Adventure tourism seeks to 'level the playing field' 

Operators seeking local government support for Adventure Tourism Strategy

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - STRATEGIC THINKING The CWSAA's Christopher Nicolson presents to Whistler's Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • STRATEGIC THINKING The CWSAA's Christopher Nicolson presents to Whistler's Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

With the adventure tourism industry now generating more than $2 billion annually, operators throughout the province are seeking local government support for a unified Adventure Tourism Strategy (ATS).

The ATS is a collaboration between 18 sectors ranging from skiing and wilderness tourism to backcountry lodges, sport fishing and Aboriginal tourism.

Collectively, the group is known as the Adventure Tourism Coalition.

"The idea of the ATS is really to help better manage the land base," said CWSAA president and CEO Christopher Nicolson, presenting to Whistler's Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

"A lot of the policy that is used in the province was originated through a lens of primary resource extraction, where that's obviously now diversified, and when we look at the diversification of adventure tourism, and the role that it plays within the province, it's much different than it was 20 years ago."

The end goal is to give added importance to adventure tourism when policy is being considered, in turn creating more business certainty for operators in the burgeoning industry.

Creating the TAS began about 18 months ago, Nicolson said.

"Since then we've engaged with different industries as well as public-sector groups in terms of trying to gain some ground support and then be able to go to government with a vision," he said.

Representatives for the coalition have presented to councils in Revelstoke, Kamloops and Sun Peaks, with more presentations to come in Nelson, Fernie, Golden and more.

The hope is that with local government support, the ATS will find traction on the floor at the next Union of BC Municipalities convention.

While the growth of adventure tourism has accelerated in recent decades, policy is still being driven mostly by resource industries, Nicolson said.

"This is where there's a number of things that, for business certainty of adventure tourism, it's creating challenges," he said. "And that gets into land tenure, duration of land tenure (and) the whole consultation piece."

In putting the ATS together, stakeholders took a close look at drivers and hindrances within the industry, and found a lack of an integrated vision or "roadmap" for adventure tourism, a lack of communication between sectors, inconsistent policy priorities and advocacy efforts, and a lack of collaboration with First Nations.

On the government side, they found inconsistent political support, no clear vision or central champion for adventure tourism, inconsistent decision making and a weak legislative framework regarding adventure tourism.

The outcome of all of that, according to the coalition, is an inability for operators to influence decisions that directly affect their sectors, a lack of support for managing public/commercial recreational conflicts and a "subservience" to resource sector decisions.

"In the end, what really comes through on this strategy is that there is an unlevel playing field," Nicolson said.

"And so what the strategy tries to do from an adventure tourism perspective is try to bring forward adventure tourism and put it on an equal footing with other sectors, especially on the resource base."

RMOW staff will review the presentation before bringing forward a recommendation for council's consideration.

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