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.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

National Extension Tourism Conference 2011

Well today was jam packed with great sessions at this years National Extension Tourism Conference. This is one I try not to miss and have been to the one in Vermont 4 years ago, Utah 2 years back and now in South Carolina. The US has a different system than Canada with an embedded support to work with regions/communities and operators in rural tourism. Their Land Grant institutions have what is called an extension arm - where professionals from the Universities work as agents of change within their regions in a variety of specialist areas. Earlier this week, a conference was held for the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (March 7-9th) here in Charleston as well.

I first became familiar with this system when I did my PhD at Michigan State. My research work with the Recreation and Tourism Resources Center was in rural tourism in the Michigan Thumb region. I often wish that we had an equivalent system, at least with the same structural supports within Canada. Our system in Canada seems to place Universities within communities and regions, but there is not a clearly articulated mandate to serve and work with them for change. While it can be found in mission statements, there are few funded structures to enable things to happen long term. My position is one however, at VIU, that was created as a long term strategy to create some of these links. If I could only have a team of specialists like down here though...

I digress - the conference. Today was packed with good sessions - here are some tidbits to take away for those who can't be here:

David Sheatsley was the keynote this am (US Travel). He gave an overview of some research on visitation to the US. Their total domestic visits have been increasing and are expected to hit a new record in 2012 as Americans are encouraged to travel closer to home. Consumer confidence is on the upswing - but is still only at 70.4% whereas 90% is considered healthy - so a ways to go yet. There is a gap between the perception of affordability of travel and people's money available to do so - this gap is biggest for boomers. One of the issues, not surprising, is the effect that fuel prices is having on an already weakened system. For example, of the top concerns that may impact travel, the top ones were all financial - including gas prices, airline costs whereas the impact of personal debt on travel has been decreasing in significance. The reasons people are indicating they may travel more this year? 40% to relieve stress, 40% for a break from home or work, 39% they have additional time, 39% to reconnect with family or friends, 25% had put off travel due to the state of the economy and 15% due to household budget improving. The outlook for 2011? People will continue to stay close to home, but will drive further. High fuel costs will impact household budgets so value and frugality will reign.

I attended a series of sessions on the use of mapping to assist in tourism planning and marketing. These were useful, but I found myself wondering if costly investments into developing databases and then maintaining them are not better done in the private sector. One session on Market Maker was quite interesting - it connects producers to buyers of agricultural products - but they have been expanding the application across various states and into new sectors, such as agritourism.

Carol Patterson and Miles Phillips did a great workshop on the "Good Bad and the Ugly of tourism" complete with sound effects. Based on numerous experiences, they outlined how operators creatively used their ideas to either produce successful ventures or to "gain experience". Too many examples to share - but you can check out Carol's information for regular updates and newsletters.

And, the last of the day was a great workshop on how Ohio extension agents have been introducing social networking applications to agritourism businesses. Julie Fox provided details on their introduction sessions and their hands on workshops and outlined some of the lessons learned. They have piloted their approach a number of times and I kept thinking that this is something we need to build in as a collaborative approach between students and operators in BC. A couple of the tips they share at their experiential workshop are:

1. Know what people are saying about you (online already) Use google alerts, social mention to find out and get alerts from online mention of your business name

2. Become familiar with popular media sites such as twitter, face book, YouTube and linked in - and think about how they could work with your business;

3. Get engaged in great content - give people something to talk about - photos, videos, chats, polls, stories

4. Get the customer engaged - have them tell their stories, ask for feedback on new products, and build a relationship with them

5. Integrate social media into your marketing plan

Well, I will update more tomorrow and am presenting on how tourism needs to be embedded in broader rural development strategies, like amenity based rural development.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The value of horse drawn carriage rides for visitors

I am writing this entry from Charleston, South Carolina where I am visiting this week for the National Extension Tourism Conference - one of my favorites (and I will write more about it this week).

Yesterday, in an effort to get a feel for the City, I decided to take one of the horse drawn carriage rides throughout the City. I often try to do this as I have found that the experience provides me with a lot of benefits. I get familiar with the destination, learn a ton about the history and architecture, and it connects me to the products that I can add to my list during the visit. These benefits are not provided in many communities and I am not sure that those in the industry recognize the role that carriage companies play in overall visitor experience.

In the past few years, I have begun to think that a study to compare the strategies and supports used by various communities to attract or manage carriage companies is needed. When I was in Montreal, I learned that there were many issues for the companies in trying to work with the City. Some were being lured away by a progressive community in Manitoba that was trying to establish the service there. Yesterday, I learned about the regulations in place here in Charleston, and I also observed some of the innovative strategies being used to control the impacts of the industry - for example:

The City has integrated the stables for horses within the market square area - these are heritage buildings for the most part. The sense for visitors, of seeing horses in their stalls and part of the landscape is great - and I am sure it entices, as it did for us, a number of people to decide upon taking a trip. The location of the carriages waiting, is very visible for visitors. There is something about horses drawing a carriage that gets people's cameras out...
The horses are employees with excellent labour standards - they can only take out five trips per day, work 5 days a week with 2 off, and they have to take 3 months off after serving 6, so they work half the year. They also get new rubber shoes every 6 weeks - soft on their legs but also protects the streets and keeps noise down.
The companies use a lottery system to control where they take their guests. They pull up to a "bingo ball" unit and give a series of numbers to the recorder - the number of their unit, the number of people on the trip, the horses name (to control the number of trips a day) and the driver. They are then given a route to take, which disperses them throughout the city and eliminates too much congestion.
There is an equine sanitation unit on patrol. When a horse has nature call while on route, the driver drops a small flag on the pavement. Within 2o minutes, a sanitation truck comes by to clean it up - which prevents smell and unsanitary conditions from evolving. Horses also wear manure bags.
Drivers give cars the right of way - but on narrow streets, it is often difficult. I am sure there is some tension with the home owners, but from what I could see - they appear to have the right building blocks in place.
All this for $20 per person for an hour long trip! Quite affordable considering what I have paid elsewhere. The company we used said business is usually good - as tourism is the number one industry for the City.
So there you have it, many insights for others who are using this strategy for tourism. I often believe that these sorts of initiatives are ones that should be welcomed and supported by communities (vs. regulated to death) as they probably do a better job of connecting people to product than many of our current systems (i.e. visitor information centers).
More on NET to come in the next few days...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Registration is open and plenary panelists selected!

The Upcoming Rural Tourism Conference is almost here! April 19-21 in 108 Mile House, BC.

Registration is now available - to proceed with registration CLICK HERE
Early Registration Feb 1st -March 11th $210
Regular Registration March 11 - Apr 8th$250
Student Registration Feb 1st -Apr 8th$175 Sponsored

The program schedule will be released shortly, we are just confirming our presenters. There was a fantastic response to the call for submissions and the program is shaping up to bring a diversity of presenters to share their expertise with delegates.

Plenary Panel
We have invited three experts to share their perspectives on the use of amenities in rural tourism development. The esteemed panel will open and close the conference - first to set the stage and initiate discussion and later to provide insights on how rural areas in BC can use their natural and cultural amenities in tourism development in the future.

Dr. Simon Milne
Simon Milne is Professor of Tourism at Auckland University of Technology, where he directs the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute ( Simon completed his PhD in economic geography at Cambridge in 1989 and then taught at McGill University, Montreal until 1998. Simon’s current research focuses on the links between tourism, IT and sustainable development. Simon has worked as a consultant to a number of international organizations including UNESCAP, UNDP, the European Union and the Organization of American States. Simon will bring an international perspective to the use and promotion of amenities for regional tourism development.

Dr. Laurence Moss
Dr. Moss is one of the most recognized names in amenity led development. His consultancy work across the globe has provided him with rich insights into the role of amenities in rural development and its links to tourism. His professional work has focused on regional and local change and sustainable development. During the past 20 years he has targeted cultural and environmental sustainability issues in mountain regions, particularly the effects of amenity migration, tourism and related global forces. His expertise is sought by many and has resulted in him working for clients in 25 countries. He has sustained active engagement with numerous professional associations and is the author of numerous publications that have helped raise the awareness and understanding of amenity migration across the globe. He lives with his family by the Kootenay Lake in Kaslo, BC, Canada and currently works principally through The International Amenity Migration Centre and Glorioso, Moss & Associates.

Pat Corbett
Pat is a well recognized and respected leader in tourism and amenity based rural development in British Columbia. In the 1970’s he was the project manager for 108 Mile House, a resort community built to take advantage of the wealth of natural amenities in the area. He later conceptualized, built and has successfully operated the provinces first health resort – the Hills Health Ranch. He and his resort have won numerous awards to recognize their achievements in the industry and he has maintained an active leadership role with numerous organizations nationwide. Pat will speak to these experiences and his insights about rural tourism development from an operator perspective during the plenary.