‘Go bananas for local icon’, says SCU professor
AUSTRALIA is a land of big things, and for 50 years and counting the most iconic of them all is Coffs Harbour's Big Banana.
Now, a former Coffs Harbour resident and adjunct Southern Cross University professor has a simple message for local residents - embrace it as much as the tourists.
Professor Johan Edelheim is in Australia to launch his new book, Tourist Attractions: From Objective to Narrative, which features the Big Banana on its cover.
Now residing in Finland, Mr Edelheim's book is loosely based on his PhD thesis, the Big Bushranger and the Big Banana, which analyses the two tourist centres.
"Uralla is home of Captain Thunderbolt and is a place that's embraced bushranger tourism and Australian heritage. On the flipside, there's Coffs Harbour and the Big Banana, which is a bit retro and kitsch," he said.
The book examines how tourist attractions draw crowds, how they are perceived, and their wider cultural significance.
"The Big Banana is really, really famous for tourists but it's a bit of an embarrassment for the locals," he said.
"This is sad because to a large extent the Big Banana is Coffs Harbour's identity and if the locals would learn to laugh with tourists rather than think the tourists are laughing at them it would be so good.
"There's a lot of agriculture in the region and from a tourism perspective they're not taking advantage of this.
"Locals should be having a bit of fun with the banana and capitalise on its kitsch. There's a lot of money to be made in the retro market."
Mr Edelheim said one of the key aspects of his book was on regional identity and the role a tourist attraction plays.
"It seems like Coffs Harbour is constantly trying to reinvent itself to be anything but the Big Banana when in reality they need to embrace it and capitalise on it."
But the Big Banana's general manager Michael Lockman said the site held a special place within the community.
"It's the first big thing in Australia and it's known all over the world - we should feel proud."