Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Boston

I spotted this tram stop poster on Acland Street in St Kilda today. It's for the city of Boston and is an attempt to encourage visitors to come to Boston in the wake of the negative publicity generated by the Boston bombings and the subsequent shoot out in Cambridge and Watertown. At first glance it might seem to be a poor use of Boston taxpayers money - doing an advertising campaign for the city 10,000 miles away in Melbourne, Australia, but I think it's a smart move. Once a place gets tarred with a negative brush, especially in relation to terrorism the legacy can last for decades. Northern Ireland had only half a million overseas visitors last year whereas the Republic of Ireland had over six million overseas visitors. Five and a half million visitors to the south of Ireland chose not to travel to the North, despite the fact that the scenery is better, the people are funnier (and friendlier) and because we don't have the Euro everything is cheaper. Why didn't they come? Because they're afraid. The legacy of the Troubles has engendered a false belief that Northern Ireland is a risky place to travel to. Of course it isn't at all. A tourist is statistically many times more likely to be robbed or raped or murdered in Britain than in Northern Ireland; but none of that matters: it's all about PR which is why the city of Boston is smart to go global and go early with the idea that everything is fine. I have a lot of affection for Boston - I have family there and I've spent 15 of my last 20 summers in Massachusetts. I have subjected myself to vitriol many times by wearing a Yankees cap at Fenway, I'm with Jonathan Richman on Roslindale and I still maintain that the greatest ice cream in the world comes from White Farms in Ipswich. This situation is not without irony however. Boston is the only place in the world where I've seen collecting tins on bars for the so called "Real IRA". The horrific 1998 Omagh Bombing cured everyone in Ireland (save for a few mentally ill sociopaths) of any love for the "Real IRA" but in Boston the message that indiscriminate bombing is a moral evil hasn't quite penetrated to the darkest corners of Southie. Maybe the Marathon bombings will change that too. In any case here's hoping that the City of Boston's world wide tourism campaign works. We'll see.