Getting away from it all, but with key lines intact

John
John Gushue
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Here's a truism: signage along our regional highways sucks. Even on the Trans-Canada Highway, signs are either too few or too far between, and nowhere near as helpful as they could be. So much so, you take notice of particular items.

I think that's why I noticed this summer that a few tourism operators had taken the trouble of nailing an addendum plank to their main signs.

Surf's up - Here's a truism: signage along our regional highways sucks. Even on the Trans-Canada Highway, signs are either too few or too far between, and nowhere near as helpful as they could be. So much so, you take notice of particular items.

I think that's why I noticed this summer that a few tourism operators had taken the trouble of nailing an addendum plank to their main signs.

"Internet" is all one cabin outfit had put up.

Really, that's all that needed to be said. On the road last month, more so than ever, I realized how connectivity is becoming as much of an expected service in the tourism industry as, say, a phone in your hotel room.

Last year, we took a laptop on the road with us, and hoped for the best.

Yes, it may not make sense to bring a computer when you're supposed to be relaxing, but we found it very enjoyable indeed to scan messages, headlines and Facebook updates while savouring our morning coffee or relaxing at the end of a busy day.

Last year, it took a bit of effort to get connected, though. We had excellent service in one hotel, but otherwise improvised as we moved around. We stopped at local libraries to log on to terminals there, and became enamoured of an Eastport coffee shop that offered wireless.

Well, a year can make a difference.

This year, we were largely in areas in and near Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks, with overnights in Gander and Corner Brook. All of the four places where we stayed - ranging from two hotels, a cabin and a bed and breakfast - offered Internet, and we noticed that many local companies were promoting Internet service to their customers.

That said, it wasn't always easy.

The wireless connection, for instance, offered at one hotel was glacial - when it worked at all. However, I was pleased to find that the public library in Rocky Harbour now offers wireless to visiting patrons, as well as regular PCs hooked up through a province-wide connection service. (I'm hoping that other local libraries are following suit.)

My wife and I took some ribbing, as expected, from friends because we took a laptop and her mobile with us. Mind you, we kept the connectedness thing to a minimum; I'm glad to say I didn't look at my work e-mail during the entire stretch.

That said, we appreciated being able to keep in touch with the outside world, even when we learned the tragic news that a good friend of ours from years ago had suddenly died.

The thing is, I know that we're far from alone in how the marketplace is changing. Everywhere we went, we saw someone with a laptop or a BlackBerry or some sort of device, checking in. (That is, when they could. To no surprise to those who live there, phone service in rural Newfoundland needs great improvement.)

Even though the provincial government's tourism campaign encourages visitors to get away from it all, the trend in travel is definitely rooted in keeping some key links intact ... should the consumer want them.

You can unplug yourself completely, of course, but travellers from near and especially far also want those moments when they can check their e-mail, get the news, check sports scores, play a game with family members on another continent, watch a video - whatever it is they want to do.

Our tourism industry would do well to keep that reality in mind.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Eastport, Gander, Corner Brook Rocky Harbour Newfoundland St. John's

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