A dark haired woman, wearing a white sweater, is standing as she speaks to a group of people who are sitting arouind tables

Seeking Your Input For A New Vision Of Tourism On Cortes Island

Lesley Anderson and Nancy Arsenault are bringing a new vision of tourism to Mansons Hall on Monday, October 23rd and Gorge Hall the following day.

“The old model of tourism  where you just focused on the visitors doesn’t work. How do you build tourism for the benefit of all and not just the visitors? How can tourism – the dollars that it brings, the amenities and infrastructure that can be brought – benefit residents first, along with the visitors. How do you build it based on what residents are looking for? It’s a new lens and it’s called regenerative tourism,” explained Anderson. 

Lesley Anders (l) and Nancy Arsenault of Tourism Cafe – submitted photo

She and Arsenault belong to Tourism Cafe,  a Vancouver Island based business, which offers clients across Canada anything from short e-courses courses to lengthy in-person programs.

‘We’re a dispersed team. We have one employee who lives in Toronto, two who live in the Williams Lake -108 mile area, myself in Nanaimo, and then Paul and Nancy are in Comox. We all work from home, and meet on Zoom.” 

“ Tourism Café has been contracted by the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) and our goal in coming to the island is to gather input and Feedback from the community that will help to inform a new community tourism plan for the island. We want to have an opportunity to chat with the residents, and businesses who have an interest in the future of tourism on the island, to hear what they have to say, so that can be incorporated and taken into consideration as the plan is put together.” 

“We invite everyone to come and be part of the process. Take part in the engagement sessions that are happening on October the 23rd and the 24th. So that we can hear the input, hear the perspectives and take all of that into consideration as we put that plan together.”

CC: Why do we need  a plan? 

LA: “I think that residents and businesses gain from the implementation of a well thought out tourism plan because it looks at the opportunities for growth while taking into consideration all of  the environmental, social, cultural impacts of tourism on the island and its residents.  It’s better to think about what we want, and how we plan for it, rather than to just let it happen haphazardly.”

 “Going through the process of creating a plan provides an opportunity for input on what are the current challenges. What are the priorities for the future investment of the time and resources that  represent this economic opportunity for the island again.”  

CC: What about people who don’t want to see more tourism?

LA: “In all the communities we’ve been in, there is always some contentiousness around tourism. There are always varying opinions about how much tourism residents and communities want to have, because some folks rely on tourism for their livelihood and other people don’t. Those who rely on tourism often would like to see more. Others may not wish to see it.” 

“It’s important to hear all perspectives from residents and businesses because we know, particularly in small communities, that tourism can be both a blessing and it comes with its challenges. So we want to hear what are some of the challenges that the residents feel exist with tourism at the current time.”

“Visitors are going to come to the island regardless. How might you create areas where visitors are welcome to go? And areas where visitors aren’t welcome to go? We know that residents want to save areas for themselves and we know that maintaining the way of life Is really important. We hear that in many communities.”

CC: How would you gauge whether at the end of this process, the community has more of a collective vision or not? Is there a way to gauge it?

LA: “The more people who come and engage in the process, the better that vision is reflective of the islanders and the community itself. So hopefully, we’ll get a lot of people out and who want to take part in the process and have their say.”

CC: Give us some examples of specific issues you’ve been dealing with? 

LA: “We’re a very seasonal destination and we’re working in many communities to disperse visitors geographically, to different places as well as seasonally, so that there’s not such a crush of people at one time of the year.” 

“That’s a major challenge in many communities and  different communities are doing it to different levels of success. Technology is playing a role in how you can direct visitors to different areas of a destination and move them around.” 

“Some growth may not be the answer, it may be how we service our existing tourism base better? How do we maybe get them to stay longer and spend more? Or how do we maybe, pull that season out to extend it over a longer period of time, so that you don’t get such a big crush in a shorter period of time. Those are some of the different ways that communities look at tourism.”

CC: How are you going to collect the information for Cortes Island? 

LA: “There are several mechanisms for gathering input throughout the process.” 

“We’re doing some interviews with a few folks who have been identified by the CCEDA, together with us.” 

“There may be two public consultation sessions. There will be a session from 5 to 8 PM at Manson’s Hall on Monday, October the 23rd, and then on Tuesday, October the 24th, in the morning at the Gorge Hall in Whaletown.” 

“Then, depending  if there are still people who have need to contribute to that process, there may be an online session afterwards, or a survey – depending on how we want to gather that last piece of feedback.” 

“There will then be another validation and we’ll go into a process where we create a draft report.” 

“We’ve also got an advisory committee that we’re working to put together with the CCEDA who will  review the report, the findings that we pull out of the consultation.” 

“Then we’ll come back into community in the late January, early February timeframe to validate the findings and the recommendations and then gather further input from the islanders about what we’ve put into the report so that they can we can gather that feedback one more time before we finalize the report.”

Top image credit: Nancy Arsenault speaking at another Tourism Cafe – submitted photo

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