Mar 10, 2017
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There’s no place like home (2017)

Finally, a feel-good story from the East! Moncton is “the place to be,” [1] says Canadian travel blogger Andrew Gunadie – Hurray! Down here, we all know that we live in a special place and I recently heard it said that ‘There’s the good times, the bad times and the Maritimes!”

But let’s start with a bit of background information. The first and the most famous travel writer was Herodotus, the Greek historian who lived in the fifth century BC. The role of any travel writer, he said, “is to be the tourist’s perfect companion: to be articulate, well informed, a skilled raconteur; to include in what he tells [sic] a fair share of the unusual with a dash of the exotic; to tell it all with infinite zest.” [2] Gunadie has many of those qualities, he is articulate, engaging, charming, and I want to believe him. But there is something in his travel truth that made me pause. To say that the City of Moncton is the ‘place to be’ or not, is not the aim of my commentary. I am curious about the tone, the coverage of his story and ultimately what it says about us.

When I first saw Gunadie’s video, I was delighted. Imagine, my hometown was the best place to be! Joy! My second impression was more nuanced. There is something steering the clip that reads like an advertisement. Maybe the ‘place to be’ reminded me of the infamous New Brunswick licence plate tagline, the “Be … in this place”.[3] I understand the necessity of naming things (cafés, pubs and restaurants), of speaking in clichés or memes (beach for oneself, beautiful sunset), but I believe that it is possible to write about a place without sounding like an ad.

A lot of travel writing is about selling something to someone, but it does not have to be like that. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Ernesto Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries are examples of two great works based on actual travel adventures. The genre continues to reinvent itself. In December 2016, Canadian Art Magazine awarded its Art Writing Prize to Calgary Art Critic, Ginger Carlson for her travel essay describing “a journey with artist Nicole Kelly Westman to former mining town Wayne, Alberta, to produce a new work.”[4]

The script of Our Country: Gunnarolla on why Moncton is his favourite place could have been lifted from a Tourism New Brunswick brochure. It is all niceties, product-oriented and we heard it before:

The East Coast is where the friendliest people live
Does anyone do seafood like the East Coast of Canada?
Moncton is perfect for road trips
Having a beach for oneself
Amazing sunsets
Walking ‘on the ocean floor’

This ‘walk on the ocean floor’ has been repeated like a mantra by the operators of the Hopewell Rocks as well as by the New Brunswick Department of Tourism.[5] It is probably something that everybody in New Brunswick does in his or her sleep, but to talk about Hopewell Rocks without mentioning the recent collapse of the Elephant Rock, one of the more popular of the Flowerpot formations, is puzzling. Gunardie surely wants to focus solely on the positive.[6]

The suspension of my belief came in a two-pronged realization. The first prong happened last month when the New Brunswick Department of Tourism announced that it was investing $1.1M for travel writers to promote tourism over the next 4 years[7]. Could this Canadian Geographic feature be part of that program? The second prong came a few days ago, when CBC New Brunswick published an article about Gunardie’s video. When I saw the video on Facebook, I thought that it walked like an advertorial and it talked like an advertorial, so I thought that it was an advertorial, but it did not trouble me, as after all, it was on Facebook. But to see it on CBC News was like seeing a little red flag on the horizon. The question is, why would CBC News would cover an ad? It is important to distinguish between the genuine article and the advertorial. Otherwise, we should have news stories about Leon’s couches.

How we see ourselves is important to consider, how other people see us might be more crucial. Our enthusiastic reaction to the Gunardie’s story is natural, but our social identity and the positive emotions we experience from belonging to any social group, or place, must not be shaped by marketers alone. The book has already been written, it’s called: Tourism Marketing for Cities and Towns and chapter 3: Analyzing the City or Town as a Tourism Product offers food for thought.[8]

Daniel H. Dugas
Moncton, NB

 


 

[1] “Travel blogger says Moncton is ‘the place to be’,” last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/blog-travel-gunnarolla-moncton-nb-favourite-1.4008283

For an interactive map of « Our Country » see Canadian Geographic, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://maps.canadiangeographic.ca/our-country/map.asp

[2] Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World, (Hakkert, Totonto, 1974), 111

[3] “N.B. dumps licence plate slogan”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/n-b-dumps-licence-plate-slogan-1.1089931

[4] “Calgary Critic Wins Canadian Art Writing Prize”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://canadianart.ca/news/canadian-art-writing-prize-winner-announced/

[5] Tourism New Brunswick, Walk on the ocean floor, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/Products/ECs/WalktheOceanFloor-The-Hopewell-Rocks-EC.aspx

[6] “New Brunswick’ s famed Elephant Rock collapses in a pile of rubble”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/03/15/new-brunswick-s-famed-elephant-rock-collapses-in-a-pile-of-rubble.html

[7] “Province pays $1.1M for travel writers to promote tourism over 4 years”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/cash-coverage-tourism-vacation-1.3991776

[8] Bonita Kolb, Tourism Marketing for Cities and Towns: Using Branding and Events to Attract Tourists, (Routledge, 2017). https://www.routledge.com/Tourism-Marketing-for-Cities-and-Towns-Using-Social-Media-and-Branding/Kolb/p/book/9781138685192

For Analyzing the City or Town as a Tourism Product, see Chapter 3 in Google Books, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://bit.ly/2n6NjDm

 

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Daniel H. Dugas

Artiste numérique, poète et musicien, Daniel Dugas a participé à des expositions individuelles et de groupe ainsi qu’à plusieurs festivals et événements de poésie en Amérique du Nord, en Europe, au Mexique et en Australie. Son neuvième recueil de poésie L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time vient de paraître aux Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel Dugas is a poet, musician and videographer. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions as well as festivals and literary events in North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia. His ninth book of poetry: L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time has just been published by Les Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel Dugas es poeta, músico y videocreador. Ha participado en exposiciones individuales y colectivas, festivals y eventos literarios en Norteamérica, Europa, México y Australia. Acaba de publicar su noveno poemario, L’esprit du temps / The spirit of time (Les Editions Prise de parole).

L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time est un projet de transmutation du paysage publicitaire en paysage poétique. Ce livre est à la fois un livre de photographie, un recueil de poésie et un essai lucide mais ludique sur notre société matérialiste. Il a été produit en numérique et imprimé en quantité limitée.

Date : Décembre 2015
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782894239629

Éditions Prise de parole

http://www.prisedeparole.ca/auteurs/?id=148

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