Designing systems for community based visitor data: A collaborative case study on Vancouver Island
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Vancouver Island, British Columbia relies heavily on tourism as a core contributor to the economy. The region provides visitors with adventure, culinary and agri-tourism experiences in both terrestrial and marine settings. Despite the fact that the last provincial visitor research was undertaken in British Columbia in 1995, the Vancouver Island region has been proactive in researching and profiling its visitors. In 2003 a region wide visitor research model provided tourism stakeholders with comprehensive data on visitors in all four seasons, and again in 2008, a region wide study provided updated information on visitors. While useful, these efforts have relied on significant funding from external sources and are difficult to maintain on an ongoing basis. Many of the communities in the region are small and at early stages of tourism development. Budgets to invest in tourism marketing are often limited and unstable, and capacity to undertake market research among any staff members is weak. These communities have limited access to models that enable them to understand their own visitors and therefore they rely on outdated information from prior regional visitor studies or macro level data sources from urban areas or provincial and national sources. This data is unlikely to represent the profile of visitors and if used to guide decisions, could result in risky and ineffective investments for the communities. In an effort to address these systemic issues and enhance the availability of marketing intelligence, researchers piloted a visitor experience study with the City of Nanaimo and the community of Tofino in 2013. After a successful pilot, the model was refined and expanded in 2014 to include the community of Ucluelet and the Cowichan Valley.