Icon or embarrassment? A Professor at Southern Cross University thinks it's time locals started laughing along with tourists.
Former Coffs Harbour resident and adjunct Southern Cross University academic, Professor Johan Edelhiem is in Australia to launch his new book, Tourist Attractions: From Objective to Narrative.
The front cover features the region's biggest tourist icon, The Big Banana.
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."
From a tourism perspective Professor Edelhiem believes that the Coffs Coast is not taking advantage of the banana's huge appeal.
"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.
Professor Edelhiem thinks the region may be missing out on the fun.
"Retro things are huge and The Big Banana is so kitsch," he said.
"It is a joke, it's a huge concrete structure and just like so many other jokes we need to understand how fun it is for others."
"The fun of the banana is never embraced."
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."