Imaginary narratives vs. local territorial narratives
Theme parks are invented spaces (Pinggong, 2013) based on a narrative (Phillips, 1999). This narrative helps organize space for visitors. Indeed, the whole material setting of a theme park will follow the narrative set in place. This narrative dimension leads some authors (Marling, 1997; Mitrasinovic, 2006) to present the theme parks as the materialization of the cinema, where you can live the movies - whether it is the Disney universe, different artefacts inspired by MGM, the comic books of the Asterix Park in France, the British colonization or medieval, classical and even biblical times. This narrative operates within the park, but also in formal and informal dialogue with its environment (Philips, 1999).
If the narrative concept can easily be applied to a theme park, it can also be used to interpret the tourist development of a territory. Indeed, the tourist is a semiotician who ignores it (Urry, 1995) because, through its experience, it decodes the elements that make possible and understandable its tourism performance. Thus, part of the tourism development of the territories beyond the mere provision of infrastructure and services consists of proposing elements of meaning and interpretation. These elements can be combined with narratives. The development of tourism territories expresses those narratives through key elements, such as landscapes, infrastructure and activities. These are linked to a certain consistency, or not, to give them an identity, a signature at the destination level. It is through this narrative that the theme parks transform a marginal space, with low identity, into somewhere else desired by visitors (Hall, 2011). This narrative marks the difference between inside the park and outside the park.
It is through these three dialectics that I will analyse the case of Parc Safari in Quebec, Canada. However, first, I will present my research methodology, and then describe the Parc Safari, the region, and the narratives at work within the park and in the surrounding area.