Through a unique project-based learning experience, four students enrolled in the spring 2023 TSTD 6270 Research Methods and Applications course had an opportunity to develop recommendations for the indigenous Clayoqua Tribe to help address the impact of rapid tourism development in the District of Tofino, a small town on the western coast of Vancouver Island. Tofino has a population of 2,500 and annual visitation rate close to 1,000,000. The massive increase in tourism has become a major concern for citizens, local government officials, and several indigenous tribes that share public land, including the Clayoqua indigenous tribe of approximately 250 people.
The issue of over-tourism within the Tofino community was brought to the students' attention by guest speaker Calum Matthews. As the Director of Destination Development for Vancouver Island, BC and Vice President of the non-profit social enterprise 4VI, Calum has witnessed the effects of tourism at every level. He believes that because indigenous nations are already underrepresented, the negative effects of tourism likely impact them more significantly.
The project was led by Master of Science in Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management Program students Abdullah Aldhafyan Saudi A., Hasan Mohammad A. Qari, Stephanie Gerson, and Yantonius Edyson Bessie. Speaking on behalf of the team, Master of Tourism Administration candidate Yantonius Edyson Bessie reflected on the experience, stating “Participating in this tourism research project has been an enlightening experience, allowing us to apply the research method and application knowledge and skills gained throughout our studies to address real-world challenges. It is inspiring to contribute towards preserving the tribe's heritage and promoting sustainable practices that respect their rights and ensure long-term community well-being.” The students worked closely with Calum under the mentorship of Professor Cevat Tosun, Ph.D., Eisenhower Chair and professor of Tourism Studies and Management and director of the Master of Tourism Administration program at the GW School of Business (GWSB) to develop their recommendations. Professor Tosun emphasized the importance for tourism businesses and organizations to grasp their evolving environment, enabling the team to formulate optimal marketing strategies and operational approaches.
To explore this issue, the team conducted a mixed-methods approach with both qualitative and quantitative research. The team examined data and reports provided by 4VI, InterVista’s, and conducted a housing survey. These reports provided primary data about the Tofino community including their sentiments towards tourism. The team also interviewed Calum to hear his personal and tourism entity’s perspective on this issue. Through their efforts, the team came to understand that a new solution needs to be utilized to address major challenges. In regards to the academic collaboration with GWSB, Calum stated, “There are many research variables that need to be considered in managing and sustaining a tourist destination including the Tofino District. The project provides specific research outputs that encourage tourism stakeholders to think comprehensively and take collaborative actions. 4VI would be happy to provide reliable data and support for the team in conducting deeper related studies in the future.”
Of his teaching experience, Professor Tosun stated, “By engaging in a group project, students have integrated and put into practice the concepts, research designs, methods, and theories learned throughout the course. The team collaborated to produce a report that holds value for both the organization and the broader tourism industry. The focus of the research centers around strategies to optimize the positive effects of rapid tourism development on local and indigenous communities. This indicates students' high capability as future industry leaders and consultants ready to enter various development sectors.”