Fun or done

Travel about the experiences, not the destination, says tourism innovation chair

Tourism boosters in Oceanside should consider changing their approach by 180 degrees if they truly want to promote the area successfully, says Nicole Vaugeois.

Speaking at a special joint chamber of commerce meeting at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre Wednesday, Vaugeois, the B.C. regional innovation chair in tourism and sustainable rural development at Vancouver Island University, said rather than focusing on destination development, they should instead set their sights on developing the visitors’ experience.

“Most destinations spend most of their time and money selling their destination, but most visitors spend most of their time and money seeking amazing experiences,” she said.

“The destination is where they have the experiences. My suggestion is to stop thinking about destination development and start thinking about visitor experience development.”

This, she conceded, is an intangible product, which is very different from the bricks and mortar of tangible products.

“We can’t see it or taste it or touch it,” she said. “People can’t test it out before they purchase it. They rely on information from credible sources.”

“As well, it’s difficult to produce consistently, as sometimes the weather changes or the exchange rate goes up or a business closes down and there’s nowhere to get food. This makes it challenging.”

That challenge, she continued, is well worth pursuing however.

“Find out what people are looking for and hold up your end of the experience,” she said. “We want them to have a great experience.”

One of the keys to making this happen she added, is to determine what people are coming to do and see — not only in the immediate area, but also in the outlying communities. This collaboration, she said, can make all the difference.

“Few destinations can go it alone,” she said. “The time for community myopia is over.”