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.