Today CBC Daybreak North in Prince George, B.C. contacted me, they wanted to discuss a story I had written about the city - An Apology Letter to Tourists Considering Prince George, B.C. as a Destination. The live radio interview will be aired Feb. 26th at 8:20 am if you’d like to listen.
Like any person who eats, sleeps and breathes writing, questions started filling my head about how I would address the topic of tourism in P.G. were I in a position like Tourism PG (#TakeonPG) and Mayor Shari Green – also a native Prince George resident.
Green states on her city webpage bio that ‘she is committed to changing the face of downtown Prince George and committed to changing the conversation about Prince George by ensuring the City’s fiscal future is sustainable; however the conversation is getting worse.
Many people believe if we start a positive dialogue about the city things will get better; but they won’t with that alone, they’ll get worse because we’ll seem to be falsifying obvious facts or blind and ignorant to the obvious.
I agree Mayor Green’s and Tourism PG’s intent is admirable but I believe they have strayed from a productive path that will correct the wrongs.
“The first thing Prince George needs to do is take care of its own residents and build a sustainable reputation for the city, after that the fiscal future will take care of itself!”
Prince George is a hot mess. Anyone who lives in B.C. knows the stigma attached to the city so it’s going to take some well thought out and concerted efforts to elevate its reputation and make it aesthetically and socially pleasing enough to consider it a Destination hot-spot for the global traveler. Yes, it does have that potential and can be done through tourism if it’s done correctly and honestly!
Using truth allows people to be accepting and patient while the city makes productive changes. If we talk out of both sides of our mouth people won’t support Prince George as an up-and-coming Destination that supports both its residents and visitors.
“Yes Mayor Green and Tourism PG … you must support your residents first because they are the ones who will make the travelers visit or stay-cation memorable; not just the art gallery that lacks exhibition pieces or the Exploration Place that mainly markets toward young children, not only the swimming pool or movie theater. It will be the people, the local residents that make Prince George a true and worthy Destination worth remembering!”
Venues such as the art gallery are wonderful but they are considered time fillers and are valued for mere seconds on a travelers clock, in the grand scheme of the holiday, the same with the swimming pool or even a hockey game or concert. Once that’s over then what for the traveler?
Prince George needs to understand people aren’t tourists anymore they are travelers and they want to explore – the Observatory, the North Fraser Back-roads, the lakes, mountains and trails – they want to learn about our history, our culture and how we live. They want to survive a Northern Winter too – they want to experience us.
“One can have any degree they choose but if they don’t understand the travel industry, how it’s changing, how the media who reports on it is changing, what travelers needs are and how their needs are changing, it will all be for not and any efforts counter-productive.”
“Inviting the royal baby “Prince George” for a visit, because he is a name-sake, or even hosting the 2015 Winter Games are short-lived attempts that won’t benefit the residents once they’re gone. Prince George will once again fall off the map, except maybe cited as the most crime riddled city by mainstream media again.”
When Ben Affleck left P.G. after filming Reindeer Games years ago, he said this city was a shit-hole – and residents were mad. But why be mad at him? He only stated the obvious truth. At truth that still remains and hasn’t changed in the eyes of the visitor. This should be the focus not the dollar the traveler can bring in and drop off before he heads home!
“Tourism is a billion dollar industry and Prince George is the hub of the North – there are numerous things a traveler would love to see, touch, do, and hear but no one is providing the service.”
Mayor Green should not only allot some funds to repair the aesthetics and potholes of the city but offer start-up grants and educate people who wish to develop businesses related to tourism.
Green should also prioritize, I won’t say budget because I believe that money is already there, street cleaning money. Those funds should be allotted first in a Northern town right?
The roads were horribly maintained this winter, but you can bet the main arteries will be clean as a whistle to keep up appearances for the 2015 games; this in itself shows a blatant disregard and lack of respect for the residents that support P.G. This is absurd, appalling, neglectful and very embarrassing.
If the Mayor feels she needs to change the conversation of Prince George, then there is a real problem that is not being addressed and has been addressed incorrectly in the past.
The best way to make changes in any situation is to step outside the box and view it from a different perspective. It offends me that the city ignores the obvious and falsely represents itself to its citizens and potential visitors.
Marissa Harvey from CBC Daybreak North asked me if I thought my negative slant on the ‘Apology Story’ could be construed as counter intuitive and I don’t.
“Writing for Tourism is a different can of worms especially when we are writing for the new age traveler who has a new set of ideals and expectations in a changing industry and who want to ‘live-like-a-local’ while on holiday.”
If I as a writer gloss over what I don’t think a company or Destination would like me to say I am deceiving my audience and devaluing myself and my craft.
I have written reviews for service providers that had negative connotations and the owners were always thankful – it’s the research they need to make changes in order to stay competitive. Like the retail owner who hires mystery shoppers to test the staff performance.
I think people write for different reasons, some for the money and some because they want to share the world and simply love what they do – I am one of those people.
Historically the only outlet a writer had was mainstream media and they had very little say over the angle or perspective the commissioning editor wanted them to take.
“With the advent of the internet more people have become writers because we no longer have to “pitch” and pray to be heard (or read). Bloggers have changed the entire industry – both in the way people want to read about a destination and experience it, and how destinations must now market themselves.”
Bloggers and Freelancers have created the need for thoughts and emotions for today’s traveler and they are pivotal in the success of marketing a destination or service in a ‘Responsible’ and truthful way.
As writers we are not the ones selling the product and it isn’t our job or concern to sell it. That job remains with the business owner, or travel agent, magazine or DMO.
Online writers are keyboard marketers yes, but I don’t feel that should be our primary focus – ours is simply to share experience, let the others determine how to sell travel and our audience will decide if they want to pay the price according to our experience.
The word ‘sell’ is a relative term. If you come to ‘? Market’ based on a review from your friend who had good dealings with a clerk named “Kelly”, and purchase an apple from me – I sold you, on behalf of the owner, an apple. You friend merely sold you on an idea, not a product.
A mainstream writer is told by the commissioning editor what angle to take. The writer compiles the story based on the angle and sells IT to the editor who then publishes it in the medium. The writer sold the idea to the editor – the editor and the business who paid more for the story to run than the writer received, sold the destination.
If a restaurant gets a bad review they don’t pout – as savvy business people the owners make fitting changes (they don’t take short cuts) so the next review is good. If they don’t know how, they research or find someone who does. And if they don’t make changes then they don’t care about their customers and are just in it for the money; money that won’t sustain the business for very long because it isn’t a renewable resource when people’s pockets seem to shrink because they feel deceived.
“There is an untapped tourist market in Prince George but the way to effectively access it is being overlooked by political mindsets with superficial band-aid tactics as a remedy.”