Meet Natalie Wakabayashi, 35, director of culture & entertainment at Tourism London, and one of our 20 Under 40 Class of 2021 recipients
BRINGING EXPERTISE IN both marketing and communication to her role with Tourism London, Natalie Wakabayashi is expanding the traditional scope of the municipal tourism office, including taking the project lead on London’s largest Community Recovery Network initiative to help drive economic recovery from the pandemic, and contributing to strategy implementation for the stimulation of the city’s core commerce area. She is also making waves as an influential voice at several community tables. She sits on the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel of the London Police Service Board (one of six community members selected from hundreds of applicants) and has an active involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area.
What would you call your biggest business achievement, and why?
The tourism industry was one of the hardest hit and will likely be one of the last to recover from this pandemic. The ‘Stay a Little Longer’ initiative encouraged Londoners and those in surrounding communities to book a two-night stay at a participating hotel. In doing so, the guest received a $100 Tourism London VISA card. In an effort to drive recovery for the tourism industry in our community, the cards were geo-targeted to only work within the City of London limits. This campaign was so successful the city deemed it a key recovery initiative for the municipality and granted Tourism London additional funding to extend the program into June 2022.
Story Continues Below
How have the last two years changed the way you approach your work and its place in your life?
My family and friends will tell you that I’ve always been a workaholic. I love my job — in fact, I’ve been lucky enough to have loved all my jobs in my career so far — and I pour my heart and soul into anything that I take on. I found balance by also having an active social life, playing sports and volunteering in my community. Let’s just say it has been a full calendar. I’ve also learned that while it takes me an extra effort to shut off the screen at the end of the day, the reward for doing so is unmatched. I’ve learned how much I value balance — that the time away from work spent with family or friends, playing sports or volunteering in my community means the world to me. It fills my cup.
Where in the city do you go for a great meal?
I’m half Japanese, and every chance I get I take someone to Shiki Japanese Restaurant. The food is incredible — exactly what you would get in Tokyo — and it’s been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
My favourite pandemic pastime was walks with friends. A group of us began this fantastic walking routine where we’d catch up over coffees and walk this incredible 11-kilometre route. The goal is to maintain this as the world continues to open back up. Interview by Kieran Delamont