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Race Across the World – Were Canada’s Tourist Board the Real Winners?

May 19, 2023

Unsplash Andrew Ly Hiking in Canada - Race Across the World – Were Canada's Tourist Board the Real Winners?

Image: Unsplash/Andrew Ly

Deep in a forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, five British couples are lost. Straining under the weight of their heavy rucksacks, they have one goal – to reach the Lighthouse on Cape Spear, 16,000 km away on the other side of the country. Meet Race Across the World.

For eight weeks the show had viewers hooked, as the teams crisscrossed their way across Canada, from Vancouver to St John’s, from the Arctic to the Great Lakes. The couples had to navigate their way between a total of 7 checkpoints, on a budget that was equivalent to the cost of the airfare for the race route.

The contestants were stripped back to basics. No phones. No access to Wi-Fi. All the usual home comforts, whether that be a hot bath, watching their favorite TV series, playing games in some of the best online casinos, or even just having a nice bottle of wine, were not on the cards. Instead, 51 days were spent with their heads in the game, no access to the outside world bar the kindness of strangers they met along the way.

It is a gameshow, travel show and reality show all in one, and with the show now complete, and the winners crowned, perhaps it was the Canadian tourist board who really came first.

Viewers got to see Canada in all its glory. The indigenous culture and wildlife viewing of British Columbia, the polar bears and frozen Arctic seas of Manitoba, the prairies and farm-to-fork dining of Saskatchewan, the history and culinary delights of Winnipeg and the stunning seascapes of Nova Scotia, just to name a few – it’s clear that the BBC production team certainly did an excellent job of showcasing Canada at its finest.

And it wasn’t just the spectacular backdrops that did Canada proud, it was the local people that the contestants met along the way as they used buses, trains, cars, taxis, RVs to race each other to the checkpoints. The show was filled with heart-warming encounters that the teams had with generous Canadians, on hand to offer free lifts, free food, free bed and board and even free life advice. “This hostel is full? No problem, come and stay at my house!” “Need a ride somewhere 200km away? Sure, hop in!”

The Canada effect was an instant hit. After the first episode had aired, online searches for Vancouver rose 46%, according to sources, and overall searches for Canada rose 350% during the time the series was shown. Tour operators and travel agents have said they saw an uplift in bookings and enquiries each day after the show was aired, for the entire 8 weeks it was on. And, in some cases, tourist companies have been urging their team to watch the show as a training tool, allowing them to see some of the lesser-known experiences alongside the more iconic ones.

And while it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, with some viewers criticizing the show as having a ‘fixed’ finale, this doesn’t take anything away from the local scenery and people who really shone in their starring roles. The magic of Canada was certainly not lost on the millions of viewers who tuned in each week, making the show the perfect gift for the Canadian tourist board.


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