Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

About QeQ

Quote EndQuote Cross Cultural Strategy Inc. (QEQ) germinated from an observation that organizations needed help to thrive in our increasingly multicultural Canadian society. Since 2001, approximately one quarter million newcomers arrive in Canada looking for a better life: better career prospects for themselves and their children, a safe and stable environment to raise a family, freedom of choice and voice, and clean air. Over 70% select our major urban centres to call home.

Why I Started My Agency

Posted on August 17, 2017 by Alisa

Founder Alisa Choi Darcy – Photo credit: Ricardo Alfonso

Do you ever wonder what drove Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and the like, to create the companies that they ended up creating? What was their Momentous Turning Point? Was it that they saw an unfilled need? Or they saw a service or product that could be delivered better.

Well, here’s my story, in case you were wondering.

How Alisa Choi Darcy came to start Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy Inc.

As my multicultural marketing and business consultancy celebrates its tenth anniversary, let’s take a look back at some of the Small Life Events that occurred, leading up to my Momentus Turning Point.

Small Life Event #1

Flashback to a 2.5 year old Alisa, when my parents, with their rose-colored glasses, hopped on a passenger ship, to take the 2-week journey from Hong Kong to Hawaii to Vancouver. With my older brother and me in tow, it was apparently the scene straight out of the movie Life of Pi — torrential storms, waves that overcame the ship, seasickness felt by all, including a wailing and vomiting me. The willingness to give up the world as you know it for hope of a better life is common for immigrants. This perspective of “no pain, no gain” provides me with an “immigrant lens”. This empathy to newcomers, refugees and established immigrants alike, provides a valuable perspective for clients when developing their ethnic business and marketing strategies.

Small Life Event #2

Sometime in primary school. I heard the word Chinaman. Then Chink. From classmates. Or was it someone on the street first. I didn’t know they were derogatory terms, until about grade 4 or 5, when I overheard my dad explain the concepts in Cantonese to my Mom. About the same time, in grade one, we learned to read via Jack and Jill series of books. One book was of the two children learning how to make bread. The word used in the book was “dough”. Because my parents rarely spoke English at home, and cooking shows weren’t ‘a thing’ back then, I didn’t know what “dough” was. I did however, try to rationalize the photo with my connection with “doe”, the Cantonese word for “knife” — Jack was cutting the moldable blob with a knife. At that time in my life, my parents didn’t even own a cake pan, baking sheet, or rolling pin. To me, all these concepts shown in the picture book, and explained in the simple words, were so other-world. The need for immigrants to make sense of what they learn and take in, using their frames of references, can sometimes be a futile effort or an act of desperation. These days, we might be able to search on the internet…but what sites can we trust? It’s this compassion and desire to make accessible North American “common sense” and “social norms” that drives and guides me — from the creative strategy, media strategy, copywriting, art direction, and more — and clients benefit from campaigns that REALLY resonate with their cultural target markets.

Small Life Event #3

Before we moved from hick-town Canada, (aka Penticton, B.C.) to Vancouver, B.C., my dad got a “brilliant” idea to take all our stuff of Chinese heritage — all the calligraphy art, embroidery and paintings, silk brocade clothes, Chinese dragon head and Chinese porcelain dolls with the creepy eyes, the shuttlecock toy my mom made from cardboard and coloured feathers, chopsticks, brushes and ink, the horrible Chinese operatic music that my two brothers and little sister thought was incredibly grating, plus all the Chinese stuff in storage — and put on a Chinese Cultural Exhibition. The local Penticton Public Library gave us the hall space for free. My dad convinced us kids to put on a lion dance. It would be our first and last time. It was the first time I found out that I was Chinese. OMG I’m not white. I’m different. And non-Chinese needed help, through cultural exhibits, etc. to understand us. That day, instead of feeling ashamed, thinking my family was “weird” while living isolated in a white community, I learned that all the beliefs, traditions, motivations and behaviours ingrained in me was because of my cultural upbringing. Sharing my thought processes and explaining cultural “weirdness”, in comparison to “North American norms”, to others, started then, and continues in my consulting, workshops and speeches today.

Small Life Event #4

In the late 90’s, while working as an Account Manager for twelve U.S. daily newspapers in the Open Skies markets, it became apparent that readership and circulation was moving in a downward trajectory. One significant contributing factor was the increase in cultural diversity in the markets, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, Orlando, Orange County. Within ten years, some of the newspapers stopped printing a hard copy, while new multicultural media options launched and flourished. Sure, mobile and internet were contributing factors too, but it didn’t help that the proportion of non-Hispanic whites in each of those communities were declining. Corporations that don’t embrace diversity, and adopt more inclusive business and marketing practices, are risking sustainable growth, as well as possibly developing a fragmented brand identity to a growing segment of consumers.

Small Life Event #5

While a partner at a boutique marketing agency, Pineapple Group (which ended up being swallowed up by Maclaren McCann), I received a call out of the blue from fellow BCIT alumn Darlene Templeton.

“Did you hear that Channel M is hiring?” she asked. “I think you’ll be perfect.”

“What’s Channel M”, I asked.

I found out later, through an Ipsos Reid research study commissioned by Channel M (now OMNI-TV, owned by Rogers), that airing specific language programming on a free, over-the-air television station, in a multicultural city, equated to viewers developing affinity with brands being advertised on said programs. “Brand Trust”, “Brand Awareness” and “Likely To Purchase” indexed higher when viewing commercials in their language of preference versus in English. I continue to seek research to support my intuitive business and marketing concepts, that I’ve literally spent a lifetime honing. 

Bhangra dancers – Photo credit: Ricardo Alfonso

Momentous Turning Point

It was a good time to be an Account Manager for a multicultural TV station. At Channel M, I worked alongside multilingual teams — teams who produced news and cultural programming in 20+ different languages. We all got along. We were all curious about each other, in an innocent, childlike way. The corporate culture was one in which we felt safe to ask anything. In addition to my years working in ad agencies, this opportunity of working in a culturally inclusive environment helped me understand the complexities and always-evolving, yet always-on, characteristics of cultures.

It was apparent to me, during this time, that clients needed help understanding the 20+ different cultures we reached. I spent more of my time consulting clients than selling commercial space. As a trained marketer, I could see they also needed a Chinese website, window posters in Punjabi, multilingual staff, and more. These were not for sale at Channel M. In fact, there was no ad agency or consultancy that sold the breadth of these services under one roof. The AHA moment hit me on the head several times while working at Channel M, especially when Channel M and I parted ways.

Traditional Persian Drumming by fellow Toward Excellence graduate. Photo credit: Ricardo Alfonso

Yes, let’s do it!

After much hesitation, and reluctancy, feeling burnt-out and exhausted, I took a course on how to write a business plan through Toward Excellence and launched Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy Inc. on April 1st, 2007. Complete with bhangra dancers, multicultural food, and me in a saffron-coloured sari, it was a true cross-cultural experience, in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

I’ve recently moved to Toronto to be more accessible to corporate head offices in Ontario. As my multicultural team, in the east and west coast, celebrate our tenth anniversary, we’re excited to bring our passion, enthusiasm and cross-cultural and ethnic marketing knowledge to corporations doing business across Canada. Feel free to reach out. We can chat over bubble tea, chai, or a double-double.

 

 

Hank Bull (Founding Director) of Centre A, the Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Photo credit: Ricardo Alfonso

QEQ Launch Party and Cross-Cultural Celebration. Photo credit: Ricardo Alfonso


You Still Have Time… Some Diwali 2016 Events You Won’t Want to Miss!

Posted on October 19, 2016 by Vanessa Vachet
MOSAIC BC was in the Diwali Spirit last Friday with their Cultural Festival and Diwali-Themed Activities such as a Rangoli Station!

MOSAIC BC was in the Diwali Spirit last Friday with their Cultural Festival and Diwali-Themed Activities such as a Rangoli Station!

 

You might have noticed the preparations as Canadians already begin to celebrate Diwali, which this year falls on Oct 29th. The Diwali-themed parties, the beautiful saris being worn to local events, the Rangolis that decorate public spaces and of course the electric buzz that surrounds the lineup of events planned for this year’s Big Day…

Diwali, or Deepavali, also known as the festival of lights, is one of the most celebrated days in India and also around the world.

In India, it’s celebrated on a nation-wide scale. Homes are decorated, delicious sweets are exchanged and thousands of lamps, or diyas, are lit to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness and the vanquishing of ignorance that can obscure the light of knowledge.

Enjoyed by people of numerous religious beliefs, Sikhs, Jains and Hindus, Diwali is essentially a harvest festival, but to be sure, a most glamorous one and also the most important festival for the 1.5 Million people of South Asian descent in Canada. It’s a time when South Asian families shop for food, new clothing, jewelry and special gifts to bring to family events.

So, as a Canadian retailer or business owner, it’s worth some investigation, as the potential for reaching this lucrative market is significantly improved if you get involved in the local community.

And what better way to do some cultural sleuthing and market research than by sampling some Diwali events that are already in full-swing?

Some events have already started, but there’s still time to get in on the fun. Here are some things happening in and around Metro Vancouver. And for those of you who live in Toronto or Calgary, we have some great events that you won’t want to miss!

 

Vancouver

 

If you Missed the First Series of Diwali Stories at the Vancouver Public Library Main Branch on Oct 19th - Catch the other Two at Fraserview and South Hill Branch!

If you Missed the First Series of Diwali Stories at the Vancouver Public Library Main Branch on Oct 19th – Catch the other Two at Fraserview and South Hill Branch!

 

Thurs October 20thStories of Diwali – 7:00- 8:30 pm at the Vancouver Library South Hill Branch

 

Celebrate Diwali, a festival of light, with an inclusive multicultural storytelling event to explore the many traditions and stories associated with Diwali.

 

Sat  October 22nd – Stories if Diwali – 1:00 – 2:00 pm at the Vancouver Library Fraserview Branch

 

Another series in the Diwali @the Library event.

 

Sat October 22nd – Diwali 2016 at the Renfrew Park Community Centre from 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm 

 

Come join the fun at Renfrew Park Community Centre on Oct 22 for Diya Painting (traditional Indian candles), Rangoli Painting, Henna and a Bollywood dance workshop.

 

Sun October 23rd – Diwali 2016 at the Trout Lake Community Centre from 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm

 

Join the local Trout Lake Community for Diya Painting (traditional Indian candles), Henna, and a fun Bollywood-themed dance workshop!

 

Come Watch the Diwali-Inspired Fashion Show at Diwali Downtown Vancouver - The Main Event in DiwaliFest 2016!

Come Watch the Diwali-Inspired Fashion Show at Diwali Downtown Vancouver – The Main Event in DiwaliFest 2016!

 

Sat October 29th – Diwali Downtown at the Roundhouse Community Centre

 

Don’t miss the main event in Vancouver’s Cultural Extravaganza! Featuring music and dance performances, an Indian-style bazaar featuring South Asian foods and crafts, a Diwali-inspired fashion show, a room-sized rangoli and more.

 

Surrey –

 

Sat November 5th – Downtown Diwali Surrey from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm at the Surrey City Hall

 

Classical Indian culture for the entire family! This year’s event will include over fifteen unique music and dance performances and an Indian style marketplace featuring South Asian delicacies, crafts and gift items!

 

The Indian Style Bazaar will be sure to Entice You at Surrey's Downtown Diwali Celebration this 2016

The Indian Style Bazaar will be sure to Entice You at Surrey’s Downtown Diwali Celebration this 2016

 

Fri November 11th – Diwali Gala Dinner – 6 pm- hosted by Gujarati Society of British Columbia (GSBC) -at the Royal King Palace Banquet Hall (8158 128 Street, Surrey)

 

Join us for a mesmerizing evening of Gujarati Culture, Music and Dance! Meet our TEAM VANCOUVER dance teams who will relive the magic once again with performances by these amazing award winning teams: VanLeelas , Sitaras, Adult Garba and Rangeela Khaleyas. Enjoy several mouth watering appetizers and a delicious full course meal to follow these spectacular performances.

 

Burnaby –

 

Sun October 23rd – Diwali Cultural Show from 5pm – 10 pm at the Fraserview banquet Hall

 

Hosted by the Hindu Temple Burnaby, come meet the local Hindu community as you share food, cultural traditions and the spiritual meaning behind the celebrations of Diwali.

 

Toronto-

 

Fri October 28thThe 14th Annual Diwali Gala 2016 – from 7:30 pm at the Pearson Convention Centre

 

Thriving in the beautiful environs of Mississauga, Ontario Dilwale Dilliwale has arguably become a phenomenon to reckon with…conceptualizing and organizing the most enchanting events bringing alive the idyllic memories of Dilli. The Diwali Gala Dinner combines the sheer magnitude and extravagance of the Diwali festival, while blending Indian traditions with Canadian culture.

 

Last year, Toronto Lit Up their Diwali Celebrations with Spectacular Dance Performances! 2016 will be Even Better!

Last year, Toronto’s Downtown DiwaliFest was Celebrated with Spectacular Dance Performances! 2016 will be Even Better!

 

Fri October 28th to Sun October 30thCanada Dry DiwaliFest 2016 at the Bramalea City Centre (BCC)

 

The largest Diwali celebration of its kind returns to Bramalea City Centre! Enjoy exciting live performances, a glamorous fashion show, family friendly activities, mascots, photo booth, free samples giveaways and a chance to win fabulous prizes at a festival lucky draw. Admission is free, but food donations are accepted.

 

Fri October 28thDiwali Gala 2016 from 6pm-1am at the Galaxy Grand Convention Centre

 

Galaxy Grand Convention Centre presents their first annual Diwali Gala, celebrating the Indian festival of lights. Join them for a night full of live entertainment, delicious food and Diwali fun!

 

Calgary –

 

Sat November 5thDiwali Dinner 2016 from 5:00pm-12:00am at the Grey Eagle Event Centre

 

Hosted by the Gujarati Mandal of Calgary, this event is pleased to bring back the popular Tania and Vishal’s SPARQ Productions Group with variety of Bollywood performances. They will also showcase some community items including traditional folk dance costumes, Garba and Raas items, that were presented at the Gujarati Cultural Festival in Vancouver over the Labour Day weekend.

 

Even Canadian Universities like SFU have been Inspired to Create Diwali-themed Events -What about Your Business or Organisation?

Even Canadian Universities like SFU have been Inspired to Create Diwali-themed Events -What about Your Business or Organisation?

 

Maybe something you see will inspire you to organise an event of your own, or maybe you might make some important influential contacts in the South Asian community?

Come on out and see for yourself the consumer segment that you might be missing!

Want to attract South Asians through your marketing strategies? Contact alisa@quoteendquote.ca 

 

                                                                                         

Images Courtesy of: (In descending order) QEQ, DiwaliFest Vancouver Facebook, DiwaliFest Toronto Facebook, Twitter.com and Flickr Creative Commons via Simon Fraser University – University Communications

Ethnic Marketing Spotlight: Team QEQ Preps for Vaisakhi Parade Activations

Posted on April 13, 2016 by Vanessa Vachet

 

 Colourful Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey, BC #Vaisakhi #VaisakhiParade #VaisakhiEvents

Crowds Flock to a Vaisakhi Parade (Surrey, BC) Photo credit: Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

 

Vaisakhi, (also spelled Baisakhi), is here! It’s April 13th already! And for Canada’s 455,000 Sikhs, today marks one of the most important cultural and religious festivals in their calendar and the official start of their New Year!

That means bright streams of gold and orange fabric will soon flood the local temples. You’ll see music, dancing, a riot of colour, and a multitude of traditional foods from the Punjab region, where this festival originates. Throughout the lower mainland, there will be local Vaisakhi events and QEQ is helping our clients connect with the South Asian community with customized Vaisakhi-themed campaigns!

With 77.5% of BC’s 155,900 Sikh residents living in the Greater Vancouver Area and another 28,200 living in Abbotsford and Mission, it makes good business sense to showcase and highlight your brand during these highly-attended cultural festivals. To ignore the largest segment of the South Asian community could mean you may be missing out on a share of this important and influential consumer market.

 

Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey can Draw 200,000+ Spectators! #Vaisakhi #VaisakhiParade #VaisakhiSpectators

Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey can Draw 200,000+ Spectators! (Photo credit: Tourism Surrey)

 

That’s why Team QEQ has been busy getting ready for our clients’ Vaisakhi activations at the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade on Apr 16th, and the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade, on Apr 23rd! For more info on this event, see: http://www.surreyvaisakhiparade.ca/

 

#foodie #QEQCulture #Sikh #Vaiskahi #TeamQEQ

Team QEQ Enjoying Free Food at last year’s Vaisakhi Parade Photo credit: Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

 

So, that being said…How can your business market around Vaisakhi if they know nothing about it? The answer is: You can’t. Educating yourself is crucial.

There are some key cultural traditions surrounding Vaisakhi and understanding their significance could make your Vaisakhi campaign either wildly successful, or if ignored, could mean a campaign flop.

For instance, do you know why Vaisakhi is a very important cultural festival in the Sikh community?

This day holds great religious significance for Sikhs worldwide, who spend much time remembering the most important day in their religious calendar – the festival that celebrates the founding of the Sikh community or Khalsa.

You might also be aware that Vaisakhi is also a harvest festival. It marks the time for the harvest of winter crops and is therefore extremely significant for those who grew up in the agricultural state of Punjab, India.

Yet, sometimes all too easy to commit a cultural faux pas, if you don’t understand your target consumer or their traditions. 

 

Cultural Consumers: What Do They Want? #Vaisakhi #Events #VaisakhiConsumers

Engaging South Asian Consumers During Vaisakhi

 

For instance, the traditional colours of Vaisakhi are yellow and orange. But, why is that?

The two colours represent the spirit of rebirth and sacrifice of the Punj Pyare, or the Five Beloved Ones, who were prepared to give their lives for their faith. The Punj Pyare were considered the first members of the new Sikh community, called the Khalsa.

The colours also signify joy and celebration, because they represent the golden yellow wheat fields that are ready to be harvested.

 

Why are Vaisakhi Colours Orange and Yellow? #Vaisakhi #VaisakhiColours #VaisakhiCustoms

Why are Vaisakhi Colours Orange and Yellow? Photo credit: Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

 

Vaisakhi also has special significance for the Hindu community, as it marks the beginning of their new year. It is believed that, on this day, goddess Ganga descended to earth, and to honour her, Hindus gather along the sacred Ganges River for ritual baths. 

That’s why Vaisakhi is the perfect time to reach out to the entire South Asian community, in a culturally meaningful way. 

And at QEQ, we love finding new ways to engage these audiences. So, here’s a sneak peek at some of the tasks QEQ is charged with to prep for the Vaisakhi Parade and our client:

  • The client is hosting a booth on the parade route, so we have to scout the perfect location in both Surrey and Vancouver, along the established Vaisakhi parade paths.
  • The booth locations usually come at no charge, but since they will be set up in front of houses and businesses, they need to be negotiated with the home owners or store owners.
  • We need to prepare food to giveaway, either pre-packaged or cooked on the spot.
  • We need to rent a tent and tables, plus purchase thousands of plates, utensils, etc. 
  • We need to get food prep permits from each city.
  • We need to purchase enough insurance to cover both events.
  • We also need to train up our South Asian team members on our clients’ brand messaging and logistics.
  • We also design and print signage, and order branded giveaways.
  • We have 5am wake-up calls…so that our clients don’t have to!

 

Your Brand could Be Front and Centre during Vaisakhi! Why miss out? #Vaisakhi #marketing #branding #sponsorship

Your Brand could Be Front and Centre during Vaisakhi! Why miss out?

 

This is just a fraction of the list…and every year for the past 9 years, we’ve attended every Vaisakhi parade, rain or shine!

A Booth During a Cultural Event: Perfect for Vaisakhi Marketing! #Vaisakhi #CulturalEvents #VaiusakhiBooths #Parades #VaisakhiMarketing

A Booth During a Cultural Event: Perfect for Brand Marketing! Photo credit: Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

 

A booth at the event, or any involvement in a cultural festival, can reap huge rewards! It will expose you to new consumers, increase brand awareness and loyalty, and also give you the ‘insider view’ into a culture. 

Some Tips for Marketing during Vaisakhi Parades or Celebrations:

  • Don’t try to sell anything. Selling is generally frowned upon
  • If you host a booth, Do provide free giveaways. It is expected. The basis for Vaisakhi is sharing, especially food
  • Do ensure all food is vegetarian
  • Don’t serve food with nuts and other common allergens
  • To minimize food wastage, do remember that not all spectators will be able to visit your booth (as much as you’d like them to!)
  • Do wear a head scarf to show respect. If you forget one, some booths and volunteers from the temple may hand them out
  • Do show respect for the religious aspect of the occasion: when the parade float with the holy book passes your booth, do not actively engage with the crowd
  • Don’t be surprised if elderly members of the community use your tent for shade or your chairs for resting. This is a time for sharing and celebrating community.

 

IT’S A BIG PRODUCTION, much like a wedding, and you would never think of putting on a wedding with over 200,000 attendees without a wedding planner at your side!

Team QEQ is like that key party planner. We make sure your event, or campaign, goes off without a hitch. And we greatly enjoy bridging the gap between multicultural customers and local businesses! It’s what we do and our staff thrives on any challenge, especially when it’s this fun!

Come to the Vaisakhi Parades and check out some of the booths. You’ll get to see what your competition is doing. It might even inspire you to engage in a Vaisakhi marketing campaign next year!

Happy Vaisakhi Everyone! We’ll see you at the Parades…

 

Resources:

Sikhs.org: http://www.sikhs.org/khalsa.htm

Sikh.net- Lifestyle: http://www.sikhnet.com/pages/who-are-sikhs-what-is-sikhism

About.com – Religion – Sikhism: http://sikhism.about.com/od/historicalpersonalities/tp/Panj-Pyare-The-Five-Beloved.htm

About.com – Religion – Hindus: http://hinduism.about.com/od/hinduism101/a/definition.htm

Hindustan Link.com – INDIA FESTIVAL BAISAKHI: http://www.hindustanlink.com/festival/baisakhi.htm

Real Sikhism.com http://www.realsikhism.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1248309400&ucat=7

 

 

How the Tourism Industry can help Syrian Refugees

Posted on February 12, 2016 by Vanessa Vachet

 

BC's Tourism Industry: Help Welcome Syrian Refugees!

BC’s Tourism Industry: Help Welcome Syrian Refugees!

 

When it comes to the conflict in Syria, you’ve probably heard some of the staggering and sobering numbers. Since the Syrian civil war began, 320,000 people have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children. 1.5 million people have been wounded or permanently disabled and 4.3 million refugees are in need of resettlement. It is the worst exodus since the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago.

 

The situation can seem dismal, and the problems so widespread, that local Canadian businesses might be perplexed as to how they can help? You may think you have to sponsor a family or contribute large amounts of cash to make a dent in those stats, yet even small businesses can lend a hand, especially if you’re in the tourism industry.

 

The idea might seem crazy. Surely, refugees need practical help like resettlement services, training programs and language services? But we already know that these resources are stretched to the limit with the care and intake of hundreds of immigrants who come into Canada every year. And though many local businesses have pitched in and are already contributing free flights, free apartments and other necessities to the incoming Syrian refugees, other business sectors can help by doing things that large corporations and settlement services can not. Such as…

 

Create a Welcoming Environment

 

Help Syrian Families Adjust to Life in BC

Help Syrian Families Adjust to Life in BC

 

Since the war in Syria began, massive amounts of refugees have sought homes in nations across the globe, in countries such as Canada. Our federal government, in fact, pledged to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees (government-assisted or privately sponsored) over the next year. And the process has already started. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2,374 Syrian refugees have already been resettled in Canada between Jan. 2014 and Aug. 24, 2015. Before the end of February, 2016, it is expected that about 2,500 more of these individuals will settle in B.C, with the majority living in the Metro Vancouver area.

 

Yet the biggest hurdle to successful resettlement is not always the acquisition of the basic necessities such as clothing, housing or food. A successful outcome for these families often begins with easy access to information, resources, and to local communities that can help newcomers understand their new surroundings and their new cultural context.

 

The tourism sector, because it is already set up to welcome and orient travellers to our city, could offer venue space to host community and networking events for refugees. “Which can be just as important as providing clothing or food donations,” explains marketing event planner and personal life-coach, Manpreet Dhillon MA, CHRP, “because they create a sense of belongingness and acceptance.”

 

Events could focus on the promotion of diversity and cultural exchange. This may help dispel some fear and reluctance on the part of some Canadians, as they get to know their new Syrian neighbours on a more personal level. “Community events help to create a deeper understanding of the people who are our neighbours, and in a relaxed and fun environment,” explains Dhillon. It would also help refugees connect with people in their local cultural communities and give them a sense of ‘home’ as they connect with Canada’s already vibrant immigrant population.

 

Charitable organisations could also use venue space to host a fundraiser. Personal and community sponsors would welcome the offer of a free venue, as this is often one of the larger expenses.

 

Learn about their New Home

 

Newcomers will naturally want to familiarize themselves with their new country. Once they arrive, they will be curious about their new home and will probably want to learn more about it. One thing refugees will lack, though, is the knowledge of where to go for this information and also the funds to sight-see and to explore. Their sponsors, if they have one, may not have the time, or the knowledge, to help them.

 

If you run a local tourism group, why not have a special day where local area merchants specifically welcome Syrian refugees? Acquaint them with local businesses and connections. Alert them to where they can shop, eat and access services they will require in the future. Museums or cultural attractions could offer free admission. Bus tour companies could provide free city orientation tours with interpreters.

 

“Free admission to museums, art galleries, cultural events and local attractions is strongly encouraged,” explains Alisa Choi Darcy, President and Founder of the Vancouver-based multicultural marketing agency Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy (QEQ). “That way, newcomers can learn about Canadian culture, customs and historical significance.” In fact, her agency is already working with the tourism community to create events and programs that can help refugees and immigrants learn about their new Canadian home.

 

Free Admission to Local Attractions and Events can Help Syrians Acclimate to Their New Home

Syrian Newcomers can Learn about BC through Free Admission to Local Events and Attractions

 

“Museums, in particular, can be helpful to orient and educate those new to Canada,” explains Myles Constable, Marketing Officer & Media Relations for the Museum of Vancouver. “While Canada is a relatively young country, stories told through belongings, artifacts, art and multimedia displays help showcase the communities that have helped shape Canada into the diverse, vibrant and socially-conscious country that it is today.”

 

But, if you’re worried about your bottom-line, or you’re afraid to lose out on regular business,why not offer a reduced rate to Syrian refugees, and their host families, on days you might see a natural slump in visitors? Off-season is a perfect time to do this, when business and tourist levels naturally slow in B.C. “Provide a weekday morning when refugee families can attend your attraction at a reduced rate,” suggests Darcy. “If you have multi-lingual staff, have a special day where refugees can access them as interpreters, to better understand your exhibits, participate in activities or understand presentations. This will not only encourage Syrian newcomers to visit, but may also interest local ethnic communities. And once they learn more about your venue, established immigrants could be encouraged to bring their visiting families and friends from overseas – which could lead to increased business. A win-win.”

 

If you’re outside of the urban centre, why not host a special event to educate Syrian newcomers about what to do and what to see in your region? Some of them might even be inspired to settle there, bringing with them an influx of talents, skills and much needed labour.

 

Hire a refugee or Host a Job Fair

 

The last and most important way the tourism sector can help is to hire a Syrian refugee.

Some people may think that refugees will take our jobs, drain our economy, that they’ll be unwilling to work hard, or will cost more to train. But, remember, many refugees are already well-educated and can provide many useful skills. And people who are facing desperate circumstances, and who are given the chance to work, will often be loyal and hard-working employees. Research shows that, over time, refugees will out-earn even those who come from a more affluent, business-class background

 

You might also worry that their English or French language skills may be lacking and that you can’t employ them if they can’t speak your language. But, recall that those selected to come here are also provided with enhanced settlement services, which includes free language classes to help them integrate. For example, at QEQ, interns with varying levels of English are accommodated through peer language coaching and translation services such as Google Translate

 

But the benefits of hiring a Syrian refugee are often overlooked. In the tourism industry that can mean many things. By hiring a refugee, you can diversify your team’s language capabilities to service Arabic- speaking visitors. You can learn about Syrian culture and perhaps tap into the refugee community that will one day be part of your local business. Or why not host a special tourism industry job fair for refugees and find a new way to connect to another emerging tourism market?

 

Long-term Benefits

 

A Diverse Society often leads to Innovation and Job Creation

A Diverse Society often leads to Innovation and Job Creation

 

 

If they are given opportunities to contribute, and if they are integrated quickly, our new neighbours will in fact add to the Canadian economy. Over the next 20 years, it is projected that Syrian refugees will have contributed an estimated minimum of $563 million in local economic activity. And as they gain employment, they will contribute tax dollars to public goods such as the judiciary, street lights, national defense and fire departments.

 

Immigrants also have a long history of helping to grow the local economy, as they tend to be highly entrepreneurial and are about 30% more likely to start a business of their own.

 

Also, remember, that the refugees of today will also form the consumer base of tomorrow. As these Syrian families grow, they will form their connections here, buy here and make their consumer decisions here. They will become your best ‘word of mouth’, your local tourists and also act as tour guides for the next wave of newcomers and visitors. As well, they will act as proud Canadian ambassadors to the emerging Arabic-speaking market, and will tell the world how welcoming Canada can be.

 

To learn more about what you can do, visit the Government of Canada site #WelcomeRefugees, for more info.

To welcome and connect with Syrian refugees, and other newcomers to Canada, contact Alisa Choi Darcy at alisa@quoteendquote.ca

To be part of the conversation, join us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

                                                                                          

Images: Collage Images provided By Tourism Langley, the Museum of Vancouver and Domnic Santiago via Flickr Creative Commons; Image of Syrian Girl with Canucks Sign provided by S.U.C.C.E.S.S

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