Friday, October 07, 2005

Tourism Industry in Vancouver has Missed the Boat

In case any faithful visitor(s) noticed that I haven't posted lately, I apologize. I've been particularly busy over the last month or so.

Among other things, we went to London. It was my first visit there and I was pleasantly surprised. Although London is no paradise, it wasn't as congested or old-fashioned as I had expected. I found it interesting that the pubs and restaurants we visited seemed to be managed in a modern, business-like manner, even though some of them were in buildings that were hundreds of years old. The restaurant in a church crypt reminded me of the cafeteria at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

What really impressed me, however, was the cosmopolitan atmosphere. It's not just that there are a lot of people from other countries. In some parts of the city, foreigners seemed to be in the majority. Near Piccadilly Circus, we stood in a line of foreigners to be served $7 ice-cream cones by foreign workers. That's the beauty of the British system. They have foreigners serving foreigners. I don't know where all the Londoners are but they must be enjoying themselves.

While in London, I attended a workshop, which was attended by agents from around the world. There were people from Nigeria, Slovenia, Russia, and many other exotic places. These were language travel agents who arrange outbound study abroad trips for clients from their countries. They told me about all of the students they have been sending to London. Many were actually looking for new destinations because London is becoming saturated with students from their regions. If that workshop were held in Canada, many of those agents would not have attended because their visa applications would have been rejected.

Spending some time in London really opened my eyes to the huge financial and social benefits a country can enjoy if it has a fair and efficient immigration system. Tourism is a huge business in England but not just because it's a good place to visit. In many ways, Vancouver is a lot nicer than London. The fact is, however, that a family from Moscow or Warsaw probably couldn't get Canadian visas. Some might try but they are almost sure to be disappointed.

Our government defends our dysfunctional immigration system by claiming that we need to be protected from refugees and terrorists. Let's face it. They can't tell a terrorist from an insurance salesman anyway. Given a choice, I'd let some more tourists in and take my chances on the terrorists.

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