Monday, February 27, 2012

The need to know more about lifestyle entrepreneurs in tourism

Many of my past research projects have ended up with consistent observations about lifestyle entrepreneurs, so I have begun to put together some of these ideas into what I hope will become a proposal for research on the topic. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, lifestyle entrepreneurs are people who are in business but who are motivated primarily by lifestyle reasons. Some have suggested that profit maximization, innovation and rational business decisions are not as common with this group of individuals - or suggest that it is lifestyle vs. profit vs. lifestyle with profit.

For a good overview of some of the work in this area, Peters, Frehse and Buhalis (2009) have written a paper that pulls together some of the concepts of lifestyle entrepreneurship.

So far though, my reading on the topic and my experience as a researcher AND as a lifestyle entrepreneur are not necessarily consistent. Let me explain a few of these thoughts.

I have met a number of people in rural BC that I would classify as lifestyle entrepreneurs. They are often strongly connected to the place they live in and the lifestyle that they can have while living there. Many are "amenity migrants" having moved to a beautiful place after having visited it. Their business interests range widely but here is where my observations differ from some of the literature. These people are often highly innovative, and keen to profit from their business so that they can remain where they are and invest back into the place. They don't fit the mould so often attributed to lifestyle entrepreneurs as non profit focused innovation laggards. Now, there are other observations of perhaps a different cluster of these individuals as well. A number of them close their doors for the off season so they can ski, move somewhere else for a bit, or just take a break. They are less interested in finding ways to improve the off season because they want the time away from the business. In some planning sessions, community members have expressed frustration over these entrepreneurs because they are not open year round - assuming that all businesses should be interested in maximizing profits over other motivations. I have even been asked once at a presentation to the province - "do you mean that these lifestyle entrepreneurs are getting in the way of us doubling tourism in BC", to which I responded "that is your goal, but it is not theirs".

So, these observations of lifestyle entrepreneurs suggest that there are perhaps different clusters or types of them around. I believe we have much left to learn about them.

I mentioned I am also a lifestyle entrepreneur. I have operated an art and photography business part time for the past few years and have also opened a small gallery and guesthouse on our farm. I am profit oriented, with the hopes of someday being able to immerse myself fully in this work (yes, and leave this position!). I would also say that I am quite innovative in my business model and I am very prone to collaborative or cluster initiatives (as are my partners). But... I am not necessarily as attached to place as the entrepreneurs that I have come across in my travels around rural BC. So, is there a third grouping like me?

The reason this topic is of such interest to me is that I see lifestyle entrepreneurship as a great opportunity for repopulating rural Canada with people who are committed to place, but who also invest in regions and create employment opportunities. We will soon be at a stage where people will be able to work wherever they want to and the lower cost of living and high quality of life afforded in small communities may facilitate mobility into rural areas. I know of a number of small communities that are already developing innovative models to attract these individuals. If their efforts are to succeed and the transition to rural living smooth, we need to know more. Some of my questions include: how many lifestyle entrepreneurs are there? where are they most attracted to? What industries? What is their transition like? How are communities facilitating their transition? What does their business model look like? What contributions are they making to regions - economically, socially and environmentally?

If you are interested in exploring some of these questions, let me know as I am pooling together my ideas right now for proposal writing this spring.

Alberta's rural tourism conference April 2-4, 2012

Join rural Alberta's community leaders and small business owners April 2-4, 2012 at the Camrose Regional Exhibition for the 12th Annual Growing Rural Tourism Conference. This year's conference includes inspiring keynote presentations, concurrent sessions, delicious meals, an evening Gala and presentation of the Rural Tourism Champion Award, entertainment, and an opportunity to network with fellow tourism industry representatives and operators. Both educational and entertaining, this is an event you won't want to miss!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

BC Rural Tourism Conference - update on 2012 and 2013

Well, many of you have been asking when the 2012 BC Rural Tourism Conference is happening so I thought we better update folks. There will be no 2012 conference but plans are underway for a spring conference in Smithers, BC for 2013. So stay tuned - as we are just starting that planning and will likely put out a call for folks to submit sessions early in the fall.

There are many opportunities for people to participate in other BC conferences that, while not the rural tourism conference, offer lots of education and networking opportunities for folks.

The National Aboriginal Tourism Conference is taking place March 28-20 in Osoyoos, BC
The BC Tourism Industry Association Conference is in Vancouver November 4-6th, 2012
The 8th Global Mural Tourism Conference: Economic Development Through Arts and Tourism is happening in Chemainus Sept 10-13, 2012

And there are numerous regional professional development opportunities taking place as well - so - stay tuned for the 2013 Rural Tourism Conference but in the mean time, take part in the events above or let me know of others that you have taking place!

Rural and Remote Resilience Conference in Australia - call for abstracts extended

IRN FORUM 2012 - Rural and Remote Resilience: Making the Priorities Possible
24 - 28 September 2012Whyalla and Upper Spencer Gulf, AUSTRALIA

Building on an initial gathering in Townsville, Australia, and on four previous conferences held in Vancouver Island, Canada; Inverness, Scotland; Abingdon, USA and Udaipur, India, the 2012 IRN World Forum in the Upper Spencer Gulf, South Australia, will bring together practitioners, policy makers and scholars with an interest in regional, rural and remote communities across the world. IRN gatherings emphasise the sharing of practical experience and the value of local knowledge in addressing local challenges. This is especially important in the areas of community and economic development, health, education, culture and environment.

The theme of IRN 2012 is Rural and Remote Resilience: Making the Priorities Possible. A key aim of IRN 2012 is to attract presentations which join together community groups and practitioners with researchers / academics and or policy makers / industry. IRN 2012 will pay particular attention to the policy and governance challenges related to the differences between regional, rural and remote communities.

The University of South Australia Campus and the Middleback Theatre will serve as venues for the forum. The Whyalla campus of the University of South Australia represents the major centre of tertiary education in rural South Australia. It is situated on a 22 hectare site in the heart of the education and cultural precinct at Whyalla. The campus is an integral part of the northern and western regions of the state, and is expanding its research, consultancy and business services through collaborative ventures with industry and community organisations across the region. It has a strong research presence with several innovative and unique projects related to regional, rural and remote issues, with researchers working on local, national and international projects.

In keeping with the IRN conference format, the middle day of the 5 day gathering will be given over to field trips which will highlight the ‘Regional, Rural and Remote’ nature of this unique region. The field trips will focus on how RRR challenges and opportunities are met in the Australian context. Planned tours include the option of a visit to either Coober Pedy or Andamooka. These opal mining centres are situated in harsh climatic environments and residents live underground in 'dugouts', where the temperature remains constant all year round. Some delegates may prefer to experience a cruise to the very tip of Spencer Gulf - a unique landscape where the water ends and the desert begins. Agriculture, pastoralism, aquaculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, art, craft and culture all feature in this region and conference field trips will endeavour to showcase this diversity.

“Rural and Remote Resilience” will feature speakers of international renown, peer learning opportunities and cutting-edge presentations & workshops. With a strong focus on participation, there are options for academic scholarship, storytelling and themed workshops. The event will also include a forum for PhD students with a half day colloquium and panel session planned.

Please see attached call for abstracts for further information & submission guidelines

David MacBain
Logistics Coordinator 2012 International Rural Network World Forum
University of South Australia 111 Nicolson Avenue WHYALLA NORRIE SA 5608
P +61 8 8647 6067 M 0417 841 696 F +61 8 8647 8156 E W
Hosting the International Rural Network World Forum, Upper Spencer Gulf & Outback 24-28 September 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pacific Marine Circle Route Report

Last fall I took my Graduate students from the Masters in Sustainable Leisure Management out to do a GAP analysis on the Pacific Marine Circle Route. The report is out now, so for those looking to obtain a copy - email me at Nicole(dot)vaugeois(at)viu(dot)ca.

Executive Summary

As prevalent as tourism routes are throughout the world, there are gaps in our understanding about how they should be developed, promoted and sustained as a tourism product (Hardy, 2003). There are additional questions about the extent to which knowledge gained from the few existing studies is currently used in practice. Without a grounded understanding of route tourism, we may miss opportunities to capitalize on strengths, provide positive experiences to visitors, and reap the full benefits of their development. This report synthesizes research on route tourism and uses it to assess the current status of the Pacific Marine Circle Route on southern Vancouver Island, BC. The research highlights gaps in the existing route that could be addressed to enhance the overall visitor experience and evolve as a significant regional tourism asset.
The purpose of this study was to develop a case study that: a) identifies the natural, cultural and system amenities along the Pacific Marine Circle route which have value for local residents and visitors, b) to assess the current quality of the tour experience as delivered by the range of stakeholders and communities involved, and c) to analyze the extent of engagement and regional collaboration on the delivery of the circle route. The team developed a modified gap analysis tool to compare a) the way that the route is being promoted to visitors vs. the actual experience of the research team, and b) the factors for successful route development based on other case studies with the current strategies being used by stakeholders on the PMCR. The study was conducted by a team of 11 researchers in October 2011 through a week of intense fieldwork, discussions with stakeholders, observations and the analysis of secondary documents such as promotional materials, websites, and regional plans.
Currently the PMCR is being promoted by a number of organizations with no one official conduit recognized as the authority. As such, there are a variety of inconsistent messages being communicated to visitors. Synthesized, the experience is being promoted as:
· An opportunity to see large trees;
· An opportunity to access world class parks and trail systems;
· An opportunity to have great views of the ocean and to access beaches;
· An opportunity to experience diverse local cultures and eat local foods;
· An accessible, relaxing, easy to drive in a day, route largely originating from Victoria.

Based upon the experience of the research team, there are some observable gaps in the expected and actual experience on the route. The amenities on route that are ready for visitation are mostly natural amenities such as forests, large trees and beaches. Water views and access however, are not as abundant as expected, or they are difficult to locate. The cultural amenities, while abundant in the region, are not currently the focus of promotional efforts, but they may be useful to consider when developing a strong theme for the route.
Based on the observations of the study team and understandings of relevant literature, the research team has identified factors of success for circle route development. The Pacific Marine Circle Route largest gaps appear to be in the promotion of a consistent and clear message and safety. Along with this, many possible themes have been identified from organizations within communities, but consensus has not been reached on what that theme (or themes) will be. While individual regions have conducted market research and understand their visitors, there is no clearly defined target markets identified for the route. There is a need to initiate market research in the region on the current users of the PMCR to understand the nature of the experience. This will help inform strategic planning and the identification and targeting of specific markets for the route.
While there is an incomplete understanding in the region about the early origins of the route, recent grassroots initiatives to identify stakeholders and collaborate are emerging. This is a positive evolution as research has shown that a ground-up approach is a key factor in the success of circle routes. As this group evolves, there is evidence of the need for a unified voice for the route which may indicate the need for a governance model to emerge. The route is not just a set of signs and map for visitors, and as such, it there is work to be done to develop a strategy for the route. This process, if done with ample buy in from diverse stakeholders, will help clarify the route and obtain buy in for its future development. As outlined in the literature, this strategy should be guided by a set of principles, lead by a credible entity and build in a process to measure success along the way. There should be additional efforts to expand the traditional tourism stakeholder groups (marketing organizations and businesses) to engage in dialogue with residents of the communities on route. The decision to be or not to be part of the route was not something that was afforded to communities in the decision making process. There appears to be some resistance among certain communities on route, therefore concerns should be heard and the ability to opt out of being promoted as a stop on route should be explored. While there is resistance to the circle route from some communities, there is a lack of awareness about the route among others. Efforts to raise awareness about the route and the impacts associated to its development should be done; otherwise operators will not be able to deliver on the experiences being promoted. The circle route is in its infancy. Slow progression in the evolution of the PMCR will allow for resident buy-in to occur at various stages throughout.
Safety is an issue that is being discussed within a number of communities on the PMCR, and the attention given to this issue will have consequences for both residents and visitors to the area. Tied to safety is the need for clear signage and definition of the route so users can be confident in their travels throughout the region. The route is being promoted as a relaxing trip that is possible in one day. This should be questioned, and according to the research team, changed. The trip is not relaxing due to the nature of the roads on route, and we would question why anyone would want to promote a trip that does not include an overnight in one of the rural communities on route. If it is a diversification strategy, then money from visitors will need to be spent along the route on accommodations and food. Slowing people down to take advantage of the various sites will allow this to occur.