If Whistler is to capitalize on the changing face of Asia, the biggest payoff in the short-term could be to entice young "tiger cubs" to come here for school, rather than to ski.
"Education is the here and now but it also has incredible growth potential," said Mark Clifford, executive director of the Asia Business Council, an organization working towards Asia's economic growth and competitiveness.
Clifford works out of Hong Kong but has a second home in Whistler. He has co-written a book called
Through the Eyes of Tiger Cubs: Views of Asia's Next Generation.
He was at the library on April 5, invited by the Whistler Forum, to talk about how those 'tiger cubs' feel about the challenges facing their region. Speaking after the meeting, Clifford explained what his findings could mean for Whistler.
"In terms of a business opportunity first, it's in education," said Clifford. For recreation, said Clifford, it is "still extremely early days," likely 10 to 15 years down the road.
Education, on the other hand, is an opportunity ripe for the taking now. Whistler is safe in comparison to other cities and has a clean environment. That's good news for Asian parents, who place high value on education.
"Whistler can capitalize on some very important strengths," said Cliffford.
Tourism Whistler sees key parts of Asia, namely China and India, as emerging markets making up part of its overall marketing strategy. And while enticing the Asian market here to ski is a long-term strategy, the short-term boon could be in exploring another niche area such as education.
Down the road at Quest University in Squamish, international students are a key part of the 350 strong student body — 55 per cent of the students at Quest are from Canada, 25 per cent from the U.S. and 20 per cent from 34 other countries, including China, Thailand, Nepal, Japan and other Asian nations.
"We want a significant international presence on campus because it greatly enriches the classroom environment," said Quest president Dr. David Helfand.
While the university doesn't actively recruit in Asian countries anymore, Helfand said they have established connections with schools, which is a key part in attracting international students.
Clifford's book evolved from a contest sponsored by the Asia Business Council, Time and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
"Our members (of the Asia Business Council) are really concerned about what's next for Asia," explained Clifford to the roughly two-dozen people at the library.
Unlike their parents, many of whom grew up in a post-colonial world marked with war, poverty and hunger, 'tiger cubs' are coming of age at a time when many of their countries are seeing their economies double in size through rapid industrialization.
That has created a ballooning middle class with more disposable income than ever before. Add into the mix the Internet, Facebook and Twitter and this generation sees the world in ways never dreamed of by their parents.
But what are they worried about, these 'tiger cubs,' and what are their solutions for the problems on Asia's horizon?
They are concerned about education and getting good jobs, social inequality, changing demographics, energy and the environment, government corruption and geopolitics.
The biggest takeaway for Clifford, who has lived in the region working in journalism for roughly 25 years, was the common thread of expectation, despite the fact that those responses came from 21 different countries.
"The sense of expectation is so high among this generation," he said.
They take the rise of Asia as a fact, he said; they think about Asia as a region; they believe in the promise of technology; they believe in governments; they have very high expectations from institutions.
Through the Eyes of Tiger Cubs presents excerpts from the more than 80 essayists who entered the contest, along with research from the Asia Business Council, to tell the story of young Asians' concerns.
The book can be ordered at Armchair Books.