We have heard a lot about the transition to a tourism economy over the last several years but what do Revelstokians really think about it?
That’s a question Tim Palmer, the city’s top civil servant, hopes to have answered through a survey he is conducting over the next couple of weeks.
It’s an important and valid question. Judging by news media stories about economic development over the last several years it would be easy to reach the conclusion that local government, businesses and residents are strong supporters of tourism and resort development. But is that really true? I have long believed that about a quarter of the population does not like Revelstoke Mountain Resort, specifically, and tourism development in general.
Their reasons are varied and Palmer’s survey is beginning to winkle out their thinking. It is also showing that there is no broad agreement about what might be considered appropriate or desirable tourism development.
“There’s a segment of the population that has something to say but whose opinions haven’t really been heard,” the City’s Chief Administrative Officer said in an interview Thursday.
Why haven’t they been heard? Many people will give their opinions in private but decline to voice them in public. As well, most of the public discussion about economic development has been driven by the City of Revelstoke and the Chamber of Commerce where the dominant speakers have been business owners and others, many of whom have had a stake of one kind or another in tourism development. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in the face of that kind of pressure many individuals will simply keep their mouths zipped rather than say what really think.
This is not an ‘official’ municipal government survey. No. This is an anonymous survey that Palmer has devised and personally financed as part of his study for an MBA from Royal Roads University.
“This is not about best-practices in tourism development,” he said. “This is a statistically valid survey of residents and their opinions on a variety of questions.”
Those questions touch on resort development, the definition of tourism, what residents regard as suitable and non-suitable tourism development, their thoughts about the effects of tourism development on our rural community and so on.
The results of the survey will not only be interesting when they are finally released but they’ll be statistically valid. Palmer is aiming at acquiring at least 250 responses and, ideally, 300. That would mean about five per cent of the resident population will have participated in the survey and provided not just yes/no or multiple-choice answers to questions but lengthier answers and observations, as well.
While this survey is not an official City one, the results will be presented to Council and will be publicly available this spring.
This is a valuable opportunity for Revelstokians to voice their thoughts, feelings, fears and dreams about this important issue.