Owner/Operator, The Butchart Gardens
Ian Ross worked tirelessly for 59 years prior to his death in 1997 carrying on the tremendous contribution his family has made to Canadian tourism through its philanthropy, environmental stewardship and development of The Butchart Gardens.
The Butchart family has welcomed visitors to its gardens continuously since 1904, when Ian Ross' grandparents, Robert Pim Butchart and Jennie Butchart, transformed an emptied limestone quarry on the family estate into a spectacular sunken garden. Mrs. Butchart began the family's tradition of hospitality by offering visitors afternoon tea, and the Butcharts also started acting as ambassadors for tourism in the Greater Victoria region. They saw their gardens not only as an object of beauty, but also as an opportunity to attract and impress international visitors with the splendour of Victoria and surrounding areas.
Ian Ross took over The Butchart Gardens in 1939, turning it into a self-sustaining attraction that became the focus of tourism on the West Coast. His innovations included the addition of symphony concerts, night illuminations, sunset shows, winter illuminations and the world-famous Ross Fountain. He also ensured the facilities were accessible to people with disabilities, in a time when there was little public awareness of accessibility issues.
He promoted not only The Butchart Gardens—the most-visited privately owned attraction in Canada and an icon synonymous with Victoria, B.C.—but also the wider community of Victoria, British Columbia and Canada as primary tourism destinations, through partnerships and innovative marketing and advertising programs. Despite the attraction's phenomenal growth—it employs up to 600 people during the summer season and welcomes over a million visitors a year—The Butchart Gardens it is still operated in the spirit of a family garden.
He was a founder of the University of Victoria , from which he later received an honourary doctorate, and contributed to the Greater Victoria Historic Building Trust, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and other groups. He was also a generous and anonymous benefactor of a host of cultural, education and charitable organizations. He was recognized for his work with the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada, among other distinctions.
Ian Ross was a remarkable man who saw the importance of tourism to Canada and created a heightened respect for it. He drove modern-day tourism on the West Coast, and developed a level of service and expectation that remains the benchmark for tourism development worldwide.