Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
In a short 1950s comedy, a small group of grumpy natives celebrate awful customer service in the hopes of keeping Americans away.
Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.
Tourism into Canada reached a record high last year, generating 20.8 million trips—14.3 million of those coming from the U.S. This news would have really pissed off the president of the “Canadian Anti-Tourist League.”
In the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) 1959 short film, Tourist Go Home!, a fictitious small group of older Canadians who want to enjoy their pristine parks and fried egg sandwiches in peace—that is, without troublesome Americans—go searching through bootlegged, unedited tourism films to find out what attracts and repels visitors from the south.
The group’s zealous president expresses comical bouts of frustration and satisfaction as they screen footage of one Michigan family’s trip through Ontario’s Muskoka Lakes region. Attractive garbage bins at the park, cops who give helpful directions, and government funded tourism bureaus outrage him. But a surly service station attendant and a waitress that comes up with an exchange rate on the fly make him proud to be a Canadian. While the group frets over the rise of American tourists, their president reminds them that “the Bureau of Statistics does not publish the number of Americans who stay away from Canada after viewing our versions of these films. I’m sure they’re equally effective.”
As retold earlier this month in the NFB’s blog, Tourist Go Home! was made for the Canadian Tourist Association, which used it to train industry workers and highlight the importance of American tourism money for Canada’s economy. It ended up being well received, but just in case it wasn’t, a disclaimer was left at the end of the film reminding viewers that “poor conditions are entirely fictitious and do not, in any way, represent conditions in these establishments.”