Want to Be an Ambassador in China? Here's How

Yahoo TravelMay 6, 2014

Ever wondered whether you have what it takes to be an ambassador? It’s not as hypothetical a question as it sounds. The tourism board of Hangzhou, China, went looking for its first foreign ambassador for Chinese tourism with a global reality-style competition—including voting. Think: “The Voice” meets the State Department with a little bit of YouTube thrown in.

The contestants have been winnowed down to five finalists, and the winner will be announced on May 20.

While Hangzhou, China, might not ring a bell, the name Marco Polo likely does—the Italian merchant was one of the first Westerners to visit the city back in the 13th century, and he came away impressed. He called Hangzhou the “City of Heaven” and “the most beautiful and magnificent in the world.”

The water ways of Hangzhou. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Members of the tourism board thought that a search for the “Modern Marco Polo” would capture the imagination of travel buffs around the world. They were right. The contest opened in March of last year, and 26,000 hopefuls applied.

The job, which pays 40,000 euros (about $55,400), is a one-year gig. The winner gets a 15-day trip to Hangzhou and will follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo—minus a meeting with Kublai Khan—before promoting the city on social media. Points of interest might include the Grand Canal (no wonder Venetian Marco Polo was a fan), the Six Harmonies Pagoda, and the China Tea Museum.

The China Tea Museum has tea gardens and tea houses to visit and historic tea pots from various dynasties on display.  (Courtesy: The China Tea Museum)

The five finalists made their case through YouTube videos and written proposals. You can vote for your favorite candidate on the campaign’s Facebook page.

They are: Brad Florescu, an award-winning photographer and travel blogger from Romania who lives in Thailand. He says he believes “good storytelling makes a better world.”

Brad Florescu is one of the finalists. (Courtesy: Be the Modern Marco Polo Experience)

Parisian Benny Lance may have helped his chances by dressing up as the original Marco Polo. He boasts extensive travel to more than 30 countries and prefers to travel on two wheels. “My ship is my bike,” he says.

Dean Vowles, from Australia, says that it’s “always been my ultimate goal to go to Hangzhou, China.” He adds that as someone who works for a digital advertising agency, he has the “skills, experience, and personality” for the position.

TV host Liam Bates grew up in Switzerland and first visited China at the age of 17. He calls Marco Polo “one of my personal heroes” and speaks English, French, and Mandarin.

American competitor Kristie Hang is a freelance TV host and food blogger who also speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, along with English. “I think they’re definitely hurting for tourism, and it’s such a beautiful place that more people should definitely go,” the Los Angeles native told Yahoo Travel.

Kristie Hang is an American food blogger who also speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese. (Courtesy: Be the Modern Marco Polo Experience Program)

This isn’t the only job to boast a high-profile competition: Vacation website Jauntaroo recently announced the winner of its “Best Job Around the World” contest. Tyson Mayr will earn $100,000 to circle the globe, make videos, and do volunteer work.

And last year one very lucky British college student scored his ideal summer gig: Waterslide tester. The job was promoted on the Web by the resort company First Choice. Seb Smith beat out some 2,000 applicants, who were asked to make their pitch through 30-second videos.

Simon Cowell, you may have your next show.