Real versus contrived places

In Titanic Belfast – it didn’t rock my boat travel writer Catherine Mack contrasts beautiful, “real
breathing spaces [that] are part of our living heritage”, with a designed (or contrived) visitor attraction built on tragedy and destination marketing thought:

Titanic Belfast Visitor Attraction

Reading her piece had me balancing the following:

  • investment in the places to date
  • investment needed to maintain the differing attractions (thereby benefiting the communities most closely involved)
  • the cost to the visitor of visiting (“entrance fee”)
  • enjoyment and illumination
  • underlying motives–which do we really want to be sustained three or four generations from now?

It’s a close-to-the-heart piece, so perhaps the most pertinent question is…  Which of the places she throws into contrast are most likely to fill locals–and maybe even visitors–with pride?

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2 Comments on “Real versus contrived places”

  1. Michael Haywood says:

    Attraction to the tragic and macabre is alive and well around the world. What drives this insatiable desire is a mystery to me as well, though the link to the heritage of place cannot be denied. Such events haunt our collective memories. I sense that what Catherine Mack describes is unsettling because the attraction is not simply a blatant attempt to dig deep into the pockets of curiosity seekers and capitalize on commercial opportunities (an attribute of all attractions), but most particularly falls short in its attempt to overcome contrived reality.

    Not having visited the site, all I can surmise is that it is lacking in the way it resonates with certain visitors. I use the word “resonate” purposely because the true test of an attraction is contained in its ability to orchestrate the visible and invisible attributes that allow us to “sense our way” and shape transformative audience experiences. It starts with becoming a substantive storyteller that overrides the superficial. Possessing the power to influence the imagination of others and create acceptance is the overarching objective. As with many attractions, Titanic Belfast will succeed through its ability to tell a story – the compelling platform for managing our imaginations and achieving a semblance of authenticity.

    Attractions that explore the past, as well as the future, are not simply places to go, but places that we have to invent. Our ability to shape our past and furure depends on how well we communicate where we have been or want to be when we get there.


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