Lobsters, Luggage Tags and Little Red Hearts
As Travel Editor at the Star, you get invited to a lot of events to showcase the latest hot spot down south or the “next big attraction” in Europe. You also get a lot of interesting (okay, some are downright goofy) little items that tourist boards hope you’ll stick on your desk or some place else to remind you of their destination next time you sit down to write a story or a blog item.
At the recent Discover America day at the convention centre in downtown Toronto, North Carolina was handing out posters for a new movie coming out with Diane Lane and Richard Gere that was shot in the state. They also gave out blue and black flip-flops that had the words “The Outer Banks” on them.
The folks from Maine had tiny, red lobsters made of cloth to hand out to the media, while the California folks gave out luggage tags and also bottle openers (hey, they know the media) that read visitcaliforniasnow.com.
Virginia gave out little red hearts with a flashing light that read “Live passionately; Virginia is for lovers,” while Portland, Oregon, known as something of an eco-friendly place, gave out round, green flashers. The best gimmick was a silver pen given out by the New Mexico Tourism Department that was shaped like a Roswell/Area 57 alien wannabe. Very cute.
Besides being indundated with maps and bric-a-brac, travel writers like myself (a veteran of, oh, about two weeks now) get all sorts of bumpf in the mail touting destinations all over the world. Sometimes it’s the usual stuff with a nice beach and all. But sometimes they include little snippets on information that make you wonder about something you’ve never thought of.
The new communications manager for Jacksonville sent the Star a note the other day that said Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the country. I had no idea, and, honestly, I don’t know how anyone could verify that sort of thing.
I always run into people saying Toronto has more restaurants per capita than any city in the world or that the GTA has more golf courses per capita than any region in the world, or some such. It’s impossible to track these sorts of things down.
TORIES NOT TALKING
We know their positions on crime and health care. But the Tourism Industry Association of Canada took things one step further by asking federal party leaders for their positions on tourism issues in advance of the coming election. For the most part, leaders promised to do what they could to lower aviation costs and facilitate smoother border crossings. The Conservatives, the association said, have so far declined to answer their questions.
Guess the Prime Minister was too busy snapping up those low-priced, bargain stocks of companies that are laying off those pesky Ontario workers.
- Here’s a good concept. The Sheraton Centre in Toronto, right across from City Hall, is making 129 rooms available for $129 a night. They also have a deal where you pay the regular rate and get the next night for 50 per cent off. Continuing with the sales theme, the hotel will give you a room for a night for $199, then charge you a special “birthday year” rate for the second or third night. If you were born in, say, 1954, your second and third nights would cost $54. That would mean three nights at $306.
The hotel also has deals for tickets for We Will Rock You, The Sound of Music and Dirty Dancing.
- The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain has a special 20 per cent discount when you book two nights at the hotel over Thanksgiving weekend. That same weekend, Collingwood will host their annual Apple Harvest Festival, complete with pumpkin carving, apple picking, live music in the Village at Blue and scenic gondola rides up the mountain.
- The Best Tourism Advertising gold award went to Ottawa Tourism at the Oct. 7 Ontario Tourism Awards for 2008. The Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association got the silver award, while the city of St. Catharines Economic Development and Tourism folks got the bronze award. Tourism Toronto was given an award for best interactive marketing, while the Toronto-Niagara Bike Train was honoured for the Best Tourism Marketing Partnership. Walter Oster was given the lifetime achievement award for his work with the Canadian Sportsmen’s Shows and his long-time leadership of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
- Oregon, a state overlooked by many Ontario folks, is celebrating the fall season with programs that celebrate the long growing season for everything from grapes to fresh pears and asparagus. Local farms with pair fresh Oregon pears with southern Oregon bleu cheese or bring out a bottle of outstanding Oregon wine. Winemakers in the state are known for their Pinot Noir, but some wineries are now experimenting with grapes such as tempranillo.
- North Carolina's Pinehurst Resort has a special offer exclusive for Canadians this fall and winter. With savings of 30-60 percent off regular rates, golfers can take advantage of the Pinehurst Resort Canadian Special Offer. Available November 30, 2008 through March 31, 2009, rates start at US$175 per person per night based on double occupancy, including golf (you’ll have to pay another $165 to play famed Pinehurst No. 2), plus overnight accomodations in the Holly or Manor Inn. For more information, go to www.pinehurst.com/canadian_special.asp or call 800.487.4653.
- Virginia also is making a big push for wine tourism, and October is wine month in the state. Thomas Jefferson planted grapes in the state way back when, and there are said to be more than 140 wineries now operating in Virginia. I had some white wine from Virginia about 10 years ago and it was pretty good. Not quite New Zealand sauvignon blanc or Ontario riesling quality, but pretty good. If techniques and conditions have improved, and they likely have, it would be worth trying a bottle. Of course, good luck finding one at the LCBO.
- The folks who tout skiing in Utah say the Waldorf-Astoria is building the Dakota Mountain Lodge in Park City. It will be the first Waldorf ski property, which tells you something about Utah’s ski scene. It’s expected to be open some time next spring.
- The folks at the Hong Kong Tourism Board in Toronto held an event the other night and invited folks to “swap their broomsticks for chopsticks” and hitch a ride to HK for a promotion called Halloween Treats, which runs from now until Nov. 2. There will be a Haunted Halloween feature at Hong Kong Disneyland, as well as a big haunted bash at Ocean Park near Aberdeen Harbour. There’s also an annual Halloween celebration in the Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood. A little closer to home, West Hollywood, Calif. will hold its annual Halloween street party later this month. (Likely on the final day of the month, oddly enough.) Officials say their festival annually draws about half-a-million visitors.
- The Heineken Regatta Curacao 2008 will be held in Nov. 7, 8 and 9. Curacao backers say their island is “situated nicely below the hurricane belt,” which makes it a perfect place to kick-off the sailing season … and maybe have a belt or two at the tiki bar. Visit www.heinekenregattacuracao.com for more info. Curacao tourism officials say a Hyatt Regency is being built on the island that will have an 18-hole golf course designed by Pete Dye.