Be a tourist in your own backyard
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
At 150, it’s safe to say that Canada has aged pretty well.
It’s also safe to assume that most Canadians have a fairly decent grasp of their country; its diverse regions and cultures, and the landmarks and destinations that have become synonymous with travelling across our land.
The majestic Rockies. The vast prairies. Thundering Niagara Falls. Historic Quebec City. Peggy’s Cove. You know them, but have you visited? Canadians like to travel, flocking to New York City, or Florida, or heading overseas to explore Paris or Rome. All worthy destinations. But is 2017 the year to explore a little closer to home?
Many in the tourism industry certainly think so. Last fall, Lonely Planet chose Canada as its “destination of the year” for 2017. Earlier this year, the New York Times ranked Canada as its top travel destination. The reasons are many: a favourable exchange rate; safety concerns in major destinations in Europe; an endless variety of attractions that coincide with our year-long sesquicentennial celebration.
Fun and cultural awareness aside, tourism is big business. Nearly 20 million international visitors came in 2016, with the majority, 13.9 million, coming from the U.S. To keep those intrepid travellers happy, fed and informed requires hundreds of thousands of jobs in the tourism sector, accounting for roughly 11 per cent of the total labour force. Generating $90 billion in total economic activity, tourism is good business as well as nation-building.
So by all means hop on a plane or train and see the sights. But remember, some of the best-kept secrets are right around the corner.
It’s often true that citizens of a particular city or area, having lived there for years, have never taken the time to actually be a tourist in their town. Dundurn Castle, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the St. Jacobs market, all draw foreign visitors but may remain a mystery to folks literally around the corner.
Don’t know what’s out there to see? Start with a visit to your local tourism office. There are a myriad of treasures. Towns found off the beaten path boast small museums that celebrate and honour their history.
Grab a hotdog from Easterbrook’s. Dive into an order of fish and chips from Hutch’s on the Beach. Have a beer at Oktoberfest. Check out one of the dozens of festivals in the area, from Festival of Friends to Supercrawl. Thousands attend these events each year, but you wouldn’t have to look very hard to find a friend or neighbour who has never attended any of them.
On a tight budget? Hop on a bike and see things you typically miss in a car. Find a free movie night at a local park. Head to your local library for free programs and events.
Be a tourist in your own backyard.