The Italians are Here

The Costa Atlantica is in port in Charlottetown today and, from the plethora of Italian being spoken on the streets of the city today, it’s obviously carrying a lot of Italians.

It’s easy to spot Italian cruise ship passengers: they are all impeccably dressed (I saw an Italian woman in front of City Hall today wearing a dress that seemed to be made entirely of bits of fur and leather), extremely curious (there was a gang in front of the fire hall making careful study of the antique fire engine parked there that then moved on to take particular notice of our parking meters), and considerably more expressive than the usual semi-catatonic schlubs that roll off the ships.

When a dour American cruise couple stops me on the street and asks me where they can get a good lobster, I feel like telling them to get the hell out of my province; when a enthusiastic Italian man, dressed all in black and wearing a cape, asks me where he should go shopping, I feel like inviting him over for supper.

The thing about tourism and tourism marketing is that, at its root, it’s social engineering: marketing dollars are spent to attract certain demographics that are deemed attractive. That’s why Tourism PEI sponsors Live with Regis and Kelly and not, say, Trucks. It’s why the Canadian Tourism Commission bought out an issue of advertising in The New Yorker rather than an issue of 2600.

This is completely understandable – we can’t market to everyone so we might as well market to those who are most likely to come, and most likely to be good tourists.

I wonder, though, if we might broaden our definition of what “good tourists” means beyond strictly economic measures: having a gaggle of upper-middle class Italians roaming the streets of town for a day certainly makes for a more interesting street life than a gaggle of similarly-provisioned Americans. Not that Americans are bad tourists, but, again, we have to make decisions, so why not include a joie de vivre factor in our calculations.


Dave's picture
Dave on October 6, 2010 - 17:27 Permalink

I can say the Italian tourists are much more likely to fawn over the curly golden locks of pretty four-year-old girls. I know one in particular who would support more of these friendly folk in town.

Can’t say whether they’re more likely to buy gaudy, lobster-themed merchandise, though…

Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on October 6, 2010 - 18:44 Permalink

This from a man who travels with only one pair of pants?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 6, 2010 - 19:35 Permalink

Why do you think I need exposure to the chic Italian men: I have to improve my fashion situation somehow and living in a community that shows at Marks Work Wearhouse ain’t helping.

Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on October 7, 2010 - 12:02 Permalink

Your hostility toward the American “semi-catatonic schlubs” who ask where to get lobster is curious given that you’re (part) American yourself. I think judging whether tourists meet your criteria for being interesting based solely on their pants is a bit shallow. Were you judged on your own pants you wouldn’t be allowed to visit here as a tourist, and nor would I (for the record my pants today are from Zellers rather than Marks Work Warehouse, but I quite like Marks Work Warehouse too).

lori Joy Smith's picture
lori Joy Smith on October 7, 2010 - 13:48 Permalink

i’m dying to know where you sent the caped italian man shopping…

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 8, 2010 - 14:58 Permalink

Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to imply that it’s only Americans that are “semi-catatonic schlubs” – this applies equally, in my experience, to all non-Italians.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on October 11, 2010 - 00:18 Permalink

There is that word “interesting” again.

Not only shallow but snobby, pretentious and offensive. I would hope that Islanders and Island residents both would welcome all visitors, not just those with capes, spats and flying scarves. That is the Island way.