Local Vancouver Island Tourism (LOVIT)
Local Vancouver Island Tourism and its Relationship to Quality of Life for Residents
An abstract of my master’s thesis (December 2012)
Background: This research project was an exploratory study of local Vancouver Island tourism participation and its relationship to quality of life for Vancouver Island residents. Examining sustainable leisure management from the perspective of how residents utilize and enjoy products and services deemed for tourists creates the opportunity for an enhanced understanding of the tourism industry on Vancouver Island. Linking that understanding to the study of quality of life for residents provides a more collaborative and innovative approach to how stakeholders can develop and market tourism to the benefit of the people that live, work, and play on Vancouver Island.
Purpose: To better understand what local tourism is on Vancouver Island and how participation in local tourism contributes to quality of life for residents.
Methods: The qualitative data was collected through six semi-structured interviews with tourism industry stakeholders and one focus group of females in each of four separate communities across Vancouver Island during the summer of 2012.
Results: Industry stakeholders and focus group participants were eager and appreciative of their inclusion in a discussion on local tourism and quality of life, as many had never been asked their opinions on this particular topic. Representing the supply side of tourism, industry stakeholders provided insight on the need to bring residents into conversations surrounding tourism. Focus group participants provided valuable information surrounding local tourism and quality of life from the demand perspective. Four local Vancouver Island tourism themes emerged from the analysis of data collected: people, emotions, activities, and places and spaces. When studying quality of life, the sense of space and pride of place the study participants have for the island is both embedded and explicit in their responses. When local tourism and quality of life were looked at together, the connection to place is overarching and is one of the key findings for the sustainability of simple, affordable, accessible local Vancouver Island tourism (LOVIT). The richness of the information gathered formed the basis of a knowledge mobilization plan aimed at empowering residents to engage in truly sustainable tourism on the island they call home.
Conclusions: Local tourism is tourism activity within the context of one’s own local community and identified by the people within that community. Local tourism can be an effective and complementary market (to off-island markets) for Vancouver Island tourism operators. Local tourism participation has the potential to foster a positive relationship to a healthy quality of life as opportunities for individual, community and societal connections increase for residents of all income levels. By encouraging local residents to participate in tourism opportunities, the industry creates champions and ambassadors of all that Vancouver Island has to offer, further stretching tourism development and marketing dollars as friends and family visit island residents. This positive cycle also helps to create meaningful employment for residents, keeps discretionary dollars in the local economy, and results in more frequent and often off-season expenditures. In order to facilitate and increase local tourism participation and to foster a high quality of life for residents, it is recommended that people in the tourism industry continue to recognize the value of local residents as both customers and stakeholders in the development and delivery of tourism on Vancouver Island.