Calgary

Tourists swayed by anti-oilsands video: poll

Potential tourists to Alberta have had second thoughts about travelling to the province after watching a controversial anti-oilsands ad produced by a U.S. coalition, suggests a survey.

Potential tourists to Alberta have had second thoughts about travelling to the province after watching a controversial anti-oilsands ad produced by a U.S. coalition, suggests a survey.

The Rethink Alberta video, posted on YouTube, intercuts scenic images with shots of toxic tailing ponds, oil-covered ducks and native people worried about their health in northern Alberta. "The tarsands are destroying an area the size of England," says a male narrator.

Before being shown the video by polling company Angus Reid, 54 per cent of Britons and 49 per cent of Americans said they would definitely or probably consider visiting Alberta. That number dropped to about a quarter of both nationalities after they watched the video.

The Rethink Alberta video includes shots of tailings ponds from oilsands operations in northern Alberta. ((YouTube))

Mario Canseco of Angus Reid called the findings "devastating" and said the Alberta government should directly respond to the effective campaign by U.S. environmental groups.

"This is the kind of thing that you can send to your friends. You can send this to whoever is on your email list, and that has a much more devastating effect than if you saw it on TV, for instance," he said on Monday.

"It might be time to develop something that is more geared towards the online audience, maybe something that lasts also one minute and 40 seconds, and shows some of the good things that the oilsands brings."

Jerry Bellikka, a spokesman from the premier's office, said the province isn't doing anything to directly counteract the Rethink Alberta video because it's biased and inaccurate. He pointed to ads the province has bought in U.S. newspapers as being an effective way to encourage people to read up on the oilsands.

"There's this perception out there that the government hasn't done anything about oilsands to educate the world or to tell the story. We've had stuff available for years," he said.

Tourism official dismisses poll, campaign

U.S. groups launched the Rethink Alberta campaign in July with the YouTube video and large billboards in four major American cities that compared the Alberta oilsands with the environmental damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shots of oil-covered ducks are intercut with scenic images in the Rethink Alberta video. ((YouTube))

Randy Williams, president and CEO of Tourism Calgary, dismissed both the poll as well as the Rethink Alberta campaign.

"Will it have an effect on people's predisposition to travel to Calgary or Alberta? We don't think so, and usually other [similar] campaigns have shown the same result."

Reaction from within Canada differed among provinces with 67 per cent of Albertans feeling the video is unfair compared to eight per cent in Quebec.

The Angus Reid online survey was conducted from July 22 to Aug. 1 and included 1,012 Canadians, 1,013 Americans and 1,956 Britons.

The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points in Canada and the U.S. and plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in Britain, 19 times out of 20.

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