Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 20, 2009

Wining and Dining with Arnold Schwarzenegger

It was a BIG California event – in Toronto!

Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka The Terminator or the Governator, had come to the most multicultural city on the North American continent to schmooze and to sell his product. And the product of course was California.

Why would Arnold need to sell California, you ask? The destination should sell itself shouldn’t it? Well, what the general public may not know is that the big players in the travel industry in fact have to work a lot harder in some respects because of the scale of the product they have to market. And marketing California to travellers is like marketing Switzerland.

The event was held at The Liberty Grand, one of Toronto’s most glamorous and impressive conference and convention sites, perfect for Arnie’s Trade Mission. (See www.liberty.com) I say perfect because in typical California/Hollywood/Blockbuster style the event was a knock-out worthy of the likes of Cecil B. DeMille. It was “designed” to impress. And it did.

Arnie’s party began in the early evening with a lot of wine tasting and wine from – California of course – and scrumptious, continuous hors d’oeuvres and other mmmm is that good finger food. The food alone must have injected tonnes of money into the Toronto hospitality economy. The timing of the event was surreptitous and precise. First the travel journalists arrived (you need the scribes to record the event), followed a bit later by the other more important invited guests: TV anchors, odds and sods of other luminaries; travel industry suppliers and tour operators; and very special guests who kept us all gawking – it was part of the entertainment. Thanks to Arnie, I actually got to talk to Margaret Atwood and express my personal thanks for her prophecies. She must have accepted Arnie’s invitation because for her too this was great story material. This was the kind of mixed medium that her wit and intelligence would have really processed – from a literary perspective.

As the tempo increased and the staging was ramped up, we waited and waited for the big moment. Then, when the moment was just right, the buzz in the room increased and we were herded into the next level of extravagance. At the far end of the room was a small stage and a simple podium at which at any moment HE would appear.

But first the warm-up show. A local TV celebrity I’ve never seen or heard of told California jokes, Canadian jokes, slightly missing the mark jokes. But who cares; the food and wine was getting better all the time. The MC/Canadian mini-celebrity introduced a couple of California state reps who “proudly” and loudly proclaimed the market value of the state.

And then on the big screen above the stage, appeared Arnold, the Governor of the State of California. His atavar (himself) was at the podium, if you could have seen him over the heads of the crowd. He was glad to be here. He did the usual hands across the border thing. He told us about his career in bodybuilding. He told us that as a kid he knew that he only wanted to be one thing – a salesman!

What a guy!

For more information on California as a travel destination, click here.

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