Alum of the Month: Xander France

Xander leans against a pole outside VIU's Centre for Health and Science

April 27, 2023 - 9:30am

Xander France has found the ideal job combining his passions for tourism, sales and marketing.

He is Director of Marketing and Sales with the Vancouver Island Ferry Company. This new, Nanaimo-based company is about to launch a downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver fast ferry service. The VIU Bachelor of Tourism Management grad has spent the past 14 years enjoying different roles in the sales, marketing and tourism industries. Now that he’s back on Vancouver Island, he’s re-immersing himself in his favourite outdoor spots. He is excited to be part of a venture he believes will be a “game changer” for so many people – both Islanders and beyond.

Tell us about yourself.

My family moved to Nanaimo from Montreal after my kindergarten year. I studied at Quarterway, Harewood, NDSS and VIU. We recently moved back to give our children the Island experience and to bring this new ferry service to life. My favourite tourism activities are scuba diving, exploring Vancouver Island parks and visiting new restaurants. I love spending time with family, reading manga, playing basketball and hiking with my two dogs, OV and Bodhi. 

Can you share a bit about your career trajectory since leaving VIU? 

I was laser focused on working in the cruise ship industry following my tourism degree. I went to work with Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines along with Park West Auction house. This experience allowed me to train and work globally and furthered my passion for marketing and sales. I started from the bottom at Molson Coors and Heineken as a merchandiser in Vancouver. This furthered my skillset and relationships to become a territory and sales manager. 

I transitioned to Aurora Cannabis as the national sales manager. With this company, I built the sales strategy, structure and execution across all Canadian markets. Our team led the national market share from 2018 to 2020. We sold more than $200 million in goods to provinces and retailer partners. I continued the sales leadership in this space working for other industry leaders such as RedeCan and Hexo, most recently as VP of Sales. The cannabis industry is still budding (pun intended) and I am excited to see how it continues to evolve.

How did your VIU education help you in what you are doing now?

After completing the diploma portion of the tourism program, I signed with Park West, a partner of Royal Caribbean cruise lines. I was inspired to customize my degree with strategic courses, a business exchange and cover topics that would benefit marketing and revenue functions within the tourism and cruise industries.

While I have a degree in Tourism Management, I was a little bit playful in finding marketing and sales equivalents in VIU’s Bachelor of Business Administration program that supported my career objectives. I also received certificates in Event Management and International Proficiency while at VIU.

Tell us more about the business exchange.

It was a tough decision between France, England and Australia but I went with Hertfordshire for their assortment of marketing classes and proximity to three major airports. I would highly recommend an exchange program. The courses provided me with a new lens to see the world. To this day, I keep in touch with many friends (and have visited a few abroad). 

How did the connections you made at VIU influence you and your career path?

Jim Ketelsen, former manager of VIU’s Centre for Experiential Learning, helped me track down an elusive cruise ship recruitment organization back in 2007. I called them every day until I locked in an interview. The community and friends at VIU supported me in finding the ultimate marriage of tourism plus sales plus marketing. The tourism cohort at VIU is fantastic for networking with many alumni in complimentary roles. Be kind to your classmates, you may work together one day.  

What got you interested in marketing?

The creativity and spectrum of activities under the marketing umbrella have always been very attractive to me. Deeply understanding the needs of your customers and what delights them is what gets me fired up. 

Why did you choose VIU?

VIU has the best tourism program in Canada, along with the ability to live and learn in one of the best tourism regions globally. Growing up volunteering and working in Nanaimo, I had a massive passion for the community, the Island and the outdoors.  

Can you tell us more about the fast ferry project that Vancouver Island Ferry Company is working on and why you’re excited to be part of it?

The fast ferry service is going to be a game changer for so many people on the Island and throughout British Columbia. I’m thrilled to use my full background in tourism, sales and marketing to bring this highly desired project to life. We are on a mission to connect people, positively support communities and open endless possibilities. We’re an ambitious group that is going to change how we travel in BC. 

Providing access for Islanders to work and play in Vancouver in a convenient, reliable and affordable way is a joy. This ferry project is proudly a Nanaimo business and we’ll be hiring up to 70 employees over the next few months. Our goal is to be the global leader in passenger ferry travel, rooted in technology and guest experience. We have two brand-new, purpose-built vessels by world-class shipbuilders Damen, each with a capacity of 354 passengers. The travel time will be an estimated 70 minutes and we will be connecting Vancouver and Nanaimo downtown to downtown.

Tags: Tourism Management | Our Alumni

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email