HuffPo: “Does British Columbia Only Want White Tourists?”

February 16, 2010.

Mike Barber of The Huffington Post is the fellow asking:

In the weeks leading up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), Tourism British Columbia released a new commercial it spent millions of dollars on in order to promote tourism in the province. The fact that most of the world already knew the 2010 winter Olympics were being held there apparently was not enough. The commercial features notable Canadians Michael J. Fox, Sarah McLachlan, Ryan Reynolds, Kim Cattrall, Steve Nash, and Eric McCormack; what it doesn’t feature is much ethnic diversity.

There are two versions: the 90-second and the 30-second version. The version most are likely familiar with is the 30-second version. I say that because it is the only version I have personally seen aired on Canadian TV; I wasn’t aware the 90-second version even existed until I came across it while searching for the commercial on YouTube. In either case, it is clear the intended target amongst potential tourists are only those as white as the snow featured in the many expensive aerial shots.

Never mind the fact that all the celebrities featured are white, in this version of the commercial there is not a single tourist with a discernible race other than white to be found. There is a token nod to Aboriginal culture for literally a second towards the end, but that’s about the only thing “ethnic” you’re going to see in this version of the promo.

Did Tourism BC err on this or are all of our readily identifiable (in the US market) celebrities white like rice? I understand David Suzuki probably isn’t very big in Texas, but with the absence of any colour in the spot, Barber has a point, albeit a cynical one. Call me naive, but I prefer to think we’re so post-racial here that it never even occurred to the team that greenlit the ad. That said, ad creatives do think about these things, don’t they? I’d hate to think a meeting was held and it was decided that BC would be more marketable if it was portrayed as a rugged whitefest. One of the BC’s greatest strengths is its diversity. It’s something that should be celebrated and sung to the rafters, no?

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