I have been writing about Canberra as a tourist destination for many years for local and international outlets but the current ‘look’ of Canberra tempts me to suggest potential visitors look elsewhere until the ‘current’ developments are complete.
If you arrive by plane it is rather confronting to be assailed by a large wall in the entrance area depicting a jet fighter plane. Admittedly Canberra is the headquarters of the Australian Defence Forces but surely something more relevant to the general population and especially tourist would be more appropriate.
However it is the approaches by road and perhaps rail that are the most depressing.
Northbourne Avenue was once an elegant roadway with a lovely median strip featuring mature trees and (usually) green grass leading from the northern outskirts to the city centre. Due to the light rail construction, this is now an unholy mess, trees cut down, barriers and construction vehicles everywhere. Given the proposed time frame for construction I suspect that the CBD will be deserted as companies and businesses leave the city area due to lack (and expense) of parking. The general run down look with a number of closed shops and unsightly boardings on streetscapes does not help. Even the Jolimont Centre for buses needs a major facelift.
I doubt many visitors arrive by train. Unfortunately the barren landscape of the railway station does not inspire confidence that the rest of Canberra will be any more attractive.
Many visitors look for an information centre as they approach a new city but the powers that be bizarrely moved the excellent (both in quality and location) operation from Northbourne Avenue to Regatta Point. I’m not sure how well that is working but for visitors with caravans the access is difficult.
I am concerned about what is happening around Lake Burley Griffin. The pop up village is a complete eyesore and fortunately is to be removed. However other plans under the guise of ‘City to the Lake’ don’t augur well. Concrete boardwalks and the filling of West Basin will not enhance the attractiveness of the lake to visitors with crowded high rise buildings and never-ending construction.
The planned barrier around Parliament House will undoubtedly be a blot on the landscape of this superb building.
I suspect most visitors avert their gaze from the rather unkempt and tawdry appearance of many parts of Canberra. Despite cutbacks to the funding (and hence staffing) of many of our popular institutions, visitors continue to spend time here. Key places like the War Memorial, National Museum and National Gallery make the best use of available resources to mount excellent exhibitions in addition to their usual displays.
But the fact remains that in many facets of life first impressions are vitally important. It applies in many situations, such as meeting people and going for an interview.
It is also very important for the tourist when arriving at a new place.
Are your expectations met? Do you feel comfortable with your surroundings?
Unfortunately to me the current ‘presentation’ for arrivals in Canberra is less that appealing.