It was likely no accident that Vancouver was chosen as the site of the Globe '90 Conference. The enunciation of such bold guiding principles should of necessity take place in the heart of a region well-known for its environmental treasures. British Columbia's offerings accord with statements of previous tourism conferences in other places. The 1989 conference at The Hague could have had Vancouver Area Tourism in mind when it proclaimed that an, "unspoilt natural, cultural and human environment [was] a fundamental condition for the development of tourism." (Laws, Faulkner & Moscardo, 1998, p. 206)
In British Columbia, eco-tourism is seen as away of bringing together competing interests, not only human and natural, but also human vs. human. Of interest to many visitors to the Vancouver Area are the many Aboriginal communities to be found amid the natural landscape. Tourists, who are attracted by the idea of visiting Native villages, watching Native performances, and viewing and purchasing Native handicrafts and works of art, hopefully contribute to the resolution of an old problem in Canada - finding a way to accommodate the Native Heritage in modern-day Canadian society. In an article in the Journal of the Community Development Society, Edward Jackson describes a program called, Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program, or CEDTAP, that works toward the goal of using eco-tourism as means of improving local economies - in particular, the Aboriginal economies of the Region. CEDTAP shows how a tourism initiative can work both ways, playing on the attractions that draw tourists to the Vancouver region, while at the same time benefiting the Area socially and economically. (Jackson, 2004, p. 65) In 2002, CEDTAP financed a study tour of the Region during which members were able to observe the contributions of eco-tourism to the Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal Groups jointly manage the area's forests in connection with environmental and civic groups, the tourist trade thus helping to generate jobs, preserve natural resources, and introduce new technologies into these and other similar rural areas. (Jackson, 2004, p. 65) A program such as this reveals the significance of communicating a "purpose" to would-be tourists. Rather than visit the area solely for the purposes of personal enjoyment, or recreation, the eco-tourism market imparts to the casual visitor the sense that she or he is part of a larger success story. This holistic approach to tourism can be sold as a reason to visit Vancouver and the surrounding area, and would certainly enhance the area's reputation in the eyes of at least a certain category of visitor.
Further bolstering the claim that eco-tourism can be a way for tourists to help Native peoples is a 2002 field study conducted by Sanjay M. Nepal of Texas A&M University. Nepal surveyed members of the Tl'atz'en Nation to obtain their views of eco-tourism, and how eco-tourists benefit their people. The Tl'atz'en live in the lush forests of central British Columbia - an area that is very appealing for the typical eco-tourist. Nepal obtained the following results in regard to the Tl'atz'en's own definitions of what constituted eco-tourism, and how such eco-tourism would benefit their nation:
A frequency of responses; percentages are calculated from total number of responses
Table 2. (Nepal, 2003)
Not all visitors to the Vancouver area's "Great Outdoors," are eco-tourists, of course. The region has long drawn huge numbers intent on fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping. There is water everywhere, from rushing streams, to rolling ocean, making Vancouver a jumping off point for all kinds of water-centered activities. Any tourist program must naturally capitalize on British Columbia's reputation as a sportsman's paradise. According to 1999 provincial statistics quoted in a 2004 edition of the Canadian Journal of Regional Science, tourists in British Columbia are split roughly fifty-fifty between British Columbian residents, and outsiders. (Munro, 2004) The area has a long association with the outdoors. Back in the 1960's, National Geographic ran numerous articles that featured the joys of daily life in Canada. A photograph of youngsters playing in the water in the town of Windermere sent residents of the United States the message that British Columbians lived in close contact with nature. (Beaudreau, 2002) It was breathtaking scenery that first gave birth to a true tourism industry in the Province. As far back as the late Nineteenth Century, the Canadian Pacific Railway discovered that it could use huge tourist hotels as a means of covering the cost of laying its tracks across thousands of miles of difficult terrain. In the Selkirk Mountains, a luxury hotel - the Glacier House - rivaled the resort at Banff - also built by the Canadian Pacific Railway. (Squire, 1998, p. 86) The idea was to, quite literally, "manufacture a destination." (Squire, 1998, p. 86) At the same time, British Columbian museums and travel brochures featured an abundance of animals - the bounty available in the region's vast forests. (Colpitts, 1998) Taxidermic specimens were shown off in the United States, and were a prominent part of Canada's exhibits at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. (Colpitts, 1998) Specially highlighted were stuffed examples of big game. These were shown at local fairs and expositions all over Canada, and were exhibited on a larger scale at the Dominion Exposition in 1908. (Colpitts, 1998) Clearly, the well-heeled big game hunter was a welcome visitor to the woods of British Columbia. First established at the National Park in Banff, game preserves appeared shortly afterwards within easy reach of Vancouver. (Colpitts, 1998)
Wildlife could be used even to sell the Province's cities. Boosters concocted a whole program that represented Vancouver - indeed all of British Columbia - as a modern day Eden. Taking similar depictions of African abundance as their model,
Promoters attempted to recreate the same Eden, well-populated with wild animals. That garden from which humans had been expelled for sinning awaited in a pristine state... throughout western Canada. This Eden was not the actual garden described in Genesis.... Rather, the image was employed metaphorically and often used as a blunt criticism of urban conditions to be found in the east and outside Canada. Urban criticism appears in Clive Phillipps-Wolley's hunting narrative appropriately titled, A Sportsman's Eden, describing British Columbia after the CPR [Canadian Pacific Railway] opened. His was one of many narratives describing the "Paradise," "Heaven," and "Walhalla" to be found in Canada, far from overcrowded American forests and industrial centers. (Colpitts, 1998)
Several decades before those alluring photographs appeared in National Geographic magazine, British Columbians were already skilled at advertising their cities as somehow different from cities in other parts of Canada and the world. Come to Vancouver, for example, and you could enjoy an urban lifestyle that was, at the same time, natural. The scenery, the activities, and even the pace, were special.
The tourist industry sells "experiences," which are anticipated outcomes of "gazing" and the search for signs. In this manner, tourists become semioticians reading the landscape according to certain preconceived notions or signs derived from travel guides or some other means. Tourist attractions must possess characteristics that distinguish them from what persons normally encounter in everyday life. This division between the mundane and unusual is accomplished by seeing unique objects.... Alternatively, participating in a familiar activity such as shopping or eating can have significance for the tourist when it occurs against a "distinctive visual blackcloth [sic]," while observing ordinary aspects of everyday life undertaken by people in unusual contexts can also have significance for the tourist (Broadway, 1996)
From the beginning, what was special about British Columbia was its wild scenery, and the proximity of its urban centers to that wild scenery.
Soon after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway linked the city of Vancouver directly with the populous (comparatively) eastern provinces, William C. Van Horne, the Canadian Pacific Railway's General Manager, opened a tourist hotel designed specifically to serve the Railway's passengers. (Broadway, 1996)
The luxurious Hotel Vancouver was constructed at Georgia and Granville, away from the existing city center at Cordova and Carrall streets, since the CPR owned all the land around the hotel site. Soon afterwards, the company built the Vancouver Opera House next to the hotel, a decision that was justified on the grounds of the company needing to establish a city for its railway terminus. (Broadway, 1996)
The Hotel Vancouver was also the first example, in the area, of using tourism as a tool of urban development and expansion. By constructing the hotel outside of the main, built-up area of Vancouver, and then later adding an opera house, and still later a branch of the Hudson's Bay Company store (Broadway, 1996), the arrival of sizeable number of tourists in Vancouver was virtually guaranteed, considerably stimulating the city's growth and economic development. A land grant of 6500 acres to the Canadian Pacific Railway induced the company to extend the western terminus of the railroad from its original location at Port Moody, to Vancouver itself. The land grant gave the Canadian Pacific control over a large…