Reflections from Canada

I consider myself lucky to have found a job that uses the knowledge and expertise gained from the MSc Responsible Tourism Management program so soon after graduating.

Following completing the MSc program in 2006, I entered the world of consulting – which I quickly learned was more hard work than glitz and glam.  I loved being involved in projects around the world – but never got the opportunity to visit the project sites.  As the newbie, I did the ground work — the research, the inventories, the market analyses, the recommendations based on the data on paper.  Site visits are the prize of the more experienced and senior consultants — and it takes time to achieve that level of experience.  Plus, one of the greatest disappointments of consulting is not seeing the implementation of the project.  More tangible projects will see a visitor centre or museum developed, but strategies are difficult to see the end results, especially not immediately.

More than a year ago, I moved into the world of community tourism development – in a government position where the implementation of projects is a key end result.  I am now able to use my learnings from the MSc program, as well as my brief experience in the consulting field to see projects through from start to finish.  More governments should take the same approach – as the result is thoughtfully planned tourism development.  I quickly learned that responsible tourism is being developed without the label.  In many places across Canada, tourism is organically being developed sustainably and responsibly.

It is rewarding to be a part of the enthusiasm in communities looking to enhance existing or develop new tourism opportunities.  Even more encouraging is that communities don’t want to develop tourism that changes their character of place. They want to expand and diversify local economies though authentic visitor experiences – developing product that benefits the local community as well as visitors.  I have seen evidence of this throughout Canada and it encourages me to believe tourism in Canada is on the right path.

I have two pieces of advice to new graduates moving out into the work world: 1) Consulting work is great if you can get it, but the world of consulting is saturated and competitive; and not all “sustainable/responsible tourism” consultants you are competing with have the same level of expertise or understanding of the issues. Workflow is unreliable and while you may get one great project to start, you could then be without for a while. 2) Don’t focus on “responsible tourism” job titles as they are few and far between.  Look more closely at job descriptions – is the work organically responsible, or is there potential to incorporate more responsible practices?

I consider myself lucky to have found the job I have – but I know there are more jobs like it out there around the world.   Trust and have confidence in the expertise you have gained through the MSc program and you will be successful in any position you obtain!

Laura McGowan (Canada), Graduated 2007

ICRT Canada

Case notes from the mountains…

This winter I was in the mountains exploring ski resorts – I know, I know… it’s a tough job…

I had set out to investigate ski resorts where it’s not just about the skiing and the kilometres of piste – some of the less well known resorts not frequented by the major operators.   I wanted to look at how they manage a mix of activities, how they market the resorts and how they protect their communities and their environments.

I had done my research before I went – and I succeeded in finding resorts that were managing tourism in balance and discovered a number of interesting case studies that could be taken elsewhere…

  • I came across a couple of great tourism and farming initiatives that were succeeding in increasing incomes to local farmers, whilst them farmers provide what the tourism industry needs and creating local distinctiveness for the tourists,
  • I found resorts offering a range of activities to tempt people away from the pistes and try some more low impact activities such as snowshoeing, hiking, tobogganing, orienteering and nature hikes,
  • I enjoyed villages that were successfully protecting their culture and heritage and interpreting it for visitors (and interestingly the degree to which the British contributed to development of the Alps back in the 19th century – initially through climbing in the summer months and then their development of the sport of skiing later on),
  • I viewed cutting edge modern architecture blending beautifully with the traditional and conserved Valais villages offering a glimpse of the past – but all occupied and ‘living’,
  • I found peaceful, pristine forests and stunning unspoilt landscapes and dark night skies – a million miles from the ‘orange glow’ of a night sky at home,
  • I found ski resorts run on hydroelectricity, villages where they have buried all the electricity cables underground, biomass plants and electric cars,
  • I found viable mountain communities that had previously suffered severe depopulation, now able to support schools where the number of children going to university has multiplied exponentially,

However, I also was reminded daily of the challenges that resorts face:

  • It is often the residents from the vicinity who clog up the roads, disturb the peace and cause pollution because they drive to the resorts at the weekends…
  • That even though snowshoeing is wonderful – it just doesn’t generate as much income as downhill skiing…
  • That ‘Frozen beds’ in resort are often caused by second home owners from within the country who like to have their apartment always available…
  • Interestingly EU law is actually starting to cause difficulties for resorts who want to keep control of their housing stock – to try and give preference to local people and to keep prices low…
  • The difficult choice to build one new lift, in order to charge a higher lift price, in order that the company can raise enough money to be able to replace the key cable car at the end of its life in five years time – else the whole resort would no longer be viable…
  • That in some resorts, the local people don’t actually want to run or work in the hotels so they are forced to recruit from elsewhere…
  • That strict building, health and safety laws in France are actually dissuading people from choosing to open or even upgrade hotels…

But I guess that is what keeps us going and why tourism is always so much more than just tourism – it’s about law and economics, it’s blending the domestic day trip with the international holiday, it’s blending the past, present and future.

And that is what keeps it fascinating for me!!

Veronica Tonge Graduated 2007

http://www.responsibleskiing.com

http://www.arealwinterholiday.com

http://www.responsibleskiing.com/veronicas-blog.html

veronica.tonge@dial.pipex.com