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2013, A year of remarkable memories

I had a chance to reflect on this year from on top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I was there celebrating UNIGLOBE's 30th Chairman's Circle in Sydney, Australia.

The view, from one of the world’s most famous bridge’s, maintains Sydney's place in my list of the six most beautiful cities of the world:

1) Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
2) Capetown, South Africa
3) Sydney, Australia
4) San Francisco, USA
5) Vancouver, Canada
6) Hong Kong, China

In 2013, economies have grown all over the globe, despite the negative predictions of the media. The Charlwood Pacific Group of companies, specifically CENTURY 21 and UNIGLOBE have always had a very local focus for every office, which has sustained our prominence in these different industries. Being internationally coordinated but locally prominent is what has kept our businesses consistent for the last 40 years ─ longer than almost all others in both the real estate and retail travel industries, as divergent as these businesses are.

Even in Sydney, it was hard to forget beautiful Kelowna, Canada, where the CENTURY 21 Canadian Conference was held in September. Kelowna is wine country and we enjoyed some superb summer weather and views of the giant Lake Okanagan. I especially liked the "Inside the Franchise Studio" event, a new live-interview session where our experienced management was able to provide in-depth advice and answer questions. I've always enjoyed the buzz of these events, catching up with old friends, and getting updates on the incredible technology we continue to make. So much has changed!
This year has also brought other changes. Everywhere I travelled, I was reminded of John Henry, a true friend and a major contributor to our successes…always ready and willing to do whatever it took at a moment’s notice . He was not only a major influence at UNIGLOBE but also one of my key executives at CENTURY 21 in its early days. John passed away suddenly in October.

Even when I travelled within Australia in the past few weeks , the hotels served Badoit as the sparkling water choice – John looooovedddd Badoit!!!! I appreciate the memories of John that many from among our companies have shared with me. He was my ambassador par excellence.... no one could have wished for better.

As I stood there on the bridge….glancing over Sydney, its magnificent harbor and Opera House, 40 years of friendship brought back memories of our travels together….the battles fought side by side…and the many laughs and successes we enjoyed together.
As to “tomorrow”….I have a good feeling. The next five years are going to be exceptional for all of us!!
Happy holidays and I wish you all good health and good humor for 2014!


Dubai: Pearl of the Emirates

December 30, 2011 - I recently attended our Uniglobe Chairman’s Circle meeting at the world class Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai United Arab Emirates (a.k.a the UAE or “the Emirates”) – an amazing business and leisure facility with magnificent beaches.

Annually, top-performing members of the UNIGLOBE organization in both business and leisure travel are invited to attend this global meeting somewhere in the world, to discuss strategies and ideas for the upcoming year. This year our destination was Dubai.

Our hotel was located right in front of the famous Burj el Arab hotel - accessible ONLY via pre-screened passes for security by way of a bridge or helicopter landing pad on the roof. I expect that Burj el Arab will be home to many celebs during the Dubai International Film Festival. I believe that the Presidential Suite there will cost you a cool $28,000 per night.

I’m writing this blog from a suite on the 23rd floor of the sister hotel, looking out to gleaming skyscrapers, endless desert, pristine beaches below and mesmerizing sunsets. Dubai is a stark lesson in contradictions in a stunning and unique part of the world.

It is one of seven Emirates that make up the UAE, the capital of which is nearby Abu Dhabi. Dubai City sits on the shores of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Desert, which only adds to its contrasts – not to mention its wider contrast to more fundamentalist Middle East neighbours.

As tourism is the life blood of Dubai, the city is generally very safe and hotel staff is unreservedly polite. The tourism sector here is populated largely by expats ‘imported’ on contracts to cater to a large tourist population from around the globe. I’ve noticed many Russian and Indian Tourists here; flights to the Emirates from these regions are only about three to four hours, and daytime temperatures this time of year are in the very comfortable mid to high 20s range.

I rose early this morning to sounds of ancient ritual Islamic chants (‘adhans’, or calls to prayer) sung five times daily by the muezzin from the mosque. On the water you can still see the dhow boats – reminders of the once-flourishing pearl trade in this region. Here bikini-clad beach goers and western-garbed youth mingle with white robed Emirati (local residents) and black robed and head-scarved Emirati women, who appear to be dressed identically with the noticeable exception of jewelry, name brand accessories, watches and purses proudly displayed. There is no lack of high-end western style shopping centres and name brand products in Dubai.

Dubai all-in-all...was a great experience. It’s an anomaly amidst the spartan climate of the Arabian Desert. If you want a place to relax, shop, hold a meeting or conference and be pampered, Dubai resorts will not disappoint. The amenities at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel are first class and the service is exceptional.

Tomorrow, our journey home will see us flying over Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Scandinavia, Scotland, Iceland, the Atlantic, Newfoundland and over to the West Coast of Canada – our UNIGLOBE international headquarters.

Dubai, in so many aspects, is a world away.

U. Gary


Vancouver Shows Its Class in Wake of Riot

June 17, 2011 - Less than two days after the Stanley Cup riot, Vancouver is giving us plenty of evidence that this city is safe, friendly, peaceful and a wonderful place to visit. Despite the unfortunate happenings of June 15, tourists should not be influenced by what they might see or read in the international press. We are the same city with the same positive atmosphere that was enjoyed by the world during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Today, boarded windows are covered with messages of support and thanks for those who stood up against the so-called anarchists who instigated the mayhem.

The public and media are sharing images of rioters and looters with police, and I understand that a few of those caught on camera have already turned themselves in. And then there are the volunteers who spontaneously descended on downtown Vancouver Thursday to help businesses to clean up.

Thankfully, others did us all an enormous service by filming local citizens trying heroically to protect lives and property. "This is my city!" one man shouted while trying to ward off crazed looters. It was in my opinion one of the most disturbing yet oddly inspirational videos captured during the riot. His words and actions speak for us all.

The images broadcast around the world have been a rallying cry to Vancouver citizens bruised and embarrassed by the actions of a malicious few. Of course, it is very important to study this riot and learn from it. I have faith that the police and the City of Vancouver will do just that, and foreign tourists will not fear gathering for future celebrations in our streets.

U. Gary


The Global ROI in Social Media: A Generation Speaks

February 11, 2011

Anyone who is yet to be convinced of the transformational power of social media need only look to the younger generations in Tunisia and Egypt.

Images of the democracy movement in the Middle East transcend all other notable examples I’ve seen of the potential of social media in the world.

The internet is full of evangelists telling businesses about the benefits of joining online networking platforms, and I was convinced some time ago that my companies needed to be involved in social media. However, there are admittedly times when I look around and am boggled by the amount of time young people spend texting, posting and tweeting with seemingly no regard for what is going on around them; that is, until they believe in something.

Today's young people more than any other generation are empowered with the tools and the connectivity to express their rights to self-determination and entrepreneurial opportunity, and change the world for the better.

The debate rages on among skeptics: “Is social media a good thing? Show me the ROI.”

I think the young people of Tunisia and Egypt just did.

U. Gary


Reflecting on 30 Years of Travel Franchise History

January 15, 2011 - Travel and adventure have always been in my blood – from my early days as a tour guide in Europe to the airline career that precipitated my taking the risk to go out on my own as a franchisor of business concepts, that eventually led to the forming of UNIGLOBE Travel International.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of our first UNIGLOBE franchise in 1981 in British Columbia, Canada. I look back with pride on the changes and challenges that this industry has survived – and reflect on the ever-changing cycle of business, travel and world events.

The first UNIGLOBE Travel agency opened its doors in the same year that IBM launched the personal computer. Email didn't exist and the only thing we could do with a phone was talk into it. Today, I'm posting a blog and am about to utter my first words on Twitter. I don't think I've put more thought into typing 140 characters at any other time in my business career.

The rise of the internet and communication technology has revolutionized every industry, and I would argue that travel has experienced the greatest transformation of them all.

In Europe, about half of the independent countries we freely interact with today didn't exist when I started franchising. Communist and free market ideologies were antithetical, and escape was the only means for citizens of many of these countries to travel outside of their borders. There is more mobility and freedom for travellers today than ever before.

As we enter our 30th anniversary year, I am attending the UNIGLOBE Chairman's Circle in Hong Kong with our leading travel franchise locations from around the world. It's serendipitous that I look ahead to the next decade from China, which along with countries in South Asia and Latin America will surely transform franchising and travel.

A report for Amadeus predicts that world travel spend will double by 2020, with the above regions gaining market share. I think all industries will be affected. Western-based franchise organizations will have to learn to adapt their business methods to new cultural norms if they are to harness the rising wealth and entrepreneurial spirit of these populations.

From our very first UNIGLOBE location in Canada 30 years ago, to our more than 750 locations now operating in more than 50 countries – it has been quite the trip.

U. Gary

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The Charlwood Pacific Group (CPG) owns the master and/or territory
franchise rights to leading brands in travel, real estate and mortage brokerage
businesses in Canada and around the world. CPG’s success comes from
excellence in franchising and the desire to build successful business strategies.
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