More is needed to at­tract tourists than beau­ti­ful scenery and friendly peo­ple

Cape Breton Post - - GLACE/NEW WATERFORD - LeRoy Peach LeRoy Peach lives in Port Morien and may be reached at leroy_­peach@ya­ His col­umn ap­pears ev­ery week in the Cape Bre­ton Post.

My col­umn last week on the pro­mo­tion of tourism in Cape Bre­ton sent sev­eral read­ers to their com­puter ter­mi­nals. What irked them most was the no­tion that Cape Bre­ton should and could be ag­gres­sively mar­keted as a hot spot. My own be­lief was re­flected best in the head­ing, that “Cape Bre­ton should be mar­keted as a must-see des­ti­na­tion for tourists.” I’d em­pha­size the qual­i­ties cen­tered on land­scape and cul­ture.

What I would want peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially, is what I ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery day of my life and what keeps me here — beauty, peace­ful­ness, au­then­tic­ity, and our multi-lay­ered way of life. Of Cape Bre­ton, one reader said, “It’s like the sev­enth day when God rests.”

There were read­ers, how­ever, who down­played Cape Bre­ton’s qual­i­ties, some of them lo­cal peo­ple, oth­ers Cape Bre­ton­ers liv­ing abroad. Wayne from New Water­ford said that you won’t find five-star ho­tels here, nor sup­pers fit for kings. Ro­man, a for­mer Cape Bre­toner liv­ing in Barcelona, echoed Wayne’s views that lodg­ing and din­ing op­tions need im­prove­ment.

Ro­man also cites the weak­ness of our in­fra­struc­ture and trans­porta­tion. Yes, the road sys­tem must be bet­ter. Heaven knows I’ve made that point of­ten. How­ever, in the last three years, the road to Fortress Louis­bourg has al­most been com­pletely resur­faced. High­way 104 has been greatly im­proved. A sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of the Cabot Trail has been resur­faced. Yet our road in­fra­struc­ture still lags be­hind the main­land’s.

Trans­porta­tion is an­other prob­lem. I’ve been told by the Syd­ney Ports peo­ple that we could use more and bet­ter buses for cruise vis­i­tors wish­ing to take tours. As well, in Syd­ney, we need more venues for the tourist to visit. There is not nearly enough cul­tural icons to hold our tourists. On the other hand, the Joan Har­riss Cruise Pavil­ion is a great vis­i­tor at­trac­tion. Yet we need to build upon the cruise suc­cess story by im­prov­ing berthing in the har­bour.

Where Ro­man of Barcelona errs is in his claim that the high­lands are not that spe­cial, that there are lots of places in the world equally as beau­ti­ful or more beau­ti­ful. My an­swer is this: I’ve never seen any­thing in my trav­els to com­pare to the con­sis­tent beauty of this is­land, voted most re­cently the third most beau­ti­ful is­land in the world. By the way, I’ve been to the beau­ti­ful city of Barcelona where it seems that no­body ever sleeps. It is very nice, but as my late Scot­tish mother-in-law said when she was asked what she thought of her visit to Scot­land when she was 80 years old: “It’s beau­ti­ful, but it’s not Cape Bre­ton!”

To make Cape Bre­ton a must-see des­ti­na­tion, we need, as a gen­tle­man from Mar­ga­ree said, to find out why tourism is not in­creas­ing, to pro­mote col­lab­o­ra­tion within the coun­ties, and to pass the room-levy leg­is­la­tion. One per­son said that the prov­ince must mar­ket us as the “east­ern jewel.” If so, we must be­come the east­ern jewel in ev­ery way pos­si­ble.

Last week I was ac­cused of be­ing too “sunny” in my views. Agreed. We do need an econ­omy here. There are things to clean up. We can’t eat beauty. If we are to at­tract and hold our vis­i­tors, we must be able to of­fer more than scenery and friendly peo­ple.

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