What do protected parklands and conservation areas mean to Canadian tourism?
Tourism in Canada is highly dependent on our parks and conservation areas. We would even go as far to say that our protected parks and conservation areas in Canada are the foundation of a successful future in tourism for Canada.
According to a 2011 Canada Tourism Commission Report there were 15.6 million international overnight trips in Canada. Of those international travelers 7.64 million traveled to Canada for pleasure, holidays and/or recreation. Many of them are what we in the industry like to call Soft Outdoor Adventure Enthusiasts.
According to Statistics Canada there were over 3.2 million trips by Canadians within Canada. This is not taking into consideration multiple visits during the year. And...get this... 23 per cent of all Canadians indicate they too are Soft Outdoor Adventure Enthusiasts.
A recent Travel Activities and Motivation Survey indicated that the Soft Outdoor Adventure Enthusiasts enjoy activities like:
- hiking/backpacking in wilderness settings (58 per cent);
- wildlife viewing (47 per cent);
- fishing (46 per cent);
- cycling (38 per cent);
- kayaking or canoeing (37 per cent);
- motor boating (37 per cent); and
- wildflower viewing (32 per cent).
Where do people go to enjoy these types of activities in Canada? The only place they can go, in most cases, is to our protected parks and conservation areas. So take away our parks and conservation areas and what are we left with? Bottom line...we would be left with no outdoor tourism industry to speak of and we would have a totally different Canadian tourism brand.
As indicated in the Travel Activities and Motivational Survey: "Not only do these tourists rate Canada very highly as a place with beautiful scenery (9.1 on a 10-point scale) but they also have a penchant for activities that would allow them to experience this scenery first hand: viewing wildlife and flora as they hike through wilderness settings or kayak and canoe on lakes and waterways."
According to Parks Canada, our Canadian National Parks, Reserves, Historic Sites and Conservation Areas entertained over 20.6 million visitors in 2011-2012! That is not including the protected lands managed by Canadian non-profit organizations like Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy of Canada...nor does it include our provincial, municipal, regional and community parks. Now if we factor in the multiple visits and return trips made to our Canadian parks and conservation areas the numbers are even more staggering.
Imagine what life would be like in Canada if there were no protected mountains, grasslands, historic sites, lakes, rivers, wetlands, bogs, wildlife and other natural areas. Imagine if there were no protected parks how many towns and villages would be non existent, as many communities in Canada depend on natural areas for economic survival.
So next time you explore a park or conservation area let us be reminded that yes, their main objective is to protect and conserve...but they are also employers and educators of many travelers, as well as economic drivers for many Canadian communities generating millions of dollars for our national economy.