As my pal Yoli likes to say, I have this thing about tourism. Wondering what increased tourism would do to Newfoundland - for better or worse - has been a large part of this project. The act of displaying one's culture for the consumption of outsiders changes the culture, but how, exactly? And who gets to make the decisions about what to display and what not to display?
Strangely enough, last year, when those questions were burning fiercely in my head, I was not so successful in getting many people visiting the museum to really engaged in talk about them. For whatever reason, people shifted their gaze, seemed vaguely embarrassed for me and turned the conversation elsewhere. Perhaps my approach was a little off: "You! Tourist! Explain yourself! Here! I've created a museum for you to do just that right over here..."
This year, I decided to take a more subtle approach. There are bigger issues related to the changes Newfoundland is undergoing and tourism is but one of them. Weirdly enough however, people want to talk about tourism! I haven't had oodles of random, drop-in visitors this year, but those who have appeared on the door step really seem to be interested in what this tourism thing is and how small communities, like Gillams, can benefit and how they might suffer.
Gillams is actually a bit off-the-beaten track for tourists. Most people don't really stay and fully explore the greater Corner Brook/Bay of Islands area. It is more of a stop-off on the way to Gros Morne or elsewhere. It is too bad in a sense because I honestly believe it is as beautiful here as anywhere in Gros Morne, less crowded and you can get a heck of a turkey club at Lynne's in Cox's Cove at the end of your journey. On the other hand, it is as beautiful here as Gros Morne, it is less crowded and you can get that turkey club if you want it.
And that is the tourism conundrum. It takes as much as it gives, perhaps even more. Is there a magic formula in which local communities can gain some economic benefit from visitors without falling into the dreaded tourist trap?