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Journeys to the Entrails of Prairie Towns Fascinate

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  • Claude-Jean Harel
    Hi folks, This is a feature story we prepared to raise awareness about our latest tourism initiative in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada... I think we are touching
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2004
      Hi folks,

      This is a feature story we prepared to raise awareness about our
      latest tourism initiative in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada... I think
      we are touching onto something that strikes a chord with people here.
      And I can assure you that a lot of work and a lot of support from
      friends and colleagues went into it... Please
      let me know what you think...

      There is a modest slideshow and a short feature accessible through
      our Web site's Home Page that are relevant to the story:



      Journeys to the Entrails of Prairie Towns Fascinate

      Think of it as a visit to the pits at a Formula 1 event or as a tour
      of a Russian Gulag with a labour camps specialist. Exploring the back
      lanes of railway towns with an anthropologist is like acquiring a new
      map of Great Plains settlements. It can yield excitement, uneasiness,
      laughter, and certainly, a new appreciation for laneways. More
      importantly perhaps, there are paying guests with an appetite for
      hands on/behind-the-scene experiences great enough to try this out
      even locally. It's all in how the experience is staged.

      "Having recently completed an MA archaeological thesis on urban
      settlement in Regina prior to World War I with a British university,
      I wanted to incorporate and interpret some of my more evocative
      findings through the excursions I have been marketing around
      Saskatchewan since 1998," said Great Excursions CEO Claude-Jean

      "A couple of opportunities to do just that came up recently. I
      led a group of Saskatchewan housing experts on a field trip to
      Regina's Core neighbourhood. We looked at how the Core's grid
      layout affects activities such as crime, recreation and community
      development. Imagine 16 people (under a steady rainshower) carrying
      umbrellas and walking through some of the most notorious alleys in
      town, being part of an interpretation of the built environment and
      its significance today."

      Harel adds: "in another instance, a group of 40 adult French
      immersion students were in the market for an urban field trip in a
      controlled environment—one where I would communicate with them
      mostly in French so they could work on their fluency. I had
      identified a number of back lane types in Regina, featuring some
      characteristics my guests would find revealing about how the first
      inhabitants of the city used the lanes to barter, travel, to hide, to
      meet up, to keep their livestock or to use the privies. In many ways
      the back lanes were the backbone of the city in the early 20th
      Century—all our guests were looking with fresh eyes at an
      environment they thought they knew."

      John Brandon is a fellow archaeologist actively involved in cultural
      resource management in the province:

      "You may know Claude-Jean Harel for his cheerful promotion of
      Great Saskatchewan places on CBC Radio and as the owner/operator of
      Great Excursions Travel Company. His training in anthropology and
      interest in spaces led him to study the layout of Regina and its
      effects on the perceptions of her inhabitants and visitors. Claude-
      Jean will show that archaeology, while the study of human behaviour
      through material things, needs not be limited to artefacts small
      enough to put in a bag."

      The Regina Archaeological Society's Catlinite Tabloid writes:

      "Every aspect of urban development throughout the history of the
      railway towns affected how residents perceived their home, yard,
      street, neighbourhood, network of friends, family and colleagues.
      These same aspects of urban development contributed to
      differentiating communities from the original site and landscape
      settlers came to populate. Drawing from his thesis, Claude-Jean uses
      spatial relationships in railway towns, along with the help of early
      photographs, maps, GIS and analysis to share with participants some
      fascinating aspects about the places in which they live. These
      findings may help those who are currently involved in revitalizing
      their railway towns tap into little known resources than can generate
      economic benefits locally."

      One might say that back alleys are like a book that visitors and
      inhabitants learn to read over time. Saskatchewan artist Wilf
      Perreault has built a prolific career laying on canvas scenes of life
      in alleys. He started his journey in Saskatoon; he painted alleys
      even in Morocco. His work now on Regina is an important
      anthropological record; an invaluable gift offered for analysis,
      which is what the Back Alley Safaris achieve. Those same back lanes
      are dissected and their entrails exposed, through Great Excursions,
      as entertaining public interpretations; as the newest and quirkiest
      tourism product to hit the market in Regina for quite some time.

      This comes in the wake of a shift in the interests of travellers who
      are seeking more and more hands on experiences, even those who travel
      only locally. We all know that consumers are increasingly better
      educated. They have access to better research tools such as the
      Internet. The travel destination choices they make are better
      informed. If they can be convinced that a local resource such as back
      alleys can be the scene for a new type of urban adventure that will
      engage guests at an unexplored level, they will give it a try and
      willingly dish out what it costs to go on the journey.

      There are a number of advantages to a product like this one. First,
      it provides an opportunity to integrate an additional product to
      local events such as rodeos, summer fairs or centennial celebrations.
      It also helps brand a tourism destination as authentic, thereby
      reinforcing the compelling quality of the tourism images that towns
      and cities are trying so hard to establish in the Great Plains
      region. Lets face it; our destination is relatively unknown to the
      rest of the world.

      To dismiss Back Alley Safaris as a niche product that is unlikely to
      interest a broad range of visitors to the prairies would be to not
      fully understand why people travel: to escape, to immerse themselves
      into an unfamiliar environment, to gain new perspectives on life and
      to accomplish something memorable.

      It may take some time before Back Alley Safaris are run regularly
      across the province, but when they were introduced this Spring to the
      international travel trade in Montreal at Rendez-Vous Canada, the
      country's oldest and most prestigious marketplace, more than a
      few buyers gave the nod to this promising new market-ready experience.

      By the way, Rendez-vous Canada is coming to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
      in 2005.


      For more information contact:

      Claude-Jean Harel, CEO
      Great Excursions
      (306) 569-1571
      Email: cj@...
      Web site: www.greatexcursions.com

      Note to editors: Back Alley Safari photographs are available for
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