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The Big Banana could be big business, says professor


Anne-Louise Brown
5 August 2015
Professor Johan Edelheim has a simple message for the people of Coffs Harbour – embrace The Big Banana.

The former Coffs Harbour resident and adjunct Southern Cross University academic is in Australia to launch his new book, Tourist Attractions: From Objective to Narrative, which features a photo of the oft-maligned giant fruit on its cover.

Now residing in Lapland, best known as the home of Santa Claus, Professor Edelheim nurses a sentimental fondness for The Big Banana, and it plays a key role in his new book.

“The book is loosely based on my PhD thesis, The Big Bushranger and The Big Banana, and analyses the experiences of two different tourist centres – Uralla and Coffs Harbour,” he said.

“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.”

The book aims to deconstruct and construct what tourism attractions are, examines how they are perceived and why they attract tourists and analyses their wider cultural significance.

Professor Edelhiem believes The Big Banana is culturally important to the people of Coffs Harbour and to the wider community.

“The Big Banana is really, really famous for tourists but it’s a bit of an embarrassment for the locals,” he said.

“This is very sad because, to a large extent, The Big Banana is Coffs Harbour’s identity and if the locals would learn to laugh with the tourists rather than think the tourists are laughing at them it would be so good.

“There’s still lots of agriculture in the region – there’s banana farms and blueberry farms – and from a tourism perspective they’re not taking advantage of this.

“They should be having a bit of fun with the banana – capitalising on its kitsch. There’s a lot of money to be made in the retro market.”

Professor Edelheim said one of the key focuses of his book was on regional identity and the role a tourist attraction plays in cementing a location’s image.

“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.”
Photo: Professor Johan Edelheim's new book, featuring The Big Banana.