Tourism can be a double-edged sword. While many small communities, such as Whistler, depend on it for our livelihoods, some small/rural communities are seeing it grow, whether they like it or not, and whether they are ready for it or not.
Attract future residents and other future economies through tourism
Rather than pit tourism against other economic development efforts, communities could also look at tourism as a way of marketing their communities to attract future residents and other future economies. A recent presentation by Nicole Vaugeois, the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development at the Vancouver Island University, highlighted these points. Nicole keynoted a presentation at a meeting of the BC Resort Municipalities in Tofino facilitated by the Centre.
Many small and rural communities across Canada, while born from resource development, have faced boom and bust situations due to external factors outside of their control. These communities also tend to be situated in regions of Canada that have incredible natural amenities, which is often the reason people stay once they have moved there.
By amenities, we mean “the pleasurable aspects associated to natural and cultural features of rural areas, making these areas attractive places to visit, play, live and prosper.”
Amenities can be used to drive rural development by:
- Promoting the attractiveness of rural areas for tourism, relocation and investment.
- Protecting the future value of amenities so they retain their value.
- Creating economies (directly and indirectly) from the presence of amenities.
What are amenities?
Amenities can be natural – climate, air quality, landscapes, water – providing the scenic settings for tourism or quality of life. Cultural amenities are based in the cultural context of rural areas including arts, heritage, recreation and sports, and serve to enhance quality of life. And third, system amenities enable the development of natural and cultural amenities, and include infrastructure, services and connectivity.
These amenities attract visitors (to experience the amenities and contribute to the local economy), residents (to live near the amenities/quality of life), and investors (to create economic value from the amenities). If we are trying to attract more people to move to our community and to invest there, often the front door is tourism – people visit (or come to work) in a place first, form an impression and consider relocating or investing. Using tourism and your community’s or region’s amenities can be beneficial for your economy in the short-term by increasing visitation, but also in the long-term by encouraging residency and investment.
Is your community ready?
So is your community prepared to capitalize on your amenities? Who is promoting them? Are you promoting to those visitors who are your desired future residents or investors? Who is involved in protecting your valued amenities? These are vital questions for all small communities with important amenities.
All of these questions, however, are part of a bigger question: Does your community have a shared vision of the desired future and the strategies to get there?
Community sustainability planning
Remember, community sustainability planning isn’t just about trying to reduce your energy or waste consumption (although that is part of it!). It’s about identifying and creating the future for the community you want, to ensure long-term resource stewardship and economic success, and to make sure your community remains a desirable place to live, work and play for current and future residents.
If you’d like to discuss these ideas further, please contact Cheeying Ho or 604.388.8421
 Nicole Vaugeois, BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development, Vancouver Island University