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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador - A land of Ocean Breezes and Out Houses

The promotional slogans and buzz words used to attract tourists to this province roll off the tongue like so many drops of water on the morning leaves.

“Newfoundland and Labrador – The Far East of the Western World”,
“The place where land, water and sky embrace like old friends”,
“A land as old as time”,
“Western Newfoundland, where wonder comes naturally”

Even the small town where I currently reside has its own picturesque slogan, “Where the sun meets the sea”.

Of course these catch phrases conjure up a very idyllic, peaceful and happy place where one might easily imagine playful dolphins nudging baby seal pups up onto blue white icebergs. A utopia where the people are at one with nature and the traveler who is fortunate enough to land here can expect to slip easily into a virtual heaven on earth, a mid-Atlantic Shangri-La.

The words themselves are indeed a great way to promote the provinces tourist industry both nationally and internationally, but do they go far enough?

Most of these catch phrases, when used on tourism commercials and in promotional pamphlets, are accompanied by images of jumping whales, drifting icebergs and rugged coastline. To the uninitiated, those who have never visited the province, it would appear that we have a pretty easy and simple life and that the land is all but empty except for the trees, rocks and wildlife.

If I were an outsider who happened to catch a glimpse of one of those commercials I might marvel at the beauty of the province’s nature, but wonder if this strange place had any hotels and restaurants, or should I backpack my groceries and sleeping roll in. I might also wonder if there was anything else to do besides staring at the ocean for hours on end or if I should take a good book to read while waiting for an errant iceberg to show up.

The commercials very rarely show the infrastructure available for tourists. The hotels, convention centers, golf courses, nightclubs, live theatre, ski resorts, hunting/fishing lodges, museums, galleries and so on and so on. This province has a lot to offer the traveler but for some reason someone doesn’t seem to want them to know it.

Yes, there is a segment of the tourism market that would love to walk along the beach all day, and we have been very good at capturing some of that market, but there is also a segment that would like to club hop at night or play a round of golf during the day. Aren’t their dollars any good?

Most cities and provinces promote themselves by playing up the “fun” things to do, the culinary delights of Montreal, the theatre festival in PEI, amusement parks or the zoo in Toronto. These areas have realized that to grow the industry you need to attract people of widely varied interests. As beautiful as it might be, not everyone wants a picturesque and quiet Eden. Some people actually yearn for thrills and excitement.

Perhaps it’s time for our provincial and federal tourism departments to start taking a more holistic approach to promotion of the province. This might be a better and even more profitable approach than reinforcing the old stereotype of a rural community, with simple people living in a place where the only piece of physical infrastructure on the landscape is a wharf.

Perhaps the current promotional ads are a part of the reason that there are still people in other parts of Canada, and even more especially the US, who think we live in igloos and eat raw fish all day.

I don’t have an issue with promoting our ties to the sea, but for heaven’s sake, let’s start getting the word out that we at least have electricity and the miracle of indoor plumbing.


MrChills said...

We are on the same page here my friend. As much as I see that our “untouched land” it is our hottest commodity, the Tourism crowd has to start advertising our modern facilities as well.

A lot of mainlanders from both Upper Canada and the USA have commented to me that Newfoundland looks great and all but what would they do besides from camping and hiking? Do they have major Airports there, is there good shopping, what is there to do in the night? Etc…

I agree that showing photos of Icebergs, Whales, Ocean etc… is a great drawl, but how about placing a quick pan of downtown St. John’s or Corner Brook, show a couple of hotels and malls etc… Form the outside looking in, it appears that traveling to Newfoundland is like crawling back in time before the industrial revolution.

Dark Angel said...

Absolutely MrChills. From the commercials a tourist would think they are going on a safari into the wilds of North America. Its a wonder they don't all show up in oil skins and carrying harpoons

Anonymous said...

We advertise this place as a peaceful, natural place because...

It is a peaceful natural place.
It is what our tourists are looking for in a tourist destination.

Of course we have bars, and shopping malls, and hotels, and sprawl-mart...you'd have to be stupid to think otherwise...the point here is, so does everywhere else in a North American destination.

Stavanger Drive and the Avalon Mall will never compete with the West Edmonton or the Eaton Centre. Besides, if I was a Missourian watching A&E and saw an ad for NL featuring George Street, the only thing it would make me want to do is go party with some friends at the neighbourhood bar.

Point of note, PEI has basically burned itself out on the Anne and the golf, and are looking at other ways to market themselves, including the peaceful get back to nature angle.

The underlying message (if i may get political for a moment) of our tourism ads maybe should be "NL is a 'safe' destination", I'm betting it's exactly what the average American is looking for these days.

Perhaps "NL is a 'cool' destination, I'd say it's what Ontario is looking for right now. Or, "NL is wide open and quiet". Something I know an overcrowded European can appreciate.

Come to think of it, that's kinda what our tourism ads say, isn't it?

Robert said...

The previous comment about being stupid to think Newfoundland doesn't have malls, Walmarts and restaurants is simply wrong.

I put myself through university working with tourists from around the globe at a National Park in Newfoundland. Often these people didn't know what services were available to them -- and they weren't stupid.

In short, I agree with you. It would help us to let people know they can find wide open spaces but also modern, comfortable living. New brunswick's tourism focuses on their wide open farm land, and rustic history but uses the slogan "There's always a city nearby".

I wouldn't want to duplicate that sentiment exactly but I think they get the idea.