Priceless. That’s how a game show contestant describes his trip to New Westminster.
After Philip Fitzpatrick lost out on a trip to British Columbia that included a six-night stay at the Inn at the Quay, Tourism New Westminster launched a #SearchForPhillip social media campaign with the goal of bringing The Price is Right contestant to town. Fitzpatrick, accompanied by a longtime friend and travel buddy, visited New West from Dec. 5 to 9.
“It's been so amazing. It’s been exciting,” he told the Record Friday afternoon. “I don't think I've had this much excitement in years.”
Fitzpatrick knew it wasn’t going to an ordinary trip when he arrived at the Phoenix airport to board a B.C.-bound plane.
“I was giving my passport to the Air Canada representative and the lady looks at me and says: ‘Are you Phillip?’” he laughed. “I had my New West shirt on. I had one made up myself.”
Folks recognized Fitzpatrick from the media coverage about his appearance on The Price is Right and Tourism New Westminster’s campaign to find him and bring him to town.
Fitzpatrick’s visit to New Westminster has featured a jam-packed itinerary that included meals at local restaurants (including The Boathouse, Cockney Kings Fish and Chips, El Santo, and Piva Modern Italian), tours of the New Westminster Museum and Archives, the New Media Gallery and Irving House, a beer tasting at Steel & Oak Brewing Co., and a ride on the Fraser River in the New Westminster Police Department’s police boat
Fitzpatrick, who received a four-night stay at the Inn at the Quay, also enjoyed visits to River Market (including a performance by the Vancouver Circus School) and local businesses (including Origins Chocolate Bar and Mosaic Art Studio.)
On Friday, Fitzpatrick had lunch with Mayor Patrick Johnstone. Friday’s itinerary also include a visit to the Snowflake Spectacular, one of the events that’s part of this year’s Shine Bright New West program, and a VIP experience at the Hidden Wonders Speakeasy Magic Experience.
Tourism New West, which hosted the trip and arranged Fitzpatrick’s itinerary, left Thursday’s schedule open, so Fitzpatrick and his friend could take SkyTrain and explore downtown Vancouver.
While in Vancouver, the visitors stopped by the Olympic cauldron (Fitzpatrick is a fan of the Olympics) and did a hop on/hop off bus tour. Thursday morning was wet West Coast day, but the skies cleared in the afternoon so Fitzpatrick was able to enjoy a “beautiful” view of the snow-capped North Shore mountains.
Fitzpatrick grew up on Lake Erie in Ohio, across the lake from Canada. He’s visited cities in Eastern Canada, including Toronto, Niagara Falls and Montreal, but this was his first trip to Western Canada.
While in New West, Fitzpatrick has made numerous appearances on television news programs. He’s grateful to Tourism New Westminster for providing him with an unforgettable trip.
“It's great. It reminds me a lot of places I've lived in my life,” he said of New West. “The people have been great. The food's been great. I love the Inn at the Quay. The whole thing has just been a really, really good experience for me and for my buddy Tim.”
Fitzpatrick attended a taping of The Price is Right in August, but the episode didn’t air until Nov. 13. He lost out on winning an all-expenses trip to B.C. after over-estimating the value of the six-night vacation – guessing it would cost $8,280US when it was only $5,280US.
“I was devastated because I'm an engineering kind of person. I have a notebook with like 10, 15, 20 pages of notes from different shows I've watched, the prices of different stuff, cars and trips and all that stuff,” he said. “I'd never seen a trip that inexpensive in that game. I've seen two- or three-day trips on that show that were that much. So I saw six days in British Columbia and I thought it's got to be $8,000.”
Now that’s he been here, Fitzpatrick has some thoughts of the value of the trip.
“Priceless. … Really, it's just been such an experience. I can't guarantee everybody's going to have this experience obviously; that’s not possible,” he said. “But, for me, it was priceless.”
Tourism New West invited community members to drop by Westminster Pier Park on Friday afternoon to meet Fitzpatrick. More than a dozen people, including downtown resident Regina Ogmundson stopped by to say hello.
“It's nice to have something nice in New West, something positive,” she said. “I think Tourism New West has done a good job.
Gerardo Corro, executive director of Tourism New West, said the organization is enjoying the exposure that’s resulted from the campaign and the media coverage related to Fitzpatrick’s visit to New Westminster.
“People are already booking at the hotels and mentioning this. We have been getting inquiries from visitors on our website, emails, and people just want to know about this. So we have seen a direct impact and I'm sure there's going to be an indirect impact, of course,” he said. “One of the things that we are working hard to make happen is to create awareness that New Westminster is a tourism destination.”
Corro said Tourism New Westminster has not only benefited from the marketing opportunities related to Fitzpatrick’s visit but it has also enjoyed having him in town.
“He is fantastic,” he said. “He loves the camera, and the camera loves him. And he's just a great guy.”
Tourism New West is holding a contest to give someone else the chance to win an “experience package” like Fitzpatrick is experiencing this week. Participants can enter for a chance to win a two-night stay at the Inn at the, two tickets to the Hidden Wonders Speakeasy Magic Experience, a $150 gift certificate for Gastronomia Italia and a $100 gift certificate to Steel & Oak Brewing Co.
“Now, we're also expanding this to the next campaign – that is win a trip like Philip. People are now doing their submissions online, so they can also win a trip,” Corro said. “Whoever wins that prize is going to have a lot of fun.”