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True patriot love

September 10, 2013
By: 
Stephanie Harrington

Johnson, who completed a Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication at RRU, has worked as a global communications and media relations advisor at the Canadian Tourism (CTC) Commission since January.

Selling the country you love to overseas media would seem like a dream job to many Canadians. And for Denyse Johnson, it is.

Johnson, who completed a Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication at RRU, has worked as a global communications and media relations advisor at the Canadian Tourism (CTC) Commission since January. Her job is to promote Canada as a four-season travel destination to 10 international markets: the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, India, Japan, South Korea and China. Johnson couldn’t be happier.

“This is absolutely my dream job. I love it. Every day is different. I get to travel quite a bit,” she says. “There is a lot of project management and hosting events, such as Go Media, which will bring 120 travel journalists to Charlottetown in September. Right now I’m in the thick of co-ordinating that with my colleagues in the provinces and territories.”

So how does Johnson, and her co-workers overseas and nationally, go about selling our beautiful country to journalists jockeying for new angles on travel to the Great White North?

“We’ve identified unique selling features of Canada based on what we have to offer and based on what tourists want to see,” she says. “When we host media, a lot of those trips are based around these five themes.”

The themes are: a vibrant city on the edge of nature (think Vancouver or St. John’s); personal journeys by land, air and water (canoeing, anyone?); active adventure among awe-inspiring natural wonders (Niagara Falls); award-winning Canadian cuisine (PEI oysters); and Connecting with Canadians (or cowboys at the Calgary Stampede). 

“Another big part of my job revolves around social media. The CTC is really engaged in social media – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook,” Johnson says. “There are huge opportunities there but also challenges because not all markets engage in social media in the same way.”

Johnson, who was raised in Winnipeg, has worked in journalism and communications for 11 years. Previous roles included working as a television producer in Winnipeg and Calgary, at a magazine in the UK and as part of the communications team for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

For the latter role, Johnson visited 1,000 communities a mari usque ad mare, from sea to sea, over 106 days for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. That included travelling to Kugluktuk, Nunavut, a hamlet on the shore of the Arctic Ocean (where it’s so cold trees don’t grow) and its 1,450 inhabitants speak the Inuit language Inuinnaqtun. It was one of Johnson’s most memorable trips.

“It had this really special energy about it that I haven't been able to forget. After the official events with the Olympic flame, which took place in minus 35 degree weather, the community invited us for a feast of elk stew and bannock at their local community centre,” Johnson says.

“After that the children performed a jig for us and we all joined in. It was a combination of the culture, people and vibe that made it so memorable. It was very hard to leave.”

Johnson was in China on a residency with her classmates as part of her master’s degree when she was interviewed for the Canadian Tourism Commission job. That experience, combined with some helpful tips from her lecturers, gave Johnson an edge over other applicants.

“I had been in China for two weeks and was really immersed in the culture,” she says. “I felt I had a huge advantage and insights into the country.”

Royal Roads Associate Prof. Zhenyi Li, who accompanied Johnson’s class to China, says Johnson was one of the program’s top students and went out of her way to befriend the local people.

“Her passion to promote intercultural understanding, her sensitivity to cultural differences, and her skills to communicate with people from different backgrounds and with different needs are so impressive,” Li says. “Tourism, same as all messages we communicate across cultures, is basically packaging meanings for the best reception based on intercultural understanding and communication skills.”

Johnson agrees knowing how to communicate across cultures is a big asset in her job.

“I feel in this position, my master’s has given me confidence when working with colleagues from different cultures and also for working with international media,” she says.

Don’t be too envious. Although Johnson has seen more of the country than most Canadians, she still has a bucket list.

“I'd love to spend six-months on a cross-Canada trip by train and then by car in the territories. Summer and fall would be my seasons of choice.”