So who exactly visits the North Island?
That answer will be clearer after the completion of Visitor Experience Survey that will be conducted over 16 weeks this summer.
Laurel Sliskovic, with The Sociable Scientists Inc., explained the survey at the 5th annual North Island Tourism Season Launch Event held at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill April 30.
Sliskovic explained that she started her career as a whitewater rafting guide and turned her passion and experience into a business - The Sociable Scientists Inc.
The Sociable Scientists Inc. provides research and facilitation services focussed on recreation, tourism, leisure, and community development on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island North, in partnership with the Regional District of Mount Waddington, decided to participate in the survey, because, while there are many sources of information at the ‘macro’ level about tourism spending, travel patterns, and more, communities need local visitor data in order to develop targeted tourism and economic development initiatives.
The new regional Visitor Experience Survey, which will launch in June, was developed in collaboration with Vancouver Island North, Campbell River and Comox Valley tourism destination marketing organizations and supported by Vancouver Island University. It will intercept visitors while they are in the communities and invite them to complete an online survey when they return home.
Sliskovic explained that ballot boxes and posters explaining the survey will be placed at various locations around the North Island such as restaurants, retail outlets, activities, trailheads and attractions.
From the ballots, which allow people to enter to win one of two prizes, visitors will be sent a survey at a later date. The prizes will include an experience package and the second will be a gift basket containing items that are uniquely North Island.
They are hoping to get at least 400 survey responses which will be analyzed and used to create a visitor profile for the region.
“We ask both closed and open-ended questions,” said Sliskovic. These include the purpose of the visitor’s trip, how they got here, where they stayed, how long they stayed, the attractions they visited, the activities they participated in, how much they spent while they were here, the composition of their group, positive and negative feedback and recommendations for improvement.
The survey will also help with the product development side and identify opportunities for enhancing the visitor experience through things like community projects.
Sliskovic said the Rotary path in Port McNeill is a classic example of a type of amenity that really resonates with people.
“It helps people feel that they can be a part of something,” she said.
“It’s meant to be a tool for use (for) operators and the communities,” Sliskovic said.
The survey will identify who the region’s current customers are as well as who their new potential customers could be. Sliskovic said the reason the surveys are to be completed after visitors have arrived home is because that is when people reflect on their experience.
She explained there are five phases of the leisure experience - anticipation, trip planning, on site, travel home and recollection.
The $17,000 project is receiving 50 per cent of its funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
“This project will provide detailed tourist behaviour and profile information that is directly relevant to individual communities,” said ICET Chair Phil Kent.
“This type of hyper-local tourist intelligence will help communities develop the appropriate products for their target markets.”
The project will compile and analyze information including demographics, travel patterns, daily spending, satisfaction measures, and use of travel-planning resources. The information will serve to develop community and regional visitor profiles, along with a visitor information database.
“This type of data will help us all work better together‚“ said Joli White, Vancouver Island North Tourism coordinator. “The data will enable us to pinpoint the tourism markets that we share and to develop collaborative marketing products with our regional partners,” White said.
While tourism is the primary sector targeted by this initiative, the data collected will support a wide range of economic development initiatives.
“The project will also enable communities to gain a better understanding of their unique value proposition, and develop complementary products and marketing strategies,” said Pat English, economic development manager with the Regional District of Mount Waddington. “Of course tourism attraction is the primary objective of the project, but the data will be just as valuable to help us attract new residents and businesses to our communities,” English said.