FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: The Canadian experience
I’VE JUST RETURNED FROM my annual sojourn to Canada. I need this reprieve from the intense heat and a chance to refresh my mind and enjoy new experiences while visiting family and friends. But this year, even Canada was warmer than it usually is at this time. On approaching Barbados, the pilot announced we would be landing to a nice 31 degrees. What’s nice about that, I thought, but hopefully we’ll survive until the usually cooler November weather.
This year, my holiday was different. Instead of spending the time in two or three places, I did two trips, covering about 3 500 kms. What struck me was that although tourism isn’t as important a contributor to Canada’s GDP as it is to ours, there were diverse attractions, all well maintained and organised to enhance the visitor experience. Every aspect of their culture, physical environment and history was used to its best advantage.
We travelled by ferry to Manitoulin Island, the largest fresh water island in the world, and saw sights like the Bridal Veil falls below which salmon come to spawn each year.
While the fall colours were generally not particularly vivid, possibly because of the warmer than usual weather, as we travelled further north to the Agawa canyon they were spectacular, eliciting “oohs and aahs” from passengers throughout the four-hour train trip.
An interesting part of the Sault Ste. Marie tour was a visit to the Bush Plane Heritage Centre showcasing Canada’s forest fire protection heritage. These planes collect water from lakes while airborne, delivering about a million litres per day to extinguish forest fires.
On the return trip, we toured a 109-year-old ship, the Keewatin. The state rooms were outfitted with artifacts and clothing from the seven decades she transported passengers up and down the Great Lakes. The utensils in the dining room were the originals.
I think we could learn a lot from this. We’re too quick to demolish and discard, rather than preserve and maintain. We must explore all potential areas of tourism. As the CEO of World Travel and Tourism Council notes, “New destinations and investment opportunities will also continue to emerge as tourism becomes increasingly affordable across the developing world. This growth will require countries to adopt a concerted and coordinated approach to talent planning and development between their industry, governments and educational institutions to ensure they fulfil their potential in the years ahead.”
On another trip we visited the Ontario Provincial Police Museum in Orillia to see the exhibit Behind The Badge – The Story Of The Ontario Provincial Police. Displays included vintage cars and motorcycles, communication systems, badges, uniforms, weapons, even the remains of a hero from the canine unit – all depicting important points in the evolution of the force.
Could we not mount such an exhibit? Perhaps even in conjunction with the prison? Are any of these artifacts still available?
Let’s hope that the launching of the Barbados System of Parks and Open Spaces earlier this year will stimulate development of ecotourism projects in the Scotland District. There’s already a nucleus of heritage tourism attractions in the area – Nicholas Abbey, Grenade Hall, the Wildlife Reserve, Farley Hill, Morgan Lewis Mill, horseback riding, the potteries and the Walkers Reserve Project. Not too far away is the Springfield Museum, Andromeda Gardens and the Soup Bowl.
The now abandoned Greenland Landfill provides an excellent site for a recreational park with hiking, biking, Segway and ATV trails, fishing and pond boat racing, picnic sites and perhaps even campsites (if they were well supervised) as well as live butterfly and bird displays.
The prime minister alluded to a number of possibilities at the launching. He also emphasised the need for partnerships with stakeholders in the private sector, civil society and the Social Partnership.
This is important. Government must facilitate the private sector rather than dismiss them or burden them with unnecessary bureaucracy. Some years ago, a colleague attempted to lease a part of the Joes River Forest from government to develop a Forest Safari attraction. The figure quoted was so exorbitant that the project was abandoned. Yet no use has been made of said land.
Similarly, a proposal was put forward for one of our lighthouses, but this seemed to have died a natural death and the site is used to store roadworks materials. What a shame!
Thankfully, the Synagogue project seems to be progressing well.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator. Email: [email protected]