Vail boasts a healthy international exchange rate. Indeed, the ski industry’s strongest currencies aren’t limited to global capitalism and competition (the 1989 World Cup immediately comes to mind) — the Vail Valley’s intercontinental and intercultural environment allows residents and visitors an upfront introduction to and interaction with diverse populations. In pre-Internet times, only academic communities and major metropolises attracted comparable demographic diversity. Granted, international tourist involvement in the Vail Valley tends to be limited and conditional, but the area workforce spans the world’s cultures, customs and countries.
Interaction with plebian workers (as opposed to the international jet set) offers an introduction and snapshot of a foreign culture in its average, everyday existence and expression. But even with a healthy representation of the world’s workforce, the Vail Valley’s international sample leans on the upper end of the socioeconomic strata. The Chamber of the Americas recently flew in J. Clovis Lemes, a partner at Candex, a Sao Paulo-based firm that facilitates foreign business endeavors in South America, to speak at a Denver luncheon.
My limited knowledge of anything Brazilian included flashes of rain forests, anacondas and Carnival. Anticipating Lemes’ speech about Brazilian business opportunities, my relative innocence (a nice term for ignorance) of the sprawling equatorial nation prompted an amusing preconception. I conjured and conflated my limited impressions of Brazil into a business mindset, which resulted in metaphorical images of anacondas, piranhas and revelers drunk on profits and power in another jungle — international commerce. However, a smidgeon of research and reflection even before the speech informed about Brazil’s abundant but largely latent business possibilities, particularly in a realm that overlaps my recent and belated graduate degree — social media, communication and digital marketing.
A particular example of a present but limited exchange in the Vail Valley is the Brazilian population here. In a previous column a couple months ago, I wrote, “Today, the Latin American tourists and investors who populate Eagle County’s slopes and the Latin American workers who populate its service industry represent both a dichotomy and archetypical bookend of the area’s Hispanic demographic.” While Brazilians speak Portuguese rather than Spanish, thus diverging from the official definition and classification of Hispanic, the nation’s Latino identification comes close enough to include within the valley’s Latino/Hispanic continuum. However, when meeting Brazilian visitors, Vail Valley residents will likely learn more about global jet set customs and cultures rather than those particular to Brazil.
Like with other areas and aspects, social media has changed the one dimensional contact. Vail Valley residents can look beyond tourists, travel guides and textbooks to learn about Brazil’s terrain, culture, economy and people.
What intrigues, if not outright startles, is Web 2.0’s capacity to translate talk into action. A recent smattering of news releases called attention to a surge in Brazilian activism spurred by and through social media, albeit on a less dramatic scope and scale than the Arab Spring activities. The Wall Street Journal and Forbes recently ran pieces on the country’s exploding social media phenomenon. Actually, it’s not startling considering the Brazilian penchant for communal conversation. While activists see social media as a vehicle for change, entrepreneurs consider it a potential market, towering to Amazonian proportions. For social media marketers, the country’s possibilities are as broad and diverse as its geography. Digital media strategists note that social media platforms have crested the S curve and are now slipping south. Excuse the pun, but possibilities and profits also seem to be heading south, especially since China’s population, another promising, potential market, is officially out of reach for platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A Google return on “Brazil social media” returns links with titles asking if Brazil is the future of social media and even crowning it the social media capital of the universe.
While businesses and social media marketers rush to capitalize on the Brazilian balloon, Vail Valley residents have an opportunity to engage in long distance exchanges that delve deeper than dollars. The Wall Street Journal relayed some interesting statistics: Brazil placed second only to the U.S. in number of Facebook and YouTube users, and Brazilian usage rates and times rise while ours dip.
Businesses will analyze and translate those statistics through marketing and conversion methods and models. The rest of us can analyze and translate those statistics through social and cultural introductions and education. Virtual visits don’t depend on a travel itinerary. We can visit a Brazilian Facebook page and participate in a conversation or witness a raw but real YouTube video of rural lifestyles, experience a cultural performance, common celebration, particular challenge or triumph. While we marvel at the rain forests, we can truly appreciate the everyday toils, threats and turmoil tour guides seldom mention and tourists rarely appreciate (let alone experience).
While my graduate marketing courses defined the external environment in business terms — outside proprietary and corporate ownership and operations — virtual travel and interaction allow individuals to survey, analyze, understand, experience and respond to external environments on a more primal and personal level. After all, in the digital world, does an external environment even exist?
Wayne Trujillo, director of communications for the Chamber of the Americas, is a Minturn native and Battle Mountain High School graduate. His family moved to Eagle County nearly a century ago. His uncle, Oscar Meyer, was the Eagle County sheriff gunned down by James Sherbondy on Tennessee Pass in 1937, and his Aunt Ollie Meyer was Eagle County superintendent of schools. His grandparents, Irene and Ralph Meyer, moved to Minturn in the 1940s and owned and operated Meyer’s Garage. He currently lives in Denver.