Arriba! Whistler on Team Canada trip to Latin America By Chris Woodall Whistler has a presence on the latest Team Canada economic trip, this time to several countries in Latin America. Representing the Whistler Resort Association is David Thomson, former WRA president, who is wearing two hats, including that of representing the Canadian Tourism Commission. It's that second hat that is making the WRA inclusion on the 700-member team possible, says WRA acting president Craig MacKenzie. "We have some clients in South America so this is an opportunity to partner with the CTC in covering costs for the trip," MacKenzie says. Because Thomson's main role will be to represent the CTC, "this trip doesn't cost us much at all," MacKenzie explains. "It would have been very hard to justify our going there without the CTC connection." The Team left Jan. 11 and concludes its travels through Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile on Jan. 23. The B.C. component of Team Canada represents 50 hi-tech, service, product, resource- and tourism-based companies. Premier Glen Clark and other provincial premiers — including their delegations — were part of Team Canada, too. Prime Minister Jean Chretien and premiers from Ontario and Quebec were to go along, but they have stayed home to monitor the ice storm catastrophe in those provinces. Whistler doesn't get major business from South America in terms of the over-all visitor picture, but what the resort gets is worth its weight in gold. "It's not a huge market, but it's one we want to develop," MacKenzie says. "I've been looking at our latest figures on lengths of stay, and visitors from South America are here 10-11 days on average," MacKenzie says. Whistler has not been represented on other Team Canada invasions of foreign lands to sell "made in Canada" goods and expertise, mainly because the tourism pitch was not part of the Team's strategy during those trips, MacKenzie says. As for Latin America, the WRA has some contacts there to re-establish and hopes to shake hands with new ones. "Given the high profile Team Canada will have in those countries, it's a good thing to be going along," MacKenzie says. Latin America is considered to be a market that is "growing rapidly," according to the B.C. government. Exports to those countries are more than $350 million a year. Of the countries visited, Brazil is B.C.'s most important trade partner, selling it $133 million of this province's products in 1996, placing it 15th of all places B.C. sells stuff to. In order of value of goods or services sold, the remaining countries in decreasing order of trade importance are Chile, Mexico and Argentina. How they rank in terms of ski visits to Whistler was not known.