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Driving into the Wild: An Investigation into Self Drive Visitors’ Perceptions of Wilderness Anne Driving into the Wild: An Investigation into Self Drive Visitors’ Perceptions of Wilderness Anne Hardy, Ph. D. , Pamela Wright, Ph. D. and Jovan Simic, MNRES Candidate Coming to a Wilderness Near You Drive-Thru Wilderness The drive tourism industry and particularly the use of recreational vehicles (RV’s) is increasing rapidly in Canada. Per capita, Canada has a higher level of RV ownership than the USA, with 13% of the population owning an RV, compared to 10% in the USA (Go RVing, 2004). Moreover, in British Columbia (BC) alone, more than one million non residents took a holiday in their car or a rented car (Statistics Canada, 2001). This figure, which has most likely increased and does not include residents, suggests that a summer influx of RV and car travelers in regional and remote areas can have dramatic social and environmental impacts on wild land areas. Given that the goal of sustainable development is now a cornerstone of many tourism development and protected area agencies, an understanding of the nature of this market is imperative in order to plan and create policy for prevention of negative environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts. Focus groups and interviews with self-drive tourists suggest that there are distinct segments of the market differentiated by accommodation type. For the dedicated RV traveler, surrounding themselves with their own possessions, not sharing, safety, and minimizing physical contact with the outdoors and with people are key. Wilderness may be pretty to look at right along the road side but its inconvenient and potentially dangerous to enter. To date, little research has been conducted on the drive tourism market and it is often refereed to as a homogeneous market sector. We are interested in exploring whether self drive travelers (using cars and RVs) may be segmented into groups according to their motivation for travel, behaviour whilst planning their trip and traveling, types of vehicle and attitudes towards wilderness. In particular, we are interested in examining self drive travelers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards wilderness, interactions with wildlands, and the role that the idea of wilderness plays in planning their holiday destinations. Beginning of a multi-phase research project with phase one located in Bella Coola, BC (central coast) and the result of collaboration between UNBC, CCRD, BC Ferries and BC Real Estate Partnering Fund Qualitative research concentrated on motivations & behaviour of visitors to examine: Ø Why they travel Ø Activities whilst traveling Ø Travel habits over their life Ø Interactions with wildlands Ø Perceptions and attitudes towards wilderness Ø Choice of accommodation Ø Social interaction whilst traveling and decision making Triangulated methods include: Ø 4 Focus Groups § Tenters/RVs provincial parks § Hotels/B&Bs § Tenters/RVs private campgrounds Ø 40 In-depth interviews Ø Observations “After spending time here [Wal. Mart], everything else is quite scary. I’ve gotten used to the bright lights of the parking lot” Boondocker “We feel safer in our motorhome at night, and we can still enjoy nature from it” Hard-Core RVers Distinct Segments of Rubber Tire Traffic More interaction with wild lands & more physically active Less interaction with wild lands and less physically active Soft RV’ers Key Lines indicate movement between segments influenced by lifestyle, age, income, $ and weather. Solid lines indicate greater likelihood of mode switching. Hard Core Tenters Methods “We prefer to enjoy wilderness from the comfort of our own home” Hard-Core RVers • Feeling the elements • Believe they get the real experience • Look down on RVers • Active & environmentally orientated • Like being able to access remote areas Soft Tenters • Like flexibility • Will change to B&Bs or hotels if weather is bad Hard Core RV’ers • Camper trailers/ smaller motor homes • Social groupings • Larger motor homes/ 5 th wheels • Status- look down on tenters • Little interaction with local community Soft • Often form their own Hotelers community • Will camp if • Non-active weather bad or • Safety a big issue have little $ • Possession • Personal comforts- their own B&Bs Hard Core bathroom! Boondockers Hotelers • Contact with the locals a key driver • Social travelers • High interaction with community • Less social • Less active • Only stay in hotels Fear and Loathing Phase two of the research project involves investigation of a subset of the hard-core RV group: Wal. Mart boondockers. The scourge of community organizations, city councils and private RV parks, boondockers travel the country from parking lot to parking lot. Given the cost of the RV – campground fees can’t be prohibitive so what’s the attraction? “I’m afraid of tents… if it rains its open to - maps are provided free by Wal. Mart all the elements…I’m also afraid of bears” - itinerary is ‘planned’ Hard-Core RVers - the safety of the ‘lights’ of the store are critical - all the comforts of home “I want to feel the rain, hear the wind and - re-supplying is easy get hot by the sun” Hard-Core Tenter - no dangerous bears - can drive thru wild-lands without fear - cost is key Contact Resource Recreation and Tourism Program University of Northern British Columbia 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada V 2 N 4 Z 9 Tel: (250) 960 -5114 E-mail: [email protected] ca Web: www. unbc. ca/rrt