Is it a dog? A person? In Canada, you say?

Barb Sweet
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Awareness of province low in London, Telegram finds in street poll

London —

Bruce MacMillan and Sam Connor guessed that Newfoundland and Labrador is in Canada, but only because they knew they were talking to a Canadian journalist.

Connor said he has relatives in Vancouver and might like to visit Canada someday.

When asked about this province, he replies that it sounds like a place he might visit, given the opportunity.

“It’s got the word Labrador in it, so, yeah, it sounds very lovely and cuddly,” he says, chatting with his pal alongside the River Thames.

Connor and MacMillan, 20-something Londoners, were two of nearly 30 people The Telegram quizzed in the British capital about their knowledge of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Most of them were from Britain, but there was also an Italian couple, an Australian and two university students from Holland — Fabienne Boekelman and Llona van Rynsoever — who have travelled as far as Egypt and to the United States.

Most of them had never heard of Newfoundland and Labrador, but some were able to guess what country it was in when they learned the reporter’s nationality.

“Have you ever heard of Newfoundland and Labrador?” was generally answered with “No.”

Among those who answered yes, some of the misperceptions included that it’s where the pilgrims went or that it’s just too darn wintry to visit.

The Telegram street poll was conducted on a recent trip to London organized by the St. John’s International Airport and Air Canada to promote the direct flight from St. John’s to London’s Heathrow airport.

A video compilation of most of the responses can be seen online at

A museum re-enactor at the Tower of London thought Newfoundland and Labrador was a person, inquiring, “Is that an acquaintance of yours?”

None recalled seeing tourism ads specific to the province, though a few had seen the movie “The Shipping News,” based on the novel by American author E. Annie Proulx and set on the Northern Peninsula.

Richard and Linda Ostrowski of Michigan knew the province was in Canada, but could not place it.

Avid bicyclists, they seemed interested in the province’s landscape once they were told about the national parks.

But football fan Manuel Garcia de Paredes of Panama and a few others had absolutely no interest in travelling here.

Simon Hegyer of Hungary, an ice cream vendor at the Tower of London, figured Canada was filled with ski hills.

Simon O’Leary, picnicking in James Park with Fran Hands and their children, identified Newfoundland with the dog breed and struggled to remember why Labrador was a familiar word. (Likely because it, too, is a breed of dog.)

Chris Bell of Britain’s Lake District and Simon Robert Lane of London both said they’d heard Newfoundland was the “Ireland” of Canada, meaning the butt of jokes.

Lane, interviewed in Trafalgar Square, said he’d had a stopover in St. John’s once while travelling to Halifax, where he learned of Newfoundland’s comparison to Ireland.

Bell, relaxing on a Sunday in St. James Park with his family, had travelled in Canada in the 1970s and that’s when he heard that Newfoundlanders were hardy drinkers.

His companions, sisters Janet Gordon-Jones and Irene Sharpe, had heard about Newfoundland decades ago in school and associated it with words like “cold” and “watery.”

Joshua Seymour said he’d like to visit a friend he met from the province.

“I don’t know much about them. They sound cute,” he said of the people from Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’ve got a vague idea. I know it’s very rocky, there’s lots of water and it’s cold.”

The most knowledgeable were Cathy Rogers of London and 72-year-old taxi driver John Powell.

Rogers travelled here to make a documentary about icebergs several years ago.

“It’s got the word Labrador in it, so, yeah, it sounds very lovely and cuddly." Sam Connor

She remembered the Hibernia oil rig being towed out to sea.

Powell knew the province was once a stopover for transatlantic flights to refuel, was aware of all the planes that landed in Gander and St. John’s in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism attack and had seen a documentary about the province and “The Shipping News.”

He also knew about the province’s connection to fishing.

But he acknowledged he’s not well travelled.

“I love England,” said Powell, who’s been driving cabs in London for 42 years. “I’ve been to America, Spain, mostly around Europe. I go to Paris quite a lot because my brother lives there.

“I like the sun and you don’t get that too much there, do you?”

According to the provincial Department of Tourism, tourism target markets in order of priority are Canada, the U.S., and the United Kingdom.

Visitors from Canada account for 80 per cent of non-residents who come to the province and visitors from the United States account for 12 per cent of non-residents. Overseas travellers represent about eight per cent of all non-resident air travellers — and Europeans account for four per cent of that number.

The department said tourism is marketed in the U.K. through the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership. It said low awareness about the four Atlantic provinces, and the high cost of advertising in overseas markets means the focus is on marketing an Atlantic Canada brand in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Total spending by the partnership is $1 million in the U.K., which includes general ad campaigns, marketing with tour operators, promotions and travel media.

Organizations: Shipping News, International Airport, Air Canada Department of Tourism Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership Canadian Tourism Commission.Total

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, London United Kingdom Vancouver Holland Egypt James Park Heathrow United States Michigan Panama Hungary Lake District Ireland Trafalgar Square Halifax Gander England Spain Europe Paris

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Recent comments

  • Sally
    June 07, 2011 - 10:57

    Somehow you have to get them online, in tv ads and vacation places, travel agencies. Get the word out!

  • Toby
    June 07, 2011 - 09:27

    Before meeting my wife 10 years ago I had never heard of Newfoundland and Labrador and certainly had no idea where it was on a map. During history lessons we were taught about Canada’s contributions, including WW2, but not specifically anything about NL. Now I live here and honestly the best form of marketing is word of mouth. If it was easier to get to the UK, more Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans would be able to go over there and talk about the place, then you might see more people returning here, my wife certainly did a good job convincing me to come here.

  • JLM
    June 07, 2011 - 07:45

    I'd like to see the results of quizzing folks around St. John's about the county Worcestershire and see if any of them know anything about it, other then a sauce named for it.

    • Abby
      June 07, 2011 - 08:32

      ... or how many can pronounce "Worcestershire" correctly.

    • Red
      June 07, 2011 - 09:43

      I'd like to see the results of quizzing them about their own province as there alot of people who don't know anything outside the overpass.