March 04, 2005 Features & Images » Feature Story

Huan-yin ni dao Whistler 

China granting Canada ADS opens potentially humongous new market for Whistler, but the key word is ‘potentially’

"Could it become 10 to 15 per cent of our market share in the next 10 to 15 years? That’s our hope."

— Barrett Fisher, president of Tourism Whistler

"We’re going to have to educate the business community on certain culturally sensitive issues and that’s a role the chamber can play. We can make sure we know how to deal with the destination visitor from China."

— John Nadeau, Whistler Chamber of Commerce president


If tourism professionals are right, Whistlerites might be greeting their newest batch of visitors with a hearty, "Huan-yin ni dao Whistler" (pronounced: Hwaan-ying-knee daw) thanks to Canada recently receiving Approved Destination Status from the People’s Republic of China. This new designation will allow Chinese leisure travellers, as well as existing business travellers, to come to Canada. However, when the Mandarin version of "Welcome to Whistler" will become part of resort workers daily lexicon won’t likely be determined for at least a few years.

The fact that China has moved from being considered a developing nation struggling under an oppressive communist regime to sporting the strongest economy in Asia may come as a surprise to many Canadians. And now, thanks to five years of extensive lobbying and negotiations by the Canadian Tourism Commission and the Canadian government, China is ready to come visit Canada – albeit with a number of conditions.

Over the last 50 years, the PRC has been represented by such iconic media images as people commuting by bicycle, parades with thousands of youth hoisting placards of Chairman Mao and, more grimly, a lone student standing in the path of a tank in Tiananmen Square.

Many continue to think of the PRC as a primarily rural country where equality as defined under its communist government amounts to little more than the shared privilege of poverty. And while more that seven out of every 10 Chinese continue to live outside of urban centres, classifying the enormous nation as poor is an outdated assumption. Over the last 20 years China has made moves towards a more free market economy, much like Russia did under Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership. In the past decade, China’s economy has undergone incredible growth, and with it, a type of prosperity that parallels 1960s North America, with its rampant consumerism and flourishing middle-class.

Clearly, this isn’t your mother’s China, anymore.

To illustrate how far China has come, last Valentine’s Day Shanghai and Beijing audiences had the chance to celebrate with a performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues . The play is performed royalty-free on that day – known as V-Day – with the proceeds being used to fund causes that work to end violence against women. The award-winning play – frank discourse on the complexities of female sexuality featuring the word "vagina" hundreds of times during its 90-minute performance – was well received.

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