As a nation, we’re not always comfortable being in the spotlight. Sure, we’re fiercely proud of our achievements when it comes to hockey, a game in which we excel. And every four years during the Olympics, we quietly hope our athletes will walk away with gold, but if they don’t dominate the podium, we’re content to rationalize the shortcomings by simply applauding the efforts put forth. In between these types of events, we’re modest, unassuming and humble, preferring to politely go with the flow — all the while hoping no one will notice us.
However, when it comes to trumpeting tourism, that’s not the kind of philosophy that will generate the positive results this country needs. If this summer’s Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto taught us anything, it’s that the city can organize world-class events and do it well. Though there was controversy surrounding the games’ impact on the city (traffic jams, construction delays and mounting debt, for instance), in the end, the games went off without a hitch, imbuing Torontonians with a sense of civic pride. Based on its success, there’s talk Toronto will put in bids to host either the 2024 Olympics or the World Expo 2025. Of course, in typical Canadian fashion, there are those who believe Toronto would be better off not doing so, believing such events only generate a mountain of debt and headaches for the city. Still, becoming a world-class destination never comes without risk or debt.
For Canada to succeed as a leading tourist destination, we can no longer afford to see ourselves in such a limited scope. As competition intensifies to attract tourists, hyped by the pervasiveness of social media, we need to think big. It’s time to take the quantum leap to achieve the kind of world attention we crave — no risk, no gain. It’s time Canada learns to shine brilliantly on the global stage, understanding that to do so will require excellence at every turn (see Hospitality Market Report, p. 10).
As Canadians, we have a great deal to be proud of. Given the context of the world’s increasing fragility, the world certainly needs a little more Canada. But, first, we need to do a better job of believing in ourselves. Secondly, we need to understand that to become a world-class destination requires that we spend money, both on infrastructure and in marketing, as well as a concerted effort from all stakeholders. More than anything, however, it will require a new mindset that can rid itself of complacency and instead imagine the vast possibilities of success.
Volume 27, Number 6