Tourism Narration at Work
The narrative of theme parks emphasizes a different ‘elsewhere’ within their host environment. We will, therefore, address the two narratives at work in our case, that of the Parc Safari and the host community, the county Jardins-de-Napierville.
Parc Safari tourism narrations
The park offers visitors the experience of an African safari from the comfort of their car. It is the Africa in the heart of Quebec. This experience takes place in a setting that replicates rural Africa and evokes the great African national parks. The materials used for buildings echo the rural houses associated with a fantasized wild, undeveloped Africa. They also echo the colonial representations with shades of sand, yellow and green. This discourse completely eliminates the human dimension of Africa and focuses only on the animals. The Parc Safari borrows African culture in the nomenclature of the place. Thus, the commercial area with souvenir shops is called the souk and the observation walkway for macaques, chimpanzees, hyenas and bears is called the Olduvai gateway, after the paleoan- thropological site in Tanzania.
The other dominant discourse in Parc Safari is an environmental and educational discourse. Indeed, through the park’s newspaper and radio station, information on animals in captivity and their level of extinction are transmitted to its visitors. These media emphasize the contribution of zoos to the conservation of the rare species. This superimposed speech from the African game reserve echoes television shows, such as ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’. Indeed, they tend to focus only on the animals, as if there were no dealings with the human systems, reproducing the idea of a wilderness where the human does not interact with nature. They also anthropomorphize animals by superimposing human behaviours and feelings.
The anthropomorphization is also at work in the narrative proposed by the Parc Safari. This is carried out through the use of technology. For two years, the Parc Safari has offered visitors, specifically children, the chance to become a virtual friend of six flagship park animals. As an example, here is the description of the elephant Carole: ‘I am a dreamer and a true artist. I come from Zimbabwe, and I’d like to be your friend. I’ll tell you how I use my trunk and why I love to roll around in the mud’. They send emails to children to tell their stories about their lives at Parc Safari. We find ourselves in a narrative based on a representation of a wild Africa where captivity is justified by conservation and education. Also, an anthropomorphization is added to the denaturalization of animals.