Former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson once said the 20th century belonged to Canada. It seems he was off by a century. After years of navel gazing about the country’s lack of branding punch, has Canada finally found its footing on the global stage? A recent poll by Anholt Nation Brands Index voted Canada the “friendliest nation in the world.” It also ranked Canada third overall in brand awareness (behind the U.K. and Switzerland), beating out 32 other countries.
All over the map Canadian ex-pats are raising our profile in innovative ways. Designers Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared are building a strong fashion and fragrance business in Europe by bottling the scent of the Canadian wilderness. “Smelling like Canada is sexy,” Dan Caten said in a recent Globe and Mail article. The duo’s newly opened 5,000-sq. ft. shop in Milan features imported Canadian old-growth trees, fireplaces and moose antler chandeliers. Jeffrey Jah and Lyman Carter moved south of the border to New York and opened The Inn LW12, a trendy gastro pub. They serve classic Quebecois food such as lamb burgers and poutine and the pub’s decor evokes a feeling of summers at the cottage.
Then there’s the nation’s economic performance. In September, the loonie sky-rocketed to a 30-year high over the American greenback. And according to Richard Florida, a well-known American professor now teaching at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, southern Ontario is on the edge of a critical change, poised to become one of the most important mega-regions in the global economy.
With wide-open spaces, natural beauty and a robust economy, Canada is a hive of activity. Vancouver is primping itself to welcome the world for the 2010 Winter Olympics; an estimated 180 new restos opened over the past year. Calgary is growing so rapidly it has to court skilled workers from South America and Asia to deal with its labour shortage. In Toronto, luxury hotels and condos are popping up like wild mushrooms. And there’s a surge of new development in Newfoundland.
The 21st century truly belongs to Canada. And as we continue to bolster our image on the world stage, our marketing efforts have to be stronger than ever. For years in-bound tourism has been decreasing, but other countries have the same problem. In a recent article in Partners magazine, produced by the Italian Chamber of Commerce, writer Trevor Pritchard stated, “Italy’s tourism industry [is] at a crossroads — facing the twin challenges of a strong Euro and the emergence of new markets to the east.”
Competition for travel dollars is stiff, but there’s good news — people are travelling in droves with a lot of disposable income. With the burgeoning growth of the Internet, the world is just a click away. However, in order to lure more tourists we have to keep promoting and raising awareness of Canada, continually reinventing ourselves to meet the changing needs of today’s sophisticated traveller. And more importantly, we must deliver our messages in exciting and engaging ways. We can’t just be good, we must be great.