Chapter 5 – Selling and Buying Newfoundland

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In January, 2006 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador launched a new tourism advertising campaign called Find Yourself or sometimes called Find Yourself Here.  During the 2011 Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador tourist industry association annual meeting the delegates gave the Minister of Tourism two standing ovations.  First, they applauded his announcement of a record number of visitors coming to the province in 2010 and second, they applauded a screening of the latest television ads in the province’s tourism advertising campaign.

     The campaign, created by the Newfoundland firm Target Marketing and Communications Inc., included eleven television ads by the winter of 2010/2011. Some of the eleven ads won advertising industry awards.  The ads, according to a long-standing editor of one of the awards competitions, were successful, in part, because of their “untouristy” approach (Rutherford Jan. 2011 correspondence).  This ‘untouristy’ approach was evident in one sixty-second television ad called Place Names.  The television ad consists of a series of images from several communities who were, according to then Premier Danny Williams, “magically named” (D. Williams interview May 2010).

Place Names begins with a sound effect that reminds the viewer of water running across pebbles in a stream coupled with the first notes of a waltz-like tune featuring a whistle, mandolin, and piano.  The viewer see two bicyclists: a young woman and young man, perhaps in their 20s, riding quickly across a white wooden bridge which spans a small stream.

 

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It appears to be a warm, slightly cloudy day. In the background are boats and weathered fishing sheds on the shoreline of a calm bay.  On the far side of the bay dark hills rise up and beyond them are the beginnings of what look like a range of snow-capped mountains.  The caption on this image says “Happy Adventure” and in smaller letters “Established in 1817.”

Next, the viewer sees a young girl, perhaps 10-years-old, walking up a hill on the gravel shoulder of a narrow road.  It is a sunny day and the young girl is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and holding a bouquet of what appear to be wild flowers in one hand.  As the young girl walks in slow-motion towards the camera the two bicyclists pass her, riding away from the camera

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The girl is on the bicyclists’ left and on their right ahead of them is a white wood clapboard house with a distinctive and more expensive saddle roof suggesting it may have been the residence of a wealthier person in the community. Across the road from the white residence is a large wooden building on the water’s edge.  Part of the building is painted red and part of the building is painted white.  It appears to be a building used in the fishery, but it is too large to be a fisherman’s stage. The caption on the image says “Sweet Bay” and in smaller letters “Population 105.”

Overhead electrical wires have disappeared from the image, but removing extraneous details from images is common fare in advertising.  It is also possible the red portion of the building on the water’s edge has been re-coloured or saturated to enhance the image, a practice which sometimes occurs in advertising. Featuring images of prominent buildings, in this case the properties of a wealthier family (by Newfoundland outport standards) is also common fare, specifically in the Find Yourself Here campaign.

What is more intriguing, however, is that the image captioned Sweet Bay is not in Sweet Bay.  The image is of the Quinton family home and John Quinton Limited fish store in Red Cliff, Bonavista Bay.

I looked at the Place Names ad too many times to count and I always presumed the image captioned Sweet Bay was in Sweet Bay.  I looked at the Place Names ad edit by edit and made notes on pads of lined yellow legal-size pads of paper.  I looked at the ad, again stopping and starting, edit by edit as I transcribed those notes electronically.  I always presumed the image captioned Sweet Bay was in Sweet Bay until I had a conversation with a woman from Sweet Bay in 2014.

The woman from Sweet Bay, Tish Williams, is a neighbor in Pouch Cove where I live.  I met her in the fall of 2013 after both of us were elected to sit on the Pouch Cove Town Council.  One day I asked her if she could identify the white house and fishing property in the Place Names ad for me.  I suspected the properties belonged a merchant family and I hoped she could confirm that for me.  I retrieved the image captioned Sweet Bay from my laptop computer and showed it to Ms. Williams, who said “Those buildings are not in Sweet Bay” (T. Williams interview June 19, 2014).  I asked Ms. Williams if she could direct me to someone who lives in Sweet Bay who might be able to confirm what she told me.  She suggested I call her aunt, Mary Maloney, in Sweet Bay.  The following day I called Ms. Mary Maloney, emailed her the image captioned Sweet Bay from the Place Names ad, and she replied “Those buildings are definitely, definitely not in Sweet Bay” (M. Maloney interview June 20, 2014).  Ms. Maloney suggested the buildings may be the Quinton premises in Red Cliff and she is correct.

I contacted Ernie Brake, Target Marketing and Communications’ Account Director for the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism account, who advised me that the Place Names ad was never intended to be “a literal depiction of specific places.  Rather, we’ve paired a selection of generic visuals and distinctive, captivating place names to evoke a rich and emotional response and desire to visit here.  The visuals are representative of traditional Newfoundland and Labrador elements such as coastlines, houses, people, culture, and landscapes” (E. Brake correspondence June 20, 2014).

Learning that I had been working under an incorrect assumption for some time left me feeling not very bright and, alternatively, misled by clever and skilled advertisers.  Learning that the image captioned Sweet Bay was not in Sweet Bay, but rather a generic visual “paired” with a “distinctive, captivating place name’ has led to some re-evaluation on my part of the ad campaign’s message that Newfoundland is about as far from Disneyland as you can possibly get.

Following the image captioned Sweet Bay, the camera looks across an inlet or cove (it is not obvious what the body of water is) and on a hill above the cove is a small lighthouse.  The lighthouse has white, wood clapboard with red trim.  It is a sunny day, but the light in the lighthouse flashes twice.  The caption says “Comfort Cove” and in smaller letters “Settled in mid 1800s.”

Next the viewer sees the two bicycles from the opening video sequences parked in the foreground and beyond them the two riders sit overlooking the sea.  They are surrounded by treeless cliffs.  Their backs are to the camera and he has his arm around her back and she has her arm around his neck.  The sound of the surf hitting the rocks is mixed prominently with the waltz-like music accompanying the video.  The caption says “Tickle Cove” and in smaller letters “Population 57.”

Next, the two bicyclists cross the screen, peddling quickly from left to right, first in front of a white, wood clapboard house with light green trim and then continuing to their right behind a white, wood clapboard shed with the same colour trim.  The camera follows the riders then loses sight of the two bicyclists as they go behind the shed, but the camera continues to pan left to right along the shed as if it is following the riders.  The caption says “Paradise River and in smaller letters “Established 1775.”

Next, the viewer sees a solitary tree with a twisted trunk and limbs silhouetted on the shoreline.  In the foreground is a green meadow.  Beyond the tree is a calm sea.  The caption says “Angels Cove” and in smaller letters “First settled early 1800s.”

Next, the viewer sees the corner of a cream coloured, wood clapboard house and the end of its formidable front porch facing the sea.  It is not the kind of porch usually found on the homes of working class people in rural Newfoundland.  On the porch is an empty wooden lawn chair also facing towards the calm sea.  The caption says “Little Paradise” and in smaller letters “Population 2.”

 

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There is no place name caption on the next image. The two cyclists ride slowly down a curving gravel road towards the camera.  On their right are two white, wood clapboard buildings.  One is a large two storey house with a saddle roof and bright green trim.  Given its large size the home would likely have belonged to a prominent family in the community when it was constructed. The adjacent building, which appears to be a building used for storage or some fashion of work rather than as a dwelling, has a bright green door matching the colour of the trim on the house. Behind the bicyclists on the gravel lane are five children.

 

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Two children are running behind the bicyclists, further behind them a girl follows, and behind her sitting up against the white picket fence in front of the house are two more children.  A dog that appears to be a black Labrador retriever is walking up the lane as the bicyclists and children pass by (not seen in illustration). Mixed in with the music the viewer hears the playful sound of a child’s squeal.

Originally, I presumed the producers of the Place Names liked this image and wanted to include it in the Place Names ad, but the place name of the community where the image was recorded was not consistent with the theme of two young bicycling tourists in places with evocative names that suggested adventure, comfort, paradise, cupid, love, desire, delight, contentment, and finally conception.  Knowing, however, that what is being depicted are generic images paired with evocative place names raises the question why wasn’t this image captioned with an evocative place name.  Is it possible the ad creators had exhausted the list of available evocative names that suggest romance?

Next, the viewer sees three children standing behind a red, picket fence.  On the left is a girl who is the eldest of the three children.  She appears to be eight or nine years old.  Beside her is the smallest of the three children, a boy who appears to be about four-years-old and barely tall enough to see over the fence. On his left is an older boy who appears to be about six years old.  Behind the children the viewer sees part of a two storey white clapboard house with dark red trim.  Like many of the houses in the Place Names ad the residence has a substantial porch with fanciful and distinctive gingerbread trim.

When the viewer first sees the three children they are each holding the tops of two of the pickets on the fence, looking over it towards the camera.  The pickets could more appropriately be called palings which are cut from 1 inch by 4 inch boards.  The tops of palings on the fence are not square cut or rounded, but they are more decoratively cut giving them the appearance of spears where the points on the top are wider than the shafts.  The points on the top of the palings each have a round hole cut in them and the palings are painted red.  I would speculate that when it was built the owner of the home was either a prominent person in the community, like a merchant, or the owner was a skilled and imaginative carpenter.

 

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The smallest child in the middle takes his left hand off of a paling and looking towards the camera he smiles and begins to wave.  The gesture reminds me of the woman from New England I met in Norris Point who told me she thought Newfoundlanders were “charming and sweet” and always waved and it was “so nice.”

The girl to his right looking over the fence towards the camera begins to laugh though the viewer does not hear the sound of the girl beginning to laugh.  The caption on this video sequence says “Cupids” and in smaller letters “First settled in 1610.”

There is no place name caption on the next image, but the viewer sees what appears to be the Labrador Straits.  Rocks rise out of the ocean in the foreground and dark hills are visible on the horizon.  The sky has large gray clouds and the point on the horizon where the hills meet the sky is obscured. The two bicyclists from earlier in the ad pass quickly in front of the camera.  They are so close to the camera that the viewer only sees the upper part of their torsos and not all of their heads.  The crunching sound of bicycle tires passing over gravel mixes with the waltz-like music.

Next, two people, presumably the two bicyclists, stand in a distance on the top of a cliff rising above a rocky shoreline.  The rocks have a reflective appearance as if they are wet and a light is being cast on them from some source.   I suspect the degree of saturation and luminosity is created during post production as many of the visual elements in the Find Yourself ad campaign appear to be. The caption says “L’Anse Amour” and in smaller letters “Population 7.”

Next, the viewer sees a man holding a small girl.  The viewer sees the man from the waist up.  It is a sunny day and he is wearing a short sleeved shirt.  He holds the child, who appears to be about 12 months old, in his hands above his head.  His arms are extended and he looks up at the child as he gently, in slow motion, swings her from side to side. The sound of a playful child’s squeal mixes with the waltz-like music.  The caption says “Little Hearts Ease” and in smaller letters “Established in 1753.”

Next, a young boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, looks over the edge of a wooden fishing boat towards the camera. The camera angle changes and looking over the young boy’s shoulder the viewer sees a young girl of about the same aged looking back at him and smiling.  The camera angle changes again and from overhead the viewer sees the young boy is looking into the wooden fishing boat where two young girls are playing a hand clapping game, like patty-cake, patty-cake, baker’s man.

 

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All three children are smiling. The caption says “Heart’s Desire” and in smaller letters “Settled in 1786.”

Up to this point the audio accompanying the images has been a mix of music, the sounds of children laughing, or what is sometimes called wild sound or sound present when the image was recorded like the sound of wind or water running over pebbles or bicycle tires passing over gravel.  But, before the image of the three children and the fishing boat cuts to the next image the viewer hears the voice of a male narrator saying, “Where is this place exactly?”  Following the word “exactly” the image in the ad changes and the viewer sees a young bride and groom.  They appear to be in their 20s.  He is wearing a dark suit and she is wearing a white wedding dress.  They are standing outside of a small, white clapboard church with a yellow door.  It is evening and the sun appears to have just set.  The groom, in slow motion, is lifting his bride up in his arms and across his body, with one arm around her back and the other arm supporting her legs.  As the groom is lifting the bride a caption appears that says “Hearts Delight” and in smaller letters “Population 736.”  As the groom lifts the bride the wedding dress flies up obscuring her upper torso and part of her smiling face.  She reaches out her free right arm and pushes her white wedding dress down to cover her legs.

 

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As she is pushing her wedding dress down the narrator continues, and answering the “Where is this place exactly” question he posed, the narrator says, “It is about as far from Disneyland as you can possibly get.”  As he is saying this the image changes again and the viewer sees an older man and woman walking on a pathway through a meadow holding hands.

 

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They walk towards the camera. The camera perspective changes and the viewer sees the same two older people walking away from the camera revealing the ocean on the left.

The image of the two older people walking hand in hand dissolves to a white screen with blue letters that say, “Newfoundland Labrador.com” and seeming to grow from the space between the letters ‘u’ and ‘n’ in the word Newfoundland is an animated image of a

pitcher plant, the official flower of the province.  The deep resonate voice of the narrator says, “Newfoundland and Labrador” and then the words Newfoundland and Labrador.com and the animated pitcher plant dissolve into an image of the two bicycles seen earlier parked in the foreground in front of another wood, clapboard house.  It is night.  Lights are on over two doors to the house.  The viewer hears the sounds of crickets.  The caption reads, “Conception Harbour” and in smaller letters, “Population 810.”  At the bottom of the image is the message, “Call Eileen at 1-800-563-6353.”

The Find Yourself campaign is built on the notion that Newfoundland is a “natural, yet surprisingly, exotic destination” (Uncommon Potential: undated) and  in background documents accompanying the Province’s 2011 entry into the Canadian Advertising Success Stories (Cassies) award competition the Province says without any ambiguity that in selling Newfoundland as a tourist destination, “Television was the cornerstone” (2011 Cassies:4).

Then Premier Danny Williams told me part of the appeal of the television ads was their sense of innocence which he describes “as pure Newfoundland” (Williams interview 2010).  He also attributes their success to their sense of “playfulness” (ibid).

Noel O’Dea, the President and Director of Strategic and Creative Planning of the marketing firm engaged by the Province, is quoted in a company media release saying “the tourism campaign has always been about telling the genuine stories of this place and evoking genuine emotion; speak to the heart and the mind will follow” (Target 2010:Feb2).

Those elements of innocence and playfulness are clearly present in the Place Names television ad and they reflect a strategy based on the view that “most advertising presents an inventory of products – places to go, sights to see, and things to do.  But people don’t buy products; they buy benefits.  The real magic lies deeper, several layers below the ‘product’ in the emotion and personality of the brand” (2007 Cassies application:4).

This notion of ‘the real magic” laying several layers below the product is echoed by Ernie Brake, Target Marketing and Communications’ Account Manager for the tourism ad campaign, who in describing the Place Names ad says, “From Cupids to Point Amour, Hearts Desire to Little Paradise, the names here don’t just describe a place; they evoke a feeling.  The spot is designed to emotionally connect with our audience” (Brake correspondence June 20, 2014).

The strategy underlying the advertising campaign is a clearly articulated one.  For example, in background documents accompanying the Province’s entry into the 2007 Cassies advertising award competition the Province acknowledges that its target audience “was singles and couples with no children living at home” (Cassies 2007:3) or people exactly like the two actors riding bicycles in the Place Names ad.   “Our visitors are travelers, not tourists” the Cassies judges are told (ibid:4) because “let’s face it; NL is not Disneyland” (ibid:4).  I am struck by the fact that the creators of the tourism advertising campaign contend that several layers below the ‘product’ lies ‘the real magic’ in their ads, yet they construct a campaign that holds up Disney’s magic kingdom as the polar opposite of the supposedly authentic Newfoundland they are selling.

 

“As Far From Disneyland As You Can Possibly Get”?

 

Setting aside the fact that a degree of fakery is present in the Place Names ad,  promoting the province as the antitheses to the post-modern fakery of Disneyland is central to the entire Find Yourself ad campaign. The campaign’s objective, to “differentiate NL in a way that was true to our brand DNA and relevant to the target market” (2007 Cassies entry form:3) is expressed in the background documents that accompanied the campaign’s entry into the CASSIES Canadian advertising awards competition in 2007 and again in 2011.

The creators of the television ads and the authors of the awards competition background documents use the word “Disneyland.” They could have, however, easily used “Disney World,” the Florida theme park which is 150 times larger than California’s Disneyland theme park and one of the most visited tourism destinations in the world. In situating Newfoundland in opposition to Disney theme parks the creators of the Newfoundland tourism ads would probably concur with the travel writer who describes Disney World as a “twenty-six square mile temple of consumerism dedicated to celebrating synthetic American culture at its overcrowded, fake dreams, corndog and cotton candy-inhaling worst’ (Thompson 2009:14).  In contrast, the Newfoundland being marketed in the province’s tourism advertising campaign is the one described by the Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd, an investor in a vodka product that is produced in Newfoundland, as “a throwback to another world.  It’s like part of Ireland broke off and floated over” (Batten 2010).

The advertising campaign’s strategy is to make the “Newfoundland is not Disneyland” message resonate with what they identify as the campaign’s priority target which are “baby boomers” who “have the money, the time, and the keen interest to explore new lands – unusual and unspoiled places off-the-beaten-track.  Places like NL” (Cassies 2007:3). These singles or couples with no children living at home are identified by the authors of the background documents as an “opportunity group” who “don’t see themselves as tourists, but as increasingly sophisticated and experienced travelers” (Cassies2011:3).  “Psychographically” these sophisticated and experienced travelers are, according to the authors of the background documents, “seeking unusual places and experiences as an antidote to the plastic composition of urban life” (ibid:3).

Dividing the market into two groups, sophisticated and experienced travelers or mere tourists is not new.  Lofgren, for example, contends this division is about 200 years old.

“Almost as soon as the word tourist appeared at the start of the nineteenth century, it began to carry derogatory overtones, but the democratization of travel has charged the word with greater irritation and scorn.” (Lofgren 2002:262)

Positioning an authentic Newfoundland as the antithesis of a fake Disneyland and appealing to travelers rather than tourists is striking for several reasons.  First, there is nothing novel in a tourist destination marketing escape and positioning itself as being an alternative to the “plastic composition of urban life.”  For example, Cohen observes in her research in the British Virgin Islands that “BVI is marketed as a natural and pristine paradise, and the people occupying the BVI are depicted as naturally friendly and accommodating.  The emphasis upon nature, the untouched quality of the BVI, and the  accommodating character of the people posits the BVI as outside the stream of time, a premodern paradise open for discovery and possession” (Cohen 2010:12).

The notion of tourism as an escape from the monotony of urban life is observed by Logfren in Europe where the seaside resort has long been perceived as a “remedy for urban ills” (Lofgren 2002:243).  Similarly, Dawson observed that, “one overwhelming motivating factor for tourists in British Columbia before 1930 was the desire to escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.”  (Dawson 2004:20).  Rothman made a similar observation writing from the perspective of the American Southwest observing that a “vacation is the momentary escape from the burden of everyday labour” (Rothman 2003:190).  Graburn makes the same observation arguing that “tourism is best understood as a kind of ritual, one in which the special occasion of leisure and travel stand in opposition to everyday life at home and work (Gmelch 2010:25).  Finally, whatever fake may mean, even Disney theme parks, according to Giroux and Pollack , offer adults, “a respite from the drudgery of work, and an opportunity to escape from the alienation and boredom of daily life”

(Giroux and Pollack 2010:8).

Attempting to position an authentic Newfoundland in opposition to a fake Disneyland is striking for another reason and that is because both products market nostalgia and sanitize history.  According to Giroux, Disney theme parks “have become the nostalgia machine par excellence” (ibid:40) characterized by a “whitewashing of history” (ibid: 41).  Similarly, it is my view that Limerick could have been describing Newfoundland when he commented on a version of the American West that has a way of rendering history “in pastel colours, sketching a cheery and inconsequentially quaint past” (Wrobel 2001:56).

In addition, the notion that one product claims to be authentic while accusing the other of being fake does not acknowledge, as Keunz notes, “At Disney, guests know that the park’s entertainments are ‘fake,’ but claim the fakery doesn’t matter.  They know that it is ‘phony,’ but feel the phoniness is fun, or harmless, or in some larger way, real, the bigger real, the greater truth” (Fish and Jameson:1998:111). Based on my research, one could say the same thing about tourists visiting the Random Passage television set in Trinity Bay.

Keunz identifies another feature of Disney theme parks that resembles some parts of Newfoundland’s tourism product.  At Disney theme parks “workplace, worker, and labour” are translated into “theatre, cast, and performance” and “an entire workforce shows up each day, not in uniform, but in costume” (ibid:112).  It is not unlike what transpires with the staging of the daily Newfoundland pageant by the Rising Tide Theatre company on the streets of Trinity.

While Newfoundland and Disneyland both offer an escape from the rigors or boredom of everyday or urban life, Newfoundland’s tourism strategy is to appeal to the tourist who Strozna argues is in search not only for a contrast with everyday life, but specifically the pursuit of authentic experiences which are “a reflection of modern tourists’ desire to reconnect with the pristine, the primitive, the natural, that which is untouched by modernity” (Stronza 2001:265) or as Desmond  puts it a destination that “promises escape into another more natural realm for those who see themselves firmly positioned in modernity” (Desmond 1999:145).

This desire for escape is addressed by Selwyn who concluded that one of the motives of tourists is, “to find a ‘culture’ in which nostalgically to become immersed in order to fill an emotional and intellectual void left by the glacial process of modernity” (Boissssevain 1996:248).  This notion of urban life and an emotional and intellectual void was addressed by philosophers Lionel Trilling and Lin Jackson.

Trilling in a discussion of authenticity and sincerity observes that, “the sense of something intervening between man and his own organic endowment is a powerful element in the modern consciousness.” (Trilling 1972:127).  Jackson, writing from Newfoundland in 1986 and long before the Find Yourself campaign was contemplated, argues that, “People want to feel that somewhere out there beyond the confines of their overpopulated, thoroughly industrialized cities, an original life in nature still goes on undisturbed . . . They see us as noble savages; heroes and heroines of ‘authentic culture’ …They need us only to fulfill what is lacking in their own consciousness in the crass, vulgar, non-community of the mass society” (Jackson 1986:4/5).

This appeal of an escape to a more natural place has been a feature of Newfoundland tourism advertising for more than a century.  According to Williams the main feature of Newfoundland’s promotional literature between 1890 and 1914 was the outport and “the existence of a quaint and unusual way of life which appealed to a romantic nostalgia for rural communities” (Williams 1980:200).

It is tempting to say little has changed. The rural Newfoundland being marketed in the Place Names television advertisement features 13 quaint and unusually named communities nostalgically recalled from better times.  Examining the Place Names advertisement edit by edit the viewer sees people in seven locales.  There are images of nine children, one image of a man and an infant child, an image of a bride and groom, and an image an older man and woman.  Someone in Toronto looking at Place Names might think rural Newfoundland has an abundance of children. It used to, but not anymore.  Since 1992 young people have left rural Newfoundland, the number of women of child bearing age has declined, and schools in rural Newfoundland are closing because there are fewer and fewer children every year.

For example, according to an official in the Province’s Eastern School District’s head office, in the school year 2000-01 the grade 4-6 school in Conception Harbour, one of the named communities in the Place Names ad, had an enrollment of 93 students.  St. Anne’s Elementary school closed following the 2000-01 school year and Conception Harbour grade 4 students were bussed to a school in the neighboring community of Colliers.  The town’s grade 5 and 6 students were split between schools in the neighboring communities of Holyrood and Avondale.  As a result of a continuing decline in the number of children enrolling in the area’s schools more consolidation followed and in the school year 2013-14 all of the elementary aged school children in Conception Harbour attended the school in Colliers.  In contrast to the 93 students enrolled in the grade 4-6 Conception Harbour school in 2000-01, the total number of K-6 students bussed from Conception Harbour to the school in Colliers in 2013-14 was 41. (Morrisey 2013: personal correspondence).

By emphasizing the presence of children in communities where the number of children is in serious decline the province’s tourism ads skew reality, but reality isn’t what’s being sold in Newfoundland or in Disney theme parks.

 

An Alternative to the “Plastic Composition of Urban Life”

 

Selling Newfoundland as an alternative to what the creators of the Find Yourself advertising campaign call the “plastic composition of urban life” is neither novel nor new. Susan Williams’ and Allan Byrne’s analysis of Newfoundland tourism advertising make the same observation, for example, about the promotion of innocence.  In early 20th century advertising Williams noted that “the Newfoundlander was described as honest, good-natured, noble, quiet, orderly, law-abiding, open-hearted, amiable, and kindly” (Williams 1980:196).  Similarly, Byrne noted that tourist promotion from the 1930’s featured the “archetypal Newfoundland outport experience, one which included friendliness, generosity, laughter” (Byrne 2008:50).

Both researchers also observed the sanitizing of history in Newfoundland tourism advertising.  In the early 20th century Williams notes that the typical fishing villages “were described as picturesque, charming, pretty, romantic, quaint, neat, nice, pleasant, comfortable, busy, and thriving”  (Williams 1980:202).  Byrne, who examined the selling of Newfoundland as a destination for big game hunting and trophy fishing, noted that  “Newfoundland settlers struggling with the starvation and unemployment of the 1930s likely found neither comfort nor truth in the image of Newfoundland as a “sportsman’s paradise”  (Byrne 2008:6/7).  In his examination of post confederation tourism advertising Overton noted that “The view of rural Newfoundland presented in tourist advertising is, then, a specifically middle class view of country life” (Overton 1996:117) .

This sanitizing of history is not unique to Newfoundland tourism advertising.  In British Columbia Dawson argues that “in selling BC’s history and commodifying British and Aborginal cultures, tourism promoters encouraged visitors and the host population to embrace a selective reimagining of the province’s past – one that substituted ‘imperialist nostalgia’ for the complicated and often ugly realities of colonialism” (Dawson, M. 2004:176).  Handler and Gable identified this sanitizing of history as a contest between competing versions of history at historic Williamsburg.  They characterized it as a “struggle between critical history and celebratory history, a dirty past and a Disney past, a new history and an old one” (Handler and Gable 1997:7).   My view is that a similar contest between a critical history and a celebratory history is being played out in Newfoundland’s Find Yourself tourism advertising campaign.

 

Selling Innocence

 

No one in the Newfoundland tourism industry I talked with goes as far as Michael Eisner.  In describing his goal the one-time chairman and chief executive of the Walt Disney Company said “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art.  We have no obligation to make a statement.  To make money is our only objective.”  (Masters 2000:102).

No one in the Newfoundland tourism industry I talked with goes as far as Eisner, but Steve Allen comes close.  In 2011 Steve Allen was the head of the national Canadian Tourism Commission and a guest at the Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador annual convention in St. John’s.  I met him at the convention and in the course of a conversation about making distinctions between visitors, guests, travelers, and tourists Steve Allen told me the distinction is nothing more than a matter of “marketing lingo.”  According to Steve Allen “Tourist was yesterday.  Traveler is today.  Visitor economy is a broader term.  Visitors visit family but do not experience tourist products.  Not a high yield traveler.  How much did they spend?  That is the point” (Feb 18, 2011).

At some point in any enterprise described as an industry, making a profit is the point and that was not lost on Newfoundland’s Premier during the time the Province’s tourism advertising budget increased from $6 million a year to $13 million a year.  Danny Williams, Newfoundland’s Premier from 2003 to 2010, may be singularly responsible for not only financing the Find Yourself ads but also their content.  He understood the connection between marketing and growing the tourism industry, but unlike Michael Eisner the Premier had a statement he wanted to make.

During an interview in the Premier’s Executive Committee’s boardroom Premier Williams told me, “I love marketing” (Williams interview May 11, 2010) and acknowledged that he was “intimately involved” in the production of the Find Yourself ads (ibid). Williams, a lawyer and businessman who was the owner and president of the province’s largest cable television company at one point before taking office, told me “I felt that we had to change the way we presented ourselves to the rest of the world.  You know, sure we’ve got great golf courses, but we’re not the premier golf destination in the world.  We’re not known for our many, many sand beaches even though we do have some beautiful sandy beaches.  We are who we are, what we are.  You know, our people, our culture, our natural environment and that’s what we need to sell.”  (ibid).

Williams did not cite Wright as part of his rationale for using television advertising to change the way Newfoundland presented itself to the world, but he could have cited Wright who argues that “the images we see on our television screen play a crucial role in determining how we construct our reality” (Wright 2008:88).

Anholt could have been describing Williams when he observed, “The main reason why building a brand in the corporate sector is so much more straightforward than doing the same for a place is precisely because corporations have a supreme commander in the shape of a CEO, whose vision tends to form the defining narrative of the place” (Anholt 2010:83).  Anholt could also have been describing Williams’ motives when he wrote that, “the desire is simply to be properly understood, rather than allow one’s country to remain forever the victim of an out-of-date cliché, truly ‘branded’ by public ignorance” (ibid 45).

For Premier Danny Williams, tourism was about money, but it was not just about money and that may be part of the reason why the ad campaign was more celebratory than critical.  For example, one expects the sun to shine in tourism ads and a certain degree of embellishment and idealization, but the rural Newfoundland being marketed to tourists in the Find Yourself campaign contains some obvious reversals of reality.  For example, as noted earlier the rural Newfoundland in the Find Yourself ad campaign is full of young children (often seen walking or running away from the camera in slow motion) and relatively few older people while, in fact, the demographics of rural Newfoundland is that of an aging population watching its schools close as school age children disappear from the landscape.

There is also a recasting of reality in the depiction of the inshore fishery that was the economic underpinning of rural Newfoundland.  The rural outport in the Find Yourself ad campaign is not unlike the outport Susan Williams observed in her analysis of Newfoundland promotional literature between 1890 and 1914.  Williams noted that the “vision of idyllic rural simplicity” (Williams 1980:173) was the product being marketed.  Allan Byrne made a similar observation in his analysis of tourism promotional literature between 1925 and 1946.  Byrne’s observation is that the photographs of “dirty, poorly clothed families near fishing flakes or other outport backdrops . . . were intended to be equated with simplicity, quaintness, and resourcefulness” (Byrne 2008:49).

Simplicity and quaintness is evident in the Find Yourself campaign in an ad called Architecture.  In Architecture the first image the viewer sees is a man and boy standing on a wharf.  Beyond them at the end of the wharf are three fish sheds.

 

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The man is pointing with his hand towards something in the sky.  There are no boats at the wharf.  There is no work being done.  All of the paint has faded from the fish sheds.

In another image the camera looks down, from overhead, at a man on a stage who in turn is looking down at his boat that is in the water, tied up below him.  There is no fishing gear in the boat.  In another image the viewer sees colourful houses built against a cliff beside the salt water, but there are no boats tied up in front of the houses where wharves used to be.  The houses are in a community known as the Battery in St. John’s where houses now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the residents are far more likely to be urban professionals than fishermen.

A later image shows a man standing in the doorway of a fishing shed. The fishing shed is also in the Battery and today it is an informal community museum.  The narrator in the ad says, “In a world oddly bent on conformity there is something strangely encouraging about a place that is anything but” and among the images that follow are an aerial image of six fishing stages on a beach with the sea in the background, but there are no fishermen in the picture.  In another image a person is seen walking on the crest of a hill and at the bottom of the hill is a fishing stage, but there are no fishermen.

There are a variety of other images in this ad, including two girls holding flowers while standing in front of a white picket fence and an older man carrying a wooden chair as he walks in front of a white clapboard house with red trim.

 

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White shirts are drying on a clothesline behind the house and the sea is beyond.    In another image a man is painting a picket fence in a meadow.  The sea in the background.  He is painting the fence red, an unusual colour in a place where most fences are painted white.  In another image an older man leans up against the side of a blue clapboard shed.

 

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He is playing an accordion.  In real life he is a university professor who enjoys acting.   In another image four children are playing street hockey on a St. John’s street and in another image, in slow motion, one girl pulls a wagon and a second girl rides in the wagon.  The girl in the wagon is carrying two bouquets of flowers and the wagon is being pulled away from the camera.  The narration ends, the Newfoundland and Labrador logo appears and then it dissolves into an image of the man who was carrying the wooden chair now sitting in the chair.

 

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His back is to the camera.  On his left is the red house and below him, towards the sea is a meadow.  On his right in in the foreground is a fence that, if one looks carefully, is missing several rails and has partially fallen down.

Simplicity and quaintness are also evident in an ad called Clothesline.  In the first image a viewer sees two billowing white sheets on a clothesline in the foreground and beyond the billowing white sheets is the sea.

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The use of clothes drying on a clothesline is a theme that repeats in the Find Yourself campaign.  It is no coincidence.  Premier Danny Williams told me the clothesline image was “fabulous” and part of a larger concept. “For example,” he said, “the people we have in the ads, they haven’t been sort of staged and they’re just not actors who have been told to act a certain way.  We’ve captured, I think, the natural personality of people.  We’ve taken children in their natural beauty and their innocence and just shown them running through the fields or peering around a corner or looking in through a door . . . so, it’s that playfulness, that innocence that’s pure Newfoundland and Labrador and then when you couple that and backdrop that with a clothesline.  A clothesline is something in Newfoundland and Labrador that we take completely for granted, but when you’re shown a middle-aged lady for want of a better term, I hope I haven’t insulted the person who happens to be in that particular, but say she was a middle-aged lady hanging out her clothes, that just shows a warmth and a natural beauty that we portray.  You know, I mean we don’t have to sell ourselves as a people.  Just capture us and capture us in the sense of seeing us as we are in our natural environment and that sells itself” (Williams interview)

Roger Jameson has been operating a tourist business in rural Newfoundland for more than 20 years.  I interviewed him during the 2011 Hospitality Newfoundland annual meeting and Roger Jamison said, “When I see those ads I almost start to cry with national pride.”  And when he talks about what it is about Newfoundland that appeals to tourists Roger Jamison says “what I hear from my customers why this place resonates . . . .the personality of the people . . .it’s the scenery . . . the clothesline.”

In her article titled “Handmade By An American Indian” (Rothman 2003:101-117) Leah Dilworth concludes with a photograph of an installation created by Indian artist Nora Naranjo-Morse titled “A Pueblo Woman’s Clothesline” (ibid:114).  Dilworth observes that the clothesline “suggests the texture of a Pueblo woman’s life as it is actually lived and the kind of domestic and political labor that has not ‘traditionally’ appeared in the marketplace”  (ibid:115).  “The object” Dilworth writes, “escapes commodification” (ibid).  The recurring clothesline in Newfoundland’s Find Yourself ad campaign, I suggest, does not escape commodification.

In the ad Clothesline aprons are hanging on a clothesline and behind the clothesline are weathered lobster pots stacked up against a fishing shed.

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The wood clapboard of the shed had been painted red at some point, but the paint has largely faded away.  In another image four, white fisherman’s cotton gloves are held on a clothesline by wooden clothespins.  The ad features a woman (who Danny Williams describes as being “middle-aged”) hanging clothes and two young girls and a young boy.  The sea is in the background. The children are playing while the woman is hanging clothes.

 

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Eventually, the two girls help the woman as she hangs a colourful quilt.  The narrator says “Around every corner, around every turn you’re reminded that around here not every work of art hangs on the wall.”

McKay contends that the image of laundry on a line is an illustration of antimodernism applied to gender (McKay 1994:262), but for the author of an article in Applied Arts: Canada’s Visual Communications Magazine the image of “an apple-cheeked grandma” pinning “bedding on a clothesline while two laughing kids run in the heather” sells Newfoundland visitors the promise of “a genuine experience” (Demont 2007:74).

Simplicity and quaintness are also evident in an ad called TOP 40.  In Top 40 the viewer sees an older, silver-haired man and a very young girl sitting in the doorway of a building that used to be a fisherman’s stage.  The paint is almost completely faded from the building.

 

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The man is slowly playing an accordion and appears to be trying to teach the young girl a tune.  In the next image the viewer sees the hands of a man playing the same tune on a mandolin.  The tune is being played with energy and then the viewer sees men and women clapping in time to the music.  An older, silver-haired man is seen playing the accordion and an older girl, perhaps the same little girl now grown up, is playing a fiddle.

 

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People hold hands and dance in four circles.

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The dancing and merriment continue and the narrator says, “Isn’t it time you got all that Top 40 out of your system.”  Then the viewer sees a man step dancing.  People are sitting in chairs around the dancers and a young child is asleep in its mother’s arms.  Following the white screen with the blue letters spelling out Newfoundland and Labrador the camera shows the older musician perspiring and exhaling and the younger girl smiles as the crowd applauds their performance.  The impression that is left is that the older man and young girl live in an outport fishing community and the dance is being held at some sort of hall in the community.  My experience, however, is that dances in community halls in rural Newfoundland usually feature a DJ playing recorded music or a single musician or a two-person musical group playing music while being accompanied by an electronic drum kit.  In addition, the dancers tend to dance in two’s rather than in circles of several dancers and the music being played is much more likely to have originated in the mainland of Canada and the United States rather than the bays of Newfoundland.

Simplicity and quaintness are also evident in the ad called Half-Hour.  In Half-Hour the camera looks down at a cliff face and sea birds towards the water below.  Then the camera looks at the face of a man in a boat looking up towards the cliff face and the sea birds.  What follows is a sequence of images that include a woman on the balcony of a house on the side of a hill overlooking a cove.  The woman is shaking what appears to be a white sheet or table cloth out over the water’s edge.  Three towels or pillow cases are handing over the railings of a deck at the end of the house.

 

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Next, the viewer sees a young man and a girl, perhaps 18 – 20 years old, standing on a wharf.  She is smiling at him and he is making a gesture like he is skipping a stone across the water.  In the next image the viewer sees the same young man and woman on the wharf, but through the doorway of a shelter on the wharf.  The water is calm, but there are no fishermen on the wharf and no work is being done.  Later in the ad there is the reflection of a colourful wooden house in a pool of water.

 

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The camera then reveals an older man carrying a model of the colourful outport house and the viewer discovers that the reflection was of models of wooden clapboard buildings rather than a real wooden outport buildings.

Simplicity and quaintness are also evident is an ad called Counting.  In Counting the viewer sees a car with four people, presumably tourists, driving on a variety of ocean side roads.  The people are whale watching though it is not obvious from the beginning of the ad that that is what they are doing.  What the viewer sees is the car with the four people passing a young girl in a yellow dress who is running in slow motion through a meadow and away from the camera with her arms extended like the wings of an airplane,

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The viewer also sees old, weathered fences, ten caribou grazing, and a woman standing in a fenced garden tending sheep and hears the voice of a woman counting, “1 . . . .2 . . . .3”

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The woman is holding a bouquet of flowers and seems to be looking at the tourist’s car as drive by.  The viewer sees a white puff of spray on the blue surface of the sea as a whale blows.  It emerges that the female voice counting “1. . . 2. . .3” is the voice of tourist counting the sighting of whales.  The narrator says, “They pass by here every year by the thousands.  Of course, show time may vary.”  As the narrator is conveying his message the viewer sees the four people out of their car and walking away from the camera towards the edge of a meadow and looking out to the sea.  Then the viewer sees a whale leaping out of the ocean.  The scale of the whale is out of proportion with its surroundings, an effect obviously created during post-production. Following the white screen with the words Newfoundland and Labrador the viewer sees the car with the four people coming towards the camera and as it passes the viewer sees the young girl in the yellow dress running in slow motion away from the camera through a meadow with her arms extended like the wings of an airplane.

In all of these five ads, Architecture, Clothesline , Top 40, Half-hour, and Counting what is being marketed is an idealized and romanticized version of outport life.   There is no work being done in the outports portrayed in these five ads.  There are no fishermen on the wharves.  In one sequence where fishing boats are seen on the water there are miniature models in the context of a message that people in Newfoundland are not in a hurry. It is neither a new message nor an original one.

Williams noted that the Newfoundland landscape portrayed in promotional literature in the period 1890-1914 portrayed was “obviously romantic” (Williams 1990:116) not unlike the fishing villages in the Find Yourself ads a century.

In his research in Nova Scotia McKay described the stereotype of the Nova Scotia Folk (outport Newfoundland’s Nova Scotia counterpart) as “slow-talking unimaginative, placid and contented” (McKay 1994:222).  McKay also argues that this stereotype has become definitional as “the people of the fishing villages came to be seen as bearers of Nova Scotia’s cultural essence” (ibid:xv).

In his research in New Salem, Bruner also found a quaint past for sale.  He reported that 1) “some tourists to New Salem are consuming nostalgia,” 2) “they are also buying the idea of progress,” and 3) they “are also buying a commemoration of traditional America, of honest values, good neighbors, hard work, virtue and generosity, the success ideology, and the sense of community in small-town America”  (Bruner 2005:167).  I would add that tourists at New Salem are also buying a sanitized history or what Desmond in her research in Hawaii described as “the erasure of history” (Desmond 1999:84).

Desmond argues that Hawaii has been positioned as a ‘safe, secure, yet exotic” (ibid:84) destination and the image of Native Hawaiians have been cast as  “primitives living in the past” (ibid:40). In the context of this “pre-urban, pre-industrial pastoral vision of harmony with nature” (ibid:40) Desmond contends “the full blown plantation economy is almost without exception invisible.  Natives seem only to play, sing, dance, and frolic” (ibid:83).  Watching the eleven television ads in Newfoundland’s Find Yourself campaign sometimes leaves me feeling the same way about the portrayal of Newfoundland being sold to visitors.

Mike Clair, the former provincial Director of Culture and Heritage, however, has a different view of the Find Yourself television ads.

Mike Clair:  They’re gorgeous, gorgeous . . . Previously, we couldn’t figure out how to convey culture properly.  Either in print or, well the time I was there was never a big TV budget anyway, right.  So you could afford to do one maybe two ads.  So you went with your icebergs and your whales and your seabirds and that kind of stuff.  But, I don’t think we could ever figure out how to convey culture properly and Target Marketing figured it out.  You know, with the quilts hanging on the line or of course they highlight acts like Great Big Sea (a popular Newfoundland music group) so that’s part of the culture, but they almost sell themselves so that is not a big deal there.  But they did figure it out, but also they managed to convey the richness of the place through the cinematography.  The richness of the colours.  The movement.  The swaying movement of the leaves or the quilts on the line.  So, they’ve been brilliant.  Brilliant.” (Clair interview June 3, 2010)

 

While the ads may feature culture more prominently than earlier ads, selling the landscape continues to be a central feature of Newfoundland’s tourism advertising much in the same way Desmond says Hawaii has “relied on the selling of Hawaii’s scenery as a primitive paradise” (Desmond 1999:118).

 

Selling the Landscape

 

     Williams reports that between 1890 and 1914 descriptions of the Newfoundland landscape in tourism promotions “usually included some of the following components of the romantic: 1) beauty and sublimity; 2) open, endless spaces, grand dimensions; 3) the picturesque, implying nature contained and enclosed, as well as contrasts, unevenness and irregularities; 4) wilderness, solitude and spiritual freedom’ (Williams 1990:116).

Allan Byrne reports that during the late Nineteenth and the early Twentieth centuries the Newfoundland wilderness was promoted as a “wilderness sanatorium” (Byrne 2007:3) and a “lush, benign wilderness” (ibid:17).  “Prior to the invention of cultural motifs such as Newfoundland songs, dance, folklore, crafts, and a wide range of celebrated cultural icons” Byrne contends that, like Hawaii prior to the 1930s, Newfoundland tourism, “was ‘scripted’ primarily upon its natural wilderness’ (ibid:38/39).

Newfoundland tourism continues to be scripted heavily upon its natural wilderness.  Consider, for example, the Find Yourself television ad called Gros Morne.   In Gros Morne the viewer sees a succession of aerial images of waves cresting, waves crashing against rocky shorelines, dramatic skyscapes, and then the viewer hears the haunting voice of a woman singing.  Next, beyond long, green beach grass in the foreground the viewer sees a woman in a dress standing on a beach with her back to the camera.  The woman’s shoulders are bare and waves crash against a large round rock beside her. Following more landscape images without the woman, the viewer then sees the woman again, her back still to the camera.  She is sitting on a rock in a hollow of a cliff on the shoreline.  Foam from the waves blows by her on the beach.

 

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A narrator says ‘On your journey through life make sure your biography has at least one extraordinary chapter” and while the narrator is delivering these lines the viewer sees aerial images of the landscape and then the woman in the dress, at a distance, walks towards the camera.  A cliff face is to her left.  Grass and a prominent piece of driftwood are in the foreground and the viewer can see the wind blowing the woman’s hair.  Then the viewer sees three more landscape images including a waterfall and as the narrator says the words “extraordinary chapter” the camera passes over a cliff face revealing a majestic fjord.  The viewer hears the sound of drums and the caption on the image says Gros Morne National Park and as additional vistas are displayed the words UNESCO World Heritage Site are added to the caption.

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Then the screen dissolves to a white background with blue letters spelling out Newfoundland and Labrador.com and then that image dissolves to an image of the woman in the dress beside the round rock at the ocean’s edge, this time walking towards the camera, and on this image the words “Call Kelly” and a 1-800 phone number appear.

The Newfoundland landscape also figures prominently in the Find Yourself television ad called The Edge.  The viewer sees a man in a yellow jacket standing on top of a hill.  Then the man in the yellow jacket is seen walking away from the camera across what appears to be a marsh.  An iceberg towers above him in the background.  The man continues to walk towards the rocks at the edge of the ocean and then the camera perspective changes and the viewer sees the man in at a greater distance at the top of a very high cliff.  The man walks towards the edge.  Then the viewer sees the same image but from further away revealing the sea surrounding the cliff and then the camera moves further away again and the viewer sees the same image, but revealing more of the surrounding landscape.

 

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Then a narrator says “The people from the Flat Earth Society believe that this place is one of the four corners of the world, the very edge of the earth.  That’s just foolishness, isn’t it?”

Next, the viewer sees a sequence of images of the man on the top of the cliff looking out towards the sea, surrounded by the ocean and the shoreline in the background.

 

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The man peers over the edge of the cliff, down the sheer rock face, waves break against the cliff and as the narrator says “isn’t it” the viewer sees a close up image of the man’s eyes and bearded face.  He looks towards the camera, as if he is looking at something in a distance and the image dissolves to a white screen with blue letters that spell Newfoundland and Labrador.com and as that image dissolves the viewer sees the waves breaking against a cliff face revealing what the man in the yellow jacket was looking at.

An overarching theme of Find Yourself  ads speaks to the selling of Newfoundland as a place to discover spiritual satisfaction, but  Gros Morne and The Edge appeal explicitly to a visitor’s desire for the spiritual freedom that Susan Williams observed was part of the romantic vision expressed in Newfoundland promotional advertising a century ago.

 

Selling Friendly

 

It can be said that the Find Yourself ad campaign and its predecessors that sold the landscape and the warm and friendly people and their simple lifestyle worked.  The 2009 Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) visitor survey conducted on the island’s Bonavista peninsula asked visitors to identify the most enjoyable part of their visit. The two most common responses were 1) the scenery and natural beauty and 2) the “friendly and interesting people” (ACOA 2010:ii).

Anecdotal evidence I gathered from individuals in the tourist industry is consistent with the ACOA findings on the Bonavista Peninsula. Roger Jamieson, who runs a lodge in Steady Brook, told me that “mostly what I hear from my customers is that the way this place resonates with people, primarily it’s the people, it’s the scenery, and the coastline. And I don’t think that is necessarily going to change, at least not in this generation.  Ah, I’m not so sure about the Facebook and the You Tube generation.  I often say the downfall of rural Newfoundland was satellite and cable television because we all started to sound like we were from Detroit.  So, we still have to try and keep some of that authenticity”  (Jamison interview: 2010).

Stan Cook, a former member of the executive of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador told me his customers typically said they “cannot believe how nice and friendly the people are” (Cook interview: 2010).

Marilyn Coles Hayley, the Administrator of the College of the North Atlantic campus in Bonavista which offers a program in cultural tourism, told me some tourists “Come because they want to experience the wildlife.  They want to come and see the puffins and they want that experience and adventure. . .  I know a lot of the visitors that we have coming to our little town where I live, you know, they want to see the clotheslines.  They want to see what’s on that ad and I think it’s that feeling of belonging and that you’re friendly people” (Coles-Hayley interview:2010).

The findings of my interviews with tourists are also consistent with the ACOA survey findings on the Bonavista Peninsula and anecdotal evidence from people in the Newfoundland tourism business.  During the summer of 2011 I asked 126 tourists in the Gros Morne National Park area, in the Trinity area, and in St. John’s what experiences they’d had in Newfoundland that were most like what they expected to experience before they arrived.  The two most common replies were the landscape and the people.

When asked what experience was most like what they expected it did not matter whether the visitors were a couple from Ottawa, two couples from Kingston, a couple from Banff, a couple from the Netherlands, a group of ten people from Germany, a single woman from Toronto, a single woman from Pickering, or the three people from New Brunswick, Ontario, and Mexico traveling together. The most frequent reply was the same, the landscape.  Tourists described the Newfoundland landscape as “gob-smacking beautiful” and “wild” and “bleak” and “serene” and “gorgeous.” Whether it was the rugged coastline or a picturesque village or wildlife like whales and puffins the Newfoundland landscape appears to be as important an attraction to tourists in 2011 as it was a century earlier.

The next most frequent reply by tourists to the question about what experience was most like what they expected was the friendliness of Newfoundlanders.  The words tourists chose to describe their hosts were “friendly,” “entertaining,” “open,” and “warm,”  They commented on “the little villages,” “distinctive accents,”  “music,” and the fact that  Newfoundlanders “speak on the street,” and say “hello,” and leave their “doors unlocked.”

These replies were not unlike what Desmond encountered in her research into tourism in Hawaii where locals represented “a pre-urban, pre-industrial pastoral vision of harmony with nature” (ibid 1999:40).  If one can ignore the difference in climate between the islands of Hawaii and Newfoundland, then I suggest Desmond could have been writing about Newfoundland when she commented on Hawaii’s “positioning as a part of, yet apart from the mainland.  Hawaii is safe, secure, yet exotic . . .its essence is a slice of the past” (ibid:84).  She could also have been writing about Newfoundland when she observes that “selected cultural practices which once circulated mainly in non- commercial social contexts now enter the cash economy, marketed for outsiders” (ibid:99) or about the “erasure of history” (ibid:84) that sometime accompanies that marketing.

Rising Tide Theatre’s Artistic Director Donna Butt describes the summer pageant in Trinity as an artistic enterprise rather than as a tourism enterprise, but when the company stages a dinner theatre performance that includes actors dressed as Christmas Mummers dancing with tourists in July then the theatre company has clearly taken a cultural practice which once circulated mainly in a non-commercial social context and moved it out of time and into the cash economy and marketed it to outsiders.

Few would argue with former premier Danny Williams who describes the Newfoundland landscape as “rugged . . . pristine . . . natural (Williams interview 2010).  Few would fault him for making the landscape a centerpiece of the Find Yourself ad campaign.  Where an argument can be made, however, is when rugged, pristine, and natural become remote and exotic and the history of the people who live in this remote and exotic place is sanitized if not erased.

An argument can also be made that in the course of selling what the former Premier calls the “innocence that is pure Newfoundland” tourists arrive expecting, as one Norris Point tourist patronizingly describes it, to encounter Newfoundlanders’ “simple way of life.”  The issue as I discuss in Chapter Six is where in the process of promise, expectation, and delivery on the expectation, the negative Newfie stereotype that has dogged Newfoundland since Confederation with Canada is reinforced.  Specifically, my thesis argues in Chapter Six that the popular Screech-In tourist product is an example of the distortion that can result from the amplification and re-amplification of the same signal in the process of promise, expectation, and delivery on expectation in the tourism industry.

 


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