trip, too, because it is such a good deal. People don’t have to be members of (the board of trade) to go on these trips. Anyone can go.”

The board gets a percentage of trip fees paid, Huberman confirmed, “but it’s minimal. Indus works with chambers of commerce and boards of trades all over North America, offering these trips. We’ve just more active with them in the Canadian market.”

An information session about the Global Trip to Australia is planned for Wednesday, Sept. 13 at the board’s conference room, #101-14439 104th Ave., Surrey, starting at 5:30 p.m. An “exclusive rate” of $4,999, including tax, is offered for the 13-day trip, which departs Feb. 22 and features tours, wine tastings, meals and other attractions.

The “Discover China & Hong Kong” trip, which departs on Nov. 8 for eight days, is priced at $1,999.

tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com