Friday, December 9, 2011

Governing for Sustainable Rural Futures: Summer School

June 21 – July 6, 2012

For those interested in learning more about rural policy and forming networks, consider participating in the ICRPS summer school in Québec in the summer of 2012. The annual summer school, which will be held in Québec this year, brings together an international, multi-disciplinary group of faculty, students, and professionals to study the many facets of rural policy. The goal of this school is to provide graduate students, researchers, and rural development experts from around the world an opportunity to exchange insights and knowledge regarding rural and northern policy using a comparative perspective.
All information on the two-week summer school, including registration information can be found at: If you have any questions or require any further information please contact us at

Professor Bill Reimer, Co-organizerDepartment of Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University
Professor Bruno Jean, Co-organizer
Canadian Research Chair in Rural Development, Université du Québec à Rimouski

Friday, October 28, 2011

Duncan area experience

Blogpost by Martin Pariseau
Friday, October 29th, began with a group meeting during which Don Barrie from Tourism Cowichan shared a great wealth of knowledge and experience on the circle route and amenities in the Cowichan region. For instance, 40 to 60 logging trucks pass through Lake Cowichan daily. Don was good enough to honor my request and sent me five files including some focus group results and the Cowichan Region Tourism Plan. After Don left, the group continued the meeting to coordinate the various components of the collaborative case study. Finishing, we packed up and headed to Duncan for lunch.
Vans were separated at this point. One group went to the Dog House Restaurant and then on to the VIU Cowichan Campus where we got a tour. While some stayed for a tour while the rest of our group visited adjacent recreation amenities such as the giant hockey stick, Cowichan Aquatic Centre and the Island Savings Centre. After stopping briefly at the BC Forest Discovery Centre (which was hosting a Halloween event for local kids), the group drove through Chemainus and went on to Ladysmith where they explored the town. The other group spent most of the afternoon at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cobble Hill amenities

Blogpost by Chris Beharrell

Here are some of the highlights and amenities along the Cobble Hill to Duncan stretch of the Pacific Marine Circle Route:

The Cherry Point Nature Observation Park offers fabulous ocean views of Satellite Channel and Saltspring Island to enjoy. Ideal for family outings, explore the rich sea life found on the long sandy shores. Bring along beach shoes to best enjoy the environment and a pair of binoculars to observe the birdlife.

For a breathtaking view, climb Cobble Hill Mountain in Quarry Regional Wilderness Park.Parts of the old Quarry and its history can still be found - watch for the picnic site that displays a 1914 steam compressor.

Arbutus Ridge Golf Club is only one of five organizations in their sector across Canada to officially measure their Carbon Footprint through a partnership with a national organization using the GHG Par“0” program. In 2009 they have created a greening committee, invested in newer and more efficient alternatives, purchased locally made products and opted to spend more for an environmentally friendly finish and began the process of becoming the 8th organization in BC to be fully Audubon certified. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses awards certification to recognize golf courses that protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and provide wildlife habitats. Achieving certification demonstrates a course’s leadership, commitment, and high standards of environmental management.

Cowichan Bay Maritime Centreà From a condemned fuel loading dock to a museum, the pier now houses "Galleries" rich in maritime history. It's all here in the quaint seaside village of Cowichan Bay, British Columbia. With a reputation for excellence, the Maritime Centre offers hands on courses in traditional boat building techniques and restoration. Skillfully hand-crafted models of historic ships are housed in the museum at the end of the pier. Activities are for any age, sea-farer or land-lubber alike.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sooke and coastal amenities

Blogpost by Augusto Dominguez

Today, we visited Sooke’s Visitor Centre. We were advised to visit the new Charters River Salmon Interpretative Centre ( This 1.49 hectares property,located at 2895 Sooke River Rd.; just on the way to Sooke’s Potholes (the town’s most well-known natural attraction), has a 100 people capacity facility. Inside this building volunteers gave us an extensive explanation about the salmon’s life cycle and the water systems of the region. There are models and two microscopes, among many other resources, to accomplish the centre’s educational goals.

In the creek besides the building, we had the opportunity to see Pacific salmon coming up the river to spawn. For some of us it was an amazing new experience impossible to describe (see photos above).

After the Interpretative Centre, we headed to the Sooke PotholesProvincial Park. A series of pools and waterfalls carved into the river’s bedrock, yellow maples losing their leaves and pines on both sides of the canyon walls are some of the natural features this site has to offer to visitors. Wildlife like the bald eagle flying above us (unfortunately we could not get a pic as evidence) as well as Pacific salmon in the pools totally made us understand the importance of preserving this local wonders.

Mill Bay to Cobble Hill amenities

Blogpost by Laurel Sliskovic

Waking up to a crisp October morning at Ocean Wilderness Resort north of Sooke, we packed up our bags, loaded the vans and headed out for day 3 of our Pacific Marine Circle Route exploration. With Mill Bay as our destination for the day, the female SLMs toured through the communities of Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill, and the southern Cowichan Valley, taking in the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of this rich and diverse landscape.

Traveling west on Shawnigan Lake Road, we passed the Kinsol Market (home of the self-proclaimed best Nanaimo bars) on route to the newly restored Kinsol Trestle on the Trans-Canada Trail. Wow – the Kinsol Trestle is awe-inspiring! I highly recommend visiting this accessible, spectacular section of the trail. We chatted with a local woman who had been exploring the area for 27 years and she spoke with pride about the recent re-build of this historic trestle. Check out the website for photos and more information.

The next stop on our adventure was Merridale Cidery ( Rolling pastures and idyllic fields provide the backdrop for this impressive agri-tourism business. All 6 of us ladies were immediately drawn into the sights and smells of the apple orchards, the beautifully constructed outbuildings and the warm and inviting main Cider house. We were treated to a complimentary cider tasting that offered a selection of 6 different ciders, then moved into the Bistro for the tastiest roast pork sandwich I have ever eaten. The Merridale Cidery is an experience not to be missed.

After a leisurely drive through the scenic backroads of the Cowichan Valley, we arrived at Cherry Point Vineyards – home of the well-known Blackberry Port. We were treated to a wine tasting and wonderful hospitality from the gentleman behind the counter who was knowledgeable, friendly and committed to producing quality wine and preserving the fertile lands on which he grows grapes. Our first day spent in the Cowichan Valley allowed our group to slow down and truly enjoy the natural and cultural amenities of this rich agriculture area.

Sooke area amenities

Blogpost by Janice Johnson

The Sooke Harbour House was definitely a highlight in my trip. This is an amenity I would recommend to visitors because it provides a warm, relaxing and romantic environment. Also with the house being located on the Sooke harbour, it provided the most amazing ocean view. When I first walked into the house, I automatically felt I was in a home because of the beautiful artwork displayed everywhere and the gorgeous dining area looking over the Sooke Harbour. In addition to feeling cozy, the front desk lady was very helpful in giving an overall discription of what the house had to offer and the community itself. The last thing I admired most about the house was their sustainable practices. The fact that their restaurant features the freshest of local seafood, meats and produce and actively supports the local farmers, gardeners and fishermen shows appreciation for their local economy. The Sooke Harbour is definitely an asset to the community so I think it is important to continue promoting and supporting it success. In my eyes, they are roles models that are paving the way to the importance of sustainable living.
Our visit to T’Sou-ke First Nation village was a visit I very much enjoyed. T’Sou-ke First Nation recently installed one of the largest solar panel systems in British Columbia and was gracious enough to share their journey. It was a project first initiated by a former chief of T’Sou-ke First Nation and carried out by current Chief Gordan Planes. Prior to the funding proposal, T’Sou-ke First Nation conducted some background research and discovered that Germany who normally uses solar panels, received less sun then the south coast of Vancouver Island, therefore catching the interest of the community and immediately persuading them to invest. In their journey, it was interesting to see how the project brought the community closer together. Normally you would not see a First Nations community invest in such a product but after hearing the purpose behind it, you definitely feel inspired. Although this project took a lot of hard work and time, I feel it was worth the investment because it gives the community a sense of pride and status. When I first walked into the community, I could see how excited and eager the members were to share, which showed me how very proud they were of their accomplishments. I seen it as an opportunity to showcase the alternatives a First Nations community could adopt for sustainable success. Overall in this experience, I found it neat to see how the leaders were strategically helping their community make the transition from old technology to new technology without jeopardizing the traditional values of their people. Showing their community the importance of change and providing them the opportunities to adopt new practices that can environmentally, economically and socially benefit them all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Port Renfrew to Sooke

Blog entry by Erin Heeney

Our day started with the sunrise over the Sheringham Point Lighthouse from Point No Point Resort. What a beautiful view! From there, we ventured down to Jordan River Beach, watched the surfers and had a great chat with Pascale, the president of the Community Association. It’s been absolutely fabulous to talk to the locals and hear the passion in their voices about their communities.
We then headed back to Port Renfrew for another look since yesterday we were a little rushed going through. We all enjoyed the friendly people and the peaceful and quiet atmosphere. The Coastal Kitchen Cafe served up a delicious end-of-season lunch on our way out of town. If traveling through in the off season, be sure to gas up in Sooke or Lake Cowichan as the marina and gas station are closed this time of year (and only open 8am to 5pm in the summer).
The Visitors’ Centre in Sooke is not to be missed. The beautiful gardens, inviting museum and gift shop and of course, their friendly and knowledgeable staff make it a great spot to stop along the route. We were directed to the newly opened Charters River Salmon Stewardship Centre on the way to the Potholes Regional Park. The new interpretive centre highlights everything you need to know about salmon and the watersheds on which they depend. A great new facility for the residents and visitors of Sooke!
Our last stop of the day was to Potholes Regional Park, a beautiful place for a nice swim or walk along the river. We were then off to a warm welcome at Ocean Wilderness Inn and another beautiful sunset along the Juan de Fuca Straight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Journey begings - Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew

Blogpost by Mandeep Singh

The museum in Lake Cowichan is amazing, illustrating the innovation from a station to museum. One could understand about the interesting history of the area and the different tools used back in time for different purposes from pictures shown. It is interesting to see the different kind of lamps, saws and other tools preserved for such a long time displayed in the museum.
When I was reading about this area, I read about the artists, their work on poetry, paintings, etc. I was expecting some of the works by artists in the museum, howeverthere was not much about these artists.
When we stopped at the visitor centre we heard about the AVATAR GROVE - being promoted for visitors. We were excited to get there. We found difficulties to get there as the directions were not so specific though the drive was quite comfortable and beautiful. Even when we reached the trail, the sign for the trail was quite invisible. Many people are likely to miss it. The signs, ribbons, used for the trail are not effective or sufficient. We lost our way twice. The ecology is quite unique from other forests however and as we interviewed a member of Ancient Forest Alliance, we got more information about the need for this area to be protected.

Examining the Pacific Marine Circle Route

Circle tours or routes are a strategy to disperse tourism throughout regions. They have been used widely around the world to create economic benefits in rural areas. By designating scenic routes and promoting the amenities available to visitors, destinations simplify complexity for visitors and enable them to access areas that may otherwise be missed.

I often advocate for tourism routes because of their ability to support rural areas that are using tourism for diversification. This week, I am taking ten graduate students in the new Masters in Sustainable Leisure Management at VIU into the field to develop a case study on the Pacific Marine Circle Tour on Southern Vancouver Island. Together, we have done research on route tourism in other contexts such as South Africa, Australia, USA and Canada to learn from their approaches. We are comparing what we have learned, to what we see and experience in the field. We are also comparing what is being promoted on the route vs. what we actually experience. In this sense, we are doing a modified gap analysis and our results will be fed back to those involved in championing the route to visitors.

Over the week, I have asked each student to submit a short blog entry on a portion of their experience. This sort of fieldwork is important for students, and it will provide some information to those in the communities along the route - a win win. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Healthier small communities - a virtual town hall event on November 3

Healthier Small Communities - A Virtual Town Hall Event
Join us for a Webinar on Thursday, November 3

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

This webinar will explore some of the ways that local governments can build health into the daily life of small towns and rural and remote communities.

Speakers will provide real examples of how small communities are supporting food security, physical activity and developing a vision for a healthier future. Webinar participants will be encouraged to share their thoughts on how to create healthier communities and to identify priorities and this will be communicated to the local governments of participating communities.

JOHN INGRAM is a professional planner and partner at EcoPlan, an award winning, multi-disciplinary firm of planners, urban designers, decision analysts and economic development specialists. EcoPlan was recently was recognized for their part in an innovative Regional Growth Strategy for the Comox Valley which won the 2011 Planning Institute of B.C. Award for Excellence in Small Town and Rural Planning. John will discuss how community planning processes that create vision and utilize structured decision-making can build the foundation for healthy, vibrant communities.

EDNA MCLELLAN, with Northern Health’s Kitimat Health Unit and SHAUN O'NEILL with the District of Kitimat’s Leisure Services Department have long worked in partnership to promote active living, health and wellness. They will discuss the evolution of this collaboration and describe how they’ve been able to make health programs more inclusive and to move inactive citizens to healthier lifestyles.

ROSE SONEFF is a Registered Dietitian and Community Nutritionist working in Promotion and Prevention through Interior Health. She will explain how the communities in Williams Lake and the North Thompson have come up with innovative approaches to address both the economic and environmental aspects of local food security issues.

DR. NICOLE VAUGEOIS holds the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development and as well as leading research she is also a professor in the Department of Recreation and Tourism Management Faculty of Management at Vancouver Island University. She will discuss her research and the multiple benefits that parks and recreation can provide to rural areas.

Title: Healthier Small Communities - A Virtual Town Hall Event
Date: Thursday, November 3, 2011
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM PDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dr. Tobias Luthe - first visiting scholar speaks on sustainable consumption in the Swiss Alps

The new Masters in Sustainable Leisure Management at VIU is done in partnership with the World Leisure Organization. As such, we are trying our best to internationalize the content that the students are exposed to. One of the ways we are doing this is to bring in "visiting scholars" or experts in sustainability and innovation. Our first visiting scholar is Dr. Tobias Luthe, Senior Researcher at the Transdisciplinary Sustainability Studies - University of Applied Sciences Institute for Tourism and Leisure Research in Chur, Switzerland.

The Graduate students have been learning from Dr. Luthe in their first course on Paradigms and Principles in Sustainability. Tonight, Tobias will share some perspectives with the public when he gives a lecture on : Sustainable Consumption - innovating products and behavior: the case of tourism in the European Alps. Sept 27, 7 - 9 pm at the Nanaimo Campus of Vancouver Island University in Building 355-203. Join us!

"Todays’ challenges of designing and managing a complex world require innovations in how economies and markets function. Global environmental change further increases the pressure on societal transitions to design resilient and more sustainable economies.

As one example, tourism in the European Alps is of highest regional economic importance while being a saturated industry suffering from climate change and socio-economic developments. Current efforts to increase adaptive capacity focus on maintaining a status quo – clearly lacking innovation and pioneering developments. The Alps have a history though of pioneering success in tourism, such as the train up to the Eiger or the gondola to the Klein Matterhorn. Fresh ideas are needed now to develop an industry that is resilient to change, and that understands change as an opportunity to innovate in both products and services. Such a step requires behavioral changes from all stakeholders, on the production and the consumption side. Sustainable consumption is a paradigm of growing importance that allows to fuel necessary market innovations that can drive Alpine tourism to become more sustainable. This presentation discusses examples of new products and market developments in the tourism industry of the Alps both from a qualitative and a quantitative angle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Graduate students debate public investment in tourism

This week, our new Graduate students in the Masters in Sustainable Leisure Management met to debate to what extent public investment should be made into tourism in the Vancouver Island Region. It was held at the Annual Tourism Vancouver Island Conference in Nanaimo from Sept 20-22.

The pro side, led by speaker Laurel Sliskovic, argued that investment into tourism is actually reinvestment into an industry that generates significant revenue for local and provincial governments. The pro team also argued that consistent investment is needed in a number of areas, including into the systems that are required for tourism such as BC Parks.

The con side, led by Marc Sorrie, argued that investments in tourism should come from the private, not the public sector. His team also suggested that there are numerous other competing priorities for the limited public dollars that exist, and tourism takes a back seat to things like health and education. He also suggested that until First Nations agreements are made, public investment would be inequitable and we would not reap the full benefit of the potential that will be present when Aboriginal communities can more fully participate in the industry.

Both teams did a great job of presenting to a packed room full of operators, Mayors, marketing organizations, and a variety of other delegates. I am sure their ideas sparked off conversation for the conference as well. While a show of hands indicated that the pro side won, it was obviously, a biased audience in the room!

I was reminded in organizing this debate at how effective they are in bringing about both sides of issues. We all too often hear what we want to hear, that which validates our own thinking on topics. In a democratic society, where complex issues are all around us - we can learn from these students perhaps, to think about the opposing sides and ideas to try and find common ground to move forward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Undergraduates help out at the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival

Each fall I have the pleasure of teaching undergraduates in the Recreation and Tourism Degree about the joys of doing applied research. In doing so, I think it is imperative for them to work with real life scenarios and organizations that need information for improved decision making. This year, the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival, who we have worked with in the past, asked our students to be involved in collecting market intelligence for them. Six students in the course signed up to greet visitors at various vendors in the festival to survey them on their experience.

Surveying people during an experience is a bit problematic in terms of getting valid data. If you ask someone who is not done their experience yet, it is difficult to get complete information from them. For example, asking someone how much they spent at the festival when they are still spending, may provide you with inaccurate amounts. I have been trying to experiment over the years with models to correct this bias. The students method with the organizers was to solicit visitors contact information and then to contact them post experience to ask the questions. They had tremendous success with this approach, and are now busy collecting their data for the organizers. If they have strong response rates, it may be worth sharing with other organizers who are facing similar issues.

Kudos to the students on their work, to the vendors that worked so hard during the festival and to the organizers for asking VIU students to engage with them in their search for information. Win-win-win scenarios are always possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Using amenities to market liveable rural regions

This weekend I was golfing at the St Andrews By the Lake course just outside of Penticton when I came across this sign. Much of my work in the past two years has been focused on amenity based rural development - or the idea that rural areas can use the amenities that make them attractive to visitors, to encourage repopulation of rural areas as well. This sign showcased what many in real estate have known all along, that the attractiveness of these amenities when experienced as a visitor, can often be the impetus for resettlement decisions.

In this case, the golf course and the scenic amenities in the rural area were being promoted as key lifestyle enhancements. I have written about ABRD in previous posts, so won't repeat a lot of that here - but will reiterate that for rural areas thinking about using this approach (or who already are pursuing tourism and repopulation but perhaps not with a unified strategy) - collaborating with those in real estate is likely an important step in setting up a sustainable future for the area. While most view real estate sales as "anti-sustainable development", I have been impressed with the level of market intelligence that firms possess that can help indicate who is moving to the area, how long are they staying, what attracts them and what influences them to leave. This information, combined with the long term land use plans for rural regions (once we get those in place in all regions of BC) can help us connect amenities with desired migrants.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just ducky to be back at work

As I transition back to work, I decided to take my new textbooks for the MA in Leisure and Sustainability with me on the long weekend. I have to decide what reading these new students will be exposed to, which is always a challenge. Not only are there lots of books out there nowadays, but they vary greatly in their ability to get ideas and content across to audiences. Academics, as wise as they can be, are often terrible at getting their wisdom across to the very people that can most benefit from it. This often leaves important knowledge out of touch and inaccessible for people, including students. I am a real advocate for selecting reading that stimulates thinking and discussion and encourages students to see things from opposing sides (not what they necessarily want to hear).

So, in the end, I chose a couple of great ones that I hope will do just that. The first is by Cecile Andrews - called "Slow is Beautiful: new visions of community, leisure and joie de vivre".
I chose this one so that students could see the link between consumption, the pace of society and our quest for status and overall sustainability. While they are not likely to agree with everything, or to digest some of her messages easily, it will inspire good discussion. We are skyping Cecile in on the first day so she can discuss the background of the book with them as well. I always find that meeting the authors can help one situate their work a bit better.

I also chose Andres Edwards "Sustainability Revolution: Evolution of a Paradigm Shift" as a way to bring students onto the same page with sustainability concepts. He packs a lot of background and initiatives into this little book and covers off a variety of principles that various groups have developed to try and move sustainability from and idea into reality. I think that the duck on the beach at Walnut Beach Resort in Osoyoos enjoyed this book too, as he and his buddies were hanging around me while I read it (taking any opportunity to nibble at the food I had with me).

After this, the students will get lots and lots of readings from Dr. Tobias Luthe, our visiting scholar and lots of independent studies as well. I hope it inspires great dialogue and reflection, the goal of all teaching.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Linking products for enhanced visitor experience - art and wine combo

This weekend I tried to soak up some of the last days of summer in the rural area of Osoyoos. There is so much to do in this gem of a place, beaches, great weather, small towns, authentic spaces, friendly people, antique markets, and of course - wine and art!

I was impressed at one of the initiatives taken by Tinhorn Creek (near Oliver, BC) when I passed by their sandwich board on the road. I am a bit of an artist and always look for ways that rural areas are trying to showcase their arts and culture products to visitors. Tinhorn Creek had partnered with local artists to showcase their work in the tasting area. While we weren't planning to visit wineries on that day, it caught my attention and we went in. The greeter at the venue asked if we were there to see the art or to taste wines (impressive as they are gathering market intelligence too!). We told them we were there for the art (and of course, bought a few items when we departed). All visitors were given a ballot to vote for their favorite painting which encouraged us to see them all, and to participate in providing feedback to their artists. The works were stunning and the venue worked great for a display.

I always like to see these innovative ideas to collaborate. In this case, the winery provided a venue for local artists and the artists provided a value added part of the experience for visitors. I am sure it was a win win for them and wanted to share it with others as I know display opportunities for artists in rural areas can be difficult. So, follow their lead and take it where the visitors are going already!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Amenities abound in 108 Mile House

I spent the last week traveling with my horses, dogs, husband and friends up to the Hills Health Ranch at 108 Mile House, BC. I make this trip annually to participate in a competitive trail ride hosted by BC Competitive Trail Riders Association. The venue is set up with corrals that are build and maintained by the Backcountry Horsemen of BC and if you stay there with your horses, you can use the resort facilities such as showers, pool, hot tub, restaurant and pub. A very nice arrangement and one I'd encourage other private ranches to pursue. There are few places for equestrian travelers to do this at in BC. There is much potential...

While there, we ride the trails at the ranch and on adjacent lands, fish in nearby lakes, golf at the 108 Mile course, mountain bike and run the trails. This region is a great example of a rural region that has identified its amenities and gone about using them to bring people in for a short time (visitors) or a long time (part and full time residents). While business and traffic is slow, as I understand, there remains a lot of potential in this destination.

One of the great assets that the area has protected and promoted, is the 108 Mile House Historic Site where the 105 Ranch House rests. This impressive historic site is run, like most of them in BC, by a dedicated group of volunteers and local ambassadors. We were greeted by the volunteers who told us about their efforts and their situation, which again, is not unlike other historic sites in BC. While we have tremendous heritage assets in the province, many struggle to survive. They are often not viewed as stakeholders in tourism, yet they are important ones. Their priorities often focus on maintaining and presenting heritage so that residents and visitors can appreciate its role and value to society. In doing so, they create valuable experiences for visitors and a sense of place and pride for local residents. The story of the evolution of this site is worth noting - read more about it on the linked site above. And better yet, plan a visit next time you are in that area. Thanks volunteers for your efforts, and local artisans for all the goodies we purchased in the gift shop.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Accountants and other Daredevils:Unlocking your Inner Superhero

Like anyone who has had the good fortune to meet her, I have gained a lot from my interactions with Carol Patterson of Kalahari Management. Carol and I had a chance to connect at the recent South Carolina NET conference and she gave me a copy of her latest book "Accountants and other Daredevils: Unlocking your Inner Superhero". This is such a fun book, and worth the read. A talented story teller, in person and in writing, Carol begins the book by telling her own story of how she moved from being an accountant to following her inner compass to do something that mattered to her. Then, she transitions to tell the story of a number of inspiring individuals who work in rural tourism around the globe. In each story, readers are sure to find examples of what works and what doesn't, but moreso, I was reminded about the more valuable lessons in development work - that it takes people, bold ideas and relationships to make things move from ideas to reality.

Carol was also in the process of doing up a short video to share ideas on female travelers and she just emailed me last week to let me know that her newsletter is ready (and the video). If you want to sign up for her newsletters, see the contact information below...

spring newsletter with info on marketing to female travelers

video version at

and information on Carol Patterson

Kalahari Management, Inc. Nature Tourism Planning and Communications
(Tourism assessments • Feasibility studies • Conference Presentations • Training)

Author of The Business of Ecotourism and
Accountants and Other Daredevils: Unlocking Your Inner Superhero
Learn how you can increase the economic development and success of your business and community, by attracting cultural travelers, nature lovers and adventurers who want to spend money with you and her blog:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

BC Resort Municipalities Symposium

This week I was asked to deliver a keynote at the BC Resort Municipalities Symposium in Osoyoos, BC. This is a small but productive gathering of administrators from the 13 designated resort municipalities in BC to share their plans, initiatives and lessons learned on an annual basis. It was a pleasure to be asked to share some thoughts with them and to meet this elite group.

I always find keynotes to be a bit challenging and nerve wrecking. A good keynote can set the tone for a conference, pose questions, get people chewing on new ideas and offer suggestions. A poor one can put folks to sleep with someone at the podium for an extended period of time. I seek to do the former of these two. So, I spent some time discussing ideas with Jim Newman, of Osoyoos to make sure I could pitch something of value to the group.

In the end, I ended up making a few points (I think). I tried to start at the 30,000 foot level to have folks recognize that they are part of something much much larger than running operations at the community level. They are part of a larger international and national movement in rural development - of which I have written about more on this blog - amenity based rural development. The BC Resort Municipalities were created as a strategic provincial policy to provide supports for amenity rich locations in the province. Initially, this came with financial supports such as a share of the Hotel tax which could be reinvested back into communities for infrastructure and marketing (items which cause issues for many rural communities in tourism). Over the years, one of the most positive things that this group has done has been to create links with one another to exchange ideas. Knowledge is power when shared and the creation of a collective with experience in resort community development can act as a resource pool for the communities but also for the province.

I tried to reinforce in the talk how bold policy moves such as the creation of the BC Resort Municipalities needs to be followed up with ongoing support. New structures like this need time to evolve, to learn and to provide feedback on what is working and what is not. It may be the researcher in me, but I tend to think of this as an experiment in policy supports for rural tourism development - and as such, they need to be evaluated on an ongoing basis with adjustments made when they are supported by evidence. I'd be happy to provide this sort of research for the group as they continue on their evolutionary path and to the province as it finds ways to provide appropriate support.

For more information on this group and the Acts that created it, see:
BC Resort Municipality update
BC Resort Municipality Initiative

Saturday, May 7, 2011

From Policy to research and back again - Conference in Ottawa May 5

This week I attended the first Canadian Rural Policy Conference in Ottawa on May 5th called "From Policy to Research and Back Again". It was a great gathering mixing researchers and policy makers from across the country in a day jam packed with sessions, panel discussions, posters and networking.

I gave a session and paper called "The Homogeneity Dilemma: Fine Tuning Supports for Rural Tourism" based on my observations of the tendency for one-size fits all supports for rural communities. Here is the abstract anyways, and I will be pursuing having it published in an upcoming version of the Journal of Rural and Community Development.

Despite the tendency to generalize about rural areas, they are not homogenous. Programs to support development in rural areas however tend to assume homogeneity and are often packaged for one-size fits all use by various communities. This paper will outline a typology of rural tourism destinations based on level of engagement ranging from those just beginning to pursue tourism to those managing its impacts. Using data from six years of field research in rural British Columbia, the paper illustrates how current government supports within the delivery and development system showcase deficiencies for some types of rural areas seeking to develop tourism. Overall findings suggest that there is a dominance of supports for communities that are seeking to expand tourism via marketing models, however those that are in the earliest steps, and those that are dealing with saturation issues are currently without adequate supports. The paper provides recommendations for enhanced program supports for rural areas to more fully explore tourism as a diversification option or as a tool for amenity based rural development.

I often think that the measure of success of much of my research is the extent that it influences policy or decision making (at any level). So, I have been interested in how to do that for about 10 years. The Tourism Research Innovation Project helped me to gain a better understanding of the world of the "other" (policy makers) and one of the most important things I learned was the need to build relationships of trust between researchers and those who can use our research. I don't view knowledge mobilization as a one way exchange from researchers to policy makers -but rather a dynamic exchange of information and priorities and in many ways, a collaborative effort to create change in areas that need it (like rural development).

It was a pleasure to be at this conference and hear that I am not off track in this line of thinking and that others share this perspective and have practices that I can use to help me in this goal. Keep posted for next year's gathering - I am assuming that calling it the first - will mean that there is a second to come.

Photo is of Dr. Bill Reimer (top) and then of the dialogue session at the end of the day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stories from the Trail - more from the Rural Tourism Conference

Guest Blog by Fran Thorburn



British Columbia is the epicentre of the mountain biking world and participation rates are still going up. There is a wide range of ages that are involved in this sport, with the median age at 30 years and the majority of participants being male. More and more women though are taking an interest in the sport.

Positive aspects to Mountain bike tourism are:

· That it is important to the industry.
· It is organized and led by the community.
· It supports the tourism growth and local recreation.
· It is a low investment.
· It encourages pride within the community.

3 critical factors to implementing the sport are;

1. Signage and maps of the trails and having a management system in place.
2. Having a local stakeholder alliance such as DMO’s, land manager and services.
3. Funding sources such as membership fees to cover the maintenance, infrastructure and marketing.
Two case studies were presented and the common threads were:

· It is important to have community support.
· Need to have a plan and make sure that all paper work is in place before starting construction of the trails.
· Build healthy relationships with all stakeholders and the community.
· Be aware of the competing interest such as forestry/logging.
· Make sure that land access, i.e. license of occupation and right of way agreements for using private properties are in order.

NOELLE KEKULA & CONNIE FALK – HORSE TRAILS AND CAMPSITE PARTNERSHIPS ON THE BONAPARTE PLATEAU – Again it was mentioned the importance on building healthy relationships and partnerships. An interesting piece of information was to go to the job creation program when in need of help as this is an area where you can get skilled people to help build trails and campsites. Advice given on where to start:

1. Talk to Recreation Sites and Trails on your plan and to see if it can work.
2. You need to find out where trail authorization is required.
3. Be prepared to spend time on the paper work and legalities as this is a slow drawn-out process.
4. Consultation takes place with all the stakeholders.
5. To avoid delay, have your plan as in-depth and complete as possible.
6. Work with First Nations, they love to share their culture, you need to understand what is important to them, i;e. they preserve culturally modified trees and to know which is a modified tree you will see a strip of bark removed while it was young.
7. Get to know the local ranchers as they will be a great help in the creation of the trails.
8. Have good collaboration with all stakeholders, as this is key.



It was mentioned that the number one thing people are looking for is a relaxing atmosphere with friends and family. A strategy when you don’t have the resources is to take a small group and give them a wonderful experience. A tip given was that you could make something out of nothing for example a young entrepreneur decided to create a trail up a very steep hill in order to ride his mountain bike up there as fast as he could, which in turn has become a popular yearly competition bringing many visitors to the community.

Tourism development methodology

1. Identify tourism assets and options

2. Choose one tourism asset to develop

3. SWOT your tourism activity

4. Develop your strategy to overcome your challenges

5. Define your market

6. Develop a marketing strategy

7. Resource development (people, money, skills, infrastructure etc)

8. Build community support

9. Choose 5-8 key people to help build community support

There are two kinds of tourism, destination or diversion (when people are going to a destination they divert to another place). “A tourism product does not have to be big to be of high value”.

New trends in tourism are short get a ways within 150 miles or a once in a life time experience.


The theme of this workshop was to see some of the trails found on the ranch. There was a fair amount of conference visitors who took part in this activity. From the introduction that Pat gave us on some of the history of the ranch to the finish of the tour was a 2 hour exercise. The tour started off by walking through the corral campground which was an area that had a corral for each campsite. This allowed visitors that come to the ranch with their horses to have a safe place to keep their horsed during the night and while they were not out riding. The campsites are large to allow easy movability for large vehicles. The area is close to the lodge so that the visitors can easily walk up to the restaurant, showers, pool etc. The trail that runs through this campsite is the original gold rush trail which was a pretty amazing piece of information. It left me feeling a little in awe to know that this track had seen so much activity in the past and was still being used. From the campsite and still on the original gold rush trail we walked down trail 10 which led us to the main road where Pat showed us an underpass he had constructed to allow his visitors and community members a safe crossing to either side of the road. From here we turned left and came to the biathlon trail and shooting stadium. With all the dirt that was extracted for the making of the underpass, Pat had the shooting stadium built. This is a fairly large area with the dirt built up to create a wall in the shape of a half moon and this prevented the pellet bullets from going beyond the wall. Lots of starlings were out pecking for their breakfast while we were there. The walk then went on down the biathlon trail until we came to a fence marking the boundary. From there we basically just walked back, but on trail 21. All these trails are ski and skidoo trails in the winter. The biathlon has its own trails in a separate area. In the summer these trails become in use for mountain biking, walking, hiking and horse back riding. ATV’s are not allowed on the trails due to the damage they can cause. There were no signs as such up to guide visitors on what trails they were using except for the occasional sign stating it was a skidoo trail on a B for biathlon. Apparently signs go up when the season is about to start, so we were in between seasons and were therefore in the transition period. There are three categories of endurance trails to choose from, easy, moderate and advanced. The longest trail is 6.6 kms and is classed as an easy trail. The longest advanced trail is 3.5 kms. Maintaining these trails has a large cost to it. They have small machinery as well as a large snow plough when there is a lot of snow. With the amount of trails to be groomed and maintained it takes a lot of man hours. These trails are groomed and cleaned up twice a year. There is a $10.00 fee to use the trails, apart from people just walking the trails, so therefore it is always a worry that they get enough visitors using the trails in order to cover this cost.


This has been a full on, very informative and well organized conference. A lot of information has been shared in the last two days. What I saw as a common issue throughout the event is the challenge in either developing healthy relationships with stakeholders and politicians or being unaware of the importance of building these healthy relationships. I also learnt that small tourism businesses are not taken seriously by government and this has created huge challenges for these small tourism operators. It seems to me that education is a missing link here on a number of fronts. There needs to be awareness on the value of these businesses and how they are a sustainable means of economic growth. One area that needs to be addressed is the conflict between small businesses and land tenure and the power forestry have with the right to come onto that land and clear cut it. This seems a very unfair practise and an unbalanced process. If a lease is granted on crown land then government should honour that and not allow forestry the privilege of coming in and clear cutting that area. Could TIA not be involved in bringing rural tourism operators together as one voice to pressure government to change this policy? Again could TIA not bring awareness to the people of BC through a visual manner that this is goes on and that it not only affects sustainable businesses, but that clear cutting is still taking place in a big way in BC. I believe there needs to be more awareness on what sustainability looks like. We basically look at sustainability as an environmental issue, whereas it is much larger than that. Without a sustainable environment, we do not have a sustainable economy, a sustainable business environment or a sustainable life style; they all go hand in hand. Government needs to take responsibility of this and not rely so heavily on forestry and mining etc as the main economic factors. Government is responsible for taking care of all its people and businesses in the country, so maybe TIA and other small business organizations can look at creating partnerships and working together in bringing awareness to the people on these unfair issues and demanding policy changes with finding a more “sustainable” and balanced way to protect all businesses in the country. From our Policy and Planning class we were taught that, we the people do have the power, but we have to stand together and demand change. Maybe it is time to bring awareness to the people so that we can make a choice of whether we want to take our power back or not.Creating those healthy relationships with all stakeholders and learning from each party becomes critical when you understand the depth of what a sustainable environment really entails.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rural Tourism Conference updates from the field

During the conference, I had a guest blogger - Fran Thorburn, take notes during the sessions and provide perspectives to those who could not make it. We will have a series of blogs from Fran - starting with this one... enjoy

My name is Fran Thorburn and I am a 4th year tourism management student studying at Vancouver Island University. It was in my third year that I was exposed to rural community development in a tourism context, and discovered that I have an interest in learning more about this subject. I live in a rural community on Vancouver Island and like many other local rural communities it is struggling to find a way to survive. I am hoping to find a way to become involved in rural development by using tourism as a means to inject economic growth into the area. One area of interest I am presently researching is to see if there is any potential to start either an on-line tourism brokerage business or an on-line concierge business for Mid Vancouver Island.

The second annual Rural Tourism Conference is being held at the Hills Health Ranch in 108 Mile House, BC from the 19th April to 21st April. I will be attending with 4 other tourism students from VIU who are also interested in rural tourism.

Following is a summary of some of the topics we sat in on.

TUESDAY 19TH APRIL OPENING PLENARY Speakers were Simon Milne, Laurence Moss, Pat Corbett & moderated by Nicole Vaugeois. The theme of the conference is to look at rural development in a broader picture. Presently rural development is looked at in one perspective and that is creating jobs and making money. This conference is to bring in new ideas and to find alternative approaches to rural development such as looking at the natural and cultural amenities found in rural areas and building relationships and overcoming challenges with the different stakeholders in order to move forward.

NICOLE VAUGEOIS introduced the idea of using natural and cultural amenities found in rural communities as a way to develop tourism products. She says that there were three important issues that need to be addressed,To repopulate the rural communitiesTo attract the younger generation to rural areasTo find ways to deal with the aging structures in the area. Nicole states that by developing the tourism industry in rural areas could be a solution to dealing with the above issues, and that it is important to invest in these places and to look at importing people, ideas and investments rather than looking at what to export from communities. Amenities are those pleasurable aspects that are associated with the cultural and natural amenities that make places attractive and allow people the opportunity to play, rejuvenate and invest in the area.Natural amenities are the surrounding areas such as mountains, the ocean, lakes, the air quality etc.Cultural amenities are the heritage/history of the area, art, and recreation. Both these amenities are the back bone for a tourism product and there must be a clear understanding of finding a sustainable balance to promoting and preserving these amenities and the industry.

SIMON MILNE - global aspect use and promotionSimon spoke about how to attract tourists to your area and hold onto them so that they spent time in the area. This is a common problem with communities that are not on the main route or have poor signage. He said that although signage is critical, so is providing information to visitors before they arrive and that using the internet is essential.A solution that he talked about is having the local communities in the area develop their own websites. These websites, which he called webraising and is a community bottom up based developed website and has representation from every community in the area. Each community has a chance to tell “its story” and is as all-encompassing as possible. Examples he gave were, tourists wanting to research and find out what the area has to offer, as a resource for the local people, health centres, which provides information to anyone interested such as doctors and nurses interested in migrating to that community. So it is a community resource as well as a tourist resource. As a marketing tool this addresses the following issues.How do we give tourists the chance to interact more with the locals?How do we get enterprises and local businesses to network and work together?How do we get community support for tourism?How do we get tourism to sustain communities?I personally thought that this was a unique and innovative marketing tool which I would like to do some research on and to see if my community and the surrounding communities in Lighthouse Country would be interested in developing.

LAURENCE MOSS - migration & rural tourism – global and cultural tourismLaurence claims that Tourism and Amenity migration go hand in hand.What is meant by this is that there is a trend for people to come to these communities as tourists and then come back to settle. They could be retirees who choose to live in rural communities who want to enjoy the natural and cultural amenities of the area. Or they could still be economically active and choose to make their living off tourism. As the natural and cultural amenities are what draw people to these areas they become the core to rural economic development and therefore it is paramount to protect or rehabilitate them if you do not want to loose them. Laurence’s argument is that it is vital that you, the resident of the community become involved in the planning and organizing of the tourism industry. It is important to get to know and create partnerships with the local NGO’s, the regional offices, planners and town council and other important links. You are part of the team that will help, and your voice is essential to bring awareness to the importance of this industry.

PAT CORBETT – Leader in tourism, active leadership role in different organizations.Pat believes that to get amenity tourism going you need to ignite the community and use regional development.To strike out to do something in Rural BC or anywhere else, you need to bring together a good team from the community. An example given was the importance of developing good relations with the staff of the ranch. They have staff that have been with them since the beginning of this endeavour which is approximately 30 years. Their mission statement is – “To provide an environment to a kick start for an improved lifestyle”. They invest in the growth and development of their staff by providing training and opportunities in sending their staff to other health centres to learn new and different skills and knowledge (Mrs. Corbett, personal communication, 2011).


MILTON ALMEIDA – Regional Tourism: A model for sustainable rural development. This was more of an interactive group session where we all introduced ourselves and explained what brought us here, what challenges we were facing or any questions we may have and to share something that we had learnt up to this point. What this exercise did was expose the different backgrounds and knowledge available in the room with the intention of brainstorming to find solutions.Some issues that came up were, when do you call amenities resources or amenities?How do you balance rural communities in development and preservation?Some suggestions that came up on building partnerships were:

  • Perseverance

  • Openness and willing to listen

  • Be prepared to do a lot of listening

  • Be aware of the different skills and make the most of them

  • Must trust and create a safe environment

  • Develop mutual gain with the increase in power and strength available

  • Don’t just focus on the financial gain

  • Make sure your vision is inline with othersHave rules for the road

  • Make sure that there is a common understanding of the language and meaning

  • Build mutual respect with the different partners

  • Be patient

Suggestions on moving forward were:·
Have a fit for all communities·
Educate stakeholders and residents on the benefits of tourism·
Have a community vision and build pride within community·
Make sure that the community is willing to move forward with tourism·
Find like minded people·
Be involved – go to meetings, create partnerships, recognise and share in successes·
Don’t give up.

It is becoming evident to me that building partnerships is not a common process in this industry and that there is a challenge in building and maintaining these partnerships. I would think that finding someone with good leadership qualities within the community to start to build relationships within the community and all the necessary stakeholders would be a step forward.

20TH APRIL, 2011
NICOLE VAUGEOIS - Moving beyond Community Tourism myopia to a more regional approach. To protect and promote community tourism all communities should be involved. There should be awareness on marketing and how to inform visitors of the different attractions in the many rural communities. Stakeholders need to be aware of the different experiences that visitors are looking for. Communities need to work together and build trust as a way to help each other overcome the lack of financial capital needed for building infrastructures and services. Communities need to find good leadership to help move forward with building partnerships and to deal with different conflicts, i.e. dealing with amenities that fall outside municipal boundaries and are currently not under land use.

ED GRIFONE - The why, what and how: elements of the community enhancement and relevance to tourism development. Ed talked about the importance of creating a new face to the old communities in order to attract visitors to these places. The development of a down town is critical as this is the heart of the place. Today many of the rural communities have to upgrade water pipes which are underground and is a huge expense, so to upgrade and renovate above ground at the same time is a sensible move. It is a long process and affects businesses for a few months while the renovations and upgrading takes place, so it is important that businesses and community members are aware of this upheaval and that they are prepared to sacrifice this time for the long term gain. There are many steps to be taken and many decisions that need to be made and it is important that the community members and all stakeholders have a say in the design of the uplift, the cost of it all and understand the benefits to their community.

State of the industry roundtable: Issues challenges and opportunities. Evan from BC Wilderness Tourism Association (WTA) opened up this session. He talked about some of the challenges the industry are facing presently which are, security of land tenure, property taxes and HST, transportation and access, high marketing costs, management of amenities which covers things like, who has control of regional development. There is competition for the natural resources among the many different industries and the lack of security regarding the long term protection of the view-scapes.This discussion portrayed the challenges of running a family business and how it feels like it has been a continual challenge, especially with politicians. The weakness in building partnerships with other stakeholders became apparent again. There was some positive talk that the new premier of BC is interested in supporting family business, in particular in the tourism industry. There was talk that the new C.O.T.A. advocacy agency should get back to supporting all the members and allow the members to voice their thoughts on how tourism should work. It was suggested that private operators should become members of COTA (TIA BC) and have influence in the association. Problems and challenges happening today in BC that are affecting the tourism industry are:Japan is demanding wood to re-build so therefore the forestry industry is logging again. This is having a negative affect and uncertainty on tourism operations that rely on land tenure. Forestry has the right to come in and log the forest which in turns affects the tourist operation.Wild salmon are dying from lice and other problems due to the increase in Norwegian companies who are creating fish farms at the mouth of rivers.The government has introduced an online licensing program whereby people can go online and purchase fishing licenses. This is affecting rural fishing companies to access these licenses for their visitors as they do not have internet access. Some recommendations that were made that may help overcome some of the issues faced by tourism operators.Need to gather data on the economic benefits of the tourism industry to present to government.Use crowd sourcing – encourage a variety of industry to come together and share data and give voice to the benefits of tourism.Encourage tourist to advocate for the tourism industry.There is need to promote the values of the local cultural and natural amenities.There is a need to shift attitudes – logging maybe a high paying job, but tourism is a long term sustainable industry if managed correctly.There is a need to change the attitude of youth with working in a small mum and pop rural tourism industry as the general belief is that they are not interested in facing such challenges and doing the dirty work.Educate community on taking control of their area. Take a grassroots approach on finding balance with forestry and development of the community.I wonder if (TIA BC/COTA) would consider collaborating with all their stakeholders on creating a commercial for TV, U-Tube, face book and any other social media method that could portray the contrast between the destruction of the natural resources, in particular the forests and how the tourism industry (if managed in a sustainable manner) is a solution to a long term and healthy alternative as a means of economic benefit to society. This means of communication would be a more beneficial method of reaching the youth of today and could ignite a change of attitude with this demographic and the rest of society.

More tomorrow...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Asbestos: a danger in rural development

Guest blog entry by Krista Peterson

As initiatives increase to improve the standard of living and preservation in your local neighborhood or countryside, some dangers are presenting themselves as an obstacle during the rural development process. In the effort of remodels and rebuilding, outdated structures are sometimes excreting asbestos during the process. This is putting builders and workers at risk of developing health problems and diseases such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a term given to six mineral fibers that were often used for a number of commercial purposes until recent decades. It can be found in just about every country. The fibers were commonly placed in structures, buildings, houses, and ships. They were used as fireproof lining for walls, pipes, and ceilings, among other materials. As time went by, it was realized that exposure to these fibers can bring about major health problems and sometimes fatal diseases.

Where does that come into rural development? Rural areas are usually home to a number of older buildings, often in the process of remodeling or revitalization these days. Increasing population, tourism, and overall living is at the forefront of the mission to develop these areas. Remodeling, revitalizing, and filling out of date buildings, structures, and homes is a key factor in the process of rural development. Asbestos could be present in a number of buildings and properties that are intended to rent, sell, or be transferred. Removing the fiber safely from these structures is a matter of major importance.

Many rural development teams around both Canada and the United States are making a point in leading a proactive fight to get asbestos safely removed from certain structures. For example, American states Colorado and Delaware have rural development personnel working to investigate potential selling properties for asbestos. Asbestos is an immediate health hazard when it’s in a “friable” condition. This means it’s crumbly or broken and easily released into the atmosphere. If you are working on a rural development team that does on site work with houses and buildings, exposure to asbestos is something to be cautious about, especially in older structures.

As far as the health risk of asbestos, the most common types of diseases contracted from exposure are lung cancer and mesothelioma, both of which are debilitating to the lungs and chest. Mesothelioma symptoms will likely arise after a latency period or dormant period of up to fifty years. Following this time a patient may feel shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and fatigue. Lung cancer symptoms include a constant cough, coughing up blood, and chest pain. Being diagnosed and treated for these diseases is a matter of major importance for fast treatment. For example, mesothelioma life expectancy is usually only eight to 14 months following an original diagnosis.

As diversification and improvement of communities in Canada increases, this is just a common health risk to associate with the improvement of buildings, homes, and other structures in your local community. Along with the need for revitalization of certain structures, the need to preserve some older buildings and landmarks is important to the tourism for many areas. During the process of keeping these types of structures safe and useable, it’s important to be cautious about the looking out for asbestos.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Few days left to register for the conference!

The BC Rural Tourism Conference is only a week away! Join us in beautiful 108 Mile House at the Hills Health Ranch from April 19-21st for the Second Rural Tourism Conference. There are still a few spots left for those who haven't registered - and if you are a rural delegate, there are also a few sponsored spaces available as well. See the website at The program looks great, with a range of workshops, sessions and roundtables taking place. Speaker bios and abstracts for the sessions are all on the website now as well. Hope to see you there... Registration open until April 14th

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Amenity discussion from the webinar

This morning I led a webinar on Amenity Based Rural Development with colleague, Michael McLauglin from Rural Futures. There was strong attendance by a very diverse group of individuals from across BC including planners, economic development folks, First Nations representatives and researchers. If you missed the session, the BC Rural Secretariat will be posting the recorded session and notes on their site soon which you can access at: CLICK HERE

I thought the questions were excellent, and am sure there were others, so I invite individuals to pose other questions to me after the fact, and I can try to respond further. A few other thoughts I had after the call though... I tried to stress that ABRD has the potential to act as a tool for integrated rural development - as it brings in economic development strategies, planning, tourism, and infrastructure and services together with a common focus - attractiveness. We often find rural areas short on time and human resources to address all of the various issues that require attention. And, what is missing perhaps, is a broader level understanding about how they all fit together to enhance the overall quality of life of rural areas. I have seen that in regions where there is clarity on values, there is often more collaboration on initiatives with less conflict or friction from competing interests. So in that sense, it can be used as an umbrella concept to get regions identifying their amenities, learning about how they are currently being promoted (and to who), protected (by who) and valorized (by who and how much).

I encourage folks to take a close look at the handout I provided on the webinar as well, the typology of amenities in rural Canada. This tool may help to spur discussion in your region about what your potential amenities are - and how they are valued by different audiences. Look closely at them and perhaps engage in dialogue on these with others in your region.

Thanks to everyone for attending and participating, and to the team in Victoria at the BC Rural Secretariat for facilitating this session. You made it easy for us, and the strategy of sharing knowledge with rural audiences in ways that work for them is to be commended.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Webinar on Amenity Based Rural Development - March 31

For those who want to know more about Amenity Based Rural Development - you may want to join my colleague Michael McLaughlin and I at this upcoming Webinar.

The RuralBC Secretariat invites you to participate in their next webinar.

Please join Dr. Nicole L. Vaugeois the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and professor of Sustainable Rural Development at Vancouver Island University; and Michael C. McLaughlin Rural Futures Associates Lead Economist who will present the topic of Amenity-Based Rural Development-What is it? How does it work? Is it for us? on Thursday March 31, 2011 from 10:00-11:30 am. Join us to explore the new imperatives and opportunities for economic development emerging within the amenity based rural economy. Participants in this webinar will be given the opportunity to learn about the amenity based rural development (ABRD) approach including:

1. Which BC rural amenities can be used in ABRD;
2. How economies can be created from the use and conservation of amenities;
3. Potential impacts of ABRD in rural areas;
4. The role of regional planning and collaboration;
5. Lessons learned from regions that are involved in ABRD; and
6. Application of economic development strategies.

Register early as it is limited to 40 participants (first come, first served). Register here:

Date and time of the webinar: March 31th 10:00 to 11:30am

Please Note - If you have questions about this webinar, please do not hesitate to contact Darby Cameron at 250 356-8180 or

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 11, 2011

Embedding tourism in broader rural development strategies

This morning I gave a presentation at the National Extension Tourism Conference in South Carolina called "Embedding tourism development in broader rural development strategies: Insights from Canada". In the talk, I attempted to highlight why those involved in tourism need to understand broader rural policy issues such as depopulation, aging infrastructure and regional planning in order to be more effective. One of the overarching approaches that would help us do this is called Amenity Based Rural Development (ABRD), of which I have written on the blog previously.

I see tourism as one tool for rural communities to use in revitalization, and I see tourism as part of a bigger picture than a sectoral approach to simply bring in money and visitors to communities. To date, I have seen rural areas approach tourism for sheer economic development purposes, without necessarily understanding the broader realities of rural life or the goals of residents. If we understand that tourism also plays a role in providing exposure to an area that may attract new residents or invesment (if they are seen as attractive), then we may be seen as an important player at different tables. These tables and the different stakeholders seated at them, would also value the role tourism can play in rural development - and be willing to embed it within. So instead of always complaining that we need others to value tourism, our presence and broadened perspective, using an umbrella like ABRD, would result in the type of support needed.

I was lucky to be book-ended by two heavy hitters at the session as well. Dr. Stephen Burr from Utah spoke about the role of tourism in gateway communities. He shared data from a recent visitor study in Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument and demonstrated the benefits of proximity to natural amenities like this, to the adjacent communities. For example, 1/3 of visitors stayed in local hotels, 1/3 in various campgrounds in the region. 8 of 15 of the gateway communities had visitation rates of 30-75%. In terms of activities, 57% of folks were using the amenity for recreation purposes (not related to the monument itself) including photography (75%), hiking, (69%) and viewing of attractive amenities such as natural features, rocks, wildlife etc. This study made me think that we could use similar insights in BC about the presence of our protected areas and adjacent communities - in particular to note differences in the communities that benefit and those that do not. This type of information would be useful to assist in ensuring that these areas maximize benefits to adjacent areas. The ICURA on protected areas and poverty reduction at VIU, of which I am currently part of, might be the place to explore this further.

The final session was done by Cynthia Messer from the University of Minnestoa, Extension. She shared insights on an 18 year longitudinal study on tourism development in two particular case locations - San Luis in Colorado and 12 villages in Van Buren County, Iowa. Of particular interest to me was the observation of how Van Buren has been more effective over the long term due to their collaboration between the communities - whereas San Luis has struggled with burnout of the "STP" or same ten people. As I advocate rural areas to collaborate to maximize resources AND because visitors usually travel to rural regions - I found her insights validating.

That is it for the conference now - it was great - and I was able to encourage folks to come up to Canada for ours as well. Will keep you posted on the next NET conference in either 2013 or 2014.