Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Learning and sharing at the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation conference

Last week, after the Travel and Tourism Research Association Conference, I quickly jumped in a plane to travel to the Canadian Rural Revitalization Conference held in Brandon Manitoba from the 13-16th. Both national conferences that are of interest to me in the same week - not easy!

This was a great gathering of folks ranging from community economic development agents to policy makers to academics. All of them share the future and vitality of rural areas in common.

The sessions were great - and built on the theme of "On the Bright Side". We too often pitch rural areas with doom and gloom, ideas of crisis or conflict. I liked the theme and it allowed us to focus a bit more on solutions and things that are working for rural Canada. The keynotes encouraged us to question our assumptions and to think about new models and review the evidence for some of the methods we are currently using in rural areas.

I made two presentations at the conference - the first was titled "Gaining a rural lens through rural immersion experiences" (with colleague Dan McDonald). In this presentation, we advocated for more place-based pedagogy and for introducing rural realities to university students in all disciplines to prepare them for professional practice. Based on our experience conducting immersion tours since 2005 across rural BC and AB, we highlighted the benefits to students and also the lessons learned for those who want to apply it elsewhere. To view the presentation, CLICK HERE

The second presentation I gave was sharing the results of a recent project that I did with Kelly Whitney-Squire (Acadia) for the Canadian Rural and Cooperatives Secretariat. The title was "Amenity-based rural development: Moving forward with a typology and common language". In this presentation, I highlighted some of the core concepts to amenity based rural development and introduced the typology of Canada's rural amenities that was done in the study. To view this presentation and the typology, CLICK HERE

Conferences can be great venues to meet folks, share ideas and get your creative ideas flowing. I came back from these with all of them. At this morning's conference call on the upcoming rural tourism conference for BC - we came up with ideas to make the April conference even better - so keep tuned for more as we are just getting the call ready to go out.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New ways of engaging residents in tourism planning

Last week, the Travel and Tourism Research Association held a conference in Quebec City to bring together researchers from across the country. I was attending to learn and also to make a presentation titled "Realigning tourism development research to support communities in transition: the potential role of participatory rural appraisal methods". Essentially, the message I was carrying was that researchers need to be using more participatory methods to get residents engaged IN research activities for tourism planning. Based on our application of the participatory rural appraisal method (PRA) in four communities in BC since 2006, I advocate that this is one we should be using more of in North America.

Many times, rural areas seek information on what their assets are, what their tourism potential is, or how to address issues. This research, in the past, is often conducted by outsiders - either researchers or consultants and in the end, a report - the traditional format of sharing results - is prepared and given back to the community. These often make their way into plans which are done by a small group of people within the community who are seen to be involved in tourism. While this has been useful for many, for other areas - these reports do not often reflect the input or desires of a wider spectrum of community stakeholders and as such, they are often difficult to implement.

The PRA process is research conducted WITH rather than FOR a community. It has been used a lot in the international scene in developing countries in areas such as health, education and agriculture. When I first became aware of it at Michigan State during my PhD, I wondered why this wasn't being used more in tourism development. Hence, we have piloted and learned about how it works in rural areas of BC for tourism development.

To view the presentation - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rural Tourism Conference slated for April - mark your calendars!

Well, the Rural Tourism Conference is slated to continue so mark your calendars for April 19-21st, 2011 and plan to travel to 108 Mile House to the conference venue at Hills Health Ranch. The steering committee has met a few times and will be posting more details on the conference theme soon but in the meantime plan to attend.

How is this conference different from other tourism conferences and why should you attend? This conference focuses on sharing knowledge and useful applications that are intended for those working in tourism within a rural context. The emphasis is on education and network creation in a rural learning environment where operators, community leaders, educators and students are all in attendance and equal participants. If you are interested in attending a gathering of the minds with people who understand your reality and who are coming up with solutions that may work to advance tourism in rural areas - this conference is worth the trip. Expect a couple of days of talks, workshops, hands on sessions and socializing. Leave with new insights, innovative ideas and a network of folks you can call upon after the conference is done.

The conference is being co-hosted by three academic partners, all from the Tourism Research Innovation Project - Thompson Rivers University, University of Northern BC and Vancouver Island University. We will have our students involved in the planning and will be inviting participation from other organizations to play a role as we move forward.
I plan to organize a traveling conference prior to the conference where operators and students will travel together to various venues in the region learning about topics that enhance the competitiveness of small and medium sized businesses. The funding application will go in soon but my intent is to provide a subsidy for operators to enable them to participate. More on this as I get more details but if you are keen and available from April 13 to the 20th (last three days at the conference), let me know.

More to come - stay tuned and I will post the website with more details as soon as we have them - for now though, mark your calendar as this one is sure to sell out.