Bachelor of Arts (BA) 1978
For Rita Tsang, going to U of T was a family affair, and thinking about her family inspired her to co-found one of the largest independent travel companies in Canada.
After arriving at U of T from Hong Kong in the mid-1970s, Ms. Tsang found she was a little homesick, but soon realized how onerous it was for Asians to travel back home. So in her third year, she and her sister Shirley Chu, along with a fellow U of T student -- her husband-to-be Andrew -- decided to do something about it. Driven by their shared vision to secure affordable airfare to Asia, the three co-founders worked tirelessly -- students by day and entrepreneurs by night.
Since then, Tour East has evolved from a start-up venture to a leading provider of integrated travel and business solutions, serving travel destinations across five continents. Tour East's annual gross sales have exceeded $1.6 billion - making it one of the largest travel companies in Canada. Although Ms. Tsang came to Toronto to discover herself, in the end, she has helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians discover Asia and the rest of the world.
Ms. Tsang remembers her time at U of T as being "very competitive. The students were ambitious, tenacious, the best. And the professors challenged you, prepared you for the world. They made you more resilient and helped you adapt."
Today, Ms. Tsang is a member of the U of T Governing Council, sitting on the business board and pension committee. The University of Toronto, she says, is "educating the leaders of tomorrow, nurturing scientists, future Prime Ministers and even astronauts. The alumni are the best in their chosen fields."
As Founder, Chairman and CEO of Tour East Group, Ms. Tsang has won numerous awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Hospitality Category), the Order of Ontario, the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Women's Executive Network's Canadian Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame designation.
While Ms. Tsang is praised for her business achievements, it's her contributions to Canadian society of which she is most proud. In the 37 years Tour East has been in business, Ms. Tsang has donated and raised millions of dollars for hospitals, education for youth, senior care facilities and cultural events.
Both her daughters, Claudia and Camille, graduated from U of T and have executive positions with Tour East Group. Her sister, Annie Tsu is also a U of T alumna and President of Tour East Group. And earlier this year, Ms. Tsang attended U of T graduation ceremonies for her niece, Danielle Chu.
Published Nov. 28, 2013