Blain Sepos, the Executive Director of Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, has development on his mind. It’s fall now, and the region known for its expansive beaches with swells of visitors for resort living each summer is entering a seasonal lull. “We have some of the highest peaks and valleys in occupancy here.”
Four years ago, under Blain’s advice and direction, Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism began to invest seriously in experience development that would drive off-season visitation. “We’ve not really made any effort to draw summer visitation, in some time,” Blain indicated when we sat down with him to learn more about what he and his staff are doing to develop remarkable experiences with legs in the fall, winter and spring seasons. Encouraging seasonal dispersion is a common topic. Tourism leaders are looking for sustainable ways to grow the economic impact of visitation to our region and keep businesses active year-round.
Blain notes that the role of community tourism organizations is changing: from being focused purely on promoting a destination, the objective has shifted to managing growth. For Parksville Qualicum Beach, the long-term goal is a master tourism plan that charts the best path forward for focused development and marketing efforts. In the meantime, Blain and his team are working to develop the region’s experiences. Working with Tourism Cafe to deliver Remarkable Experience development opportunities to Parksville Qualicum Beach stakeholders, they’ve encouraged businesses to create new, off-season products.
By looking at clusters of experiences, Blain and his team helped to design new ways of talking about and supporting the enhancement of existing products that can drive travel motivations around the region’s food, arts and culture, and outdoor activities. Of note was a collaboration with Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere, to develop motivations for outdoor recreation in this remarkable natural environment.
A CHALLENGE: Experience development that will drive shoulder and off-season visitation to the Parksville Qualicum Beach Region.
A SOLUTION: Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere and Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism campaigned to nominate places within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere as sites worthy of the “Amazing Places” designation. The Amazing Places program is an initiative of UNESCO Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association. A cross-Canada effort, the program aims to “educate and inspire visitors about their natural surroundings and to create a connection that can quickly become powerful and deeply personal.”
For Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere and Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, the successful designation of 10 locations as Amazing Places within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere is an opportunity to tie into an existing national program that promotes outdoor activities and visitation to Canada’s most inspiring natural environments. By developing Scavenger Hunt activity programs, while preserving the integrity of the activity as outdoor leisure, Parksville Qualicum Beach continued to build the Biosphere as a visitation opportunity. One year they caught the tails of the Geocaching trend by minting Geocache coins for eager travellers to find.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN: Collaboration between organizations in a community yields results. Blain notes that the success of the Amazing Places application was predicated mainly on Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere having a student able to devote time to developing the program. Tying into an existing national campaign uses the power of many platforms to leverage results (and puts our communities on a desirable best-of list). And thinking about what exists already within the community is an essential first step in finding experience development opportunities. In Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism’s case, the Biosphere can be leveraged year-round as an important and unique natural attraction.
Blain notes this campaign has seen great success in building shoulder season visitation. He is on the lookout for more opportunities for product development in his community.
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