I have often called for stronger marketing campaigns to increase domestic tourism for a number of reasons:
1. Rural areas often rely on rubber tire markets for tourism as they have limited other travel infrastructure. They are often in need of marketing efforts that encourage urbanites to travel closer to home to experience what is in their own backyard.
2. The ecological footprint associated to travel is linked to distance from origin (with higher impacts coming from air travel) - therefore traveling in one's back yard can be seen as a green"er" travel choice.
3. Many Canadians (or British Columbians to be more local) are unaware of the rich natural and cultural amenities within our own region. Tourism marketing has often branded very stereotypical images of Canada and its subregions which can dilute the breadth and diversity of experiences that are available.
Year after year however, I see that the dominant view in tourism tends to be to attract international travelers (especially high yield markets) to inject "new" money into the economy. While this is important, this ideology has perhaps skewed the systems and programs in the tourism industry at the expense of those who rely on more domestic travel markets. I have long heard from operators in rural areas "I don't care if my visitor is from Vancouver or Frankfurt - if they stay, pay and play - I am able to stay in business". And of course, if they stay in business - the overall travel experience is better for all, the local community is able to benefit and so on...
I have been quite pleased this summer to see the ramped up efforts in BC and at the Canadian level with marketing campaigns aimed at getting people to travel within their own vicinity. The innovative "Locals Know" campaign by the Canadian Tourism Commission has caught my attention numerous times. They have been engaging Canadians to contribute images, stories and their own experiences and the photos on their site help to showcase unique places and people across the country. More recently as well, BC has ramped up their efforts to get people traveling by car into more remote and unique areas of the province by showcasing driving routes. As someone who has traveled most highways in BC, I am pleased to see that these driving routes give people good reason to explore their own backyard, linking experiences and enticing them off the beaten track.
Hopefully these efforts work to motivate travel within our borders, engaging our residents to be more knowledgeable about what is here and then share that with others. Just about every survey that asks how people find out about places indicates the power of "word of mouth". This powerful tool can only be used when people have experienced something first hand. I hope that this effort at domestic marketing pays off for rural operators and that is produces a whole new generation of ambassadors for travel within Canada.