Culture and tourism can be strange bedfellows. On one hand, culture can help drive the economies of tourist-friendly regions; on the other, the influence of tourism can impact the very culture that draws visitors in.
This complexity will be examined at North Atlantic Forum 2011: Culture, Place and Identity at the Heart of Regional Development, held at the Delta Hotel, St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, Oct. 13-15.
The conference, organized in part by Memorial Universitys Harris Centre, has just released its full program at www.naf2011.com. The proceedings will include six internationally renowned keynote speakers, as well as nearly 60 presenters who will explore a range of topics all related to the lucrative, but sometimes tense, relationship between culture and sustainable development.
Its a balancing act that many regions in this province face, said Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre. The tourism industry is a major employer in Newfoundland and Labrador, with plenty of room for further development. The potential benefits are quite clear, but when culture and cash collide, the sense of authenticity, part of what makes the cultural tourism industry so lucrative, may be compromised.
Laurie Brinklow of the University of Prince Edward Island is presenting at a session called The Uses and Abuses of Culture in Cultural Tourism. She believes that island cultures, like Newfoundlands, are particularly vulnerable to the loss of authentic experience.
Because islands are popular as exotic tourist destinations, the authentic island experience is much sought-after. With much riding on the tourist dollar, an islands image is often created by officials who put tourism first, with locals coming a distant second, Ms. Brinklow explained. The irony is that it is often the cultural experience presented by and for the locals that satisfies tourists most.
Interestingly, much of Ms. Brinklows work has been done on the island of Tasmania, suggesting that some of the tourism-related challenges faced by island regions actually transcend continents.
In the same session, Ian Hayes, a graduate student at Memorial University, will present his paper We Could Have Brought a Drummer for the Price of Those Lobster Suits: Tourism Marketing and Cape Breton Fiddling. He argues that it is possible for rural and island cultures to have a fluid culture, reflecting advertised values for tourists while maintaining different identities when performing for locals.
On the other hand, in local performances, musicians have almost total control over how traditions and they, themselves, are portrayed, said Mr. Hayes. These gigs are not as lucrative as performances on an international scale, but are quite frequent, and are intimately tied to the social, cultural, and working lives of musicians.
The conference is an initiative of the North Atlantic Forum (NAF), the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF), the Small Islands Cultural Research Initiative (SICRI) and Memorial University of Newfoundland. To register online, please visit www.naf2011.com