Tourism pioneer Heading dies
SYDNEY — A pioneer in Cape Breton’s tourism industry has died.
Gordon Heading, whose career began in the flooring business before he went on to buy and run several hotels across the island, died Friday at his home in Sydney.
After opening Floor and Wall Decorators in the early 1960s, Heading first ventured into tourism when he bought the Wandlyn Motel in Sydney. He later either owned, partnered in, or operated accommodations like the Vista Hotel, the Best Western Cape Bretoner, Cape Breton Highland Bungalows and the Cabot Trail Motel.
His niece, Cathy Lamey, took over the Cabot Trail Motel outside Baddeck five years ago, after Heading retired. She called her uncle a “great mentor,” saying he always put Cape Breton before any of his businesses.
“One of the things that Uncle Gordon always used to say is — because I started my career in tourism doing trade shows; he walked me through that big, scary world of trade shows — and I always remember he said ‘Cathy, people do not come to Cape Breton to see you, they come to Cape Breton to see Cape Breton, so we want them across the causeway. We sell Cape Breton.’ Any time Gordon was at any show, or he was out in the public, he was selling Cape Breton Island as a destination — it wasn’t about his properties, it was about ‘Come visit us.’”
Adrian White, CEO of Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, said Heading was inducted into the Cape Breton Business and Philanthropy Hall of Fame last year for a ”long list of accomplishments during a very eventful business career.”
In addition to the namesake flooring store his son now operates on Kings Road, Heading was one of the architects of tourism advocacy in Nova Scotia. He helped form the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and was instrumental in several provincial initiatives like creating the standardized grading system for accommodations that later inspired the national Canada Select ratings. He was also a founding member and past president of the Cape Breton Tourism Association and, alongside his late wife, Elsie, was an inaugural inductee into the Cape Breton Tourism Hall of Fame in 2009.
“He was a busy guy and a gentle soul,” said White.
Lamey, who is president of the Baddeck and Area Business and Tourism Association, said her uncle was so well-respected because he always tried to help people.
“There are so many people that I talk to today who say ‘Oh my God, I worked for Gordon,’ or ‘That was my first job, working for Gordon.’ He so left his mark in tourism but when you turn around and look at all the people he’s influenced, it’s pretty amazing.”
According to his obituary, Heading is survived by four children, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In addition to his wife, he was predeceased by a daughter, granddaughter and two siblings.
Visitation is scheduled to take place at Sydney Memorial Chapel on Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A celebration of life service will be held in the funeral home chapel Friday at 2 p.m.