By Laura Stovel
Revelstoke has become an international destination, inviting people from around the world to invest, work and play in our community, but are we really ready to receive them? A workshop at Okanagan College helps businesses, community groups and organizations prepare to welcome visitors and new residents from around the world.
Revelstoke has become an international skiing, sledding and hiking destination with glowing reports in foreign skiing magazines and newspapers about Revelstoke Mountain Resort and our community. In the British on-line magazine Snow (www.snowmagazine.com) an article about skiing in Revelstoke is surrounded by articles about excellent skiing in the Himalayas and Switzerland. Readers of Skiing Magazine (www.skinet.com/skiing/) listed Revelstoke Mountain Resort as ranking 5th in North America. As former mayor Mark McKee was quoted as saying in a 2007 New York Times article, Revelstoke is attracting investors from Alberta, the US, Europe, China, Japan and other Asian countries.
The resort is also attracting young foreigners, most notably Australians, who are often here on the Working Holiday Program which allows them to work while they travel in Canada. The Working Holiday program is also available to young Japanese and we may anticipate the arrival of more Japanese young people, attracted to our slopes and community.
Some Revelstoke families and businesses, including Tim Hortons, The Regent and The Sandman Inn, have taken advantage of the temporary worker program to service hard-to-fill jobs, particularly for care-givers, hotel housekeepers, and overnight workers. These temporary workers, mostly women from the Philippines and Jamaica, work hard behind the scenes and have become part of the fabric of our community.
These are just some of the many people who arrive in Revelstoke, either in passing or to stay, drawn by the beauty of our mountains, the friendliness of our community, work or educational opportunities. Revelstoke benefits from their business and contributions but do we always understand and meet their needs, especially those who come from different cultures, who are learning English as a Second Language, or who stand out as ‘visible minorities’ (whether foreign or Canadian) in a predominantly white community? Meeting these needs may be key to making Revelstoke a truly international community.
A free, two-evening workshop at Okanagan College will help businesses, service providers and members community organizations understand and plan for an increasingly diverse clientele and community. The workshop will present the demographics and some history of immigration in Canada and Revelstoke. It will encourage reflection on responses to visitors and immigrants in the community and will share the insights of immigrants who have recently settled in Revelstoke.
These insights were drawn from interviews with newcomers about what drew them to our town, what they enjoy, what they find difficult, how they get information about events and services, and their ideas for improvements. The interviews promise to be interesting and, at times, surprising, and offer plenty of scope for thinking in innovative ways about how the community can better serve tourist and immigrant needs.
In the latter part of workshop, participants will work in small groups to design a business or organizational strategy that meets a need expressed by newcomers. This could involve, for example, elements to add to staff/volunteer training, devising more effective ways of informing visitors and new residents about services or events, or ways of making new residents who are feeling isolated feel more included in our community.
The free, two-evening workshop will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 on October 25 and November 1.