By Sasha Angus, CEO Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation
As the eyes of Chinese businesses and investors continue to focus on Nanaimo, we will experience an increase also in the number of Chinese tourists and visitors. This will bring not only a much welcomed boost to our regional economy, but also a culture and language that many of us may be unfamiliar with. To make the most of this opportunity, and to demonstrate our West Coast hospitality, we have a fantastic opportunity via Literacy Central Vancouver Island.
Literacy Central Vancouver Island currently delivers English as a second language tutoring and English practice groups. During a planning session last May, they came up with the idea to reverse their language training and design a curriculum that would provide Mandarin language lessons. During the construction of the new downtown hotel, there is an opportunity for Nanaimo to prepare an outstanding and memorable welcome for the annual high volume of anticipated Chinese visitors.
These group language lessons will be delivered two evenings a week for four to six weeks with three to four intakes each of the next two years, most likely starting in late October. These lessons are not designed to learn how to speak Mandarin but rather to become familiar and comfortable with some Chinese customs around greeting and business transactions. Learning some key phrases would be helpful when completing a sale or providing a service (words such as welcome, please, thank you, can I help? purse, shoes, lunch, drink, tea, ride, taxi, maps, cards, etc.).
First impressions of Nanaimo and our downtown are critical. Even for those tourists that we might expect to be making a one-time visit, a good impression will be passed onto family, friends and colleagues, likely yielding additional visitors. If we express through our preparedness that their visit matters to us and we appreciate them, we will generate opportunities for future investment in our community.
Consider also what these group classes will do for our downtown. We will have the rare opportunity for retailers, service providers, the hospitality and tourism industry, community policing and bylaw personnel, taxi drivers, etc., to spend valuable, meaningful and fun time together as colleagues, learning together, building relationships and awareness of what each provides. Together we can build a team ecosystem that can be leveraged in the future for all kinds of community development applications.
Once this program has been established, registration will be completed via the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association. For information about Mandarin language lessons, please call Rebecca Kirk, at Literacy Central Vancouver Island, at 250-754-8988, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.