EDITORIAL: Tourism agencies, your source for news?
By Dale Boyd
A hypothetical wildfire breaks out in the South Okanagan, worried for the safety of your friends and family you turn to … a tourism agency?
The “often over dramatization and sensationalism of messaging, through a variety of media sources,” is one of the “key challenges” tourism agencies claim to face in the latest newsletter penned by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) president Glenn Mandziuk.
Mandziuk is celebrating the recent move to provide funding assistance for tourism crisis management coordinators in the Okanagan and other regions, which will “work to get the right information into the traveller’s hands as quickly as possible.”
Will these managment coordinators be getting better access to information than the media? If not, this subtly implies news sources consistently give you the wrong information.
Mandziuk dutifully notes safety in emergencies is critical, but apparently as critical in the same breath is the “responsibility to tell travelers where they can travel to, what areas are unaffected, what routes are open and connect them to the many places they can and should continue to go to and enjoy their vacation.”
Tourism, at any cost. Sure, but why throw the media under the bus so often? It is not the job of a reporter to put out the best headline for tourism purposes, besides who would read “Beautiful day in Osoyoos, also fire grows 100 hectares nearby.” We call that burying the lead. So again, why consistently make a straw man out of media? Convenience is my guess.
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In the same letter, TOTA staff allegedly listened on in “horror” as “one Vancouver radio station” said travellers should rethink their plans to visit the Okanagan. Am I the only one who remembers breathing in literally dangerous amounts of smoke last year?
Since last year this routine has played out up and down the valley with tourism officials. They state a single, debatably overzealous article, graphic or broadcast. Usually not mentioning an organization by name, then followed up by anecdotal evidence of tourists calling to cancel trips. I’ve yet to verify whether or not this has ever actually happened.
And another thing, I have yet to see news coverage that so blatantly overstates a natural disaster to the point of warding off an entire region from travellers.
But let’s say this does happen. The Osoyoos Times reported on a fire 12 kilometers from Osoyoos last month, updating almost hourly the size of the fire, the location and which way the fire was moving. I was standing right next to the thing for most of the day. Now, a news reader sees this, has plans to visit Osoyoos and cancels. Is that really our fault? This person presumably has access to the Internet or a phone. This hypothetical traveller gives up so easily and must not have wanted a vacation that badly in the first place. In fact, I’m starting to question if this tourist ever even existed.
If you were planning on heading to Quebec, and read about flooding, would you A) find out where the flooding is in relation to where you are travelling or B) cancel your trip immediately after reading the word “flood,” in a headline.
Tourism agencies should spend some of this funding to educate news readers, since they seem to think so little of your intelligence.