May 25, 2012
For many young Australians, travelling overseas is seen as a rite of passage, and it appears many are now choosing to live and work abroad for extended periods of time.
An emerging favourite for these working tourists is Whistler, Canada.
Located 120 km north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler is consistently recognised as one of the best mountain resorts in the world.
According to Tourism Whistler, in the past two years Australians have accounted for 34 per cent of the workforce at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.
Perth local Michael Hartley recently spent seven months working at the resort and confirmed there was a big Australian contingent there.
“We think Perth’s small, but you go to the other side of the world and you still meet people that you somehow have a connection to,” Mr Hartley said.
However, he said the overwhelming presence of Australians in Whistler detracted from his experience.
“The reason you go overseas is to meet people from different countries with different experiences,” he said.
“You don’t really want to go over and experience the exact same people you’ve been living with for your entire life.
“I guess in a certain way it’s a little bit comforting.”
Curtin Sustainable Tourism Centre co-director Roy Jones said the overall impact of having such a large Australian population living and working seasonally in Whistler would be positive.
“I would think for the Canadians there shouldn’t be a huge problem with the Australian workforce,” he said.
“They’re not going to be dealing with a group who are culturally or linguistically different from what they have.
“They’re dealing with a seasonal requirement for staff and presumably the Australians will be working southern and northern hemisphere seasons, so they’re getting people who are likely to be experienced.”
Since 2006 Australians travelling to Canada have been able to acquire two-year visas which are relatively easy to renew.
Mr Hartley said he met people in Whistler who had moved over from Australia in their twenties and were still living there two decades later.
“Because everyone’s so friendly you just get chatting to people on the gondola and they will tell you how they’ve been living there for 20 years and only planned on going for a season,” he said.
Professor Jones said that on balance Australian migration to Whistler was not going to be at a level that would destroy Canadian heritage, and could potentially strengthen ties between the two Commonwealth nations.
He said Australians travelling abroad had the potential to pique interest in Australia and its culture among people all over the world, which could increase international visitors.
Mr Hartley said relations between Australians and Canadians were already very strong.
“When we got to Vancouver it was pretty much Perth city on a larger scale,” he said.
“Apart from all the homeless people and the different accents you probably wouldn’t realise you were in a different city.”
Professor Jones said many Australians would be drawn to Whistler because, unlike many other ski resorts around the world, it was in an English speaking area and was readily accessible.
He said he generally supported multiculturalism and saw greater links between people of different cultures as a way to generate greater understanding.
Mr Hartley said many Australians who went to Whistler found the experience life-changing.
He said the trip was something he would never forget.
Mr Hartley plans to go back to Whistler soon and hopes to experience more of what Canada has to offer.