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