Friday, August 8, 2008

Winnipeg too cold for Human Rights Museum

Focus groups across Canada have said that Winnipeg is too cold to host the Human Rights Museum.

From the Winnipeg Press:

These participants suggested that the city suffers from negative stereotypes such as: cold, nothing to do, far away, and not interesting to visit," says the summary. "Very few of these participants would put the museum on their list of things to see given the distance."

Focus groups in Vancouver and Calgary also raised the location of Winnipeg as an issue but were less concerned about it. The location wasn't raised as an issue in Halifax, Toronto, Kitchener, Thunder Bay, Red Deer and Whitehorse.

In total, 208 people participated in 26 different focus groups between Jan. 22 and Feb. 1.
It is tough to find fault with some of the thinking. Winnipeg is some distance from most other major centers in Canada. The Human Rights Museum is the first attempt as a national attraction.

Yes, you heard that right. The Human Rights Museum is the first project with national ambitions as its main reason for being. Sure we have Folklorama, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Manitoba Museum among other attractions. The problem is all these things were thought with a Manitoba audience in mind.

As for natural attractions, we don't have the mountains, the sea, a waterfall or any of the other sought after features people travel a distance to.

In most people's minds Winnipeg is not a tourist attraction and never will be. At least it won't be at the level of Vancouver or Toronto.

We shouldn't feel bad. Canada ranks low as an international travel destination around the world even with things like the Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains. Some countries like Britain go so far as to call us dull.

I think that the organizers of the Human Rights Museum should recognize right from the start that the facility is not going to be a traditional tourist attraction. People in Montreal and Vancouver are not going to book a trip to Winnipeg just to see the museum.

In some respect, perhaps Izzy Asper and Gail Asper, must have known that when they started this process since they spoke of the educational aspect and bringing youth from all over the country to participate in seminars and other teaching events. This is the right idea to be sure.

I'd go farther and say that the organizers might consider an annual Human Rights prize that might rival the Nobel and bring annual attention to Winnipeg as well as honoured guests.

The Human Rights Museum is not going to be the end all for tourism nor should it be. It isn't a Disney attraction. It will, however, be an important cultural and educational institution. With a concerted effort of outreach, it can become part of the national consciousness.

Winnipeg will have to continue to mainly promote itself as a regional tourism centre. This is where the city is going to get the bulk of its visitors.


J. William Hogan said...

Your post implies focus groups "across Canada" said Winnipeg was too cold. Did ya read the feature? It was the focus groups in Quebec ONLY that said that.

I'm disappointed in this post. Seems we should do nothing to attract tourists because there is no reason folks would come here.

Backwards approach IMO.

John Dobbin said...

I don't think I implied anything. The focus group in Moncton, New Brunswick and Montreal and Quebec City, Quebec mentioned the temperatures. It wasn't just Quebec.

Other focus groups mentioned a few other issues they had with the museum being in Winnipeg.

This isn't something to be afraid of. It is information that can be used to better market the city as a destination.

I also didn't say anything about not attracting tourists to the city. In fact, I suggested that the Human Rights Museum will have to be creative in bringing people to the facility.

This is Manitoba's first national attraction. It is important to know how to promote it to people. We have to know the negatives before we can promote the positives.

I think if you look over the post, you will see that is what I was getting at.