Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC - 2nd Edition

Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC - 2nd Edition

Morgan Westcott and Wendy Anderson, Eds

Don Webster, Donna Owens, Eugene Thomlinson, Geoffrey Bird, Griff Tripp, Heather Knowles, Keith Henry, Kelley Glazer, Lynda Robinson, Micki McCartney, Morgan Westcott, Peter Briscoe, Ray Freeman, Rebecca Wilson-Mah, Terry Hood, Andrea Hinck, Becky Pelkonen, Blake Rowsell, David MacGillivray, David Pinel, Frank Brown, Garrett Stone, Mohna Baichoo, Tania Loken, John Brouwer, Moira McDonald, Paolo Fresnoza, Suzanne de La Barre, and Rob Ferguson


Victoria, B.C.



Accessibility Statement

BCcampus Open Education believes that education must be available to everyone which means supporting the creation of free, open, and accessible educational resources. We are actively committed to increasing the accessibility and usability of the textbooks we produce.

Accessibility features of the web version of this resource

The web version of Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC – 2nd Edition has been designed with accessibility in mind by incorporating the following features:

Other file formats available

In addition to the web version, this book is available in a number of file formats, including PDF, EPUB (for eReaders), MOBI (for Kindles), and various editable files. Here is a link to where you can download this book in another file format. Look for the “Download this book” drop-down menu to select the file type you want.

This book links to a number of external websites. For those using a print copy of this resource, the link text is underlined, and you can find the web addresses for all links in parentheses.

Known accessibility issues and areas for improvement

While we strive to ensure that this resource is as accessible and usable as possible, we might not always get it right. Any issues we identify will be listed below.

There are currently no known issues.

Accessibility standards

The web version of this resource has been designed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, level AA. In addition, it follows all guidelines in Appendix A: Checklist for Accessibility. The development of this toolkit involved working with students with various print disabilities who provided their personal perspectives and helped test the content.

Let us know if you are having problems accessing this book

We are always looking for ways to make our resources more accessible. If you have problems accessing this resource, please contact us to let us know so we can fix the issue.

Please include the following information:

You can contact us one of the following ways:

This statement was last updated on June 4, 2021.


About BCcampus Open Education

Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in B.C. was originally created by a team of authors led by Morgan Westcott in 2015 and received a significant update with the publication of the second edition in September 2020 from a team of editors from across BC’s post secondary institutions led by Wendy Anderson. In June 2021, the book was updated again to include over 60 H5P activities. This creation and following updates were funded by BCcampus Open Education.

BCcampus Open Education began in 2012 as the B.C. Open Textbook Project with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing students’ costs through the use of open textbooks and other OER. BCcampus supports the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful learning opportunities for the students of B.C. BCcampus Open Education is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training, and the Hewlett Foundation.

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that, through permissions granted by the copyright holder, allow others to use, distribute, keep, or make changes to them. Our open textbooks are openly licensed using a Creative Commons licence, and are offered in various e-book formats free of charge, or as printed books that are available at cost.

For more information about open education in British Columbia, please visit the BCcampus Open Education website. If you are an instructor who is using this book for a course, please fill out our Adoption of an Open Textbook form.


Students: How to Access and Use This Textbook

This textbook is available in the following formats:

You can access the online webbook and download any of the formats for free here: Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC – 2nd Edition. To download the book in a different format, look for the “Download this book” drop-down menu and select the file type you want.

How can I use the different formats?
Format Internet required? Device Required apps Accessibility Features Screen reader compatible
Online webbook Yes Computer, tablet, phone An Internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari) WCAG 2.0 AA compliant, option to enlarge text, and compatible with browser text-to-speech tools, videos with captions Yes
PDF No Computer, print copy Adobe Reader (for reading on a computer) or a printer Ability to highlight and annotate the text. If reading on the computer, you can zoom in. Unsure
EPUB and MOBI No Computer, tablet, phone Kindle app (MOBI) or eReader app (EPUB) Option to enlarge text, change font style, size, and colour. Unsure
HTML No Computer, tablet, phone An Internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari) WCAG 2.0 AA compliant and compatible with browser text-to-speech tools. Yes

Tips for Using This Textbook

Webbook vs. All Other Formats

The webbook includes a number of interactive and multimedia components. These include videos and interactive questions. If you are not using the webbook to access this textbook, the videos and activities will not be included. Instead, your copy of the text will provided a link to where you can access those interactive elements.

Even if you decide to use a PDF or a print copy to access the textbook, you can access the webbook and download any other formats at any time.




A smooth lake with mountains rising up in the background.
Figure 1.0 Super, Natural British Columbia is one of the world’s top tourism destinations. Together, we’ll learn how the industry works.

Welcome! If you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in a career in BC’s tourism and hospitality industry. Perhaps you work in industry and want to enhance your skills. Or maybe you’re one of the hundreds of students world-wide who’ve been directed to this resource by an instructor. No matter your background, we’re happy to share this collaborative work that pulls together decades of industry experience and academic know-how.

An Introduction to the Industry

No textbook could cover, in depth, the tourism industry in BC and the global context for its development. This text is a stepping stone for further resources, and is written with a first year college and university audience in mind.

Created Through Collaboration

The book you’re reading was created through a collaborative process. It involved input from educators at multiple institutions, industry leaders, employers, and past graduates of BC’s tourism and hospitality management programs. The first iteration of the text was launched in 2015 by an organization called LinkBC; and in early 2020 a group of intrepid BC instructors rolled up their sleeves and edited the content to reflect the times.

In this 2nd edition, all chapters have been revised with updated statistics, revised content and references added providing a more relevant and up to date reading experience.  Several chapters such as Chapter 9 Customer Service, Chapter 10 Environmental Stewardship, and Chapter 12 Indigenous Tourism have been substantially rewritten as these areas have transformed considerably over the last several years. Internet links throughout have been reviewed and updated along with several modernized end-of-chapter exercises and case studies throughout the text. Lastly glossary terms have been hyperlinked.

Video: Introduction to 2nd Edition by Wendy Anderson, Hospitality Programs Coordinator and Instructor, Selkirk College

Thumbnail for the embedded element "Introduction Video"

A BCcampus element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Video Transcript
Welcome to the Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality textbook. This textbook was originally put together in 2015 by a team of post-secondary educators led by Morgan Westcott, at that time with LinkBC. Last forward five years and it was realized that some edits needed to be done to update the information and keep it current. At the same time we started editing, the COVID pandemic hit the globe and Canada, and of course our beloved tourism industry came to a halt. Now tourism has gone through many shocks before, such as World War 2—well both World Wars—we had SARS, 9/11, and the 2008 economic crisis. After each of these shocks in the past, tourism has always rebounded stronger than ever. But as we edit this textbook, we really don’t know what the future will bring. So with that being said, most of the information that you will read is going to be pre-COVID. However, you will notice that many chapters make reference to COVID and its devastating impacts on the industry. You’ll read in Chapter 1 that our industry has several sectors and our text is divided into those sectors within our industry. The focus is on British Columbia and Canada, although we do make reference to some global content as well.
I’d like to just reach out and thank the 2020 editing team. It was a diverse group, as I said, from across BC’s post-secondary institutions. They included BCIT, Capilano University, College of the Rockies, North Island College, Royal Roads University, Selkirk College, and Vancouver Island University. I’d also like to should out to some industry professionals that helped us do the 2020 edits, including Go2HR and Heiltsuk First Nations. Enjoy reading your textbook, take the opportunity to dig deeper on some of the content. You will see some spotlights on sections of the text that you can click on external links. Please take the opportunity to do that. It will just make your understanding so much deeper. Enjoy your reading.
A word on COVID-19: No crisis in recent memory has affected the global tourism landscape, and BC’s industry, like the pandemic novel coronavirus outbreak. At the time of editing it is early summer 2020 and BC is just starting the Province’s “Restart Plan.” As we re-write this text, we’ve made an effort to address the impacts of COVID-19, while trying to ensure some longevity to the book. We understand the information presented might not apply to your situation, or may be out-of-date as you’re reading, and we appreciate your understanding. Be sure to check with industry associations and local government for the most up-to-date information on the pandemic and other operational guidelines.

Chapter Organization

Each chapter is organized thematically, and moves from a global, to a national, to a provincial context. Some chapters will be quite global in focus while others will concentrate primarily on British Columbia. Chapter content is based on available data and research, and input from collaborators.

Additional Resources

Each chapter features “Spotlight On” textboxes that highlight an organization, business, or other key component of the chapter’s theme. “Take a Closer Look” features encourage students to do further reading on particular subjects.

At the end of each chapter, key terms are presented in alphabetical order to help students gain confidence with terminology; these terms are summarized in a Glossary at the end of the textbook. These are followed by chapter exercises and a case study for in-depth exploration of the subject matter.

Thanks for reading!

Morgan Westcott, original lead author and member of the 2020 2nd Edition Update Team

Wendy Anderson, 2nd Edition Update Team Lead

Media Attributions

Media Attributions

  • 7258766556_45079856b7_k


Chapter 1. History and Overview

Revisions made by: Paolo Fresnoza

Learning Objectives

  • Specify the commonly understood definitions and differentiations of travel, tourism, and hospitality
  • Classify tourism into distinct industry groups using North American Industry Classification Standards (NAICS)
  • Define tourist and excursionist
  • Gain knowledge about the origins of the tourism industry
  • Provide an overview of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of tourism worldwide
  • Understand the history of tourism development in Canada and British Columbia
  • Analyze the value of tourism in Canada and British Columbia
  • Identify key industry associations and understand their mandates


1.1 What is Tourism?

Before engaging in a study of tourism, let’s have a closer look at what this term means.

Definition of Tourism

There are a number of ways tourism can be defined, and for this reason, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) embarked on a project from 2005 to 2007 to create a common glossary of terms for tourism. It defines tourism as follows:

Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors (which may be either tourists or excursionists; residents or non-residents) and tourism has to do with their activities, some of which imply tourism expenditure (United Nations World Tourism Organization, 2008).

Using this definition, we can see that tourism is not just the movement of people for a number of purposes (whether business or pleasure), but the overall agglomeration of activities, services, and involved sectors that make up the unique tourist experience.

Tourism, Travel, and Hospitality: What are the Differences?

It is common to confuse the terms tourism, travel, and hospitality or to define them as the same thing. While tourism is the all-encompassing umbrella term for the activities and industry that create the tourist experience, the UNWTO (2020) defines travel as the activity of moving between different locations often for any purpose but more so for leisure and recreation (Hall & Page, 2006). On the other hand, hospitality can be defined as “the business of helping people to feel welcome and relaxed and to enjoy themselves” (Discover Hospitality, 2015, p. 3). Simply put, the hospitality industry is the combination of the accommodation and food and beverage groupings, collectively making up the largest segment of the industry (Go2HR, 2020). You’ll learn more about accommodations and F & B in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, respectively.

Definition of Tourist and Excursionist

Building on the definition of tourism, a commonly accepted description of a tourist is “someone who travels at least 80 km from his or her home for at least 24 hours, for business or leisure or other reasons” (LinkBC, 2008, p.8). The United Nations World Tourism Organization (1995) helps us break down this definition further by stating tourists can be:

  1. Domestic (residents of a given country travelling only within that country)
  2. Inbound (non-residents travelling in a given country)
  3. Outbound (residents of one country travelling in another country)

Excursionists on the other hand are considered same-day visitors (UNWTO, 2020). Sometimes referred to as “day trippers.” Understandably, not every visitor stays in a destination overnight. It is common for travellers to spend a few hours or less to do sightseeing, visit attractions, dine at a local restaurant, then leave at the end of the day.

The scope of tourism, therefore, is broad and encompasses a number of activities and sectors.

Spotlight On: United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible “for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism” (UNWTO, 2014b). Its membership includes 159 countries and over 500 affiliates such as private companies, research and educational institutions, and non-governmental organizations. It promotes tourism as a way of developing communities while encouraging ethical behaviour to mitigate negative impacts. For more information, visit the UNWTO website.

NAICS: The North American Industry Classification System

Given the sheer size of the tourism industry, it can be helpful to break it down into broad industry groups using a common classification system. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) was jointly created by the Canadian, US, and Mexican governments to ensure common analysis across all three countries (British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, 2013a). The tourism-related groupings created using NAICS are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Accommodation
  2. Food and beverage services (commonly known as “F & B”)
  3. Recreation and entertainment
  4. Transportation
  5. Travel services

These industry groups (also commonly known as sectors) are based on the similarity of the “labour processes and inputs” used for each (Government of Canada, 2013). For instance, the types of employees and resources required to run an accommodation business whether it be a hotel, motel, or even a campground are quite similar. All these businesses need staff to check in guests, provide housekeeping, employ maintenance workers, and provide a place for people to sleep. As such, they can be grouped together under the heading of accommodation. The same is true of the other four groupings, and the rest of this text explores these industry groups, and other aspects of tourism, in more detail.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Two female front desk employees speak to a male guest in a hotel lobby.
Figure 1.1 Front desk personnel, working their hardest.

It is typical for the entire tourist experience to involve more than one sector. The combination of sectors that supply and distribute the needed tourism products, services, and activities within the tourism system is called the Tourism Supply Chain. Often, these chains of sectors and activities are dependent upon each other’s delivery of products and services. Let’s look at a simple example below that describes the involved and sometimes overlapping sectoral chains in the tourism experience:

Tourism supply chain. Long description available.
Figure 1.2 The tourism supply chain. [Long Description]

Before we seek to understand the five tourism sectors in more detail, it’s important to have an overview of the history and impacts of tourism to date.

Long Descriptions

Figure 1.2 long description: Diagram showing the tourism supply chain. This includes the phases of travel and the sectors and activities involved during each phase.

There are three travel phases: pre-departure, during travel, and post-departure.

Pre-departure, tourists use the travel services and transportation sectors.

During travel, tourists use the travel services, accommodations, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and transportation sectors.

Post-departure, tourists use the transportation sector.

[Return to Figure 1.2]

Media Attributions

Media Attributions


1.2 Global Overview

Origins of Tourism

Travel for leisure purposes has evolved from an experience reserved for very few people into something enjoyed by many. Historically, the ability to travel was exclusive and reserved for royalty and the upper classes. From ancient Roman times to the 17th century, young men of high standing were encouraged to travel through Europe on a “grand tour” (Chaney, 2000). Through the Middle Ages, many societies encouraged the practice of religious pilgrimage, as reflected in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and other literature. Prescribed even earlier, the Hajj or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, has made travel for religious purposes become a default for every believer of Islam.

The night sky over worshippers surrounding a black cube-shaped building in a large courtyard.
Figure 1.3 Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The word hospitality predates the use of the word tourism, and first appeared in the 14th century. It is derived from the Latin hospes, which encompasses the words guest, host, and foreigner (Latdict, 2014). The word tourist appeared in print much later, in 1772 (Griffiths and Griffiths, 1772). William Theobald suggests that the word tour comes from Greek and Latin words for circle and turn, and that tourism and tourist represent the activities of circling away from home, and then returning (Theobald, 1998).

Tourism Becomes Business

Cox & Kings, the first known travel agency, was founded in 1758 when Richard Cox became official travel agent of the British Royal Armed Forces (Cox & Kings, 2014).  Almost 100 years later, in June 1841, Thomas Cook opened the first leisure travel agency, designed to help Britons improve their lives by seeing the world and participating in the temperance movement. In 1845, he ran his first commercial packaged tour, complete with cost-effective railway tickets and a printed guide (Thomas Cook, 2014).

The continued popularity of rail travel and the emergence of the automobile presented additional milestones in the development of tourism. In fact, a long journey taken by Karl Benz’s wife in 1886 served to kick off interest in auto travel and helped to publicize his budding car company, which would one day become Mercedes Benz (Auer, 2006). We take a closer look at the importance of car travel later in this chapter, and transportation within the tourism industry in Chapter 2.

Fast forward to 1952, the dawn of the jet age saw the first commercial air flights from London, England to Johannesburg, South Africa and Colombo, Sri Lanka (Flightglobal, 2002) that many also heralded as the start of the modern tourism industry. The 1950s also saw the creation of Club Méditérannée (Gyr, 2010) and similar club holiday destinations, the precursor of today’s all-inclusive resorts.

The decade that followed is considered to have been a significant period in tourism development, as more travel companies came onto the scene, increasing competition for customers and moving toward “mass tourism, introducing new destinations and modes of holidaying” (Gyr, 2010, p. 32).

Industry growth has been interrupted at several key points in history, including World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. At the start of this century, global events thrust international travel into decline including the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City (known as 9/11), the war in Iraq, perceived threat of future terrorist attacks, and health scares including SARS, BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), and the West Nile virus (Government of Canada, 2006). But perhaps one of the most debilitating crises that has severely impacted tourism is the more recent COVID-19 pandemic.

A plane passenger wears a face mask and a face shield.
Figure 1.4 Cautious travel in the time of a pandemic.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the industry experienced a significant technological shift as increased internet use revolutionized the promotions and distributions of travel products and services. Through the 2000s, online travel bookings grew exponentially, and by 2018 global leader Expedia had expanded to include brands such as, Travelocity, Trivago, VRBO, Cheaptickets, and Expedia CruiseShip Centers, earning revenues of over $11.2 billion (Expedia Inc., 2013).

A more in-depth exploration of the impact of the online marketplace, and other trends in global tourism, is provided in Chapter 14.

Media Attributions

  • camila-perez-dcmPJP8V8jU-unsplash-scaled-1


1.3 Canada Overview

Origins of Tourism in Canada

Tourism has long been a source of economic development for our country. Some argue that as early as 1534 the explorers of the day, such as Jacques Cartier, were Canada’s first tourists (Dawson, 2004), but most agree the major developments in Canada’s tourism industry followed milestones in the transportation sector: by rail, by car, and eventually, in the skies.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

An accessible version of this activity is provided in the back matter of the book: Origins of Tourism in Canada Timeline

Railway Travel: The Ties That Bind

A black steam train pulls several cars beneath a blue sky.
Figure 1.5 Canadian Pacific 4-4-0 A-2-m, No. 136.

The dawn of the railway age in Canada came midway through the 19th century. The first railway was launched in 1836 (Library and Archives Canada, n.d.), and by the onset of World War I in 1914, four railways dominated the Canadian landscape: Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Canadian Northern Railway (CNOR), the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), and the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP). Unfortunately, their rapid expansion soon brought the last three into near bankruptcy (Library and Archives Canada, n.d.).

In 1923, these three rail companies were amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway (CNR), and together with the CPR, these trans-continentals dominated the Canadian travel landscape until other forms of transportation became more popular. In 1978, with declining interest in rail travel, the CPR and CNR were forced to combine their passenger services to form VIA Rail (Library and Archives Canada, n.d.).

The Rise of the Automobile

The rising popularity of car travel was partially to blame for the decline in rail travel, although it took time to develop. When the first cross-country road trip took place in 1912, there were only 16 kilometres of paved road across Canada (MacEachern, 2012). Cars were initially considered a nuisance, and the National Parks Branch banned entry of automobiles, but later slowly began to embrace them. By the 1930s, some parks, such as Cape Breton Highlands National Park, were actually created to provide visitors with scenic drives (MacEachern, 2012).

It would take decades before a coast-to-coast highway was created, with the Trans-Canada Highway officially opening in Revelstoke in 1962. When it was fully completed in 1970, it was the longest national highway in the world, spanning one-fifth of the globe (MacEachern, 2012).

Early Tourism Promotion

As early as 1892, enterprising Canadians like the Brewsters became the country’s first tour operators, leading guests through areas such as Banff National Park (Brewster Travel Canada, 2014). Communities across Canada developed their own marketing strategies as transportation development took hold. For instance, the town of Maisonneuve in Quebec launched a campaign from 1907 to 1915 calling itself “Le Pittsburg du Canada.” By 1935, Quebec was spending $250,000 promoting tourism. Other provinces such as Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia followed suit, also enjoying the benefits of establishing provincial tourism bureaus (Dawson, 2004).

National Airlines

Our national airline, Air Canada, was formed in 1937 as Trans-Canada Air Lines. In many ways, Air Canada was a world leader in passenger aviation, introducing the world’s first computerized reservations system in 1963 (Globe and Mail, 2014). Through the 1950s and 1960s, reduced airfares saw increased mass travel. Competitors including Canadian Pacific (which became Canadian Airlines in 1987) began to launch international flights during this time to Australia, Japan, and South America (Canadian Geographic, 2000). By 2000, Air Canada was facing financial peril and forced to restructure. A numbered company, owned in part by Air Canada, purchased 82% of Canadian Airline’s shares, with the result of Air Canada becoming the country’s only national airline (Canadian Geographic, 2000). The 2000s saw Air Canada experiencing a roller-coaster performance from verging near bankruptcy in 2002, to reorganizations and fleet modernizations up to 2007, and another downturn due to the global recession in 2008 (ACE Aviation, 2011; Air Canada, 2007; CBC News, 2009).  Air Canada experienced a number of transformations from interior and interior aircraft redesigns and further fleet upgrades from 2013 to 2017 (Air Canada, 2016).  Once a rival airline, Air Transat was subsequently taken over by Air Canada in 2019 (CBC News, 2019).  The near halt of the global tourism industry during the pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020 severely affected Air Canada, which posted a whopping $1 billion loss in its first quarter, cutting thousands of jobs, slashing 90% of its flight schedule, and foreseeing a tough and later rebound (Reynolds, 2020).

Parks and Protected Areas

A look at the evolution of tourism in Canada would be incomplete without a quick study of our national parks and protected areas. The official conservation of our natural spaces began around the same time as the railway boom, and in 1885 Banff was established as Canada’s first national park. By 1911, the Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act created the Dominion Parks Branch, the first of its kind in the world (Shoalts, 2011).

Canoes floating on a pristine blue lake with towering mountains and trees in the background.
Figure 1.6 Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies.

The systemic conservation and celebration of Canada’s parks over the next century would help shape Canada’s identity, both at home and abroad. Through the 1930s, conservation officers and interpreters were hired to enhance visitor experiences. By 1970, the National Park System Plan divided Canada into 39 regions, with the goal of preserving each distinct ecosystem for future generations. In 1987, the country’s first national marine park was established in Ontario, and in the 20 years that followed, 10 new national parks and marine conservation areas were created (Shoalts, 2011).

The role of parks and protected areas in tourism is explored in greater detail in Chapter 5 (Recreation) and Chapter 10 (Environmental Stewardship).

Global Shock and Industry Decline

As with the global industry, Canada’s tourism industry was impacted by world events such as the Great Depression, the World Wars, socio-political turmoil, and global outbreak of disease.

Global events such as 9/11, the SARS outbreak, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the economic recession of 2008 took their toll on tourism receipts but have successfully seen short-term rebounds. However, nothing has been more impactful to the tourism industry as the corona virus of 2019 (COVID-19), which was first found in China in late 2019 and eventually declared as a pandemic by March 2020 as it spread globally.  Tourism was placed in a standstill as global travel restrictions were imposed to prevent the spread of infection. Aggravated with a nose dive of consumer confidence in travel, many tourism businesses and operators big and small were forced to close. The UNWTO predicted a 60% to 70% drop in tourist numbers, as well as a loss of a staggering USD 910 billion to USD 1.2 trillion in export revenues, and up to 120 million jobs put at risk (UNWTO, 2020b). According to the UNWTO (2020b), COVID-19 created the worst crisis in the history of global tourism since records began in 1950.

A man and woman wearing face masks and summer clothes walk past a harbour.
Figure 1.7 Travellers wearing face masks in Marina Bay, Singapore.

Tourism in Canada Prior to COVID-19

In 2018, tourism created $102 billion in total economic activity and 1.8 million jobs according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (2018a). Up to 2019, Canadian tourism reached its 3rd consecutive year of breaking records by welcoming 22.1 million inbound visitors (TIAC, 2020). Tourism is a major player in the workforce, where 1 in 11 jobs in the country is directly involved with travellers, as stated by TIAC (2018a).

Spotlight On: The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC)

Founded in 1930 and based in Ottawa, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) is the national private-sector advocate for the industry. Its goal is to support policies and programs that help the industry grow, while representing over 400 members including airports, concert halls, festivals and events, travel services providers, and businesses of all sizes. For more information, visit the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s website.

The United States is Canada’s biggest tourism market, which we welcome more than all international travellers combined. Thanks to our immediate proximity, open borders, and ease of travel, we are actually both each other’s top market. As 68% of all inbound visitors to Canada in 2018, American travellers are also big spenders at $663 per trip and typically seek natural attractions, historical sites, and food and drink when they enter the country (TIAC, 2018b).

Aside from the United States, Canada continues to see strong visitation from the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Brazil, and China. In 2018, we welcomed 6.9 million travellers (excluding the US), more that doubling since 2011 (Statistics Canada, 2019). Canadians travelling domestically accounted for 78% of tourism revenues in the country, though spend less at $244 per trip (TIAC, 2018c).

Spotlight On: Destination Canada

Housed in Vancouver, Destination Canada, previously the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), is responsible for promoting Canada as a tourist destination both within Canada itself and to and to several foreign markets. Currently focused on ten international core markets for international marketing: Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Destination Canada also is responsible for proving intelligence, tools and resources to support Canada’s tourism industry from coast to coast. Lastly, Destination Canada works with private companies, travel services providers, meeting professionals, and government organizations to help leverage Canada’s tourism brand, For Glowing Hearts. For more information, visit the Destination Canada corporate website and Destination Canada’s traveler website.

As organizations like TIAC work to confront barriers to travel, Destination Canada is active abroad, encouraging more visitors to explore our country. In Chapter 8, we’ll delve more into the challenges and triumphs of selling tourism at home and abroad.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

The great news for British Columbia is that once in Canada, most international visitors tend to remain in the province they landed in, and BC is one of three provinces that receives the bulk of this traffic (Destination Canada, 2019). In fact, BC’s tourism industry is one of the healthiest in Canada today. Let’s have a look at how our provincial industry was established and where it stands now.

Media Attributions

Media Attributions

  • Canadian-Pacific-train
  • matthew-fournier-ycv7guIlR9c-unsplash-scaled-1
  • victor-he-px9z5Zijwo8-unsplash-scaled-1


1.4 British Columbia Overview

Origins of Tourism in BC

As with the history of tourism in Canada, it is often stated that the first tourists to BC were explorers. In 1778, Captain James Cook touched down on Vancouver Island, followed by James Douglas in 1842, a British agent who had been sent to find new headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company, ultimately choosing Victoria. Through the 1860s, BC’s gold rush attracted prospectors from around the world, with towns and economies springing up along the trail (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009).

Railway Travel: Full Steam Ahead!

The development of BC’s tourism industry began in earnest in the late 1800s when the CPR built accommodation properties along its newly completed trans-Canada route, capturing revenues from overnight stays to help alleviate their increasing corporate debt. Following the 1886 construction of small lodges at stops in Field, Rogers Pass, and Fraser Canyon, the CPR opened the Hotel Vancouver in May 1887 (Dawson, 2004).

A train running through coniferous trees curves around a river beneath snowy mountains.
Figure 1.8 A CP freight train passing through the Canadian Rockies.

As opposed to Atlantic Canada, where tourism promotion centred around attracting hunters and fishermen for a temporary infusion of cash, tourism in British Columbia was seen as a way to lure farmers and settlers to stay in the new province. Industry associations began to form quickly: the Tourist Association of Victoria (TAV) in February 1902, and the Vancouver Tourist Association in June of the same year (Dawson, 2004).

Many of the campaigns struck by these and other organizations between 1890 and 1930 centred on the province’s natural assets, as people sought to escape modern convenience and enjoy the environment. A collaborative group called the Pacific Northwest Travel Association (BC, Washington, and Oregon) promoted “The Pacific Northwest: The World’s Greatest Out of Doors,” calling BC “The Switzerland of North America.” Promotions like these seemed to have had an effect: in 1928, over 370,000 tourists visited Victoria, spending over $3.5 million (Dawson, 2004).

The Great Depression and World War II

As the world’s economy was sent into peril during the Great Depression in the 1930s, tourism was seen as an economic solution. A newly renamed Greater Victoria Publicity Bureau developed strategies to promote tourism spending, with visitor revenues accounting for around 13.5% of BC’s income in 1930. By 1935, an organization known as the TTDA (Tourist Trade Development Association of Victoria and Vancouver Island) looked to create a more stable industry through strategies to increase visitors’ length of stay (Dawson, 2004).

In 1937, the provincial Bureau of Industrial and Tourist Development (BITD) was formed through special legislation with a goal of increasing tourist traffic. By 1938, the organization changed its name to the British Columbia Government Travel Bureau (BCGTB) and was granted a budget increase to $105,000. In 1939, Vancouver welcomed the King and Queen of England and celebrated the opening of the Lions Gate Bridge, activities that reportedly bolstered tourism numbers (Dawson, 2004).

The December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had negative repercussions for tourism in the Pacific Rim and was responsible for an era of decreased visitation to British Columbia, despite attempts by some to market the region as exciting. From 1939 to 1943, US visits to Vancouver dropped from over 307,000 to approximately 183,600. Just two years later, however, that number jumped to 369,250, as a result of campaigns like the 1943 initiative aimed at Americans that marketed BC as “comrades in war” (Dawson, 2004).

Post-War Rebound

We, with all due modesty, cannot help but claim that we are entering British Columbia’s half-century, and cannot help but observe that B.C. also stands for BOOM COUNTRY. —Phil Gagliardi, BC Minister of Highways, 1955 (Dawson, 2004, p.190)

A burst of post-war spending began in 1946, and although short-lived, was supported by steady government investment in marketing throughout the 1950s. As tourism grew in BC, however, so did competition for US dollars from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe. The decade that followed saw an emphasis on promoting BC’s history, its “Britishness,” and the commodification of Indigenous culture. The BCGTB began marketing efforts to extend the travel season, encouraging travel in September during prime fishing season. The bureau also promoted visitors to explore specific areas, including the Lower Fraser Valley, the Okanagan-Fraser Canyon Loop, and the Kamloops-Cariboo region (Dawson, 2004).

In 1954, Vancouver hosted the British Empire Games, investing in the construction of Empire Stadium. A few years later, an increased emphasis on events and convention business saw the Greater Vancouver Tourist Association change its name in 1962 to the Greater Vancouver Visitors and Convention Bureau (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009).

The ski industry was also on the rise: in 1961, the lodge and chairlift on Tod Mountain (now Sun Peaks) opened, and Whistler followed suit five years later (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009). Ski partners became pioneers of collaborative marketing in the province with the foundation of the Ski Marketing Advisory Committee (SMAC) supported by Tod Mountain and Big White, evolving into today’s Canada’s West Ski Area Association (Magnes, 2010). This pioneer spirit was evident across the ski sector: the entire sport of heliskiing was invented by Hans Gosmer of BC’s Canadian Mountain Holidays. The province also held the title of having 90% of the world’s heliskiing market share back in 2016 (McLeish, 2014).

The concept of collaboration extended throughout the province as innovative funding structures saw the cost of marketing programs shared between government and industry in BC. These programs were distributed through regional Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and considered “the most constructive and forward looking plan of its kind in Canada” (Dawson 2004, p.194).

Tourism in BC continued to grow through the 1970s. In 1971, the Hotel Room Tax Act was introduced, allowing for a 5% tax to be collected on room nights with the funds collected to be put toward marketing and development. By 1978, construction had begun on Whistler Village, with Blackcomb Mountain opening two years later (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009). Funding programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s such as the Canada BC Tourism Agreement (CBCTA) and Travel Industry Development Subsidiary Agreement (TIDSA) allowed communities to invest in projects that would make them more attractive tourism destinations. In the mountain community of Kimberley, for instance, the following improvements were implemented through a $3.1 million forgivable loan: a new road to the ski resort, a covered tennis court, a mountain lodge, an alpine slide, and nine more holes for the golf course (e-Know, 2011).

Four snowboarders ride a chairlift high above the ground. Snowy mountains crowd the background.
Figure 1.9 Snowboarders on a chairlift in Whistler.

Around the same time, the “Super, Natural British Columbia” brand was introduced, and a formal bid was approved for Vancouver to host a fair then known as Transpo 86 (later Expo 86). Tourism in the province was about to truly take off.

Expo 86 and Beyond

By the time the world fair Expo 86 came to a close in October 1986, it had played host to 20 million guests. Infrastructure developments, including rapid rail (SkyTrain), airport improvements, a new trade and convention centre at Canada Place (with a cruise ship terminal), and hotel construction, had positioned the city and the province for further growth (PricewaterhouseCooopers, 2009). The construction and opening of the Coquihalla Highway through to 1990 enhanced the travel experience and reduced travel times to vast sections of the province (Magnes, 2010).

By 2000, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) was named number one in the world by the International Air Transport Association’s survey of international passengers. Five years later, the airport welcomed a record 16.4 million passengers (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009).

Going for Gold

A crowd of people dressed in red and white Canadian jerseys cheer from arena seats.
Figure 1.10 The crowd at the Canada vs. Switzerland men’s hockey game during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

In 2003, the International Olympic Committee named Vancouver/Whistler as the host city for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Infrastructure development followed, including the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the creation of Vancouver Convention Centre West, and the construction of the Canada Line, a rapid transport line connecting the airport with the city’s downtown.

As BC prepared to host the Games, its international reputation continued to grow. Vancouver was voted “Best City in the Americas” by Condé Nast Traveller magazine three years in a row. Kelowna was named “Best Canadian Golf City” by Canada’s largest golf magazine, and BC was named the “Best Golf Destination in North America” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Kamloops, known as Canada’s Tournament City, hosted over 100 sports tournaments that same year, and nearby Sun Peaks Resort was named the “Best Family Resort in North America” by the Great Skiing and Snowboarding Guide in 2008 (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009).

By the time the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games took place, over 80 participating countries, 6,000 athletes, and 3 billion viewers put British Columbia on centre stage.

Spotlight On: Destination British Columbia

Destination BC is a Crown corporation founded in November 2012 by the Government of British Columbia works in collaboration with Destination Canada. Its mandate includes marketing the province as a tourist destination (at home and around the world), promoting the development and growth of the industry, providing advice and recommendations to the tourism minister on related matters, and enhancing public awareness of tourism and its economic value to British Columbia (Province of British Columbia, 2013b). Destination BC’s corporate site and their traveller website, called HelloBC, are both valuable sources of tourism information.

Tourism in BC Today

Building on the momentum generated by hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, tourism in BC remains big business. In 2018, the industry generated $20.5 billion in revenue.

The provincial industry is made up of over 19,329 businesses, the majority of which are SMEs (small to medium enterprises), and together they employ approximately 161,500 people (Destination BC, 2018). It may surprise you to learn that in British Columbia, tourism provides the highest Gross Domestic Product, or the total revenues produced in a period of time, in 2018—more than mining, oil and gas, agriculture, and forestry (Destination BC, 2018).

Spotlight On: The Tourism Industry Association of BC

Founded in 1993 as the Council of Tourism Associations, today the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) is a not-for-profit trade association comprising members from private sector tourism businesses, industry associations, and destination marketing organizations (DMOs). Its goal is to ensure the best working environment for a competitive tourism industry. It hosts industry networking events and engages in advocacy efforts as “the voice of the BC tourism industry.” Students are encouraged to join TIABC to take advantage of their connections and receive a discount at numerous industry events. For more information, visit the Tourism Industry Association of BC’s website.

One of the challenges for BC’s tourism industry, as long been argued, is fragmentation. Back in September 1933, an article in the Victoria Daily Times argued for more coordination across organizations in order to capitalize on what they saw as Canada’s “largest dividend payer” (Dawson, 2004). Today, more than 80 years later, you will often hear BC tourism professionals say the same thing.

On the other hand, some experts believe that the industry is simply a model of diversity, acknowledging that tourism is a compilation of a multitude of businesses, services, organizations, and communities. They see the ways in which these components are working together toward success, rather than focusing on friction between the groups.

Many communities are placing a renewed focus on educating the general public and other businesses about the value of tourism and the ways in which stakeholders work together. The following case study highlights this in more detail:

Take a Closer Look: Tourism Pays in Richmond, BC

The community of Richmond, BC, brings to life the far-reaching positive economic effects of tourism in action. Watch the short video called Tourism Pays to see what we mean!

Thumbnail for the embedded element "Tourism Pays - Richmond, BC"

A Vimeo element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Transcript for Tourism Pays in Richmond

[Upbeat Music]

Narrator (Dave): Hi, I’m Dave! Proud owner of a working blueberry farm and big-time supporter of promoting tourism. So why does a blueberry farmer care about tourism? Well, let me tell you a little story about John and Jane.

John and Jane: Hi!

Dave: They thought it would be nice to take a vacation. John had ideas, and Jane had ideas. But as they talked, they couldn’t decide where to go. They knew their perfect place was out there. They just had to find it. Jane flipped through magazines. John started noticing the vacation ads on TV. On his way to work, John saw billboards and heard radio ads.

[Muffled radio in the background.]

Dave: And once he got there, he talked to his friends about where they spent their vacations. Jane did some research on the internet, visiting different websites, to see which places had what they were looking for. After seeing all their options, John and Jane came to the same conclusion.

John and Jane: We found the Perfect Place!

Dave: They were so excited, they started to plan their trip right away. After booking their flights, John was eager to line up some things to do in the Perfect Place. So he visited the Perfect Place’s website, watched a video, checked out the hotels, bought tickets to a ball game, and signed up for the Perfect Place’s e-newsletter especially for visitors. John also downloaded the Perfect Place’s smartphone app so he could get information on the go. Jane liked the Perfect Place’s Facebook page and followed the Perfect Place on Twitter so she could get updates, ideas, and special deals.

[Beeping from Jane dialing the phone]

Dave: Jane also called the toll-free number and spoke to a nice lady who told her everything she needed to know about the Perfect Place. Jane also got the visitor’s guide, which helped her learn what theatre productions were in town, where to eat, and other things to do in the Perfect Place. So John and Jane had explored their options, booked their travel, and planned their vacation. They packed their bags and off they went. End of story, right?

Actually, this is where the real story begins. Because what do you think John and Jane do when they get to the Perfect Place? Guess what? They spend their money [ca-ching]. They spend their money on their rental car, in their hotel, seeing the attractions, enjoying outdoor activities, shopping, and dining out [glasses clink]. They’re happy they came to the Perfect Place.

John and Jane: Woohoo!

Dave: You know who else is happy? The hotel they stayed in, of course, and the bellman at the hotel, the workers at the local company that supplies his uniform, the stores they shop at, and the banks they use. And then there’s the restaurant where John and Jane ate dinner. And the waitress who served them their wine? She’s happy, too. So is the local vineyard who grew the grapes that made the wine, the people who bottled it, and the drivers who brought it into town. And the blueberry farmer who supplied the blueberries for the cobbler that the waitress served John and Jane for dessert.

That’s why someone like me cares about tourism in somewhere like the Perfect Place. Yes, I am a farmer, but I am also a business man, and I can draw a lot of conclusions form that story. I bet you can too. Tourism creates jobs. It brings in spending. And tourists pay taxes, which means locals pay less. But tourism in competitive, and without the marketing engine that drives it, John and Jane will take their money to some other destination, where it will benefit some other local economy. Let’s make sure our local economy grows. Let’s feed it, let’s nurture it, help it along, so it becomes strong, healthy, and delicious.

[Upbeat music]

Words on the screen: Thanks for visiting the Perfect Place. Thanks for visiting Richmond, British Columbia. Tourism in Richmond:

  • Is the largest industry (retail, accommodations, attractions, transportation).
  • Results in $650 million in economic output.
  • Directly employs more than 7,400 people earning $220 million in wages.
  • Contributes $250 million in non-accommodations spending.
  • Brings in excess of 4 million person nights.
  • Generates $135 million in taxes: $76 million federal, $44 million provincial, and $15 million municipal.
  • Supported an 123% increase in the number of hotel rooms over the last 15 years.

Dave: Tourism is vital to us. Like beef to Alberta, like potash to Saskatchewan, or manufacturing to Ontario. Without marketing funding, many visitors will find the perfect place somewhere else. Tourism pays for everyone.

Words on the screen: Brought to you by Tourism Richmond.

A small airplane statue outside the doorway to a boardroom.
Figure 1.11 The doorway to a boardroom in the Canadian Tourism College.

Throughout the rest of this textbook, you will have a chance to learn more about the history and current outlook for tourism in BC, with in-depth coverage of some of the triumphs and challenges we face as an industry. You will also learn about the Canadian and global contexts of the tourism industry’s development.

Media Attributions

Video Attributions

Media Attributions

  • andy-holmes-oEIFOoC3gi0-unsplash-scaled-1
  • pamela-saunders-yV8hguKKMq0-unsplash-scaled-1
  • Canada-vs.-Switzerland
  • Canadian-Tourism-College-Boardroom-scaled-1


1.5 Impacts of Tourism

As you can already see, the impacts of the global tourism industry today are impressive and far reaching. Let’s have a closer look at some of these outcomes.

Tourism Impacts

Tourism can generate positive or negative impacts under three main categories: economic, social, and environmental. These impacts are analyzed using data gathered by businesses, governments, and industry organizations.

Economic Impacts

According to the 2019 edition of the UNWTO International Tourism Highlights report, international tourist arrivals reached 1.4 billion, a 5% increase in 2018. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stated that the sheer growth of the industry was driven by a strong global economy, surge of the travel-ready middle class from emerging economies, technological advances, and more affordable travel costs among others (UNWTO, 2019). At the same time, the UNWTO (2019) reported export earnings from tourism, or the sum of international tourism receipts and passenger transport, reached a staggering USD 1.7 trillion. This demonstrates that the industry is a major economic engine of growth and development.

Europe has traditionally been the region with the highest tourism dollar spending with USD 570 billion, followed by Asia and the Pacific (USD 435 billion), the Americas (USD 334 billion), Middle East (USD 73 billion), and Africa (USD 38 billion). Asia has shown to have the strongest growths in both arrivals (+7%) and spending (+7%). Africa equally shared a +7% growth in arrivals, suggesting a new interest in travelling to the continent.

What are the trends that are motivating people to travel? The six consumer travel trends, according to the UNWTO (2019) include:

Social Impacts

Because tourism experiences also involve human interaction, certain impacts may occur. Generally, social impacts in tourism are related to guest-to-host or host-to-guest influences and changes. Studies of these encounters often relate to the Social Exchange Theory, which describe how tourists and hosts’ behaviours change as a result of the perceived benefits and threats they create during interaction (Nunkoo, 2015).

Positive social impacts in tourism include learning about different cultures, increasing tolerance and inclusion through LGBTQ+ travel, increasing amenities (e.g., parks, recreation facilities), investment in arts and culture, celebration of Indigenous peoples, and community pride. When developed conscientiously, tourism can, and does, contribute to a positive quality of life for residents and a deeper learning and appreciation for tourists.

Two women wrapped in rainbow pride flags face a street with their backs to the camera.
Figure 1.12 LGBTQ+ travel is gaining momentum.

Unfortunately, tourism also has its shortcomings and is culpable for some detrimental impacts. However, as identified by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, 2003a), negative social impacts of tourism can include:

Some of these issues are explored in further detail in Chapter 12, which examines the development of Indigenous tourism in British Columbia.

Environmental Impacts

Tourism relies on, and greatly impacts, the natural environment in which it operates. In many cases, the environment is an essential resource that outdoor recreation and ecotourism cannot exist without. Even though many areas of the world are conserved in the form of parks and protected areas, tourism development can still have severe negative impacts from misuse, overuse, and neglect. According to UNEP (2003b), these can include:

The environmental impacts of tourism knows no boundaries and can reach outside local areas and have detrimental effects on the global ecosystem. One example is increased emissions from necessary tourism elements such as transportation. Air travel for instance, is a major contributor to climate change. Chapter 10 looks at the environmental impacts of tourism in more detail.

A overview of the negative and positive impacts:

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Whether positive or negative, tourism is a force for change around the world that is capable of transforming the environment from micro- to macro-scales at a staggering rate.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

Media Attributions

  • mercedes-mehling-2KSc1toxle8-unsplash-scaled-1


1.5 Conclusion

As we have seen in this chapter, tourism is a complex system that is built up of industry sectors including accommodation, recreation and entertainment, food and beverage services, transportation, and travel services. It encompasses domestic, inbound, and outbound travel for business, leisure, or other purposes. And because of this large scope, tourism development requires participation from all walks of life, including private business, governmental agencies, educational institutions, communities, and citizens.

Recognizing the diverse nature of the industry and the significant contributions tourism makes toward economic and social value for British Columbians is important. There remains a great deal of work to better educate members of the tourism industry, other sectors, and the public about the ways tourism contributes to our province.

Given this opportunity for greater awareness, it is hoped that students like you will help share this information as you learn more about the sector. So let’s begin our exploration in Chapter 2 with a closer look at a critical sector: transportation. Before you get started on Chapter 2 test some of your knowledge to-date by taking this short summary quiz.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • British Columbia Government Travel Bureau (BCGTB): the first recognized provincial government organization responsible for the tourism marketing of British Columbia
  • Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR): a national railway company widely regarded as establishing tourism in Canada and BC in the late 1800s and early 1900s
  • Destination BC: the provincial destination marketing organization (DMO) responsible for tourism marketing and development in BC, formerly known as Tourism BC
  • Destination Canada: the national government Crown corporation responsible for marketing Canada abroad, formerly known as the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)
  • Destination marketing organization (DMO): also known as a destination management organization; includes national tourism boards, state/provincial tourism offices, and community convention and visitor bureaus
  • Diversity: a term used by some in the industry to describe the makeup of the industry in a positive way; acknowledging that tourism is a diverse compilation of a multitude of businesses, services, organizations, and communities
  • Excursionist: same-day visitors in a destination. Their trip typically ends on the same day when they leave the destination.
  • Fragmentation: a phenomenon observed by some industry insiders whereby the tourism industry is unable to work together toward common marketing and lobbying (policy-setting) objectives
  • Hospitality: the accommodations and food and beverage industry groupings
  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS): a way to group tourism activities based on similarities in business practices, primarily used for statistical analysis
  • Social Exchange Theory: describes how tourists and hosts’ behaviours change as a result of the perceived benefits and threats they create during interaction
  • Travel: moving between different locations, often for leisure and recreation
  • Tourism: the business of attracting and serving the needs of people travelling and staying outside their home communities for business and pleasure
  • Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC): a membership-based advocacy group formerly known as the Council of Tourism Associations of BC (COTA)
  • Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC): the national industry advocacy group
  • Tourism Supply Chain: The combination of sectors that supply and distribute the needed tourism products, services, and activities within the tourism system
  • Tourist: someone who travels at least 80 kilometres from his or her home for at least 24 hours, for business or pleasure or other reasons; can be further classified as domestic, inbound, or outbound
  • United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): UN agency responsible for promoting responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism worldwide

Test your terms knowledge

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


  1. List the three types of tourist and provide an example of each.
  2. What is the UNWTO? Visit the UNWTO website, and name one recent project or study the organization has undertaken.
  3. List the five industry groups according to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Using your  understanding of tourism as an industry, create your own definition and classification of tourism. What did you add? What did you take out? Why?
  4. What is the difference between Tourism Services and Travel Trade?
  5. Describe how the phenomenon of tourism can still happen even when tourists have gone back to their origin.
  6. According to UNEP, what are the four types of negative environmental tourism impact? For each of these, list an example in your own community.
  7. What major transportation developments gave rise to the tourism industry in Canada?
  8. Historically, what percentage of international visitors to Canada are from the United States? Why is this an important issue today?
  9. Name three key events in the history of BC tourism that resonate with you. Why do you find these events of interest?
  10. Watch the Tourism Pays video feature on Richmond. Now think about the value of tourism in your community. How might this be communicated to local residents? List two ways you will contribute to communicating the value of tourism this semester.
  11. Choose one article or document from the reference list below and read it in detail. Report back to the class about what you’ve learned.


ACE Aviation. (2011). ACE History and Background. ACE Aviation.

Air Canada. (2007). Air Canada Increases Boeing 787 Order to 37 Aircraft; Becomes North America’s Largest Dreamliner Customer. Air Canada.

Air Canada. (2016). Air Canada to Purchase Bombardier C Series as Part of its Fleet Renewal Program. Air Canada.

Brewster Travel Canada. (2014). About Us – Brewster History. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. (2013a). BC Stats: Industry Classification. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. (2013b). Bill 3 – 2013: Destination BC Corp Act. Retrieved from

Canadian Geographic. (2000, September). Flying through time: Canadian aviation history. Retrieved from

Canadian Tourism Commission. (2014). About the CTC. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2009). Flaherty Appoints Ex-Judge to Mediate Air Canada Pension Issues. CBC News.

CBC News. (2019). Transat Shareholders Approve Air Canada Takeover, Deal Now in Regulators’ Hands. CBC News.

Chaney, Edward. (2000). The evolution of the grand tour: Anglo-Italian cultural relations since the Renaissance. Portland OR: Routledge.

Cox & Kings. (2014). About us – History. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2018). 2018 Value of Tourism: A Snapshot of Tourism in BC. Destination BC. Retrieved from

Destination Canada. (2019). Tourism Snapshot. Destination Canada.

Dawson, Michael. (2004). Selling British Columbia: Tourism and consumer culture, 1890-1970. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Discover Hospitality. (2015). What is hospitality? Retrieved from

e-Know. (2011, November). Ogilvie’s past in lock step with last 50 years of Kimberley’s history. Retrieved from’s-past-in-lock-step-with-last-50-years-of-kimberley’s-history/

Expedia, Inc. (2013). Expedia: Annual report 2013. [PDF] Retrieved from

Flightglobal. (2002). Sixty years of the jet age. Retrieved from

Globe and Mail, The. (2014, March 28). Ten things you don’t know about Air Canada. Retrieved from

Go2HR. (2020). Industry Development & Resources. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2006). Building a national tourism strategy. [PDF] Retrieved from$FILE/tourism_e.pdf

Government of Canada. (2013, July 5). Appendix E: Tourism industries in the human resource module. Retrieved from

Griffiths, Ralph, Griffiths, G. E. (1772). Pennant’s tour in Scotland in 1769. The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal XLVI: 150. Retrieved from Google Books

Gyr, Ueli. (2010, December 3). The history of tourism: Structures on the path to modernity. European History Online (EHO). Retrieved from

Hall, C. M., & Page, S. (2006). The Geography of Tourism and Recreation: Environment, Place and Space. Routledge.

Latin definition for hospes, hospitis. (2014).In Latdict – Latin Dictionary and Grammar Resources.  Retrieved from

Library and Archives Canada. (n.d.). Ties that bind: Essay. A brief history of railways in Canada. Retrieved from

LinkBC. (2008). Transforming communities through tourism: A handbook for community tourism champions. [PDF] Retrieved from

MacEachern, A. (2012, August 17). Goin’ down the road: The story of the first cross-Canada car trip. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

McLeish. (2014, July 23). History of heliskiing in Canada. Retrieved from

Magnes, W. (2010, May 26). The evolution of British Columbia’s tourism regions: 1970-2010 [PDF]. Retrieved from

Nunkoo, R. (2016). Toward a More Comprehensive Use of Social Exchange Theory to Study Residents’ Attitudes to Tourism. Procedia Economics And Finance39, 588-596. doi: 10.1016/s2212-5671(16)30303-3

Porges, R. (2014, September). Tell me something I don’t know: Promoting the value of tourism. Tourism Drives the Provincial Economy. Presentation hosted by the Tourism Industry Association of BC, Vancouver, BC.

PricewaterhouseCooopers, LLC. (2009). Opportunity BC 2020: Tourism sector. [PDF] Prepared for the BC Business Council. Retrieved from

Reynolds, C. (2020). At Least Three Years Until ‘Cataclysmic’ Virus Fallout Recedes: Air Canada. CTV News.

Shoalts, A. (2011, April). How our national parks evolved: From Grey Owl to Chrétien and beyond, 100 years of Parks Canada. Canadian Geographic. Retrieved from

Statistics Canada. (2019). Travel Between Canada and Other Countries, December 2018. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from

Theobald, William F. (1998). Global Tourism (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Butterworth–Heinemann, pp. 6-7.

Thomas Cook Group of Companies. (2014). Thomas Cook history. Retrieved from

Tourism Industry Association of BC. (2014). Value of tourism toolkit: Why focus on the value of tourism? Retrieved from

Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2014, October 14). Travel industry poised to boost Canadian exports: US market and border efficiencies central to growth potential. Retrieved from

Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2018a). Travel & Tourism: The Economic Importance of Travel in Canada. TIAC.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2018b). America: Travel Economy Series. TIAC.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2018c). International Travelers vs. Domestic Travelers – Exploring Differences. TIAC.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2020). Canadian Tourism Reaches New Milestone in 2019 with 22.1 Million Inbound Visitors. Retrieved from

Tourism Industry Association of Canada, HLT Advisory. (2012). The Canadian tourism industry: A special report [PDF]. Retrieved from

United Nations Environment Programme. (2003a). Negatives Socio-cultural impacts from tourism. Retrieved from

United Nations Environment Programme. (2003b). Tourism’s three main impact areas. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (1995). Recommendations on tourism statistics. [PDF] Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2008). Understanding tourism: Basic glossary. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2012, May 7). International tourism receipts surpass US$ 1 trillion in 2011. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2014a). UNWTO world tourism barometer, 12 [PDF] (1). Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2014b). Who we are. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2019). International Tourism Highlights, 2019 Edition. UNWTO.

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2020a). Glossary of Tourism Terms. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2020b). International Tourist Numbers Could Fall 60-80% in 2020, UNWTO Reports. Retrieved from

Vancouver Airport Authority. (2020). Facts and Stats. Retrieved from


Chapter 2. Transportation

Original author: Morgan Westcott
Revisions made by: Moira McDonald

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the role of transportation in the tourism industry
  • Recognize milestones in the development of the air industry and explain how profitability is measured in this sector
  • Report on the historic importance of rail travel and challenges to rail operations today
  • Describe water-based transportation segments including cruise travel and passenger ferries
  • Recognize the importance of transportation infrastructure in tourism destinations
  • Specify elements of sightseeing transportation, and explain current issues regarding rental vehicles and taxis
  • Identify and relate industry trends and issues including fuel costs, environmental impacts, and changing weather


2.1 Air

The transportation sector is vital to the success of our industry. Put simply, if we cannot move people from place to place — whether by air, sea, or land — we do not have an industry.

This chapter takes a broad approach, covering each segment of the transportation sector globally, nationally, and at home in British Columbia. Let’s start our review by taking a look at the airline industry.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2018, airlines transported more people than ever, 4.1 billion people across a network of 25,000 origin to destination (O-D) passenger journeys generating over 58 million jobs and $2.7 trillion in business activity (International Air Transport Association, 2019).

Spotlight On: International Air Transport Association

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing around 240 airlines or 84% of total air traffic. It supports many areas of aviation activity and helps formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues (IATA, 2018). For more information, visit the International Air Transport Association website.

The first commercial (paid) passenger flight took place in Florida on New Year’s Day 1914 as a single person was transported across Tampa Bay (IATA 2014a). There have been a number of international aviation milestones since that flight, as illustrated in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 Milestones in the commercial aviation industry
Year Milestone
1919 KLM Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij or Royal Dutch Airlines) starts operations, making it the oldest airline still in operation.
1930 Boeing Air Transport (now known as United) introduces the first flight attendant.
1934 The first piece of airmail travels across the Atlantic via Deutsche Luft Hansa (now Lufthansa).
1939 The first passenger flight travels across the Atlantic on Pan American airlines.
1944 The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation takes place, giving rise to the aviation industry as we know it.
1952 The first passengers travel by commercial jet on British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).
1971 The first low-cost carrier is introduced as Southwest Airlines enters the market.
1976 The Concorde enters service as the first supersonic aircraft.
1978 The United States deregulates the air industry.
1981 American Airlines introduces the first frequent flyer program.
2001 The 11th of September 2001 marks a turning point in international civil aviation; the first use of civil aircraft as weapons of mass destruction.
2007 Singapore Airlines introduces passenger service aboard the Airbus A380 (currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft).
2011 KLM operates the first passenger biofuel flights.
2020 The number of passenger jets in service is the lowest in 26 years with airlines worldwide slashing capacity to close to zero or not flying at all (January to April).

Rules and Regulations

Aviation is a highly regulated industry as it crosses many government jurisdictions. This section explores key airline regulations in more detail.

Open Skies

Plain contrails streak across a blue sky with a few clouds.
Figure 2.1 Open skies.

The term open skies refers to policies that allow national airlines to fly to, and above, other countries. These policies lift restrictions where countries have good relationships, freeing up the travel of passengers and goods.

Take a Closer Look: The 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation

This document contains the original statements from the convention that created the airline industry as we know it, providing a preamble statement as well as detailed articles pertaining to a range of issues from cabotage to pilotless aircraft. Read the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation [PDF].

Canada’s approach to open skies is the Blue Sky Policy, first implemented in 2006. The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) and Canadian Airports Council (CAC) support the Blue Sky Policy.

While opening up air transport agreements (ATAs) with other jurisdictions is important, the Canadian government does not provide blanket arrangements, instead, negotiating “when it is in Canada’s overall interest to do so” (Government of Canada, 2014a). Some suggest the government should be more liberal with air access so more competitors can enter the market, potentially attracting more visitors to the country (Fu, Oum, & Zhang (2010); Gill & Raynor, 2003).

Taxes and Fees

For years, the aviation industry has argued that the high level of taxes and fees are unsustainable for the sector. According to a 2012 Senate study on issues related to the Canadian airline industry, Canadian travellers are being grounded by airline fees, fuel surcharges, security taxes, airport improvement fees, and other additional costs. Airports are charged rental fees by the Canadian government ($4.8 billion from 1992 to 2004), which they pass on to the airlines, who in turn transfer the costs to travellers. Some think eliminating rental fees would make Canadian airports more competitive, and view rental and other fees as the reason 5 million Canadians went south of the border for flights in 2013, where passenger fees are 230% lower than in Canada (Hermiston & Steele, 2014).


Running an airline is like having a baby: fun to conceive, but hell to deliver.
—C. E. Woolman, principal founder of Delta Air Lines (The Economist, 2011).

As the quote above suggested, airlines are faced with many challenges. In addition to operating in a strict regulatory environment, airlines yield extremely small profit margins. Passenger growth in 2017 was supported by a broad-based improvement in global economic conditions and by lower airfares, mainly earlier in the year. Lower fares have been a tailwind for passenger demand since late 2014 and have helped to drive the RPK/GDP multiplier above its long-term median level for three years in a row. In 2017 the industry accumulated $  billion worldwide in revenues, although global profit margins were just 1.5% (IATA, 2014a). To put that into perspective, while the average airline earned 1.5%, Amazon’s profit margins were almost 14 times that at 20.15% (YCharts, 2014).

Passenger Load Factor

Key to airline profitability is the passenger load factor, which relates how efficiently planes are being used. The load factor for a single flight can be determined by dividing the number of passengers by the number of seats. Demand grew faster than capacity, increasing the passenger load factor by 0.7 percentage points in 2019.

A two-decker plane picks up speed on a runway.
Figure 2.2 An Airbus 380-800 takes off.

Passenger load factors in the airline industry reached a high of 80.3% in 2019, which was attributed to increased volumes and strong capacity management in key sectors (IATA, 2104a). One way of increasing capacity is by using larger aircraft. For instance, the introduction of the Airbus A380 model has allowed up to 40% more capacity per flight, carrying up to 525 passengers in a three-class configuration, and up to 853 in a single-class configuration (Airbus, 2014). Some carriers are now retiring the A380 model from their fleet (Airbus, 2020).

Ultra Low-Cost Carriers

Another key factor in profitability is the airline’s business model. In 1971, Southwest Airlines became the first low-cost carrier (LCC), revolutionizing the industry. The LCC model involved charging for all extras such as reserved seating, baggage, and on-board service, and cutting costs by offering less legroom and using non-unionized workforces. Typically, an LCC has to run with 90% full planes to break even (Owram, 2014). The high-volume, lower-service system is what we have become used to today, but at the time it was introduced, it was groundbreaking. Over the past several years, the model is now called an Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC) with extremely low costs and unbundled services. Examples of Canadian ultra low-cost carriers include Swoop and Flair.

Ancillary Revenues

The LCC and ULCC models, combined with tight margins, led to today’s climate where passengers are charged for value-added services such as meals, headsets, blankets, seat selection, and bag checking. These are known in the industry as ancillary revenues. Profits from these extras rose from $36 billion in 2012 to $42 billion in 2013, or more than $13 a passenger. An average net profit of only $3.39 per passenger was retained by airlines (IATA, 2014a).

As you can see, airlines must strive to maintain profitability, despite thin margins, in an environment with heavy government regulation. But at the same time, they must be responsible for the safety of their passengers.

Air Safety and Security

IATA encourages airlines to view safety from a number of points, including reducing operational risks such as plane crashes, by running safety audit programs. They also advocate for improved infrastructure such as runway upgrades and training for pilots and other crew. Finally, they strive to understand emerging safety issues, including the outsourcing of operations to third-party companies (IATA, 2014a).

In terms of security, coordination between programs such as the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents initiative and other databases is critical (IATA, 2014a). As reservations and management systems become increasingly computerized, cyber-security becomes a top concern for airlines, who must protect IT (information technology) because their databases contain information about flights and passengers’ personal information. Unruly passengers are also a cause of concern, with over 8,000 incidents reported worldwide every year (IATA, 2014a).

Now that we have a better sense of the complexities of the industry, let’s take a closer look at air travel in Canada and the regional air industry.

Canada’s Air Industry

An airplane sits on a runway.
Figure 2.3 An Air Canada Jazz plane readies for takeoff.

In 1937, Trans-Canada Air Lines (later to become Air Canada) was launched with two passenger planes and one mail plane. By the 1950s, Canadian Pacific Airlines (CP Air) entered the marketplace, and an economic boom led to more affordable tickets. Around this time CP Air (which became Canadian Airlines in 1987) launched flights to Australia, Japan, and South America (Canadian Geographic, 2000). In 2001, Canadian Airlines International was acquired by Air Canada (Aviation Safety Network, 2012).

In 1996, the marketplace changed drastically with the entry of an Alberta-based LCC called WestJet.  By 2014, WestJet had grown to become Canada’s second major airline with more than 9,700 staff flying to 88 destinations across domestic and international networks (WestJet, 2014).

As it grew, WestJet began to offer services such as premium economy class and a frequent-flyer program, launched a regional carrier, and introduced transatlantic flights with service to Dublin, Ireland, evolving away from the LCC model (Owram, 2014). With those changes, and in the absence of a true low-cost carrier, in 2014, some other companies, added ULCC such as Swoop in 2019 and Flair Airlines.

However, outside of Air Canada and WestJet, airlines in Canada have found it very challenging to survive, and some examples of LCC startups like Harmony Airways and Jetsgo have fallen by the wayside.

Challenges to Canada’s Air Industry

When looking at these failed airlines in Canada, three key challenges to success can be identified (Owram, 2014):

  1. Canada’s large geographical size and sparse population mean relatively low demand for flights.
  2. Canada’s higher taxes and fees compared with other jurisdictions (such as the United States) make pricing less competitive.
  3. Canada’s two dominant airlines are able to price new entrants out of the market.

In addition to these factors, the European debt crisis, a slow US economic recovery, more cautious spending by Canadians, and fuel price increases led to a $900 million industry loss in 2011 (Conference Board of Canada, 2012) prior to the industry returning to profitability in 2013.

Take a Closer Look: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

In 2013, a special report to the Canadian Senate explored the concept that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to competitiveness in the country’s airline industry. The report contains general observations about the industry as well as a number of recommendations to stakeholders, including airport managers. Read the report: “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: the Future Growth and Competitiveness of Canadian Air Travel” [PDF].

Today, the Canadian airline industry directly employs roughly 141,000 people and is worth $34.9 billion in gross domestic product. It supports 330 jobs for every 100,000 passengers and contributes over $12 billion to federal and provincial treasuries, including over $7 billion in taxes (Gill and Raynor, 2013). In 2019, Canadian airlines carried over 80 million passengers and are a critical component of Canada’s overall air transport and tourism sector and support over 630,000 jobs (NACC, 2019).

Let’s now turn our attention to the regional air market, focusing on British Columbia.

Regional Airlines

Transportation in BC has always been difficult: incomplete road systems and rugged terrain historically made travel between communities almost impossible. In 1927, a number of businessmen promised to change all that when they opened British Columbia Airways in Victoria with the purchase of a commercial airliner (Canadian Museum of Flight, 2014).

As commercial flying became more popular, and the province grew, regional airports started to spring up around BC as a means of delivering surveying equipment, forestry supplies, and workers. Many of these airports were legacies of Canada’s strategic position for the military. Fort Nelson’s airport, for instance, was established so the US Air Force could fuel aircraft bound for Russia in World War II (Northern Rockies Regional Airport, 2014).

In 1994, Transport Canada transferred all 150 airports under its control to local authorities under the National Airports Policy (NAP). This policy is considered to have been a turning point in the privatization of the airline industry in Canada. A 2004 study showed that after 10 years, 48% of these airports were not able to cover annual costs of operation, leading to concerns about the viability of small local airports in particular (InterVISTAS, 2005).

In 2012, the BC government released its aviation strategy, entitled Connecting with the World, which acknowledged the economic challenges for airports large and small. These range from Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which supports more than 61,000 jobs and creates more than $11 billion in economic activity each year, through to regional and local airports. The strategy outlined a framework to remove barriers to aviation growth including potentially eliminating the two-cent-per-litre International Aviation Fuel Tax (British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, 2012).

Given a highly complex regulatory environment, razor-thin profit margins, and intense competition, the airline industry is constantly changing and evolving at global, national, and regional levels. But one thing is certain: air travel is here to stay.

On the other hand, the rail industry has been faced with significant declines since air travel became accessible to the masses. Let’s learn more about this sector.

Media Attributions

  • Sky-Jet-1
  • Airbus 380-800
  • Air-Canada-Jazz
Data source: IATA, 2014a.


2.2 Rail

A hotel beside a railway at the foot of a mountain.
Figure 2.4 Mount Stephen House on the Canadian Pacific Railway, in Field, B.C., 1909.

In Chapter 1, we looked at the historic significance of railways as they laid the foundation for the modern tourism industry. That’s because in many places, including Canada and British Columbia, trains were an unprecedented way to move people across vast expanses of land. With the Canadian Pacific company opening up hotels in major cities, BC’s hospitality sector was born and rail travel emerged.


However, starting in the 1940s and 1950s, the passenger rail industry began to decline sharply. In 1945, Canadian railways carried 55.4 million passengers, but just 10 years later passenger traffic had dropped to 27.2 million. The creation of VIA Rail in 1977 as a Canadian Crown corporation was an attempt by the government to ensure rail travel did not disappear, but in the years since its founding, VIA has struggled, relying heavily on federal subsidies in order to continue operations.

Between 1989 and 1990, VIA lost over 45% of its ridership when it cut unprofitable routes, focusing on areas with better potential for revenue and passenger volumes. From there, annual ridership has stabilized at around 3.5 million to 4.0 million passengers per year, slowly increasing throughout the 1990s and 2000s (Dupuis, 2011).

Despite this slight recovery, there are a number of challenges for passenger rail in Canada, which will likely require continued government support to survive. Three key challenges to a successful passenger rail industry are:

  1. Passenger rail must negotiate with freight for the right-of-use of tracks.
  2. There is a limited potential of routes (with the highest volume existing in the Quebec-Windsor corridor).
  3. Fixed-cost equipment is ageing out, requiring replacement or upgrading.

High-speed rail seems like an attractive option, but would be expensive to construct as existing tracks aren’t suitable for the reasons given above. It’s also unlikely to provide high enough returns to private investors (Dupuis, 2011). This means the Canadian government would have to invest heavily in a rapid rail project for it to proceed. As of 2020, no such investment was planned.

Spotlight On: Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tours

Founded in 1990, Rocky Mountaineer offers three train journeys through BC and Alberta to Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, and Calgary, and one train excursion from Vancouver to Whistler. In 2013, Rocky Mountaineer introduced Coastal Passage, a new route connecting Seattle to the Canadian Rockies that can be added to any two-day or more rail journey (Rocky Mountaineer, 2014). For more information, please visit the Rocky Mountaineer website.

While the industry overall has been in a decline, touring companies like Rocky Mountaineer have found a financially successful model by shifting the focus from transportation to the sightseeing experience. The company has weathered financial storms by refusing to discount their luxury product, instead, focusing on unique experiences. The long planning cycle for scenic rail packages has helped the company stand their ground in terms of pricing (Cubbon, 2010). The product-experience is stratified into two “World-Class Service” guest experience choices, namely the Silver Leaf and the Gold Leaf for their three rail routes.

Rail Safety

In Canada, rail safety is governed by the Railway Safety Act, which ensures safe railway operation and amends other laws that relate to rail safety (Government of Canada, 2014b). The Act is overseen by the Minister of Transport. It covers grade crossings, mining and construction near railways, operating certifications, financial penalties for infractions, and safety management.

The Act was revised in late 2014 in response to the massive rail accident in July 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. A runaway oil train exploded, killing 47 people, and subsequently MM&A Railway and three employees, including the train’s engineer, were charged with criminal negligence (CBC News, 2014).

In addition to freight management issues, a key rail safety concern is that of crossings. As recently as April 2014, Transport Canada had to issue orders for improved safety measures at crossings in suburban Ottawa after a signal malfunctioned in the area (CTV News, 2014a). According to Operation Lifesaver Canada (2014), in 2011, there were 169 crossing collisions across Canada, with 25 fatalities and 21 serious injuries. In general, however, Canada’s 73,000 kilometres of railway tracks safely transport both people and goods. And while railways in Canada, and elsewhere, are being forced to innovate, companies like Rocky Mountaineer (see Spotlight On above) give the industry glimmers of hope.

The rail industry shares some common history with the cruise sector. Let’s now turn our focus to the water and learn about the evolution of travel on the high seas.

Media Attributions

  • Mount-Stephen-House


2.3 Water

A cruise ship at sunset.
Figure 2.5 A cruise ship at sunset at the Breakwater District (formerly named Ogden Point), Victoria.

Travel by water is as old as civilization itself. However, the industry as we know it began when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine in 1712. The first crossing of the Atlantic by steam engine took place in 1819 aboard the SS Savannah, landing in Liverpool, England, after 29 days at sea. Forty years later, White Star Lines began building ocean liners including the Olympic-class ships (the Olympic, Britannic, and Titanic), expanding on previously utilitarian models by adding luxurious amenities (Briggs, 2008).

A boom in passenger ship travel toward the end of the 1800s was aided by a growing influx of immigrants from Europe to America, while more affluent passengers travelled by steamship for pleasure or business. The industry grew over time but, like rail travel, began to decline after the arrival of airlines. Shipping companies were forced to change their business model from pure transportation to “an experience,” and the modern cruise industry was born.

The Cruise Sector

We’ve come a long way since the Olympic class of steamship. Today, the world’s largest cruise ship, MS Oasis of the Seas, has an outdoor park with 12,000 plants, an 82-foot zip wire, and a high-diving performance venue. It’s 20 storeys tall and can hold 5,606 passengers and a crew of up to 2,394 (Magrath, 2014). A crew on a cruise ship will include the captain, the chief officer (in charge of training and maintenance), staff captain, chief engineer, chief medical officer, and chief radio officer (communication, radar, and weather monitoring).

Spotlight On: Cruise Lines International Association

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. CLIA represents the interests of cruise lines and travel agents in the development of policy. CLIA is also engaged in travel agent training, research, and marketing communications (CLIA, 2014). For more information on CLIA, the cruise industry, and member cruise lines and travel agencies, visit the Cruise Lines International Association website.

Cruising the World

According to CLIA, 30 million passengers were expected to travel worldwide on 63 member lines in 2019. Projections for 2020 were 32 million passengers expected to cruise (CLIA, 2020). Given increased demand, 24 new ships were expected in 2014–15, adding a total capacity of over 37,000 passengers.

Over 55% of the world’s cruise passengers are from North America, and the leading destinations (based on ship deployments), according to CLIA, are:

River Cruising

While mass cruises to destinations like the Caribbean remain incredibly popular, river cruises are emerging as another strong segment of the industry. The key differences between river cruises and ocean cruises are (Hill, 2013):

  1. River cruise ships are smaller (400 feet long by 40 feet wide on average) and can navigate narrow passages.
  2. River cruises carry fewer passengers (about 10% of the average cruise, or 200 passengers total).
  3. Beer, wine, and high-end cuisine are generally offered in the standard package.

The price point for river cruises is around the same as ocean trips, with the typical cost ranging from $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the itinerary, accommodations, and other amenities.

From 2008 to 2013, river cruises saw a 10% annual passenger increase. Europe leads the subcategory, while emerging destinations include a cruise route along China’s Yangtze River. As the on-board experience differs greatly from a larger cruise (no play areas, water parks, or on-board stage productions), the target demographic for river cruises is 50- to 70-year-olds. According to Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking, an international river cruising company, “with river cruises, a destination is the destination,” although many river cruises are themed around cultural or historical events (Hill, 2013).

A river cruise ship.
Figure 2.6 Uniworld’s River Beatrice in Passau, Germany.

Cruising in Canada

According to a study completed for the North West & Canada Cruise Association (NWCCA) and its partners, in 2012, approximately 1,100 cruise ship calls were made at Canadian cruise ports generating slightly more than 2 million passenger arrivals throughout the six-month cruise season (BREA, 2013). The study found three key cruise itineraries in Canada:

  1. Canada/New England
  2. Quebec (between Montreal and Quebec City and US ports)
  3. Alaska (either departing from, or using, Vancouver or another BC city as a port of call)

These generated $1.16 billion in direct spending. Cruising also generated almost 10,000 full- and part-time jobs paying $397 million in wages and salaries. The international cruise industry also generated an estimated $269 million in indirect business and income taxes in Canada, and the majority of this spending was in British Columbia (BREA, 2013).

Cruising in BC

BC’s rail history and cruise history are intertwined. As early as 1887, Canadian Pacific Railway began offering steamship passage to destinations such as Hawaii, Shanghai, Alaska, and Seattle. Ninety-nine years later, Vancouver’s Canada Place was built, with its cruise ship terminals, allowing the province to attract large ships and capture its share of the growing international cruise industry (Cruise BC, 2014).

Spotlight On: Cruise BC

Cruise BC is a partnership between BC port destinations designed to provide a vehicle for cooperative marketing and development of BC’s cruise sector. Their vision is that the West Coast and British Columbia’s coastal communities are recognized and sought out globally by cruise lines and passengers as a destination of choice. For more information, visit the Cruise BC website

This potential continues to grow as Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, Victoria, and Vancouver accounted for 57% of the Canadian cruise passenger traffic with 1.18 million passengers in 2012 (BREA, 2013).

Cruising isn’t the only way for visitors to experience the waters of BC. In fact, the vast majority of our water travel is done by ferry. Let’s take a closer look at this vital component of BC’s transportation infrastructure.


Ferry service in British Columbia dates back to the mid-1800s when the Hudson’s Bay Company ran ships between Vancouver Island and the Mainland. Later, CP Rail and Black Ball ferries ran a private service, until 1958 when Premier W.A.C. Bennett announced the BC Ferry Authority would consolidate the ferries under a provincial mandate.

A ferry cruises the ocean.
Figure 2.7 BC Ferries’ Spirit of Vancouver Island.

The MV Tsawwassen and the MV Sidney began regular service on June 15, 1960, and BC Ferries was officially launched with two terminals and around 200 employees. Today, there are 37 vessels, 47 destinations, and more than 5,000 employees in the summer peak season (BC Ferries, 2019). In late 2019, BC Ferries introduced the world’s most advanced electric battery hybrid ferries to serve inter-island routes.

BC isn’t the only destination where ferries make up part of the transportation experience. In 2011, Travel + Leisure Magazine profiled several notable ferry journeys in the article “World’s Most Beautiful Ferry Rides,” including:

The article also featured the 15-hour trip from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s coast (Orcutt, 2011).

While cruising is often a pleasant and relaxing experience, there are a number of safety concerns for vessels of all types.

Cruise and Ferry Safety

One of the major concerns on cruise lines is disease outbreak, specifically the norovirus (a stomach flu), which can spread quickly on cruise ships as passengers are so close together. The US Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) vessel sanitation program is designed to help the industry prevent and control the outset, and spreading, of these types of illnesses (Briggs, 2008).

Accidents are also a concern. In 2006, the BC Ferries vessel MV Queen of the North crashed and sank in the Inside Passage, leaving two passengers missing and presumed dead. The ship’s navigating officer was charged with criminal negligence causing their deaths (Keller, 2013). More recently, a “hard landing” at Duke Point terminal on Vancouver Island caused over $4 million in damage. BC Ferries launched a suit against a German engineering firm in late 2013, alleging a piece of equipment failed, making a smooth docking impossible. The Transportation Safety Board found that staff aboard the ship didn’t follow proper docking procedures, however, which contributed to the crash (Canadian Press, 2013).

Spotlight On: The Transportation Safety Board  

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigates marine, pipeline, rail, and air incidents. It is an independent agency that reviews an average of 3,200 events every year. It does not determine liability; however, coroners and medical examiners may use TSB findings in their investigations. The head office in Quebec manages 220 staff across the country. For more information, visit the Transportation Safety Board website.

We’ve covered the skies, the rails, and the seas. Now let’s round out our investigation of transportation in tourism by delving into travel on land.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Ogden-Point-Sunset-Cruise
  • River-Beatrice-in-Passau-Germany
  • Spirit-of-Vancouver-Island


2.4 Land

While much of this text has placed significance on the emergence of the railways as critical to the development of our industry, BC’s roadways have also played an integral role. Our roads have evolved from First Nations trails, to Fur Trade and Gold Rush routes, to Wagon Roads and Trunk Roads — finally becoming the highway system we know today (British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways, n.d.).

Take a Closer Look: Frontier to Freeway: A Short Illustrated History of the Roads in British Columbia

This short book, available as a PDF, provides an overview of the integral importance of BC’s evolving roadways in our transportation sector. Read here: Frontier to Freeway: A Short Illustrated History of the Roads in British Columbia [PDF].

Today, land-based travel is achieved through a complex web of local transit, taxis, rentals, walking, and short-term sightseeing. This section briefly explores these options.

Scenic and Sightseeing Travel

It’s common for visitors to want to explore a community and appreciate the sights. We’ve already learned a little about the rail-based sightseeing company, Rocky Mountaineer. Many destinations also offer short-term, hop-on-hop-off bus and trolley tours. Others feature trams and trolleys. Outside of impromptu excursions, sightseeing tours are often put together by inbound tour operators. You can learn more about tour operators, and the sightseeing sector, in Chapter 7.

Transit and Destination Infrastructure

Vancouver’s Tourism Master Plan acknowledges the importance of transportation infrastructure for the tourism industry. Priorities for future development by the city include (Tourism Vancouver, 2013):

These action items were developed in consultation with industry stakeholders as well as residents, and reflect the interrelated elements that make up a destination’s transportation infrastructure.

Rentals and Taxis

A silver car in a parking lot. A suspension bridge is in the background.
Figure 2.8 A Lincoln Town Car in San Francisco.

Today, when travellers aren’t using their own cars, automobile travel is traditionally split between rental vehicles, taxis (including limousines), or ride sharing.


In North America, there are three main brands that represent approximately 85% of the rental car business: Enterprise (includes National and Alamo), Hertz (includes Dollar and Thrifty), and Avis. One of the reasons that brands have consolidated over time is the high fixed cost of operation as vehicles are purchased, maintained, and disposed of. Fierce competition means prices are checked and updated thousands of times a day. The business is also highly seasonal, with high traffic in summer and spring, and so fleet management is critical for profitability. Rental companies tend to use enplanements (the numbers of passengers travelling by air), as a measurement of market trends that influence rental usage (DBRS, 2010).


In BC, taxi licences are issued by the BC Passenger Transportation Board. In Vancouver, the right to operate a taxi is based on a permit system, and each permit costs the original holder $100. But because of the limited number of permits available, those who hold one are able to auction it off for over $800,000 and keep the profit. As a result, passengers in Vancouver paid an average of 73% more for the equivalent trip in Washington, D.C. Drivers from  areas outside the city depositing passengers in Vancouver are also not permitted to pick up fares on the return trip, having to drive across their boundaries (Proctor, 2014).

Ridesharing appslike Uber, which allow people to find a ride using their mobile phone, have emerged to exert influence on car travel in key destinations. In most major cities where ridesharing is available, these apps have rapidly undercut the taxi industry. In SanFransico for example, according to the city’s transit authority, per month, trips by taxi have plummeted from 1,424 in 2012 to 504 in 2014, even though taxi operators maintain a monopoly over rides from the airport (Kuittinen, 2014). In New York City, however, the price of medallions (similar to Vancouver’s taxi permits) continues to hover above $950,000. In large markets like Manhattan, passengers continue to hail cabs on the street at the moment, with e-hails (electronic taxi hails) at 0.17% of the market (Brustein & Winter, 2014). The City of Vancouver opted to force Uber to roll back after its initial release, and in 2014 placed the app on a six-month moratorium after pressure from taxi operators who cited threats to the values of their licences as well as safety and monitoring concerns (CTV News, 2014b). However, in January 2020, Uber and Lyft ride-hailing was launched in Vancouver. The Passenger Transportation Board announced on Jan. 23, 2020 that it had approved Uber’s application to operate in the Lower Mainland and Whistler, as soon as the company secures the appropriate insurance. Ride-hailing began in Vancouver shortly thereafter (Vancouver Sun, January 23, 2020). As well, the Passenger Transportation Board announced in early February 2020, that it had approved Kabu’s application to operate in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and the Greater Victoria area, as soon as the company secures the appropriate insurance. Kabu is based out of Richmond, B.C. and had been operating across the Greater Vancouver area since 2016 but paused operations in September 2019 when the company submitted its PTB application.

Uber is available in hundreds of cities internationally so you may already be familiar with the app, or may even already have it downloaded to your phone. Uber offers a variety of vehicles, with UberX being the most affordable, standard sedan option all the way up to Select which includes more stylish rides. As this and other examples illustrate, the transportation sector is vulnerable to regulatory, technological, operational, and business trends. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Media Attributions

  • Lincoln-Town-Car


2.6 Conclusion

Tourism, freight, and resource industries such as forestry and mining sometimes compete for highways, waterways, and airways.  It’s important for governments to engage with various stakeholders and attempt to juggle various economic priorities — and for tourism to be at the table during these discussions.

That’s why in 2015 the BC Ministry of Transportation released its 10-year plan, B.C. on the Move. Groups like the Tourism Industry Association of BC actively polled their members in order to have their concerns incorporated into the plan. These included highway signage and wayfaring, the future of BC Ferries, and urban infrastructure improvements. This is the report card from the first year of the 10-year plan: B.C. on the Move Report Card, 2015/16 [PDF].

This chapter has taken a brief look at one of the most complex, and vital, components of our industry. Chapter 3 covers accommodations and is just as essential.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • Ancillary revenues: money earned on non-essential components of the transportation experience including headsets, blankets, and meals
  • Blue Sky Policy: Canada’s approach to open skies agreements that govern which countries’ airlines are allowed to fly to, and from, Canadian destinations
  • Cruise BC: a multi-stakeholder organization responsible for the development and marketing of British Columbia as a cruise destination
  • Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA): the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA): the trade association for the world’s airlines
  • Low-cost carrier (LCC): an airline that competes on price, cutting amenities and striving for volume to achieve a profit
  • National Airports Policy (NAP): the 1994 policy that saw the transfer of 150 airports from federal control to communities and other local agencies, essentially deregulating the industry
  • Open skies: a set of policies that enable commercial airlines to fly in and out of other countries
  • Passenger load factor: a way of measuring how efficiently a transportation company uses its vehicles on any given day, calculated for a single flight by dividing the number of passengers by the number of seats
  • Railway Safety Act: a 1985 Act to ensure the safe operation of railways in Canada
  • Ridesharing apps: applications for mobile devices that allow users to share rides with strangers, undercutting the taxi industry
  • Transportation Safety Board (TSB): the national independent agency that investigates an average of 3,200 transportation safety incidents across the country every year
  • Ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC): an airline that competes on price, cutting amenities and striving for volume to achieve a profit


  1. When did the first paid air passenger take flight? What would you say have been the three biggest milestones in commercial aviation since that date?
  2. If a flight with 500 available seats carries 300 passengers, what is the passenger load factor?
  3. Why is it difficult for new airlines to take off in Canada?
  4. How did some of BC’s regional airports come into existence? What are some of the challenges they face today?
  5. How much economic activity is generated by YVR every year?
  6. What are the key differences between river cruises and ocean cruises? Who are the target markets for these cruises?
  7. Which cities attract more than 50% of the cruise traffic in Canada?
  8. What are the priorities for transportation infrastructure development as outlined in Vancouver’s Tourism Master Plan? What other transportation components would you include in your community’s tourism plan?
  9. What are some of the environmental impacts of the transportation sector? Name three. How might these be lessened?

Case Study: Air North

Founded in 1977 by Joseph Sparling and Tom Wood, Air North is a regional airline providing passenger and cargo service between Yukon and destinations including BC, Alberta, and Alaska. In 2012, Air North surpassed one million passengers carried. Employing over 200 people, the airline is owned in significant part by the Vuntut Development Corporation, the economic arm of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN). In fact, one in 15 Yukoners owns a stake in the airline (Air North, 2015).

The ownership model has meant that economic returns are not always the priority for shareholders. As stated on its website, “the maximization of profit is not the number one priority,” as air service is a “lifeline” to the VGFN community. For this reason, service and pricing of flights is extremely important, as are employment opportunities.

Visit the corporate information portion of the Air North website and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the number one priority of Air North? How is the company structured to ensure it can meet its goals in this area?
  2. What does Air North consider to be its competitive advantage? How does this differ from other airlines?
  3. Describe the investment portfolio of the Vuntut Development Corporation. What types of companies does it own? Why might they have selected these types of initiatives?
  4. List at least three groups that have a stake in the airline. What are their interests? Where do their interests line up, and where do they compete?
  5. In your opinion, would this regional airline model work in your community? Why or why not?


Air North. (2015). Corporate information. Retrieved from

Airbus. (2014). A380: Boost your profitability. Retrieved from

Aviation Safety Network. (2012, March 4). Canadian Airlines International. Retrieved from

Barrow, Becky. (2006, July 23). Flying on holiday ‘a sin’, says bishop. Daily Mail Online. Retrieved from

BC Ferries. (2014, June 17). BC Ferries proudly celebrates 50 years of Service. Retrieved from

BREA. (2013, March). The economic contribution of the international cruise industry in Canada 2012. Prepared for: North West & Canada Cruise Association, St. Lawrence Cruise Association, Atlantic Canada Cruise Association, Cruise BC. Exton, PA: Business Research & Economic Advisors, p. 1-5.

Briggs, Josh.  (2008, May 1). How cruise ships work. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways. (n.d.). Frontier to freeway: A short illustrated history of the roads in British Columbia. [PDF] Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (2012). Connecting with the world: An aviation strategy for British Columbia [PDF]. Retrieved from

Brustein, Joshua and Caroline Winter. (2014, February 28). If Uber is killing taxis, what explains the million-dollar medallions. Business Week. Retrieved from

Canadian Geographic. (September/October 2000). Canadian aviation history. Retrieved from

Canadian Museum of Flight. (2014). The history of flight in BC. Retrieved from

Canadian Press. (2013, December 12). BC Ferries crash lawsuit targets electronics firm. Huffpost British Columbia. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2014, May 12.) MM&A Railway faces charges in Lac-Megantic disaster – Montreal – CBC News. Retrieved fromégantic-disaster-1.2640654

CLIA. (2014, January 16). The state of the cruise industry in 2014: Global growth in passenger numbers and product offerings. Retrieved from

Conference Board of Canada. (2012, September 13). Canada’s airlines hoping to return to the black in 2013. Retrieved from

Cruise BC. (2014). Cruise BC, Canada – Cruise executives. Retrieved from

CTV News. (2014a). Feds order Via Rail to address ‘safety’ issues at 6 Ottawa railway crossings. Retrieved from

CTV News. (2014b, October 1). Vancouver delays Uber, new cabs for six months. Retrieved from

Cubbon, Paul. (2010, October 22). Rocky economy can’t derail train company. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

David Suzuki Foundation. (2014). Air travel and climate change. Retrieved from

DBRS. (2010, May). Rating Canadian rental car securitizations. Retrieved from

Dupuis, Jean. (2011, November 16). VIA Rail Canada Inc. and the future of passenger rail in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Library of Parliament. Retrieved from

Economist, The. (2011, December 22). Business quotations: Our favourite air lines. Retrieved from

Gill, Vijay and R. Neil Raynor. (2013, September). Growing Canada’s economy: A new national air transportation policy. Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada, p. i -4.

Government of Canada. (2014a, June 5). The Blue Sky Policy: Made in Canada, for Canada – Transport Canada. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2014b, September 3). Railway Safety Act (1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.)) – Transport Canada. Retrieved from

Hermiston, Sandra and Lynda Steele (2014, August 5). Why it costs so much more to fly in Canada. CTV Vancouver News. Retrieved from

Hill, Catey. (2013, February 1). What’s behind the river-cruise boom. Marketwatch. Retrieved from

IATA. (2014a, June). IATA annual review 2014. Retrieved from

IATA. (2014b). IATA-About us. Retrieved from

Impact Project. (2012, January 20). Tracking harm: Health and environmental impacts of rail yards. The Impact Project Policy Brief Series. [PDF] Retrieved from

InterVISTAS. (2005, April). BC regional airports: A policy guide to viability. [PDF] Prepared for AIM/Council of Tourism Associations, Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from

Keller, James. (2013, April 22). Karl Lilgert, Queen of the North officer, explains how ferry crashed. Huffpost British Columbia. Retrieved from

Kuittinen, Tero. (2014, September 19). Mobile apps are absolutely murdering San Francisco’s taxi industry. BGR. Retrieved from

Magrath, A. (2014, October 15). Longer than the shard and wider than a Boeing 747 wingspan: The world’s largest cruise ship sails into the UK for the first time. Mail Online. Retrieved from

Natural Resources Canada. (2013, May 15). Impacts on transportation infrastructure. Retrieved from

Northern Rockies Regional Airport. (2014). History. Retrieved from

Operation Lifesaver Canada. (2014). Train safety FAQ. Retrieved from

Orcutt, April. (2011, November). World’s most beautiful rerry Rides.” Travel + Leisure. Retrieved from

Owram, Kristine. (2014, July 5). Unfriendly skies await proposed low-cost airlines Canada jetlines, jet naked. The Financial Post. Retrieved from

Proctor, Benn. (2014, June 3). Opinion: Time to reform Vancouver’s antiquated taxi industry. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

PWC. (2012). Transportation & Logistics 2030, volume 5: Winning the talent race. [PDF] Retrieved from

Rocky Mountaineer. (2014). Canadian train travel, trips, rail journeys, vacations, holidays. Rocky Mountaineer. Retrieved from

Science Daily. (2013, June 17). Planes, trains, or automobiles: Travel choices for a smaller carbon footprint. Retrieved from

Tourism Vancouver. (2013, June). Vancouver Tourism master plan. [PDF] Retrieved from

WestJet. (2014). About WestJet. Retrieved from

YCharts. (2014, September). Apple Profit Margin (Quarterly). Retrieved from


Chapter 3. Accommodation

Original author & revisions: Rebecca Wilson-Mah

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the contribution the accommodations sector makes to Canada’s economy
  • Identify how a hotel category is determined, and describe different hotel categories in Canada
  • Explain the meaning and structure of independent ownership, franchise agreements, and management contracts
  • Summarize current accommodation trends
  • Discuss the structure of hotel operations


3.1 Hotels

In essence, hospitality is made up of two services: the provision of overnight accommodation for people travelling away from home, and options for people dining outside their home. We refer to the accommodation and food and beverage services sectors together as the hospitality industry. This chapter explores the accommodation sector, and Chapter 4 details the food and beverage sector.

Panoramic view of a harbour crowded with yachts and surrounded by skyscrapers.
Figure 3.1 The view from a balcony at the Westin Bayshore hotel in downtown Vancouver.

In Canada, approximately 25% to 35% of visitor spending is attributed to accommodation, making it a substantial portion of travel expenditures.

There were 8,289 hotels, motels and resorts with a total of 460,688 rooms across Canada in 2019. Direct spending on overnight stays was $21.9 billion, and the year’s average occupancy rate was 65%.  Across the country the sector employed 309,800 people directly or indirectly on a full-time or part-time basis (Hotel Association of Canada, 2019). In 2018, Tourism HR Canada continued to project labour supply shortages in the tourism and hospitality sector and recommended a range of actions to help fill job vacancies and help the sector reach its full potential.

In order to understand this large and significant sector, we will explore the history and importance of hotels in Canada, and review the hotel types along with various ownership structures and operational considerations. To complete the chapter, we will identify accommodation alternatives and specific trends that are affecting the accommodation sector today.

Spotlight On: The Hotel Association of Canada

The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) is the national trade organization advocating on behalf of hotels, motels and resorts in Canada.  Founded over 100 years ago, the association also provides programs and resources, discounts with vendors, and industry research including statistics monitoring and an extensive member database. For more information, visit the Hotel Association of Canada website.

The History of Hotels in Canada

As we learned in Chapter 2, travel in Europe, North America, and Australia developed with the establishment of railway networks and train travel in the mid-1800s. The history of Canada’s grand hotels is also the story of Canada’s ocean liners and railways. Until the use of personal cars became widespread in the 1920s and 1930s, and taxpayer-funded all-weather highways were created, railways were the only long-distance land transportation available in Canada.

Both of Canada’s railway companies established hotel divisions: Canadian Pacific Hotels and Canadian National Hotels (Canada History, 2013). The first hotels were small and included Glacier House in Glacier National Park, BC, and Mount Stephen House in Field, BC. The hotel business was firmly established when both companies recognized the business opportunity in the growth of tourism, and they soon became rivals, building grand hotels in select locations close to railway stops.

Spotlight On: Canadian Pacific Hotels

Under the guidance of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) chief engineer and visionary William Cornelius Van Horne, a hotel empire was born (Canada History, 2013). Van Horne was a pioneer of tourism, and like Thomas Cook in the UK, he saw the potential for tourism that was made possible by the railway. Van Horne was famously quoted in 1886, “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.” In 1999, many historic CPR properties joined the Fairmont brand when Canadian Pacific Resorts and Hotels bought the Fairmont Brand. For more information, visit the Fairmont website.

A grand hotel with brick walls and many gabled roofs in front of a snowy mountain.
Figure 3.2 The Banff Springs Hotel today.

Banff Springs Hotel opened in 1888, and other hotels soon followed, including the Château Frontenac in Quebec City (1893), the Royal York in Toronto (1929), and the Hotel Vancouver (1939). These hotels remain in operation today and are landmarks in their destinations, functioning as accommodations and as local attractions due to their historic significance and outstanding architecture.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, an increase in motor traffic saw the rise of the motel. The word motel, used less commonly today, comes from the term “motorist’s hotel,” used to denote a hotel that provides ample parking and rooms that are easily accessible from the parking lot. Traditionally, these structures were designed with all the rooms facing the parking lot, and relied heavily on motor traffic from nearby highways (Diffen, 2015).

Today, there are a number of hotel types, which can be classified in multiple ways. Let’s explore these classifications in more detail.

Hotel Types

Hotels are typically referred to by hotel type or category. The type of hotel is determined primarily by the size and location of the building structure, and then according to the function, target market, service level, other amenities, and industry standards.

Take a Closer Look: Hotelier

The magazine Hotelier, available online and is a resource relied on by many industry professionals across Canada. Featuring profiles on current trends and initiatives, information about specific brands and properties, Hotelier is a good resource for students wanting more information about the sector in a dynamic format. Accessed on June 30, 2020 Hotelier had articles like Housekeeping Will Take Centre Stage in the New Normal and Tourism HR Canada Launches Recovery Toolkit.  Take a look today, can you predict some of the topical articles that Hotelier may be covering?

Read breaking news and updates and find out about upcoming events.  Subscribe at the Hotelier Magazine website.


Table 3.1 A summary of hotel types based on size (number of rooms), level of service, and other variables
[Skip Table]
Type of Classification Examples of Classifications
Size (number of rooms)
  • Under 50 rooms
  • 50 to 150 rooms
  • 150 to 299 rooms
  • 300 to 600 rooms
  • More than 600 rooms
  • Airport hotel
  • Casino hotel
  • City centre hotel
  • Resort hotel
Level of service
  • Economy/limited service
  • Luxury service
  • Mid-level service
Market and function
  • Airport hotel
  • All-inclusive resort
  • Bed and breakfast
  • Business hotel
  • Boutique hotel
  • Casino
  • Conference centre
  • Convention centre
  • Extended-stay hotel
  • Resort hotel
  • Suite hotel
  • Timeshare and condominium hotel
  • Motel
Ownership and affiliation
  • Chain with a brand affiliation
  • Independent
  • Accessibility
  • Airport
  • Beach
  • Casino
  • City centre
  • Childcare
  • Fitness club
  • Golf
  • Pool
  • Ski
  • Spa
  • Tennis
  • Weddings
Industry standards
  • AAA Diamond Rating
  • CAA Diamond Rating
  • Canada Select Star Rating
  • Canadian Star Quality Accommodation
  • Green Key Eco Rating
  • Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice
Brand categories and standards Marriott has five brand categories (with examples below):

Luxury: Ritz Carlton

Distinctive Luxury: W Hotels

Premium: Delta Hotels

Distinctive Premium: Le Meridien

Select: Four Points

Competitive set is a marketing term used to identify a group of hotels that include the competitors that a hotel guest is likely to consider as an alternative. These can be grouped by any of the classifications listed in Table 3.1, such as size, location, or amenities offered. There must be a minimum of three hotels to qualify as a competitive set.

A rooftop wedding. The ocean is visible in the distance.
Figure 3.3 A wedding on the rooftop of the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre East, Canada Place.

Business hotels, airport hotels, budget hotels, boutique hotels, convention hotels, and casino hotels are some examples of differentiated hotel concepts and services designed to meet a specific market segment. As companies continue to innovate and compete to capture defined niche markets within each set, we can expect to see the continued expansion of specific concepts. For example, hotels found close to, or even within, convention facilities are a great match for meetings and events, as well as the SMERF market (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal segment of the group travel market).  There are also some dynamic new brands in Canada including Hotel Zed located in Victoria and Kelowna, BC. The Hotel Zed concept brand message is ‘We are rebels against the ordinary’.  This brand is funky, colourful, playful and approachable.

Spotlight On: British Columbia Hotel Association

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) represents over 800 member hotels and associate members associate members representing 80,000 rooms and more than 60,000 employees. The association produces an annual industry trade show and seminar series, and publishes InnFocus magazine for professionals in the trade. For more information, visit the BC Hotel Association website.

Table 3.2 outlines the characteristics of specific hotel types that have evolved to match the needs of a particular traveller segment. As you can see, hotels adapt and diversify depending on the markets they want and need to attract and retain to stay in business.

Table 3.2 Hotel characteristics based on market type
[Skip Table]
Market Segment Traveller Type Characteristics
Commercial Business
  • High-volume corporate accounts in city properties
  • Stronger demand Monday through Thursday
  • Most recession-proof of the market segments
  • Lower average daily rate (ADR) than other segments
Leisure Leisure
  • Purpose for travel includes sightseeing, recreation, or visiting friends and relatives
  • Stronger demand Friday and Saturday nights and all week during holidays and the summer
  • Includes tour groups in major cities and tourist attractions
Meetings and groups Corporate groups, associations, SMERF
  • Includes meetings, seminars, trade shows, conventions, and gatherings of over 10 people
  • Peak convention demand is spring or fall
  • Proximity to a conference centre and meeting and banquet space increase this market
Extended stay Business and leisure
  • Often offers kitchen facilities and living room spaces
  • Bookings are more than five nights
  • Often business related (e.g., natural resource extraction, construction projects, corporate projects)
  • Leisure demand driven by a variety of circumstances including family visiting relatives or completing home renovations, snowbirds escaping the winter

Let’s now take a closer look at three types of hotel that have emerged to meet specific market needs: budget hotels, boutique hotels, and resorts.

Budget Hotels

The term budget hotel is challenging to define, however most budget properties typically have a standardized appearance and offer basic services with limited food and beverage facilities. Budget hotels were first developed in the United States and built along the interstate highway system. The first Holiday Inn opened in the United States in 1952; the first Quality Motel followed in 1963.

In Europe, Accor operates the predominant European-branded budget rooms. The Accor Economy brand includes: Breakfree, ibis, ibis Styles, ibis budget, greet, JO&JOE and hotelF1. These budget brands offer comfort, modern design, and breakfast on site; ibis Styles is all inclusive, with one price for room night, breakfast, and internet access (Accor, 2020).

The budget brands by Accor are an example of a shift toward the budget boutique hotel style. A relatively new category of hotel, budget boutique is a no-frills boutique experience that still provides style, comfort, and a unique atmosphere.

Boutique Hotels

A note reads, "Raul, Welcome back to The Magnolia! Have a great visit in Victoria."
Figure 3.4 A picture of a welcome gift and note for a returning guest at the Magnolia Hotel and Spa, posted online by the guest.

Canada currently has no industry standards to define boutique hotels, but these hotels generally share some common features. These include having less than 100 rooms and featuring a distinctive design style and on-site food and beverage options (Boutique Hotel Association, n.d.). As a reflection of the size of the hotel, a boutique hotel is typically intimate and has an easily identifiable atmosphere, such as classic, luxurious, quirky, or funky.

According to Bill Lewis, general manager for the Magnolia Hotel and Spa in Victoria “Boutique hotels are all about their smaller size, sense of style, and personalized nature.”  He further notes that “the individual style of boutique hotels really provides a differentiated experience than that of the larger branded properties which have seen considerable consolidation in the last number of years.  Our guests really appreciate this luxurious and intimate experience which our size and staffing levels allow us to achieve” (personal communication, 2020).


A resort is a full-service hotel that provides access to or offers a range of recreation facilities and amenities. A resort is typically the primary provider of the guest experience and will generally have one signature amenity or attraction (Brey, 2009).

Examples of signature amenities include skiing and mountains, golf, beach and ocean, lakeside, casino and gaming, all inclusiveness, spa and wellness, marina, tennis, and waterpark. In addition, resorts also offer secondary experiences and a leisure or retreat-style environment.

Take a Closer Look: Condé Nast Best Hotels and Resorts in Canada

Condé Nast Traveler has many well-regarded “best of” lists, one of which is the Best Hotels and Resorts in the US and Canada. In 2020, 6 of the top 10 were located in BC, with the Wickaninnish Inn and Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa earning first and second place. You can read the rest of the list at Condé Nast Best Hotels and Resorts in the US and Canada for 2020.

Now that we understand the classifications of hotel types, let’s gain a deeper understanding of the various ownership structures in the industry.

Ownership Structures

There are several ownership models employed in the sector today, including independent, management contract, chains and franchise agreements, fractional ownership, and full ownership strata units. This section explains each of these in more detail and provides examples of each.


The entrance to a hotel restaurant called Bacchus, shaded by trees lining the street.
Figure 3.5 The exterior of the Wedgewood Hotel in downtown Vancouver.

An independent hotel is financed by one individual or a small group and is directly managed by its owners or third-party operators. The term independent refers to a management system that is free from outside control.

There are a number of very well-established independently branded hotels. These hotel companies have developed their own standards, support systems, policies and procedures, and best practices in all areas of the business. Independent hotels have the flexibility to customize or adjust their systems to position their property for success, and the location, product, service, experience, sales and marketing, and brand are all necessary for that success (Cabañas, 2014). An example of an independent hotel is the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa in Vancouver, founded by Eleni Skalbania, and currently co-owned by her youngest daughter, Elpie Markinakis Jackson (Wedgewood, 2020).

Management Contract

Another business model is a management contract. This is a service offered by a management company to manage a hotel or resort for its owners. Owners have two main options for the structure of a management contract. One is to enter into a separate franchise agreement to secure a brand and then engage an independent third-party hotel management company to manage the hotel. SilverBirch Hotels is an example of a hotel management company that manages independent hotels and hotels operating under different major franchise brands, such as Marriott International (SilverBirch Hotels, 2020).

A grand, old-style hotel with brick walls and gables.
Figure 3.6 The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, purchased in 2014 by Nat and Flora Bosa.

A slightly different option is for owners to select a single company to provide the brand and the expertise to manage the property. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are companies that provide this option to owners. In 2014, the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel was purchased by Vancouver developer Nat Bosa and his wife Flora, who continued to retain Fairmont as the management company after the purchase (Meiszner, 2014).

Selecting a brand affiliation is one of the most significant decisions hotel owners must make (Crandell, Dickinson, & Kante, 2004). The brand affiliation selected will largely determine the cost of hotel development or conversion of an existing property to meet new brand standards. The affiliation will also determine a number of things about the ongoing operation including the level of services and amenities offered, cost of operation, marketing opportunities or restrictions, and the competitive position in the marketplace. For these reasons, owners typically consider several branding options before choosing to operate independently or selecting a brand affiliation.

Chains and Franchise Agreements

A hotel room with a large bed, an armchair, a chaise, and a large window overlooking the ocean.
Figure 3.7 A room at the Coast Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo.

Another managerial and ownership structure is franchising. A hotel franchise enables individuals or investment companies (the franchisee) to build or purchase a hotel and then buy or lease a brand name to operate a business and become part of a chain of hotels using the franchisor’s hotel brand, image, goodwill, procedures, controls, marketing, and reservations systems (Rushmore, 2005).

A well-known franchise in BC is Coast Hotels. A franchisee with Coast Hotels becomes part of a network of properties that use a central reservations system with access to electronic distribution channels, regional and national marketing programs, central purchasing, and brand operating standards (Coast Hotels, 2020). A franchisee also receives training, support, and advice from the franchisor and must adhere to regular inspections, audits, and reporting requirements.

Selecting a franchise structure may reduce investment risk by enabling the franchisee to associate with an established hotel company. Franchise fees can be substantial and a franchisee must be willing to adhere to the contractual obligations with the franchisor (Migdal, n.d.; and Rushmore, 2005).  Franchise fees typically include an initial fee paid with the franchise application, and then continuing fees paid during the term of the agreement. These fees are sometimes a percentage of revenue but can be set at a fixed fee. Franchise fees generally range from 4% to 7% of gross rooms revenue (Crandell et al., 2004).

Fractional Ownership

In a fractional ownership model, developers finance hotel builds by selling units in one-eighth to one-quarter shares. This financing model was very popular in BC from the late 1990s to 2008 (Western Investor, 2012). Examples of fractional ownership include the Sun Peaks Ski Resort in Kamloops and the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

In this model, owners have an ownership interest, owning a ‘fraction’ of the unit they purchased.  Owners can place their unit in a rental pool. The investment return for owners is based on the term of the contract they have for their unit, the strata fees, and the hotel’s occupancy. Managing fractional ownership can be very time consuming for hotel owners or management companies as each hotel unit can have up to eight owners. If occupancy rates are too low, an owner may not be able to cover the monthly strata fees. For the hotel management company, attaining occupancy rate targets is necessary to ensure that the balance of revenue is sufficient to cover the hotel’s operating expenses.

A large hotel at the bottom of a ski hill in winter.
Figure 3.8 The Sun Peaks Resort hotel.

Developers now anticipate that fractional ownership will not be used to finance new hotel builds in the future due to poor performance. There have been some high-profile collapses for hotel developers in BC, and between 2002 and 2012 fractional hotel owners experienced asset depreciation (Western Investor, 2012). It is uncertain how the market will perform.

Full Ownership Strata Units

The front of a historic hotel at night. A neon sign says "Hotel Georgia."
Figure 3.9 The Rosewood Hotel Georgia, a restored historic hotel in downtown Vancouver.

In this financing model, hotel developers finance a new hotel build with the sale of full ownership strata units. The sale of the condominium units finances the hotel development. Examples include the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

Take a Closer Look: The BC Hospitality Foundation

The BC Hospitality Foundation (BCHF) was created to help support hospitality (accommodation and food and beverage) professionals in their time of need. It has expanded to become a provider of scholarships for students in hospitality management and culinary programs. To raise funds for these initiatives, the foundation hosts annual events including auctions and a golf tournament. For more information, visit the BC Hospitality Foundation website.

No matter what the ownership model, it’s critical for properties to offer a return on investment for owners. The next section looks at ways of measuring financial performance in the sector.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Financial Performance

According to hotel consultant Betsy McDonald from HVS International Hotel Consultancy, the “industry rule of thumb is that a hotel room must make $1 per night for every $1,000 it takes to build or buy. If the hotel costs $125,000 per [room], the room has to rent for $125 per night on average and you need 60% to 70% occupancy to break even” (McDonald, 2011).

Several terms and formulas are used to evaluate revenue management strategies and operational efficiency:

Occupancy is a term that refers to the percentage of all guest rooms in the hotel that are occupied at a given time.

Average daily rate (ADR) is a calculation that states the average guest room income per occupied room in a given time period. It is determined by dividing the total room revenue by the number of rooms sold.

Revenue per available room (RevPAR) is a calculation that combines both occupancy and ADR in one metric. It is calculated by multiplying a hotel’s ADR by its occupancy rate. It may also be calculated by dividing a hotel’s total room revenue by the total number of available rooms and the number of days in the period being measured.

Costs per occupied room (COPR) is a figure that states all the costs associated with making a room ready for a guest (linens, cleaning costs, guest amenities).

These terms and measurements allow hotel staff and management to track the success of the operation and to compare against competitors and regional averages.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Spotlight On: The Top 50 Report: The Canadian Hotel Industry Continues to Thrive

Hotelier Magazine produced a special report in 2018 on the top sales in Canadian Hotels. At the top of the list was Four Seasons recording an estimated $5,188.8 billion in gross sales in 2016. Read the associated article online at The Top 50 Report: The Canadian Hotel Industry Continues to Thrive.

Across all ownership models, most properties have operational aspects in common. But before we take a closer look at the roles within a typical hotel, let’s review an important part of the accommodations sector in Canada and BC: camping and recreational vehicle (RV) stays.

Media Attributions


3.2 Camping and RV Accommodation

Several tents are set up around a fire on the edge of a beach at dusk.
Figure 3.10 A group of campers enjoy the sky at dusk from their tents.

A significant portion of travel accommodation is also provided in campgrounds and recreational vehicles (RVs). As the Canadian and BC tourism brands are closely tied to the outdoors, and these are two options that immerse travellers in the outdoor experience, it is no surprise that these two types of accommodation are popular options.

In 2017, 2.1 million Canadian RV owners took an estimated 8.2 million trips by RV.  Canadians who rented RVs took an estimated 612,000 trips bringing the collective total number of RV trips in Canada to 8.8 million (Devehish, 2018).  In BC, economic activity associated with RVing generated approximately $3.3 billion.

Spotlight On: Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition

The Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition (CRVBCC) represents campground managers and brings together additional stakeholders including the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of BC and the Freshwater Fisheries Society. Their aim is to increase the profile of camping and RV experiences throughout BC, achieving this through a website, a blog, and media outreach. For more information, visit the Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition website.

According to the Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition (CRVBCC, 2014), BC is home to 340 vehicle accessible campgrounds managed by the BC Society of Park Facility Operators.

Turning to camping, across the country there are approximately 3,000 independently owned and operated campgrounds welcomed guests for camping in both RVs and tents in Canada.  In BC there are over 1,500 campgrounds (Camping & RV in BC, 2020). Seven national parks within the province contain an additional 14 campgrounds, and the BC Recreation Sites and Trails Branch manages more than 1,200 backcountry sites including campgrounds and other facilities. Another 300 private RV parks and campgrounds play host to a mixture of longer-stay residents and overnight guests.  Destination British Columbia inspects and approves over 500 campgrounds across the province.

Spotlight On: The BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association

The BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association (BCLCA) was founded in 1944 to represent the interests of independently owned campgrounds and lodges. It provides advocacy and collaborative marketing, and promotes best practice among members. For more information, visit the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association website.

Chapter 5 provides more in-depth information about the importance of the recreation sector to BC. For now, let’s move our discussion forward by taking a closer look at the common organizational structure of many accommodation businesses.

Media Attributions

  • Night-Neighbours


3.3 Operations

The organizational structures of operations and the number of roles and levels of responsibility vary depending on the type and size of accommodation. They are also determined by ownership and the standards and procedures of the management company. In this section, we explore the organizational structure and roles that are typically in place in a full-service hotel with under 500 rooms. These can also apply to smaller properties and businesses such as campgrounds — although in these cases several roles might be fulfilled by the same person.

Guest Services

A female front desk employee smiles.
Figure 3.11 Vicky welcomes guests to the front desk of the Delta Burnaby Hotel.

Before we turn to examples of specific operational roles, let’s take a brief look at the importance of guest services, which will be covered in full in Chapter 9.

The accommodation sector provides much more than tangible products such as guest rooms, beds and meals; service is also crucial. Regardless of their role in the operation, all employees must do their part to ensure that each guest’s needs, preferences, and expectations are met and satisfied.

In some cases, such as in a luxury hotel, resort hotel, or an all-inclusive property, the guest services may represent a person’s entire vacation experience. In other cases, the service might be less significant, for example, in a budget airport hotel where location is the key driver, or a campground where guests primarily expect to take care of themselves.

In all cases, operators and employees must recognize and understand guest expectations and also what drives their satisfaction and loyalty. When the key drivers of guest satisfaction are understood, the hotel can ensure that service standards and business practices and policies support employees to deliver on these needs and that guest expectations are satisfied or exceeded.

Spotlight On: 4Hoteliers

4Hoteliers compiles world news for hotel, travel, and hospitality professionals. It features recent news releases and articles and a free e-newsletter distributed three times per week. For more information, or to subscribe, visit the 4Hoteliers website.

General Manager and Director of Operations

In most properties, the general manager or hotel manager serves as the head executive. Division heads oversee various departments including managers, administrative staff, and line-level supervisors. The general manager’s role is to provide strategic leadership and planning to all departments so revenue is maximized, employee relations are strong, and guests are satisfied.

The director of operations is responsible for overseeing the food and beverage and rooms division. This role is also responsible for providing guidance to department heads to achieve their targets and for directing the day-to-day operations of their respective departments. The director of operations also assumes the responsibilities of the general manager when he or she is absent from the property.


The controller is responsible for overall accounting and finance-related activities including accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, credit, systems management, cash management, food and beverage cost control, receiving, purchasing, food stores, yield management, capital planning, and budgeting.

Engineering and Maintenance

The chief engineer is the lead for the effective operation and maintenance of the property on a day-to-day basis, typically including general maintenance, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, kitchen maintenance, carpentry, and electrical and plumbing (Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, 2020). The chief engineer is also responsible for preventive maintenance and resource management programs.

Food and Beverage Division

A woman in a bathrobe sips coffee at a small breakfast table next to a huge window.
Figure 3.12 A guest enjoys breakfast in her room at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.

The food and beverage director is responsible for catering and events, in-room dining, and stand-alone restaurants and bars. The executive chef, the director of banquets, and the assistant managers responsible for each restaurant report to the director of food and beverage. The director assists with promotions and sales, the annual food and beverage budget, and all other aspects of food and beverage operations to continually improve service and maximize profitability.

Human Resources

The human resources department provides guidance and advice on a wide range of management-related practices including recruitment and selection, training and development, employee relations, rewards and recognition, performance management, diversity and inclusion and health and safety.

Rooms Division

Front Office

Reporting to the director of rooms, the front office manager, sometimes called the reception manager, controls the availability of rooms and the day-to-day functions of the front office. The front desk agent reports to the front office manager and works in the lobby or reception area to welcome the guests to the property, process arrivals and departures, coordinate room assignments and pre-arrivals, and respond to guest requests.


Reporting to the director of rooms, the executive housekeeper manages and oversees housekeeping operations and staff including the housekeeping manager, supervisor, house persons, and room attendants. An executive housekeeper is responsible for implementing the operating procedures and standards. He or she also plans, coordinates, and schedules the housekeeping staff. Room audits and inspections are completed regularly to ensure standards are met (go2HR, 2020a).

Reporting to the housekeeping supervisor, room attendants complete the day-to-day task of cleaning rooms based on standard operating procedures and respond to guest requests. Reporting to the housekeeping supervisor, house persons clean public areas including hallways, the lobby, and public restrooms, and deliver laundry and linens to guest rooms.


Large full-service hotels typically have a reservations department, and the reservations manager reports directly to the front office manager. The guest’s experience starts with the first interaction a guest has with a property, often during the reservation process. Reservations agents convert calls to sales by offering the guest the opportunity to not only make a room reservation but also book other amenities and activities.

Today, with online and website reservations available to guests, there is still a role for the reservations agent, as some guests prefer the one-to-one connection with another person. The extent to which the reservations agent position is resourced will vary depending on the hotel’s target market and business strategy.

Sales and Marketing

The sales and marketing director is responsible for establishing sales and marketing activities that maximize the hotel’s revenues. This is typically accomplished by increasing occupancy and revenue opportunities for the hotel’s accommodation, conference and catering space, leisure facilities, and food and beverage outlets. The sales and marketing manager is responsible for coordinating marketing and promotional activities and works closely with other hotel departments to ensure customers are satisfied with all aspects of their experience (go2HR, 2020b).

Catering and Conference Services

In larger full-service hotels with conference space, a hotel will have a dedicated catering and conference services department. The director of this department typically reports to the director of sales and marketing. The catering and conference services department coordinates all events held in the hotel or catered off-site. Catering and conference events and services range from small business meetings to high-profile conferences and weddings.

A chef sets plates of gourmet food onto the passthrough in a busy kitchen.
Figure 3.13 The culinary team at Café Pacifica in the Pan Pacific prepares food for a special event.

Now that we have a sense of the building blocks of a typical hotel operation, let’s look at some trends affecting the sector.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Vicky-Lee-at-Delta-Burnaby-Hotel
  • Scott-and-Tina-Visit-the-Pan-Pacific-Vancouver
  • Cafe-Pacifica-Restaurant-2013-Winter-Menus


3.5 Conclusion

The accommodation sector, and the hotel sector in particular, encompasses multiple business models and employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians. A smaller, but important growing segment in BC is that of camping and RV accommodators.

As broader societal trends continue and morph, they will continue to impact the accommodations marketplace and consumer. Owners and operators must stay abreast of these trends, continually altering their business models and services to remain relevant and competitive.

Now that we have a better sense of the accommodation sector, let’s visit the other half of the hospitality industry: food and beverage services. Chapter 4 explores this in more detail.

Key Terms

  • Average daily rate (ADR): average guest room income per occupied room in a given time period
  • BC Hospitality Foundation (BCHF): created to help support hospitality professionals in their time of need; now also a provider of scholarships for students in hospitality management and culinary programs
  • BC Hotel Association (BCHA): the trade association for BC’s hotel industry, which hosts an annual industry trade show and seminar series, and publishes InnFocus magazine for professionals
  • BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association (BCLCA): represents the interests of independently owned campgrounds and lodges in BC
  • Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition (CRVBCC): represents campground managers and brings together additional stakeholders including the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of BC and the Freshwater Fisheries Society
  • Competitive set: a marketing term used to identify a group of hotels that include all competitors that a hotel’s guests are likely to consider as an alternative (minimum of three)
  • Costs per occupied room (CPOR): all the costs associated with making a room ready for a guest (linens, cleaning costs, guest amenities)
  • Fractional ownership: a financing model that developers use to finance hotel builds by selling units in one-eighth to one-quarter shares
  • Franchise: enables individuals or investment companies to build or purchase a hotel and then buy or lease a brand name under which to operate; also can include reservation systems and marketing tools
  • Franchisee: an individual or company buying or leasing a franchise
  • Franchisor: a company that sells franchises
  • Hotel Association of Canada (HAC): the national trade organization advocating on behalf of over 8,500 hotels
  • Hotel type: a classification determined primarily by the size and location of the building structure, and then by the function, target markets, service level, other amenities, and industry standards
  • Motel: a term popular in the last century, combining the words “motor hotel”; typically designed to provide ample parking and easy access to rooms from the parking lot
  • Occupancy: the percentage of all guest rooms in the hotel that are occupied at a given time
  • Revenue per available room (RevPAR): a calculation that combines both occupancy and ADR in one metric
  • Sharing economy: an internet-based economic system in which consumers share their resources, typically with people they don’t know, and typically in exchange for money
  • SMERF: an acronym for the social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal segment of the group travel market


  1. On a piece of paper, list as many types of accommodation classifications (e.g., by size) as you can think of. Name at least five. Provide examples of each.
  2. When researching a franchisor, the cost of the franchise must be carefully considered. What other factors would you consider to determine the value of a franchise fee?
  3. How should lower-end hotels and hotels that do not cater to business travellers respond to increased competition from rentals enabled by firms like Airbnb?
  4. A hotel earns $3,000 on 112 rooms. What is its ADR?
  5. That same hotel has an occupancy of 75%. What is its RevPAR?
  6. How many independent campgrounds are there across Canada?
  7. How many vehicle-accessible campsites are there in BC?
  8. Airbnb enables hosts to rate their guests after a stay. Consider some other types of accommodation and list the pros and cons of rating guests.
  9. Draw an organizational chart for a 60-room boutique hotel, listing all the staff required to run the operation. Put the most influential people (e.g., the general manager) at the top and work your way down. How would you structure this differently from a larger full-service hotel? What would you keep the same?
  10. Read Condé Nast Best Hotels and Resorts in the US and Canada for 2020. Now find two other “best of” lists for BC, Canada, or global accommodations. What do the winners have in common? List at least three things. Now try to find at least two differences.

Case Study: Hotel for Dogs – Philanthropy and Media Coverage

In 2014, the media was taken by storm with a story about a hotel in North Carolina that combined philanthropy with their business model. The property expanded on the trend of allowing dogs in hotels by fostering rescues from a nearby shelter and allowing guests to adopt them. Guests appreciated the warm interactions with the animals and several dogs were adopted as a result (Manning, 2014).Not only did the property provide a valuable service and enhance the guest experience, but the story was repeated across multiple media outlets, creating publicity for the hotel.

This is an example of a current trend: allowing pets in hotels. Now choose from one of the following trends, and research it to answer the questions that follow:

  • Carbon offset programs
  • Personalization
  • Reputation management
  • Digital concierge
  • Smart hotels
  • Healthy and organic foods
  • Online experiences
  • Frictionless touch points
  • Sharing economy
  • Green certified
  • Augmented reality
  1. Why do you think this trend has emerged? What market is it helping to serve?
  2. Find an example of a hotel that has responded to your chosen trend and explain how the trend has informed or changed the hotel’s business strategy or practice.
  3. Are there any trends that are not listed above that you think should be added? Try to name at least two. Why are these important accommodation trends today?


Accor. (2020). Brand portfolio, economy brands. Retrieved from

Airbnb. (2020). Hosting in 3 steps.  Retrieved from

Berelowitz, S. (2018, February 6).  Important mobile booking stats for hotels in 2018.  Pegasus.  Retrieved from

Boutique Hotel Association. (n.d.) Terminology and definitions for boutique and lifestyle hotels and properties. Retrieved from

Brey, E. (2009). Resort definitions and classifications: A summary report to research participants. [PDF] University of Memphis: Center for Resort and Hospitality Business. Retrieved from

Camping and RV in BC. (2020). Camping and RVing in BC go where your spirit takes you!  Retrieved from

Canada History. (2013). The railroad. Retrieved from

CBC. (2018, February 7).  Airbnb to collect provincial, municipal taxes on short-term rentals in B.C.  Retrieved from

Coast Hotels and Resorts. (2020) Management and franchises. Retrieved from

Crandell, C., Dickinson, K., & Kanter, G. I. (2004). Negotiating the hotel management contract. In Hotel Asset Management: Principles & Practices. East Lansing, MI: University of Denver and American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.

CRVBCC. (2014). About us: The Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition. Retrieved from

Devehish, S. (2018). “Economic Impact of Canadian RV and Camping Industry”.  Retrieved from

Diffen. (2015). Hotel vs motel. Retrieved from

The Economist, (2013). Silverstein, B. The rise of the sharing economy. Retrieved from

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. (2020). Chief engineer job description. Retrieved from

Fast Company. (2012). Airbnb – Most innovative companies 2012. Retrieved from

go2HR. (2020a). Executive housekeeper profile. Retrieved from

go2HR. (2020b). Director of sales and marketing in hotel profile. Retrieved from

Hotel Association of Canada. (2019). Membership & Advocacy. Retrieved from

Attala, J. (2019, March 25).  10 ways smart technology is reshaping the hotel industry.  Hotel Management.  Retrieved from

Hotelier. (2018, December 17). Trends for 2019.  Retrieved from

Kostuch Media. (2018, July 9). The Top 50 Report: The Canadian Hotel Industry Continues to Thrive. Retrieved from Hotelier Magazine:

Inversini, A., Masiero, L. (2014). Selling rooms online: the use of social media and online travel agents. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 26 (2), 272-292

Meiszner, P. (2014, June 27.) Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria purchased by Vancouver developer. Global News. Retrieved from

Melloy, J. (2015, February 2). Airbnb guests triple hurting Priceline, HomeAway. CNBC. Retrieved from

Migdal, N. (n.d.) Franchise agreements vs. management agreements: Which one do I choose? Hotel Business Review. Retrieved from

Rushmore, S. (2005). What does a hotel franchise cost? Canadian Lodging Outlook. Retrieved from

SilverBirch Hotels. (2020). About us. Retrieved from

Tourism HR Canada. (2018). Tourism Shortages: Jobs to Fill. Retrieved from

Travel Click. (n.d.). Find your market mix – OTAs vs. direct.  Retrieved from

Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. (2020). Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, Meet the Team. Retrieved from

Western Investor. (2012). Investors burnt in hotel condos, fractionals. Retrieved from

Zervas, G., Preserpio, D., & Byers, J.W., (2015). The rise of the sharing economy: Estimating the impact of Airbnb on the hotel industry. Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2013-16. Available at SSRN: or


Chapter 4. Food and Beverage Services

Original authors: Peter Briscoe and Griff Tripp
Revisions made by: David MacGillivray

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the origins and significance of the food and beverage sector
  • Relate the importance of the sector to the Canadian economy
  • Explain the various types of food and beverage providers
  • Discuss differing needs and desires of residents and visitors in selecting a food and beverage provider
  • Examine factors that contribute to the profitability of food and beverage operations
  • Discuss key issues and trends in the sector including government influence, health and safety, human resources, and technology


4.1 Food and Beverage Sector Performance

According to Statistics Canada, the food and beverage sector comprises “establishments primarily engaged in preparing meals, snacks and beverages, to customer order, for immediate consumption on and off the premises” (Government of Canada, 2012). This sector is commonly known to tourism professionals by its initials as F&B.

The food and beverage sector grew out of simple origins: as people travelled from their homes, going about their business, they often had a need or desire to eat or drink. Others were encouraged to meet this demand by supplying food and drink. As the interests of the public became more diverse, so too did the offerings of the food and beverage sector.

In 2014, Canadian food and beverage businesses accounted for 1.1 million employees and more than 88,000 locations across the country with an estimated $71 billion in sales, representing around 4% of the country’s overall economic activity. Many students are familiar with the sector through their workplace, because Canada’s restaurants provide one in every five youth jobs in the country — with 22% of Canadians starting their career in a restaurant or foodservice business. Furthermore, going out to a restaurant is the number one preferred activity for spending time with family and friends (Restaurants Canada, 2014a).

For a perspective on how sales are distributed across the country by province, and how different foodservice operations perform in terms of revenue (sales dollars collected from guests), look at Tables 4.1 and 4.2. A  key factor in the below results is the higher population base in Ontario and Quebec. Economic growth or decline also impacts results and vary from province to province year over year.

In terms of sales (Table 4.2), Ontario is the leader with almost $28 billion. Quebec, BC, and Alberta occupy the next three spots with revenues ranging from $9 billion to $13 billion, and the other provinces had sales of $2 billion apiece or less. Over the last five years, BC has shown greater growth in revenues along with third more units (restaurants) than neighbouring Alberta, leading to identical average sales per unit.

Foodservice sales in British Columbia rose by a solid 7.9% in 2018 over 2017. Alberta boasts the highest average unit volume at $838,666 per year, more than $100,000 over the national average due to greater disposable income and no provincial sales tax on meals. In BC, improved economic growth lifted total foodservice sales by a healthy 7.9% for the strongest annual growth since 2006 (Restaurants Canada, 2019). Since 2018 Alberta has seen a significant decline in its economy due to the energy sector collapse tied to the price of crude oil.

Table 4.1 Performance by province for commercial foodservice — units
[Skip Table]
Province Foodservice Units Totals Average Volume/Unit ($)
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,168 737,301
Prince Edward Island 413 663,259
Nova Scotia 2,260 750,458
New Brunswick 1,708 714,521
Quebec 22,736 594,147
Ontario 38,317 747,468
Manitoba 2,621 794,425
Saskatchewan 2,673 717,449
Alberta 11,277 838,666
British Columbia 14,550 838,444
Canada 97,939 735,915
Data source: Statistics Canada, Restaurants Canada 2019

Table 4.2 below indicates the profit margins per province. Profit is the amount left when expenses (including corporate income tax) are subtracted from sales revenue. A higher profit margin means that a greater percentage of sales are retained by the business owner, and a lower percentage is lost to operating and other costs.

Table 4.2 Performance by province for commercial foodservice — sales
[Skip Table]
Province Sales Growth Sales Pre-tax Profit Margin (% of operating revenue)
2018-19 Forecast (%) 2018-17  Actual (%) 2018 ($ millions)
Newfoundland and Labrador 1.6% .2% $861.2 4.1%
Prince Edward Island 4.3% 6.3% $273.9 6.9%
Nova Scotia 3.9% 5.6% $1,696.0 5.0%
New Brunswick 3.1% 3.0% $1,220.4 6.0%
Quebec 4.2% 5.2% $13,508.5 4.4%
Ontario 4.6% 5.7% $28,640.7 3.8%
Manitoba 3.4% 2.4% $2,082.2 4.8%
Saskatchewan 3.8% 1.6% $1,917.7 5.3%
Alberta 3.0% 2.4% $9,457.6 4.4%
British Columbia 4.8% 7.9% $12,199.4 4.7%
Canada 4.2% 5.2% $72,074.8 4.3%
Data source: Statistics Canada, Restaurants Canada 2019

The provincial variations in total sales and profit margins are due to several factors including:

Now that we have a sense of the relative performance of F&B operations by province, and some influences on success, let’s delve a little deeper into the sector.


4.2 Types of Food and Beverage Providers

An old brick train station with a green entrance awning. A sign that says "The Keg" hangs on a pole.
Figure 4.1 The Keg at the Station is in a former train station in New Westminster, B.C.

While there are many ways to analyze the sector, in this chapter we take a market-based, business-operation approach based on the overall Canadian market share from the Restaurants Canada Market Review and Forecast (Restaurants Canada, 2019). The following sections explore the types of food service operations in Canada.

There are two key distinctions: commercial foodservice, which comprises operations whose primary business is food and beverage, and non-commercial foodservice establishments where food and beverages are served but are not the primary business.

Let’s start with the largest segment of F&B operations, the commercial sector.

Commercial Operators

Commercial operators make up the largest segment of F&B in Canada with just over 80% market share (Restaurants Canada, 2019). It is made up of quick-service restaurants, full-service restaurants, catering, and drinking establishments. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Quick-Service Restaurants

Formerly known as fast-food restaurants, quick-service restaurants, or QSRs, makeup 44.4% of total food sales in Canada (Restaurants Canada, 2019). This prominent portion of the food sector generally caters to both residents and visitors and is represented in areas that are conveniently accessed by both. Brands, chains, and franchises dominate the QSR landscape. While the sector has made steps to move away from the traditional fast-food image and style of service, it is still dominated by both fast food and food fast; in other words, food that is prepared and purchased quickly, and generally consumed quickly.

Take a Closer Look: The First McDonald’s In Canada

The first McDonald’s restaurant in Canada opened in Richmond, BC, in 1967. Located on No. 3 Road, it featured a sleek almost space-age design. To see a picture of the location, visit McDonald’s: Then and Now.

Convenience and familiarity are key in this sector. Examples of QSRs include:

Full-Service Restaurants

With 44.2% of the market share (Restaurants Canada, 2019), full-service restaurants are perhaps the most fluid of the F&B operation types, adjusting and changing to the demands of the marketplace. Consumer expectations are higher here than with QSRs (Parsa, Lord, Putrevu, & Kreeger, 2015). The menus offered are varied, but in general, reflect the image of the restaurant or consumer’s desired experience. Major segments include fine dining, family/casual, ethnic, and upscale casual.

A dessert of pink ice cream served on top of strawberries, rhubarb, and meringue.
Figure 4.2 A rhubarb pavlova with local Pemberton strawberries is served at Araxi Restaurant + Bar, a fine dining establishment in Whistler.

Fine dining restaurants are characterized by highly trained chefs preparing complex food items, exquisitely presented. Meals are brought to the table by experienced servers with sound food and beverage knowledge in an upscale atmosphere. The concept of fine dining has evolved over the years.  It was once mandatory to have table linens, fine china, crystal stemware, and silver-plate cutlery in order to be referred to as a fine dining establishment. Service was often very formal and reserved with minimal personal interaction between guests and servers. The table was often embellished with fresh flowers and candles as well. Today the best restaurants focus on the quality of preparation, presentation, and flavor of the food utilizing the best and where possible local ingredients. Servers who are engaged, customer-centric, and well informed are sought after by the best restaurants.

In British Columbia, many of the finest restaurants feature wine lists heavily showcasing British Columbia food and wine. Tablescapes are kept simple, with excellent quality flatware and stemware and minimal fuss with centerpieces and generally no linen tablecloths.

In these businesses, the average cheque, which is the total sales divided by the number of guests served, is quite high (often reviewed with the cost symbols of three or four dollar signs- $ $ $ or $ $ $ $).

Bishop’s in Vancouver is one of BC’s best known and longest operating fine dining restaurants. Since opening in 1985, this 45-seat restaurant has served heads of state including Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin and has won awards including the Best of Vancouver. John Bishop was awarded the Governor General’s Award in 2010 (Georgia Straight, 2015).

Family/casual restaurants are characterized by being open for all three meal periods. These operations offer affordable menu items that span a variety of customer tastes. They also have the operational flexibility in menu and restaurant layout to welcome large groups of diners. An analysis of menus in family/casual restaurants reveals a high degree of operational techniques such as menu item cross-utilization, where a few key ingredients are repurposed in several ways. Service is often very casual and friendly. Both chain and independent restaurant operators flourish in this sector. Popular chain examples in BC include White Spot, Ricky’s All Day Grill, Boston Pizza, and The Old Spaghetti Factory. Independents include the Red Wagon Café in Vancouver, the Bon Voyage Restaurant near Prince George, and John’s Place in Victoria.

Restaurant interior with many stained glass windows and stained glass light fixtures.
Figure 4.3 The interior of the Old Spaghetti Factory, a popular family chain, in Gastown, Vancouver. This location opened in 1970 and has stood the test of time.

Ethnic restaurants typically reflect the owner’s cultural identity. The growth and changing nature of this sector reflect the acceptance of various ethnic foods within our communities. Ethnic restaurants generally evolve along two routes: toward remaining authentic to the cuisine of the country of origin, or toward larger market acceptance through modifying menu items (Mak, Lumbers, Eves, & Chang, 2012).  Food is often the medium for this sense of belonging (Koc & Welsh, 2001; Laroche, Kim, Tomiuk, & Belisle, 2005). The authenticity of the experience often drives the customer’s decision.  The driving force behind these operations is the Chef’s background, their commitment to the quality of the product, innovative preparation mixed with exceptional technique, and knowledgeable service staff to bring it to the consumer.

Take a Closer Look: The 38 Essential Vancouver Restaurants

Vancouver is widely regarded as one of the great food cities of the world, peppered with exceptional restaurants lead by outstanding Chefs. Many of the city’s best restaurants are ethnically based and lauded for both their creativity and flavors. This EATER article called “The 38 Essential Vancouver Restaurants” highlights and maps locations of some of Vancouver’s diverse culinary offerings.

Many people line up outside a chic modern restaurant.
Figure 4.4 The exterior of Vij’s, the flagship restaurant of Vikram Vij’s ethnic dining legacy.

Upscale casual restaurants emerged in the 1970s, evolving out of a change in social norms. Consumers began to want the experience of a fun social evening at a restaurant with good value (but not cheap), in contrast to the perceived stuffiness of fine dining at that time. These restaurants are typically dinner houses, but they may open for lunch or brunch depending on location. Examples in BC include the Keg, Earls, Cactus Club, Brown’s Social House, and Joey Restaurants. A closer examination of popular restaurant menus will show many items suitable for sharing amongst groups of people. Family style sharing platters that are passed back and forth between multiple diners. This adds to the desire for patrons to feel relaxed and comfortable while dining out with family or friends.

Catering and Banqueting

Catering makes up only 7.9% of the total share of F&B in Canada (Restaurants Canada, 2019) and comprises food served by catering companies at banquets and special events at a diverse set of venues. Note that banqueting pertains to catered food served on-premise, while catering typically refers to off-premise service. At a catered event, customers typically eat at the same time, as opposed to restaurant customers who are served individually or in small groups. The catering and banqueting experience has evolved tremendously to the point where guests who attend events expect restaurant-quality food and service. In keeping with this concept, the event planner will coordinate with the catering establishments that guests who attend the planned events have a choice of options for each course served. While surcharges may apply to meals because of the option choices the expectation is every bit as high from the customer.

Catering businesses (whether on-site or at special locations) are challenged by the episodic nature of events and the issues of food handling and food safety with large groups. Catering businesses include:

Spotlight On: Diner en Blanc

An interesting public event with a dining focus is Diner en Blanc, which is held in cities around the globe including Vancouver and Victoria. The Vancouver event has been running since 2011. The original concept was developed in Paris in 1988. Diners wear all white and bring their table, chair, and place settings with them to a secret location announced only hours before. Participants have the option to bring their own food or purchase a catered meal. Alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase on-site.

For more information, visit the Dîner en Blanc website.

Hundreds of people dressed all in white dine outdoors at small tables crowded together.
Figure 4.5 Dîner en Blanc Vancouver’s first event at Jack Poole Plaza.

While beverages make up part of almost every dining experience, some establishments are founded on beverage sales. Let’s look at these operations next.

Alcohol and Cannabis

With a 3.5% market share (Restaurants Canada, 2019), the drinking establishment sector comprises bars, wine bars, cabarets, nightclubs, and pubs.  In British Columbia, all businesses and premises selling alcohol must adhere to the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Act. At the time this chapter was written, significant changes were taking place in the regulations governing drinking establishments, but some general conditions have remained stable.

In BC, liquor licenses are divided into liquor primary and food primary. As the name suggests, a liquor primary license is needed to operate a business that is in the primary business of selling alcohol. Most pubs, nightclubs, and cabarets fall into this category. A food primary license is required for an operation whose primary business is serving food. Some operations, such as pubs, will hold a liquor primary license even though they serve a significant volume of food. In this case, the license allows for diverse patronage.

One noteworthy change to the licensing of pubs in BC is that children are permitted in them if they are accompanied and attended by responsible adults. While not universally adopted by pubs to date, this change in legislation is an example of the fluctuating social norms to which the sector must respond.

Front of a Tudor-style pub.
Figure 4.6 The Six Mile Pub in Victoria. Established in 1855, it is British Columbia’s oldest public house.

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act was introduced as law in Canada. which meant it became legal to consume marijuana and to sell marijuana in Canada. The Cannabis Act is in place to regulate such activities. In the 2019 Chef Survey Results conducted by Restaurants Canada Cannabis/CBD infused drinks ranked #1 and Cannabis/CBD infused food ranked #2 as the items Chef’s felt would be the next big thing in the restaurant business (Restaurants Canada, 2019).

The Cannabis Act was put into place on October 17th, 2018. For more information, see Government of Canada Cannabis Laws and Regulations.

Together the commercial ventures of QSRs, full-service restaurants, catering functions, and drinking establishments make up just over 80% of the market share. Now let’s look at the other 20% of businesses, which fall under the non-commercial umbrella.


The following non-commercial entities earn just under 20% share of the foodservice earnings in Canada (Restaurants Canada, 2019b). While these make up a smaller share of the market, there are some advantages inherent in these business models. Non-commercial operations cater predominantly to consumers with limited selection or choice given their occupation or location. This type of consumer is often referred to as a captured patron. In a tourism capacity such as in airports or on cruise ships, the accepted price point for these patrons is often higher for a given product, increasing profit margins.


Often run under a predetermined contract, this sector includes:

Accommodation Foodservice

These include hotel restaurants and bars, room service, and self-serve dining operations (such as a breakfast room).  Hotel restaurants are usually open to the public and reliant on this public patronage in addition to business from hotel guests. Collaborations between hotel chains and restaurant chains have seen the reliable pairing of hotels and restaurants, such as the combination of Sandman Hotels and Moxie’s Grill and Bar.

Vending and Automated Foodservices

While not generally viewed as part of the food and beverage sector, automated and vending services do account for significant sales for both small and large foodservice and accommodation providers. Vending machines are located in motels, hotels, transportation terminals, sporting venues, or just about any location that will allow for the opportunity for an impulse or convenient purchase.

Business Performance for Types of Food and Beverage Operators

Market share by restaurant segment. Long description available.
Figure 4.7 Share of the market for different restaurant segments. [Long Description]

As mentioned, the commercial sector comprises the majority of dollars earned. Figure 4.9 illustrates the difference between the share of traffic and the share of dollars for each sub sector. We know that QSRs are much more economical and generally much busier than full-service restaurants. How do that traffic and low prices translate into market share for the different segments?

Figure 4.9 shows that QSRs attract two-thirds of all the traffic while earning less than half of the total dollars. Family/midscale and casual dining each attract half the dollars of QSR, but they do that from much lower shares of the traffic. Meanwhile, fine dining is patronized by less than 1% of the total restaurant traffic but earns 4.2% of the dollars. The growing force of convenience stores, department stores, and other retail establishments obtain a respectable 11.5% of traffic and 10.6% of the restaurant dollar.

As you can see, while QSRs attract the greatest number of guests, the ratio of dollars earned per transaction is significantly less than that of the fine-dining sector. This makes sense, of course, because the typical QSR earns relatively little per guest but attracts hundreds of customers, while a fine dining restaurant charges high prices and serves a select few guests each day.

Sales Per Segment

Table 4.3a Commercial sector sales and market shares for 2017–2018
[Skip Table]
Type of Restaurant 2017 Final ($ millions) Segment Market Share (%) 2018 Projected ($ millions) Segment Market Share (%)
QSR 30,464.2 44.5 32,027.8 44.4
Full-service 30,206.0 44.1 31,863.3 44.2
Caterers 5,400.5 7.8 5,688.2 7.9
Drinking Places 2,438.5 3.5 2,495.5 3.5
Total Commercial $68,509.2 N/A $72,074.8 N/A
Table 4.3b Non-commercial sector sales and market shares for 2017–2018
[Skip Table]
Type of Restaurant 2017 Final ($ millions) Segment Market Share (%) 2018 Projected ($ millions) Segment Market Share (%)
Accommodation 6,934.0 40.8 7,508.0 40.5
Institutional 4,735.0 27.9 5,125.0 27.6
Retail 2,569.9 15.1 2,936.3 15.8
Other 2,748.6 16.2 2,972.9 16
Total Non-Commercial $16,987.5 N/A $18,542.2 N/A

The sales revenues for the various segments are shown in Table 4.3. Note that QSRs and full-service restaurants are almost equal in their sales and almost completely dwarf the other commercial sectors of caterers and drinking places. It is also noteworthy that the commercial components have four times the sales volume of the non-commercial components.

Table 4.4. Average cheque size per person in Canada
[Skip Table]
Channel 2016 2017 2018
Quick Service Rest. $5.64 $5.75 $5.94
Midscale dining $12.47 $12.82 $13.01
Casual dining $17.56 $17.85 $18.24
Fine dining $43.59 $43.63 $44.16
Retail foodservice $4.76 $4.82 $4.94
Total foodservice $7.78 $7.93 $8.15
Source: The NDP Group, 12 months ending December each year.

Long Descriptions

Figure 4.7 long description: Bar graph displaying market share by restaurant segment. The data is described in the following table:

Market Share by Restaurant
[Skip Table]
Metric Quick Service Restaurants Family/Midscale Casual Dining Fine Dining Retail
Share of Traffic 64.5% 13.2% 10.1% 0.7% 11.5%
Share of Dollars 45.8% 20.6% 22.5% 4.2% 6.9%

[Return to Figure 4.7]

Media Attributions

  • The-Keg-at-the-Station
  • North-Arm-Farm-Strawberry-Rhubarb-Pavlova
  • The-Old-Spaghetti-Factory
  • Vijs
  • Six-Mile
  • Market-Share-by-Restaurant-Segment
The average cheque size includes taxes but excludes tips.


4.3 Types of Food and Beverage Customers

Now that we’ve classified the sector based on business type and looked at relative performance, let’s look at F&B from another perspective: customer type. The first way to classify customers is to divide them into two key markets: residents and visitors.

The first of these, the resident group, can be further divided based on their purpose for visiting an F&B operator.  For one group, food or drink is the primary purpose for the visit. For example, think of a group of friends getting together at a local restaurant to experience their signature sandwich. For another group, food and drink is the secondary purpose, added spontaneously or as an ancillary activity. For example, think of time-crunched parents whisking their kids through a drive-through on their way from one after-school activity to the next. Here the food and beverage providers offer an expedient way to access a meal.

Figure 4.8 A visitor to Nanaimo eats a signature “Nanaimo bar” in front of a Nanaimo bar, the Jingle Pot Pub.

Foodservice providers also service the visitor market, which presents unique challenges as guests will bring with them the tastes and eating habits of their home country or region. Most establishments generally follow one of two directions. One is to cater completely to visitors from the day the doors open, with an operational and market focus on tourists. The other is to cater primarily to residents.

Sometimes a local foodservice provider can continue to cater to the resident market over time. In other cases, often because of financial pressures, the business shifts its focus away from the residents to better cater to visitors’ tastes. These changes, when they do occur, generally happen over time and can lead to questions of authenticity of the local offerings (Smart, 2003; Heroux, 2002; Mak, Lumbers, Eves, & Chang, 2012).

Take a Closer Look: The Science of Addictive Food 

For some time, one secret recipe for success in the food sector, particularly the fast-food portion of the sector, was simple: salt, sugar, and fat — and lots of it. There is a science behind these additives and why consumers keep coming back to satisfy their cravings. To view a CBC special on the science of addictive food, watch The Science of Addictive Food.

It is clear that the food and beverage sector must remain responsive to consumers’ needs and desires. This is made evident by the emergence of health-concious eating in North America over the last two decades. The influence of books such as Fast Food Nation (Schlosser, 2012) and documentaries such as Super Size Me have created mainstream awareness about what goes into our food and our bodies. As many developed nations, including Canada, struggle with health-care concerns including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, food operators are taking note and developing new health-conscious menus. Programs like BC’s Informed Dining initiative are helping consumers understand their options (see the Spotlight On below).

Spotlight On: Informed Dining

The Informed Dining program was created by Healthy Families BC to help consumers gain a better understanding of the ingredients in their food and their role in daily healthy eating habits and guidelines. For more information, visit the Informed Dining web page.

This awareness, coupled with an increasing interest and desire for more authentic foods produced without using herbicides and pesticides, free of genetically modified ingredients, and even free of carbohydrates or gluten, has placed pressure on the sector to respond, and many have (Frash, DiPietro, & Smith, 2014). Consumers are more aware of the plight of farmers and producers from faraway places and the support for fair trade practices. At the same time, there is a heightened desire for more locally grown products, and a general awareness of nutrition and the quality of products that are harvested in season and closer to home.

Take a Closer Look: Cittaslow Designation for Cowichan Bay

The community of Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island was awarded the Cittaslow Designation, which helps acknowledge its focus on sustainable practices and local food harvesting best practice. For more information on the designation and community efforts, watch Cittaslow Cowichan Bay.

Consumer consciousness regarding the source and distribution of food has created a movement that champions sustainable and locally grown foods. While this trend does have its extremes, it is founded on the premise that eating food that has been produced nearby leads to better food quality, sustainable food production processes, and increased enjoyment. This has led to a number of restaurants that incorporate these concepts in their menu planning and marketing.

In addition to this trend toward “conscious consumerism” (LinkBC, 2014, p.4), F&B professionals must be highly aware of the importance of special diets including gluten-free, low-carb, and other dietary restrictions (LinkBC, 2014).

All of these influences are continuously shaping the food and beverage sector. Before we explore additional trends and issues in the sector, let’s review the core considerations for profitability in foodservice operations.

People smile around fresh produce and a sign saying "BC Association of Farmers' Markets."
Figure 4.9 Officials announce more funding for B.C. farmers’ markets, which have become increasingly popular due to changing consumer tastes.


4.4 Operations


While many factors influence the profitability of foodservice operations, key considerations include type of business, location, cost control, and profit margin, sales and marketing strategies, and human resources management. We’ve already examined the different types of operations and their relative profit margins. Let’s look at the other profitability considerations in more detail.

Key statistics show that operating revenues grew by 31% nationally from 2012 to 2017. Conversely, operating expenses rose by 31%, during the same period. The average pre-tax profit in 2017 was $30,370 or 4.3% of operating revenue. By many industry standards, this is a dangerously low profit as a percentage of revenues. Any number of situations could easily erode this profit including rent increases, unexpected maintenance repairs, and increased taxes. The cost of goods and the minimum wage increases were contributing factors in impacting operating expenses in all regions of the country. Economic slowdowns in Alberta and Newfoundland, directly linked to the Energy Sector were major contributors to substandard growth in these two provinces.

Full-service restaurants remain the least profitable category of food service on average. Caterers remain the most profitable sector with a pre-tax profit margin of 7.2% nationally, despite having the highest labor costs as a percentage of operating revenue (Restaurants Canada, 2019).


The selection of the correct location for a restaurant is often cited as the most critical factor in an operation’s success (or failure) in terms of profitability. Prior to opening, site analysis is required to determine the amount of traffic (foot traffic and vehicle traffic), proximity to competing businesses, visibility to patrons, accessibility, and presence (or absence) of desired patrons (Ontario Restaurant News, 1995).

Cost Control

According to Restaurants Canada, QSRs have the highest profit margin at 5.1%, while full-service restaurants have a margin of 3.5%. There will be significant variances from these percentages at individual locations even within the same brand (2014b).

A number of costs influence the profitability of a food and beverage operation. Key operating expenses in the restaurant business food cost are food cost, beverage cost beverage costs and payroll. These are commonly known as prime costs. Managing the prime costs primary costs to an appropriate and agreed upon level is critical to the success of any operation. Other expenses include property rental, utilities, maintenance costs, advertising, legal fees, insurance and depreciation of equipment assets. In addition to these big-ticket items, there is the cost of reusable products operating supplies such as cutlery, glassware, china, and linen in full-service restaurants. The percentages of expenses to revenue will vary greatly by sector, location, and province.

Given that most operations have both a service side (interacting directly with the consumer) and the production side (preparing food or drink to be consumed), the primary costs incurred during these activities often determine the feasibility or success of the operation. This is especially true as the main product (e.g., food and drink) is perishable; ordering the correct amount requires skill and experience. Managing your inventory once on site is of equal importance.

Sales and Marketing

The two principal considerations for sales and marketing in this sector are market share and revenue maximization. Most F&B operations are constrained by finite time and space, so management must constantly seek ways to increase revenue from the existing operation or increase the share of the available market. Examples of revenue maximization include upselling existing consumers (e.g., asking if they want fries with their meal; offering dessert, specialty drinks pre and post-dinner), and using outdoor or patio space (even using rain covers and heaters to extend the outdoor season). Examples of increasing market share in the fast-food sector include extending special offers to new, first-time customers through social media or targeted direct mail.

In today’s cluttered marketplace, being noticed is a constant goal for most companies. Converting that awareness into patronage is a challenge for most operators. Restaurant reviews have been a part of the food and beverage sector for a long time. With the increase of online reviews by customers at sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor, and sharing of experiences via social media, operators are becoming increasingly aware of their web presence (Kwok & Yu, 2013). For this reason, all major food and beverage operators carefully monitor their online reputation and their social media presence.

The digital marketplace for food is creating a world of ways to drive incremental business while leveraging fixed costs and creating new ways for restaurateurs to think out of the box about their business.
—Dan Park, General Manager and Head of Uber Eats Canada (Restaurants Canada Food Service Facts 2019)

One of the keys to a strong reputation, both in-person and online, is the management of human resources.

Staffing and Human Resources

Figure 4.10 Winner of Top Chef Canada Matthew Stowe and patron at a new Cactus Club restaurant opening.

Appropriately staffing an food and beverage operation involves attracting the right people, hiring them, training them, and then assigning them to the right tasks for their skills and abilities. Many businesses operate outside the traditional work-week hours; indeed, some operate on a 24-hour schedule. Creating the right team, employing them in accordance with legal guidelines, and keeping up with the demands of the businesses are challenges that can be addressed by a well-thought-out and implemented human resources plan.

People who have long-lasting careers in the sector find the fluctuating conditions appealing; no two days are the same, and the fast-paced and energetic social environment can be motivating. Many positions provide meaningful rewards and compensation that can lead to long-term careers.

One topic of discussion in food and beverage human resources is that of gratuities (tipping). In Canada, restaurants are obligated to pay staff minimum wage, and gratuities are paid by the customer as an expression of their gratitude for service. This is not the model in countries like Australia, where service staff is paid a higher professional wage and prices are raised to accommodate this.

Take a Closer Look: Tipping and Its Alternatives

In 2008, Michael Lynn and Glenn Withiam wrote a paper discussing the role of tipping and potential alternatives. While the paper focuses particularly on the United States (where wages are structured differently from Canada), it raises some good questions about consumer preference and impact on businesses (Lynn & Withiam, 2008). For instance, do tips actually improve service? These questions can apply to food and beverage businesses but also other tourism operations within the service context. It also offers some suggestions for further research. Read the paper Tipping and Its Alternatives [PDF].

In British Columbia, tips are considered income for tax purposes but are not considered wages as they are not paid by the employer to the employee. A restaurant owner cannot use tips to cover business expenses (e.g., require an employee to use his or her tips to cover the cost of broken glassware). Employers are also not permitted to charge staff for the cost of diners who do not pay (known as a dine-and-dash). They can, however, require front-of-house staff pool their gratuities, or pay individually, to ensure back-of-house staff receives a percentage of the tips (British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, n.d.). This is also commonly known as a tip-out.

The Ministry of Labour’s website explains what constitutes a tip pool: “A tip pool is a collection of employees’ tips that is redistributed among some or all of the employer’s employees. This includes tip outs, which are payments from one employee to other employees because it is required by their employer’s policy. An employer may withhold, make a deduction or require an employee to give them a portion of their tips and other gratuities if the amount that is collected will be redistributed as part of a tip pool.” However, employers are prohibited from sharing in the tip pool (Restaurants Canada, 2019).

There have been experiments with gratuity models in recent years. One example is a restaurant on Vancouver Island, which tried an all-inclusive pricing model upon opening in 2014 but reverted three months later to the traditional tipping model due to consumer demand and resistance to higher prices (Duffy, 2014). While many in the industry would prefer to operate with a no-tip policy, the consumers are not prepared to pay the higher menu price required to facilitate the process.

Media Attributions

  • Cactus-Club-Cafe


4.6 Conclusion

The food and beverage sector is a vibrant and multifaceted part of our society. Michael Hurst, famous restaurateur and former chair of the US National Restaurant Association, championed the idea that all guests should be received with the statement “Glad you are here” (Tripp, 1992; Marshall 2001). That statement is the perfect embodiment of what F&B is to the hospitality industry — a mix of service providers who welcome guests with open arms and take care of their most basic needs, as well as their emotional well-being.

Take a Closer Look: Michael Hurst

Michael Hurst preached to students, industry participants, and university colleagues alike, saying that “The most precious gift you can give your Guests is the gift of Friendship” (Tripp, 1992; Marshall 2001). To learn more about this legendary character, visit In My Opinion: Michael E. Hurst [PDF].

The social fabric of our country, its residents, and visitors will change over time, and so too will F&B. What will not change in spite of how we divide the segments — into tourists or locals — is that the sector is at its best when food and beverages are accompanied by a social element, extending from your dining companions to the front and back of the house.

So far, we have covered the transportation, accommodation, and food and beverage sectors. In the next two chapters, we’ll explore the recreation and entertainment sector, starting with recreation in Chapter 5.

Key Terms

  • Assets: items of value owned by the business and used in the production and service of the dining experience
  • Average cheque: total sales divided by number of guests served
  • Back of house: food production areas not accessible to guests and not generally visible; also known as heart of house
  • BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association (BCRFA): representing the interests of more than 3,000 of the province’s foodservice operators in matters including wages, benefits, liquor licences, and other relevant matters
  • Beverage costs: beverages sold in liquor-licensed operations; this usually only includes alcohol, but in unlicensed operations, it includes coffee, tea milk, juices, and soft drinks
  • Captured patrons: consumers with limited selection or choice of food or beverage provider given their occupation or location
  • Commercial foodservice: operations whose primary business is food and beverage
  • Cross-utilization: when a menu is created to make multiple uses of a small number of staple pantry ingredients, helping to keep food costs down
  • Dine-and-dash: the term commonly used in the industry for when a patron eats but does not pay for his or her meal
  • Ethnic restaurant: a restaurant based on the cuisine of a particular region or country, often reflecting the heritage of the head chef or owner
  • Family/casual restaurant: restaurant type that is typically open for all three meal periods, offering affordable prices and able to serve diverse tastes and accommodate large groups
  • Fine dining restaurant: licensed food and beverage establishment characterized by high-end ingredients and preparations and highly trained service staff
  • Food and beverage (F&B): type of operation primarily engaged in preparing meals, snacks, and beverages, to customer order, for immediate consumption on and off the premises
  • Food cost: price including freight charges of all food served to the guest for a price (does not include food and beverages given away, which are quality or promotion costs)
  • Food primary: a licence required to operate a restaurant whose primary business is serving food (rather than alcohol)
  • Foodie: a term (often used by the person themselves) to describe a food and beverage enthusiast
  • Front of house: public areas of the establishment; in quick-service restaurants, it includes the ordering and product serving area
  • Full-service restaurants: casual and fine dining restaurants where guests order food seated and pay after they have finished their meal
  • Liquor primary licence: the type of licence needed in BC to operate a business that is in the primary business of selling alcohol (most pubs, nightclubs, and cabarets fall into this category)
  • Non-commercial foodservice: establishments where food is served, but where the primary business is not food and beverage service
  • Operating supplies: generally includes reusable items including cutlery, glassware, china, and linen in full-service restaurants
  • Pop-up restaurants: temporary restaurants with a known expiry date hosted in an unusual location, which tend to be helmed by a well-known or up-and-coming chef and use word-of-mouth in their promotions
  • Primary costs: food, beverage, and labour costs for an F&B operation
  • Profit: the amount left when expenses (including corporate income tax) are subtracted from sales revenue
  • Quick-service restaurant (QSR): an establishment where guests pay before they eat; includes counter service, take-out, and delivery
  • Restaurants Canada: representing over 30,000 food and beverage operations including restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions, and suppliers
  • Revenue: sales dollars collected from guests
  • Third space: a term used to describe F&B outlets enjoyed as “hang out” spaces for customers where guests and service staff co-create the experience
  • Tip-out: the practice of having front-of-house staff pool their gratuities, or pay individually, to ensure back-of-house staff receive a percentage of the tips
  • Upscale casual restaurant: emerging in the 1970s, a style of restaurant that typically only serves dinner, intended to bridge the gap between fine dining and family/casual restaurants


  1. Looking at Table 4.1, what was the average volume of sales per F&B establishment in BC in 2019? What was it for Alberta? What about the national average? What might account for these differences? List at least three contributing factors.
  2. Looking at the same table, how many F&B “units” were there in BC in 2019?
  3. What are the two main classifications for food and beverage operations and which is significantly larger in terms of market share?
  4. Should gratuities be abolished in favor of all-inclusive pricing? Consider the point of view of the server, the owner, and the guest in your analysis.
  5. Think of the concept of the third space, and name two of these types of operations in your community.
  6. Have you worked in a restaurant or foodservice operation? What are the three important lessons you learned about work while there?  If you have not, interview a classmate who has experience in the field and find out what three lessons he or she would suggest.
  7. What is your favourite restaurant? What does it do so well to have become your favorite? What would you recommend it do to improve your dining experience even more?
  8. What was your all-time best restaurant dining experience? Compare and contrast this with one of your worst dining experiences. For each of these, including a description of:
    1. The food
    2. The behaviour of restaurant staff
    3. Ambience (music, decor, temperature, the comfort of chairs, lighting)
    4. The reason for your visit
    5. Your mood upon entering the establishment

Case Study: Restaurant Behaviour – Then and Now

The following story made the rounds via social media in late 2014. While the claim has not been verified, it certainly rings true for a number of F&B professionals who have experienced this phenomenon. The story is as follows: A busy New York City restaurant kept getting bad reviews for slow service, so they hired a firm to investigate. When they compared footage from 2004 to footage from 2014, they made some pretty startling discoveries. So shocking, in fact, that they ranted about it in an anonymous post on Craigslist:

We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same as ten years ago, the service seems very slow. One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait too long for a table. We’ve added more staff and cut back on the menu items but we just haven’t been able to figure it out.

We hired a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was the employees needing more training and the kitchen staff not being up to the task of serving that many customers.

Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s digital, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.

The investigators suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved ten years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all.

We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!

The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.

We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine what has been happening:

Here’s a typical transaction from 2004:

Customers walk in. They are seated and are given menus. Out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.

Customers spend 8 minutes on average before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.

Waiters shows up almost instantly and takes the order.

Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes; obviously the more complex items take longer.

Out of 45 customers 2 sent their items back.

Waiters keep an eye on their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.

After guests are done, the check is delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.

Average time from start to finish: 1 hour, 5 minutes.

Here’s what happened in 2014:

Customers walk in. Customers get seated and are given menus, and out of 45 customers 18 request to be seated elsewhere.

Before even opening the menu most customers take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are texting or browsing.

Seven of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of five minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.

After a few minutes of letting the customers review the menu, waiters return to their tables. The majority of customers have not even opened their menus and ask the waiter to wait a bit.

When customers do open their menus, many place their phones on top and continue using their activities.

Waiters return to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. Most customers ask for more time.

Finally a table is ready to order. Total average time from when a customer is seated until they place their order is 21 minutes.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes; obviously the more complex items take way longer.

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 more minutes from when they were done eating until they requested a check.

Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the restaurant.

Average time from start to finish: 1:55

We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?

Now it’s your turn. Imagine you are the restaurant operator in question and answer the questions below.

  1. What could you, as the owner, try to do to improve the turnover time? Come up with at least three ideas.
  2. Now put yourself in the position of a server. Do your ideas still work from this perspective?
  3. Lastly, look at your typical customer. How will he or she respond to your proposals?


British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. (n.d.). Interpretation guidelines manual, Employment Standards Branch. Retrieved from:

Chapman, Anthony. (1994). Reduction of tariffs on supply managed commodities under the GATT and the NAFTA, tarrification under the Uruguay Round. Retrieved from:

City of Vancouver. (2014, June 30). Find a street food vendor. Retrieved from

Duckor, M. (2013, June 27). Pop-up restaurants are over. Bon Appétit. Retrieved from

Duffy, A. (2014, August 22). Vancouver Island restauranteur regretfully ends his no-tip policy. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

Entrepreneur. (2011, July 24). Food trucks 101: How to start a mobile food business. Retrieved from

Findlay, M. (2014, May 12). Why your milk costs so much and what to do about it. Macleans. Retrieved from

FoodSafe. (2009). Welcome. Retrieved from

Frash, R. E., DiPietro, R., & Smith, W. (2014). Pay more for McLocal? Examining motivators for willingness to pay for local food in a chain restaurant setting. Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 24(4), 411-434.

Georgia Straight. (2015). Bishop’s. Retrieved from

go2HR. (2014). Serving-it-Right. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2012, June 14). NAICS 2012 – 722 – Food services and drinking places. Retrieved from:

Heroux, L. (2002). Restaurant marketing strategies in the United States and Canada: A comparative study. Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 5(4), 95-110.

Knox, J.  (2011, June 13). Ingredients for a successful pop-up restaurant. Restaurant Retrieved from

Koc, M., & Welsh, J. (2001). Food, foodways and immigrant experience. Toronto: Centre for Studies in Food Security.

Kwok, L., & Yu, B. (2013). Spreading social media messages on Facebook. An analysis of restaurant business-to-consumer communications. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 54(1), 84-94.

Laroche, M., Kim, C., Tomiuk, M. A., & Belisle, D. (2005). Similarities in Italian and Greek multidimensional ethnic identity: Some implications for food consumption. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration, 22(2), 143-167.

LinkBC. (2014, June). 2014 Roundtable Dialogue Cafe Report. [PDF] Retrieved from

Lynn, M., & Withiam, G. (2008). Tipping and its alternatives: Business considerations and directions for research. Journal of Services Marketing, 22(4), 328-336.

Mak, A. H., Lumbers, M., & Eves, A. (2012). Globalisation and food consumption in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 39(1), 171-196.

Mak, A. H., Lumbers, M., Eves, A., & Chang, R. C. (2012). Factors influencing tourist food consumption. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31(3), 928-936.

Marshall, A. G. (2001). In my opinion: Michael E. Hurst: July 8, 1931-March 22, 2001. Hospitality Review, 19(2), 9.

Mogelonski, L. (2014, January 3). Third spaces enrich guests’ lives. Hotel News Now. Retrieved from

Ontario Restaurant News. (1995). Selecting a restaurant site is key to franchise unit’s success. Reprinted in FGHI. Retrieved from

Open Table, Inc. (2015). Make restaurant reservations the easy way. Retrieved from

Parsa, H. G., Lord, K. R., Putrevu, S., & Kreeger, J. (2015). Corporate social and environmental responsibility in services: Will consumers pay for it?. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 22, 250-260.

Passikoff, Robert. (2014, November, 14). McDonald’s hopes new social media question-and-answer will modify food image. Forbes. Retrieved  from

Restaurants Canada (2019a). Foodservice facts. Retrieved from

Restaurants Canada, Statistics Canada, fsSTRATEGY Inc. and Pannell Kerr Forster. (2019). Sector sales and market shares for 2012/13. Retrieved from

Schlosser, E. (2012). Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Smart, J. (2003). Ethnic entrepreneurship, transmigration, and social integration: an ethnographic study of Chinese restaurant owners in rural western Canada. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, 311-342.

Smith, C. (2015, March 25). BC Liberal government liquor reforms pinch private retailers. Georgia Straight. Retrieved from

State Sales Tax Rates. (2015). Retrieved from

Statistics Canada, Restaurants Canada, Recount/NDP Group. (2019). Performance by Province (Commercial Foodservice). Retrieved from

Tripp, Griff. (1992). Personal knowledge.


Chapter 5. Recreation

Original author: Don Webster
Revisions made by: Blake Rowsell and Graham Vaughan

Learning Objectives

  • Differentiate between recreation, outdoor recreation, adventure tourism, and nature-based tourism
  • Describe the significance, size, and economic contribution of this sector to the overall tourism industry in BC
  • Identify key industry organizations in recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism
  • Classify different subsectors of recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism
  • Recognize the unique challenges facing recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism in BC


5.1 Overview

In this chapter, we discuss the concept of recreation in tourism and hospitality. Recreation can be defined as the pursuit of leisure activities during one’s spare time (Tribe, 2011) and can include vastly different activities such as golfing, sport fishing, and rock climbing. Defining recreation as it pertains to tourism, however, is more challenging.

Two people climb a rock face.
Figure 5.1 Climbers in Squamish, B.C.

Let’s start by exploring some recreation-based terms that are common in the tourism industry. Outdoor recreation can be defined as “outdoor activities that take place in a natural setting, as opposed to a highly cultivated or managed landscape such as a playing field or golf course” (Tourism BC, 2013, p. 47).  This term is typically applied to outdoor activities that individuals engage in and that are located close to their community. When these activities are further away, and people must travel some distance to participate in them, they are often described as adventure tourism.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), adventure tourism is “a trip that includes at least two of the following three elements: physical activity, natural environment, and cultural immersion” (UNWTO, 2014, p.12).  Examples of adventure tourism in BC include river rafting, helicopter skiing, and rock climbing.

Take a Closer Look: Adventure Travel Trade Association

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) actively engages in research about the Adventure Tourism industry. More information and industry reports can be found at the Adventure Travel Trade Association website.

Adventure tourism can be “soft” or “hard.” Differentiating between the two is somewhat subjective, but is loosely based on the level of experience required, the level of fitness required, and the degree to which the participant is exposed to risk (UNWTO, 2014).  Examples of soft adventure include wildlife viewing or moderate hiking, whereas river rafting or outdoor rock climbing would usually be considered hard adventure.

Another term that is used, one that overlaps with the definitions of outdoor recreation and adventure tourism, is nature-based tourism, which refers to “those tourism experiences that are directly or indirectly dependent on the natural environment” (Tourism BC, 2005b, p.6).  This term is often used to describe activities that are closely connected to nature, such as whale watching, birding, or self-propelled travel such as hiking and kayaking. Nature-based tourism can be either hard or soft adventure tourism.

As you can see, there are challenges in classifying recreation in tourism. For instance, if people kayak near their home or community, it may be considered outdoor recreation. If they travel afar for that same activity, it likely is designated as adventure tourism. If the kayaking is done in protected, mild conditions, it would be considered soft adventure, but if done in a challenging and risky river descent, it may be classified as hard adventure. Generally, the further away from established infrastructure and medical assistance, the harder the adventure activity.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Of course, each of the above scenarios of kayaking could be considered nature-based tourism if it is strongly linked to the natural environment. Ultimately, categorization is based on a combination of several factors, including manner of engagement in the activity (risk exposure, experience requirement, group or solo activity), the distance travelled to access the activity, and the type of environment (proximity to nature, level of challenge involved) that that the activity occurs in.

A 2013 adventure tourism market study discovered that people who travel for adventure experiences tend to be well-educated, with 48% holding a four-year degree or higher credential. They value natural beauty and rank this as the highest factor when choosing a destination, and the most cited reasons for their travel are relaxation “relaxation, exploring new places, time with family, and learning about different cultures” (UNWTO, 2014, p.15).

Globally, it is estimated that the continents of Europe, North America, and South America account for 69% of adventure tourism, or US$263 billion in adventure travel spending. Adventure tourists tend to be seen as high-value visitors, with as much of 70% of their expenditures remaining in the communities visited (UNWTO, 2014).

The size, extent, and economic contribution of recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism in British Columbia is also substantial. The rest of this chapter explores the sector in the province in more detail.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Up-and-Over


5.2 Recreation and Adventure Tourism in BC

Studies have shown that nearly all residents of BC partake in some kind of outdoor recreation activity during any given year. Approximately 85% of those participants indicate that these recreational activities were very important to them (Tourism BC, 2013).

Spotlight On: Outdoor Recreation Council of BC

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORC) describes itself as “promoting access to and responsible use of BC’s public lands and waters for public outdoor recreation” (Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, 2014). The Council promotes the benefits of outdoor recreation, represents the community to government and the general public, advocates and educates about responsible land use, provides a forum for exchanging information, and connects different outdoor recreation groups. For more information, visit the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC website.

It is estimated that there are approximately 2,200 outdoor/adventure tourism operators in BC. In 2001, this accounted for 21,000 jobs and $556 million in direct wages. The last sector-wide study in 2005 estimated that business revenues in outdoor adventure tourism accounted for approximately $854 million in annual business revenues (Tourism BC, 2013). Given the growth of adventure tourism over the last decade, it is likely these numbers have risen.

Take a Closer Look: Outdoor Adventure Sector Profile

Outdoor Adventure: Tourism Sector Profile, a report produced by Destination BC, includes information on the size, type, and characteristics of tourism companies in this sector.

This section covers two key types of recreation and tourism, with a focus on British Columbia:

  1. Land-based recreation and tourism
  2. Water-based recreation and tourism

It’s not possible to detail all the recreational activities available in BC, but by the end of this section, you will have an understanding of some of the key unique activities available in the province.

Land-Based Recreation and Tourism

Golf Courses and Resorts

A 2009 economic impact study found that more than six million Canadians participate in the game of golf each year, making this sport the number one outdoor recreational activity in Canada based on participation. Golf also directly employs more than 155,000 people and contributes more than $11 billion directly to Canada’s gross domestic product. BC has over 300 golf course facilities, and with over $2 billion annually in direct economic activity, the golfing industry in the province is the fourth largest in Canada (Strategic Networks Inc., 2009).

Golf is a significant tourism attraction in BC; in 2007 the province was chosen as the “Best Golf Course Destination in North America” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (Destination BC, 2014c).  Part of the draw is the diverse environment; golfers can choose from lush coastal forests to desert environments, and many courses have a viewscape of mountains or the ocean.

A 2006 study by Destination Canada formally the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) detailed both demographic and economic factors related to the Canadian golf industry. Significant findings included that there were more than 3.4 million golf travellers in Canada annually, and that of those travellers, approximately 34% travelled to BC. In addition, the Canadian golf participation rate (for the total Canadian population) was 21.5%, which is among the highest golf participation rates of any country in the world. Golfing provides an opportunity to attract significant tourism revenue as the average golf traveller has a much higher than average income level, with up to 50% of all golf travellers earning $100,000 or more per annum (Tourism BC, 2009b).

Spotlight On: British Columbia Golf Marketing Alliance

The British Columbia Golf Marketing Alliance is a strategic alliance that represents 58 regional and destination golf resorts in BC. The purpose of the alliance is to grow the game of golf in BC and achieve recognition nationally and internationally as a leading golf destination. The alliance supports and distributes information about research, lobbying efforts, and golf industry events. For more information, visit the Allied Golf Association of BC website.

Mountain Resorts and Nordic Centres

Resorts in British Columbia range from smaller eco-lodges to large ski areas. Mountain resorts and nordic centres are part of the larger resort tourism sector, which in 2004 was valued at $1.9 billion (Tourism BC, 2011c).

Mountain Resorts

BC’s many world-class facilities and high-quality snow conditions provide mass appeal for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Many of mountain resorts have diversified to offer summer operations, including mountain bike parks, hiking, and sight seeing. Mountain resorts in BC can be separated into two principal categories: destination resorts and regional resorts. Destination mountain resorts are often significantly larger and offer a greater range of amenities such as on mountain accommodation and food services; they are also generally marketed to out-of-area and international visitors. Examples of a destination resort would include Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. On the other hand, regional mountain resorts are usually smaller in size and capacity, have fewer amenities, and often cater more directly to the local community (Tourism BC, 2011c) such as Whitewater Ski Resort in the Kootenay Rockies.

Spotlight On: Canada West Ski Areas Association

Ski areas in Western Canada (Alberta and BC) are represented by the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), which has a diverse mandate that includes marketing, advocacy, environmental stewardship, and risk management. For more information, visit the Canada West Ski Areas Association website.

The aggregate economic value of destination mountain resorts is significant; one study by Tourism BC found that 13 of these resorts were responsible for generating approximately 1.1 billion in revenue, or 8% of the total provincial tourism revenues in 2008. Additionally, they provided the equivalent of 14,267 full-time equivalent jobs (Tourism BC, 2011c). Furthermore, BC’s top mountain resorts have received many prestigious awards (Tourism BC, 2011c, p. 11):

The publicity that these resorts receive has undoubtedly reflected positively on the rest of the BC tourism industry.

Spotlight On: Hello BC Skiing and Snowboarding in BC

Destination BC offers a specific mountain resort marketing website for destination resorts in BC. For more information, visit the Skiing and Snowboarding page on Hello BC, the Destination BC traveller site.

Nordic Centres

Nordic skiing, also commonly known as cross-country skiing, is a low-risk, low-impact winter sport popular across Canada. It differs from backcountry skiing in that participants ski on groomed trails typically maintained as part of an established facility (Cross Country BC, n.d.).

Spotlight On: Whistler Sport Legacies

Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver and Whistler, there was much debate about the need for a continuing legacy from the event. Whistler Sport Legacies is an example of a recreational, tourism, and sport legacy that can emerge out of a mega event such as the Olympics. For more information, visit the Whistler Sport Legacies website.

With more than 50 cross-country ski centres across BC, and a season that often exceeds that of downhill skiing (November to May in many areas), the sport attracts large numbers of local and inbound recreation enthusiasts. Trail networks have been developed in both stand-alone environments, as well as in partnership with large mountain resorts such as Silver Star in Vernon, Sun Peaks in Kamloops, Cypress Mountain above Vancouver, and Rossland in the Kootenays. Many of these trail networks offer both groomed and track-set trails, and many are lit for night skiing.

Spotlight On: Silver Star’s Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre

Located just outside Vernon, Sovereign Lake is Canada’s largest daily groomed trail network that includes 105 kilometres of trails varying from green (easy) to black diamond (most difficult); a further trail expansion is planned for 2015. For more information, visit Sovereign Lake’s website.

Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding (sometimes called split boarding) offers a recreational activity in a wilderness setting, away from any established mountain resorts, lifts, or trails. BC is regarded as a world-class destination for backcountry access, and has seen considerable and sustained growth in this sector (Porteus, 2013). The motivator for pursuing this activity for most people is primarily the lure of fresh, untracked snow in a beautiful mountain setting. Some backcountry skiers and snowboarders combine this activity with helicopter or snowcat skiing.

Spotlight On: Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association

The Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association (BLBCA) represents backcountry lodges in the province. Its consumer site features a find-a-lodge function, profiles for summer and winter lodges, the ability to check conditions in various backcountry areas, and consumer content including a blog and videos. For more information, visit the Backcountry Lodges of BC Association website.

Helicopter skiing transports skiers and snowboarders by helicopter to the backcountry. It is typically a professionally guided activity, with packages ranging in duration from a single day to weeks. The skiing/snowboarding is often packaged with a luxury lodge accommodation, gourmet meals, and access to spa treatments.

Heliskiing was pioneered in Canada by Swiss mountain guide Hans Gmoser, who founded the company Canadian Mountain Holidays, which has grown to be the largest heliskiing company in the world (Canadian Mountain Holidays, n.d.).  Today, there are close to 20 helicopter skiing companies in BC, which represents the largest concentration of commercial operations in the world (HeliCat Canada, n.d.).

Snowcat skiing is alpine skiing accessed by travelling to the top of the ski area in a snowcat (an enclosed cab vehicle on tracks). As with heliskiing, this activity also has its commercial roots in BC. Snowcat skiing was pioneered in 1975 by Selkirk Wilderness Skiing as an alternative to both lift-serviced and helicopter-accessed riding and skiing (Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, n.d.).  It is typically a guided activity due to the avalanche risk associated with the terrain. As with heliskiing, snowcat skiers have the option of choosing single-day or multi-day vacation packages. During the winter of 2015, there were 11 established snowcat skiing operations in BC (HeliCat Canada, n.d.).

Spotlight On: Avalanche Canada

This organization provides public avalanche forecasts and education for any backcountry travellers venturing into avalanche terrain. This vital service is provided to the public free of charge, as Avalanche Canada is a not-for-profit society dedicated to a vision of eliminating avalanche injuries and fatalities in Canada. In addition to the website, it provides training programs and shares safety best practice. For more information, visit Avalanche Canada.

Guides for these operations are typically certified by either the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) or the Canadian Ski Guide Association (CSGA).  Both organizations assess the guides for their expertise in technical skills, avalanche forecasting, risk management and emergency response before issuing certification. The process is extensive and rigorous, taking much time and commitment for guides to become fully certified.

Spotlight On: HeliCat Canada  

Based in Revelstoke, BC, HeliCat Canada is an industry organization that represents heliskiing and snowcat skiing operators in Canada.  It provides regulation, advocacy, and marketing for the operators. Since 1978, the organization has worked closely with government and industry to develop operations guidelines. For more information, visit the HeliCat Canada website.

Off-Road Recreational Vehicles

An off-road recreational vehicle (ORV) is any vehicle designed to be driven off road that is not included within any other vehicle classification framework. This includes snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and dirt bikes (British Columbia Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, 2014). ORV use is recognized as a considerable contributor to the BC economy, owing primarily to recreational users, but also from tourist visits.

Recreational snowmobiling in BC is represented by the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF). The BCSF’s mandate is to represent recreational snowmobile clubs through advocacy, education, and stewardship (BCSF, n.d.). Commercial snowmobiling is represented by the British Columbia Commercial Snowmobile Operators Association (BCCSOA), a group of snowmobile tour operators who have mobilized to support marketing, product development, and government advocacy initiatives (BCCSOA, n.d.).

ORV use has long been the subject of conflict between non-motorized and motorized recreational users of the wilderness. Non-motorized users claim that motorized users negatively impact the wilderness through noise pollution and environmental damage by degrading trails and scaring wildlife (Webster, 2013).  Recently, wilderness tourism operators who hold Crown land tenure to operate in remote areas have complained that ORVs negatively affect their visitors’ experiences. Some of these conflicts may now be mitigated through the implementation of the Off-Road Vehicle Act, which was passed in 2014.  This Act requires mandatory registration of ORVs, and includes elements that promote safety, enforcement of regulations, education, and outreach (British Columbia Ministry Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, 2014).

Guest Ranchers and Hunting Outfitters

Guest and Dude Ranches

Guest ranches and dude ranches offer personal and home-like vacation experiences centered on horseback riding and an authentic ranch experience. These operators typically offer accommodation in a ranch-type environment, and include as part of the experience the opportunity to participate in ranch activities such as horse riding and cattle wrangling. Other services and activities may also be available, such as spa treatments, hiking, canoeing, and fishing (BC Guest Ranchers Association, n.d.).

Spotlight On: The British Columbia Guest Ranchers Association

The British Columbia Guest Ranchers Association (BCGRA) represents guest and dude ranch operators in the province. It serves and represents its members through cooperative marketing, advertising, development of operational standards, and member pricing on liability insurance plans (BCGRA, n.d.). For more information, visit the British Columbia Guest Ranchers Association website.

A 2011 study of guest ranches by Tourism BC found that there were 57 operating ranches in the province. Most of these were small operations with one to five employees and serving fewer than 1,000 clients per year (Tourism BC, 2011a). There are also large operations such as the Hills Health Guest Ranch located near 100 Mile House, which can accommodate hundreds of guests at one time. The ranch features a full on-site spa and two dining rooms, and hosts a multitude of special events each year. Two other examples of unique guest ranch operations are the Siwash Lake Ranch in south-central BC, a “high-end” exclusive resort featuring executive-chef prepared meals, and the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in the BC interior, offering an alternative therapy spa and gold-panning excursions.

Hunting Outfitters

Hunting is a traditional recreational activity in BC, and it is also one of the original tourism products in the province (GOABC, n.d.). BC is fortunate to have a vast amount of wilderness available for hunting activities.  The exact size of the hunting market is difficult to quantify, but in 2003, a study found that 5,000 non-resident hunting licences were sold in BC, contributing $46 million to the provincial economy (CTC, 2012).

Some people choose self-guided hunting activities, but to hunt certain species, a guide outfitter must be hired. Guide outfitters are licensed by the BC Government to provide commercial hunting services for non-residents. This commercial hunt service directly employs more than 2,000 BC residents and generates approximately $116 million in economic activity annually (GOABC, n.d.). Many of these outfitters are small family operations  based in rural areas; they are a source valuable economic activity in areas with limited resources (GOABC, n.d.).

Spotlight On: Guide Outfitters Association of BC

Guide Outfitters Association of BC (GOABC) was established in 1966 to promote and preserve the interests of guide outfitters who take hunters out into wildlife habitat. GOABC is also the publisher of Mountain Hunter magazine. Its website outlines a code of conduct and standards for guide outfitters as well as a wildlife DNA collection program to help provide insight into animal populations. For more information, visit the Guide Outfitters Association of BC website.


Cycling is a popular recreational activity in BC thanks to a variety of terrain, spectacular scenery, and favourable weather conditions, with approximately 44% of residents participating each year (Tourism BC, 2013). Cycling also attracts out-of-province visitors. One study from 2008 reported that out of 5.6 million Canadians who travelled to BC over a two-year period, almost one million (17%) had participated in a cycling activity (Tourism BC, 2009).

Spotlight On: Cycling Destinations

Several BC destinations have developed cycling as a key tourism product. For example, the Salt Spring Island group Island Pathways helped make the island more bike-friendly in recent years by installing bike racks, developing a map with bike routes, encouraging local transportation to accommodate bikes, and establishing local bike rentals and service. For more information, visit Salt Spring Island Cycling.

Another great example of cycling tourism is the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan, built on an abandoned rail bed. This 600-kilometre trail network includes a multitude of tunnels and trestles, and is most often travelled by cycling. Sections of the trail system are also now included in the Trans Canada Trail. For more information, visit the Kettle Valley Railway website.

Cycling can be generalized into two styles: road cycling and mountain biking.

Road cycling appeals to those who want to travel on paved roads on bikes designed for travelling long distances efficiently and effectively. Road cycling may refer to racing, both recreational and professional, or cycle touring, where cyclists travel by bike on single- or multi-day trips. Given the multitude of rolling hills, mountain passes, and stunning vistas, BC is regarded as a premier cycle touring destination (Destination BC, 2014b).

Mountain biking generally involves riding on unpaved routes and trails either specially designed for biking or for multipurpose use. BC’s reputation as a prime mountain biking destination has grown because of the unique array of trails available, ranging from the steep, challenging routes of Vancouver’s North Shore, to the high alpine cross-country routes found in the South Chilcotin Mountains (Tourism BC, 2011b).

Take a Closer Look: Western Mountain Bike Tourism Association

The Western Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) is a valuable resource for operators or communities seeking to develop or promote mountain biking tourism in their area. It can be found at Mountain Bike Tourism Association website.

Over the years, mountain biking has grown from being a fringe activity to a mainstay of the tourism economy. In fact, the growth potential of mountain biking is so highly regarded that the BC Government now considers it as one of the top growth areas in the outdoor adventure sector (Tourism BC, 2011b).

Indeed, numerous mountain winter resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb, Silverstar, and Kicking Horse have developed mountain biking trail infrastructure and lift-accessed biking to provide off-season activities. World-class mountain biking races such as the BC Bike Race bring thousands of riders through small communities for mountain biking. The economic impact of these events is significant. Over the course of a single four-month season in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor in 2016 (including the communities of North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton), the economic contribution of mountain biking to local economies was $70.6 million (Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, 2016).

Spotlight On: GranFondo Whistler

The GranFondo Whistler is a road biking race from Vancouver to Whistler that now attracts upward of 7,000 participants each year. For more information, visit RBC GranFondo.

Camping and Hiking

In 2012, over 19.3 million people visited BC provincial parks, including 16.8 million day visitors, many of whom used the parks for hiking and exploration in addition to picnics, swimming, and other outdoor activities. Of these visitors, 2.3 million were overnight campers, generating $15.5 million in user fees, with an average guest satisfaction rating of 82% (BC Parks, 2012). As discussed in Chapter 3, there are also a number of private camping providers in the province.

Wildlife Viewing

Given the diversity and richness of our natural environment, it is not surprising that there is a thriving wildlife viewing industry in BC. This includes whale, bird, and bear watching as well as travelling to view the northern lights or alpine flowers (CTC, 2007). One study conducted by the Destination BC established that within BC, approximately 37% of tourists took part in wildlife viewing while visiting. Significantly, for 13% of visitors, the primary motivation for their travel to BC was wildlife viewing (CTC, 2007).

Spotlight On: Wilderness Tourism Association of British Columbia

The Wilderness Tourism Association of British Columbia (WTA) provides industry support and advocacy for those operators offering nature-based tourism products. For more information, visit the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC website.

Whale watching occurs along the coast of BC, with tours sometimes leaving from major urban centres, but more commonly from smaller communities such as Telegraph Cove on northern Vancouver Island. Tours are typically by boat, on vessels ranging from open, 10-passenger Zodiacs, to comfortable cabin cruisers with inside seating. The most commonly observed whale is the orca, one of the province’s most distinctive animals. Other whales like the humpback, minke, and Pacific grey are also frequently encountered. The province’s vast diversity of marine life is a key attraction of the tours; in addition to whale watching, a typical tour may encounter bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises, and a variety of sea birds (Destination BC, 2014,d).

Take a Closer Look: Mammal Viewing Guidelines

Marine mammal viewing in Canada has grown in popularity to the point where the federal government has established marine wildlife viewing guidelines. These establish parameters such as safe viewing distances and time limits and are enforceable by law when breached. In addition, the ‘see a blow, go slow” campaign, developed by the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) has been promoted to recreational boaters and commercial whale watchers alike. For more information, visit:

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine wildlife viewing guidelines can be viewed on their website.

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) runs a “See a blow? Go slow!” campaign on their website.

Bear viewing — whether for black bears, grizzly bears, or the rare kermode bear — is also popular. Black bears are common across all regions of BC. Grizzly bears are more likely to be found in remote and mountainous regions; they have an estimated population in the province of approximately 16,000. Kermode bears, also called spirit bears, are a subspecies of black bears with a genetic trait that produces white fur instead of black. They are found primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest of the Central Coast, and figure prominently in the spiritual traditions of BC’s Coastal First Nations. The spirit bear is also BC’s official animal (Destination BC, 2014a).

A bear walking along the water's edge.
Figure 5.2 A bear in Bute Inlet, B.C.

Tourism operators that offer bear viewing typically operate in remote regions of BC. They may utilize raised viewing areas or operate from a boat-based platform, and offer accommodation at night. The season is typically limited to May through October, with the highest chances of viewing success during the salmon spawning season in the fall.

Spotlight On: Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC

Bear viewing is a complex activity with potential for physical risk to visitors and impacts to the bears. The Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC (CBVA) sets standards for operators offering bear viewing. For more information, visit the Commercial Bear Viewing Association website.

Now that we’ve explored some of the key land-based tourism and recreational experiences in BC, let’s turn to the water.

Water-Based Recreation and Tourism

Water-based recreation and tourism in BC are extensive and varied. The coastline of more than 25,000 kilometres in length provides ideal opportunities for coastal recreation and tourism (BC Adventure, n.d.), as well as inland, fresh water-based activities on lakes and rivers. Activities include scuba diving, boat tours, sport fishing, paddle sports (sea kayaking, river kayaking, canoeing, sailing, stand up paddleboarding (SUP), and more. Following is an overview of a few core water-based activities offered by BC tourism operators, as well as a brief description of their economic contributions and related industry organizations.

Figure 5.3 Kayakers waiting near whitewater rapids.

Scuba Diving

BC waters offer scuba divers a rich diversity of marine life such as giant Pacific octopuses, wolf eels, sixgill sharks, soft corals, and cloud sponges. As well, a variety of dive sites are available, including marine parks, protected natural areas, sunken naval vessels, artificial reefs, historic wrecks, and even a submerged fuselage of a Boeing 737 airliner (Dive Industry Association of BC, n.d.).

A 2004 study conducted by the Dive Industry Association of BC found that the dive industry in BC consisted of 116 operators offering services to tourists and residents alike. The many segments of the industry include manufacturers, distributers, dive charters, dive shops, and instructional centres. The study estimated that gross revenues from this industry at $15 million, although this number failed to account for other indirect spending such as trip-related accommodation and transportation. It is likely that the actual economic value of this subsector is actually significantly larger (Ivanova, 2004).

Spotlight On: Dive Industry Association of British Columbia

Established in 2002, the Dive Industry Association of British Columbia (DIABC) is a not-for-profit that represents and supports the recreational diving industry in BC. Funded in part by matching donations from Destination BC, their diverse membership includes dive shops, tour operators, and individual dive guides. For more information, visit the Dive Industry Association of BC website.

Sport Fishing and Lodges

There is a long and rich history of sport fishing in BC. Anglers are drawn to the province’s tidal waters (for salmon and halibut) and to freshwater rivers and lakes (for trout, steelhead, and sturgeon). The annual rate of recreational participation is significant; a 2009 study estimated that there are nearly 600,000 anglers (either fresh or saltwater) in any given year in BC (Tourism BC, 2009). Furthermore, non-resident anglers contributed almost $6 million by way of licensing fees, and an additional $46 million in non-fishing expenditures to the economy of BC. The British Columbia Fishing Resorts and Outfitters Association (BCFROA) represents commercial freshwater resorts and outfitters and delivers advocacy, conservation, and marketing efforts on behalf of its members (BCFROA, n.d.).

Paddle Sports

River rafting, canoeing, sea kayaking, and standup paddle boarding (SUP) are common activities for both recreationists and tourists alike in BC.  Collectively, these sports fall under the paddle sports category, which encompasses any activity that takes place in small boats propelled by paddles (Education Scotland, n.d.).  Although all paddle sports are popular recreational activities, two of the more sizable and commercially productive paddle sports subsectors are river rafting and sea kayaking.

River rafting operators can be found on many rivers across BC. Product offerings may range from a three-hour adrenaline-fueled tour on the famous Fraser River to a 14-day wilderness exploration down the UNESCO World Heritage Tatshenshini-Alsek Rivers in northern BC.  These trips consist primarily of three types of rafting: paddle rafting, motorized rafting, and float trips (Destination BC, n.d.).

Commercial rafting in BC is represented by the British Columbia River Outfitters Association (BCROA), which acts as a regulatory and marketing organization for river rafting in the province. Guides are required to be certified at one of three levels: guide, senior guide, or trip leader.  Each river in BC that is commonly rafted has an extensive set of safety requirements called “provisions” listed by the BCROA. These provisions set out the minimum level of guide required, acceptable water levels ranges, and type of equipment needed for each river excursion (BCROA, n.d.).

Rafters pose with their paddles, standing in a raft on a river.
Figure 5.4 A rafting trip with Canadian Outback Adventures and Events near Squamish, B.C.

A 2005 study conducted by Tourism BC identified 59 operators offering river rafting trips in the province. With an average of 5.5 employees, these operations are typically small in comparison to other industry subsectors. Collectively, however, they provided services to 216,000 customers and contributed almost $15 million in gross revenues to the BC economy in 2005. The same study also indicated that up to 75% of participants had travelled to join in the activity, indicating that they can predominantly be classified as adventure tourists (Tourism BC, 2007a).

Sea kayaking in BC has grown into a sizable recreational and commercial industry in recent years. The province is highly regarded internationally for its long coastline punctuated by many inlets and fjords. Kayaking trips may be as short as an afternoon harbour tour, or as long as a seven-day wilderness exploration to the remote regions of Vancouver Island. Noteworthy areas for sea kayakers include Pacific Rim National Park on western Vancouver Island, Johnstone Strait on northern Vancouver Island, and Gwaii Haanas National Park in Haida Gwaii.

A 2005 report entitled British Columbia’s Sea Kayaking Sector identified more than 114 operators offering rentals, instruction, day tours, or multi-day tours.  These operators reported gross revenues of approximately $14 million in 2005 (Tourism BC, 2005a). A 2013 ecotourism survey conducted by Raincoast Conservation reflected growth of the sea kayaking sector with half (49%) of operators having grown between 2008-2013 (Raincoast Conservation, 2015).

Spotlight On: The Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of B.C.

Commercial operators offering tours are represented by the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of B.C. (SKGABC), which represents more than 600 individual and company members working in the commercial sea kayaking industry. It provides operating standards, guide certification, advocacy, and government liaison services for its members.

For more information, visit the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC website.

Small Ship Tours

British Columbia’s diverse and largely inaccessible coastline provides opportunities for boat-based tourism aboard small vessel, safari-like expeditions on the BC coast that are world-renowned for the wildlife, nature, and indigenous cultural experiences (Wilderness Tourism Association, n.d.).

Tourists in a zodiac observe a killer whale metres away.
Figure 5.5 Some small ship tour operators in B.C. provide safari-like experiences, like this zodiac tour off the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

The Small Ship Tour Operators Association of British Columbia (SSTOA) is comprised of seven 100% Canadian owned and operated, small-ship based travel companies that specialize in providing niche wilderness travel experiences for small groups of 6–24 passengers, along the British Columbia and Alaska coastline. In particular, they operate in the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and Great Bear Rainforest regions (Wilderness Tourism Association, n.d.). This is a relatively small industry with a higher price point and generally appealing to a different market than other previously mentioned activities and those who appreciate the comforts while exploring remote regions.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Grizzly-on-Bute-Inlet
  • Waiting-in-Line
  • Rafting-Adventure
  • Up-Close-and-Personal


5.4 Conclusion

Despite some of the challenges faced by recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism, the industry as a whole remains an exciting, dynamic, and growing sector of the BC tourism economy. Employment opportunities abound, and the potential for economic contribution to the province, protection of wilderness areas, and diversification of rural economies away from resource extraction are exciting prospects. BC is uniquely positioned to maintain positive growth in this area, contingent upon government support to address the barriers and challenges listed above. Students looking to develop professionally in this field should strive to gain both hands-on experience in a specialized activity, and a strong tourism focused education; this combination will offer the best chance to open doors to a long-term career in this exciting industry.

Now that we understand the importance of recreation to the tourism industry, especially in BC, let’s explore Chapter 6, which looks at entertainment, the other half of this industry classification.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • Adventure tourism: outdoor activities with an element of risk, usually somewhat physically challenging and undertaken in natural, undeveloped areas
  • Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG): Canada’s only internationally recognized guiding association, offering a range of certifications
  • Avalanche Canada: a not-for-profit society that provides public avalanche forecasts and education for backcountry travellers venturing into avalanche terrain, dedicated to a vision of eliminating avalanche injuries and fatalities in Canada
  • British Columbia Golf Marketing Alliance: a strategic alliance representing 58 regional and destination golf resorts in BC with the goal of having BC achieve recognition nationally and internationally as a leading golf destination
  • British Columbia Guest Ranchers Association (BCGRA): an organization offering marketing opportunities and development support for BC’s guest ranch operators
  • British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF): an organization offering snowmobile patrol services, lessons on operations, and advocating for the maintenance of riding areas in BC
  • Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA): founded in 1966 and headquartered in Kelowna, BC, CWSAA represents ski areas and industry suppliers and provides government and media relations as well as safety and risk management expertise to its membership
  • Canadian Ski Guide Association (CSGA): founded in British Columbia, an organization that runs a training institute for professional guides, and a separate non-profit organization representing CSGA guide and operating members
  • Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC (CBVA): promoters of best practices in sustainable viewing, training, and certification for guides, and advocating for land use practices.
  • Destination mountain resorts: large-scale mountain resorts where the draw is the resort itself; usually the resort offers all services needed in a tourism destination
  • Dive Industry Association of BC: a marketing and advocacy organization protecting the interests of divers, dive shops, guides, dive instructors, and diving destinations in BC
  • Guide Outfitters Association of BC (GOABC): established in 1966 to promote and preserve the interests of guide outfitters, who take hunters out into wildlife habitat; publishers of Mountain Hunter magazine
  • Nature-based tourism: tourism activities where the motivator is immersion in the natural environment; the focus is often on wildlife and wilderness areas
  • Off-road recreational vehicle (ORV): any vehicle designed to travel off of paved roads and on to trails and gravel roads, such as an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or Jeep
  • Outdoor recreation: recreational activities occurring outside; generally in undeveloped areas
  • Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORC): a not-for-profit organization that promotes the benefits of outdoor recreation, represents the community to government and the general public, advocates and educates about responsible land use, provides a forum for exchanging information, and connects different outdoor recreation groups
  • Recreation: activities undertaken for leisure and enjoyment
  • Regional mountain resorts: small resorts where the focus is on outdoor recreation for the local communities; may also draw tourists
  • Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC: representing more than 600 members in the commercial sea kayaking industry, providing operating standards, guide certification, advocacy, and government liaison services
  • Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA): a not-for-profit organization working toward establishing BC, and Western Canada, as the world’s foremost mountain bike tourism destination
  •  Wilderness Tourism Association (WTA): an organization that advocates for over 850 nature-based tourism operators in BC, placing a priority on protecting natural resources for continued enjoyment by visitors and residents alike


  1. Compare and contrast the terms recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism. How can we differentiate between each of these terms?
  2. Do you believe that ORV tourism operators should be considered nature-based tourism? Explain.
  3. What is the difference between a regional mountain resort and a destination mountain resort?
  4. Of the smaller subsectors of tourism economy discussed in this chapter, name three that are commonly found in small, rural communities. What is their significance to the local community?
  5. Name a well-known destination for mountain biking in BC. What is the attraction of that area?
  6. Why is backcountry skiing/snowboarding sometimes considered a risky activity? Explain. How can these risks be mitigated?
  7. List three industry organizations described in this chapter that represent outdoor tourism subsectors. What general services do they offer to those they represent?
  8. What unique advantages does BC offer for recreation, outdoor recreation, and adventure tourism?
  9. Review the section Trends and Issues. What suggestions would you give to the BC Government to support tourism in this subsector?

Case Study: The Wild Within

BC has long been romanticized as a destination that is intrinsically linked to recreation and nature, and our tourism product has traditionally relied on outdoor assets and the promotion of recreation. In late 2014, Destination British Columbia launched a video and set of corresponding marketing materials that sought to expand on the “Super, Natural” brand promise for the province. Watch the video “The Wild Within: British Columbia, Canada.”

On your own or as part of a team, consider the following:

  1. What natural elements are being promoted?
  2. What recreational activities are featured in the video?
  3. Which industry groups or associations are needed to support these activities? Name at least five.
  4. What are the advantages of promoting BC’s natural elements as a pillar of marketing campaigns?
  5. What are the disadvantages? How might these be mitigated?

After answering these questions, come up with a quick design for a marketing piece that profiles one recreational activity in your local community. This could be a web page, a brochure, an app, a poster, or another marketing piece. Be sure to visit the Destination BC brand page to make sure your ideas fit in with “The Wild Within” concept and brand.


BC Adventure. (n.d.)  BC Adventure Planner.  Retrieved from:

BC Fishing Resorts and Outfitters Association. (n.d.). About BCFROA. Retrieved from:

BC Guest Ranchers Association. (n.d.). Requirements.  Retrieved from:

BC Parks. (2012). 2011/2012 Statistics Report. [PDF] Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. (2014). Off-Road Vehicle Act. Retrieved from:

British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. (2012). Gaining the edge: A five-year strategy for tourism in BC. [PDF]  Retrieved from:

British Columbia River Outfitters Association. (n.d.). Provisions. [PDF] Retrieved from

British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (n.d.). About BCSF. Retrieved from:

British Columbia Snowmobile Operators Association. (n.d.). About us – Snowmobile British Columbia. Retrieved from

Canadian Mountain Holidays. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from:

Canadian Tourism Commission. (2007). TAMS 2006-Canadian activity profile: Wildlife viewing while on trips. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Canadian Tourism Commission. (2012). Sport fishing and game hunting in Canada: An assessment on the potential international tourism opportunity. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Cross Country BC. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from:

Destination BC. (2014a). Bear viewing. Retrieved from:

Destination BC. (2014b). Biking. Retrieved from:

Destination BC. (2014c). Golfing. Retrieved from:

Destination BC. (2014d). Whale watching. Retrieved from:

Destination BC. (n.d.) River rafting British Columbia. Retrieved from

Dive Industry Association of BC. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from: :

Education Scotland. (n.d.). Paddlesports. Retrieved from:

Guide Outfitters Association of BC. (n.d.). Economic contribution. Retrieved from:

HeliCat Canada. (n.d.). Our members. Retrieved from:

Ivanova, I. (2004). Recreational diving in British Columbia survey report. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Mitsui, E. (2013). Popularity of backcountry skiing worries some in industry. CBC News. Retrieved from

Outdoor Recreation Council of BC. (2014). About Us. Retrieved from:

Porteus, S. (March 6, 2013). The growing business of the backcountry. BC Business. Retrieved from:

Raincoast Conservation. (2015). Salish Sea Report – What’s at Stake. Ch. 4 The Tourist Dollar. Retrieved from:

Selkirk Wilderness Skiing (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from:

Strategic Networks, Inc. (2009). Economic impact for golf in Canada. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2005a). British Columbia River Outfitters report. Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2005b). Characteristics of commercial nature-based tourism industry in British Columbia [PDF]. Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2007a). British Columbia’s sea kayaking sector 2005. [PDF] Retrieved from:,-Dec/British_Columbia_s_Sea_Kayakers_Report_2005-sflb.pdf.aspx

Tourism BC. (2007b). Travel activities and motivations of Canadian residents: An overview. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2009a). Fishing product overview. Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2009b). Golf sector profile [PDF]. Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2009c). Wildlife viewing product overview. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2011a). Guest ranchers business survey 2008/2009. [PDF] Retrieved from:,-January/GuestRanchersReport2008_2009.pdf.aspx

Tourism BC. (2011b). Mountain bike tourism guide. Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2011c). The value of mountain resorts to the British Columbia economy. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Tourism BC. (2013). 2009/2010 Outdoor recreation study. [PDF] Retrieved from:,-January-2013/Outdoor-Recreation-for-Distribution-14Jan13-FINAL-DRAFT-(2).pdf.aspx

Tribe, J. (2011). The economics of recreation, leisure, and tourism. 4th Edition. Oxford, England: Elsevier.

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2014). Global report on adventure tourism. Retrieved from:

Webster, D. (2013). Adventure tourism operators and snowmobiles: Managing interactions. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association. (2016). Sea-to-sky mountain biking economic impact study. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Wilderness Tourism Association. (n.d.). Small Ship Tour Operators Initiative. Retrieved from:

Wilderness Tourism Association. (2005). Characteristics of the commercial nature-based Tourism industry in British Columbia. [PDF] Retrieved from


Chapter 6. Events, Culture, Heritage, and Sport (Entertainment)

Original author: Donna Owens
Revisions made by: Wendy Anderson, Geoffrey Bird, and Garrett Stone

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the nature and function of activities and businesses that provide entertainment, engagement, and education for tourists in Canada
  • Identify tourism activities by their industry groups
  • Identify various types of festivals and events and ways in which these are funded and organized
  • Describe the MCIT (meetings, convention, and incentive travel) component and its economic impact
  • Review various types of attractions including zoos and botanical gardens
  • List components of cultural heritage tourism including museums, galleries, and heritage sites
  • List other experiences including sport tourism, agritourism, wine tourism, and culinary tourism
  • Identify key industry associations related to the tourism entertainment sector and understand their mandates and the resources they provide


6.1 Festivals and Events

When travellers enter Canada, there is a good chance they will be asked at the border, “What is the nature of your trip?” Whether the answer is for business, leisure, or visiting friends and relatives, there’s a possibility that travellers will participate in some of the following activities (as listed in the Statistics Canada International Travel Survey):

These activities fall under the realm of entertainment as it relates to tourism. Documenting every activity that could be on a tourist’s to-do list would be nearly impossible, for what one traveler would find entertaining, another may not. This chapter focuses on the major components of arts, entertainment, and attractions, including motion pictures, video exhibitions, and wineries; all activities listed under the North American Industry Classification System we learned about in Chapter 1.

Festival and Major Events Canada (FAME) released a report in 2019 detailing the economic impacts of the 17 largest festivals and events in Quebec, which amounted to a whopping $378 million in tourist spending. Let’s take a closer look at this segment of the sector and its impact across Canada.

Dozens of small, square lanterns arranged in winding rows light up the darkness.
Figure 6.1 A labyrinth of light at the 2008 Winter Solstice Lantern Festival in Vancouver.


The International Dictionary of Event Management defines a festival as a “public celebration that conveys, through a kaleidoscope of activities, certain meanings to participants and spectators” (Goldblatt, 2001, p. 78). Other definitions, including those used by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the European Union, highlight accessibility to the general public and short duration as key elements that define a festival.

Search “festivals in Canada” online and over 900 million results will appear. To define these activities in the context of tourism, we need to consider two fundamental questions, “Who are these activities aimed at?” and “Why are they being celebrated?”

The broad nature of festivals has lead to the development of classification types. For instance, funding for the federal government’s Building Communities through Arts and Heritage Program is available under three categories, depending on the type of festival:

  1. Local festivals funding is provided to local groups for recurring festivals that present the work of local artists, artisans, or historical performers.
  2. Community anniversaries funding is provided to local groups for non-recurring local events and capital projects that commemorate an anniversary of 100 years (or greater, in increments of 25 years).
  3. Legacy funding is provided to community-initiated capital projects that restore or transform event spaces and places. Eligible projects are those that commemorate a 100th anniversary (or greater, in increments of 25 years) of a significant local historical event or local historical personality.

Funds awarded in BC ranges from $2000 for the Nelson History Theatre Society’s Arts and Heritage Festival in 2012 (Government of Canada, 2014a) to $100,200 for the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2017 (Government of Canada, 2017). In 2017-2018, federal funding from the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, and Canada Cultural Investment Fund resulted in $183 million in infrastructure and program development funds to support organizations that professionally present arts festivals or performing arts series (Government of Canada, 2019).

Spotlight On: International Festivals and Events Association

Founded in 1956 as the Festival Manager’s Association, the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) supports professionals who produce and support celebrations for the benefit of their communities. Membership is required to access many of their resources. For more information, visit the International Festivals and Events Association website.

Festivals and events in BC celebrate theatre, dance, film, crafts, visual arts, and more. Just a few examples are Bard on the Beach, Vancouver International Improv Festival, Cornucopia, and the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival.

Three people in semi-formal clothes hold wine glasses at a festival.
Figure 6.2 Guests at Cornucopia, Whistler’s celebration of food and wine.

Spotlight On: Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food

For the “epicurious, cornucopia is food + drink unleashed.” Dubbed “so wild you can taste it” this 11-day event showcases tasting events, drink seminars, chef lunches and demos, avant-garde parties and more. For additional information, visit Cornucopia.


An event is a happening at a given place and time, usually of some importance, celebrating or commemorating a special occasion. To help broaden this simple definition, categories have been developed based on the scale of events. These categories, presented in Table 6.1, overlap and are not hard and fast, but help cover a range of events.

Table 6.1 Event types, characteristics, and examples
[Skip Table]
Event Type Characteristics Examples
Mega-event: those that yield high levels of tourism, media coverage, prestige, or economic impact for the host community or destination.
  • So large it affects economies
  • Gains global media coverage
  • Highly prestigious
  • Usually developed with a bidding process
  • Has major positive  and negative impacts
  • 1 million+ visits
  • Capital costs in excess of $500 million
  • Considered “must see”
  • Olympic Games/ Paralympic Games
  • Commonwealth Games
  • FIFA World Cup
  • World fairs and expositions
  • Economic summits
Special event: outside the normal activities of the sponsoring or organizing body.
  • One-time or infrequent
  • Specific ritual, presentation, performance, or celebration
  • Planned and created to mark a special occasion
  • National days and celebrations
  • Important civic occasions
  • Unique cultural performances
  • Royal weddings
  • Diamond jubilees
Hallmark event: possesses such significance in terms of tradition, attractiveness, quality or publicity, that it provides the host venue, community, or destination with a competitive  advantage.
  • Identified with the location or synonymous with place name
  • Gains widespread recognition/awareness
  • Creates a competitive tourism advantage
  • The Carnival of Brazil  (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Mardi Gras (New Orleans)
  • Oktoberfest (Munich)
Festival: (as defined above) public celebration that conveys, through a kaleidoscope of activities, certain meanings to participants and spectators.
  • Celebration and reaffirmation of community or culture
  • Artistic content
  • Religious or ritualistic
  • Music, dance, and drama are often featured
  • Lollapalooza
  • Junkanoo (Nassau, Bahamas)
Local community event: generated by and for locals; can be of interest to visitors, but tourists are not the main intended audience.
  • Involves the local population
  • A shared experience to their mutual benefit
  • Fundraisers
  • Picnics
  • Barbeques
Data source: Getz, 2005.

Events can be extremely complex projects, which is why, over time, the role of event planners has taken on greater importance. The development of education, training programs, and professional designations such as CMPs (Certified Meeting Planners), CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional), and CMM (Certificate in Meeting Management) has led to increased credibility in this business and demonstrates the importance of the sector to the economy. Furthermore, there are a variety of event management certifications and diplomas offered in BC that enable future event and festival planners to gain specific skills and knowledge within the sector.

Various tasks involved in event planning include:

But events aren’t just for leisure visitors. In fact, the tourism industry has a long history of creating, hosting, and promoting events that draw business travelers. The next section explores meetings, conventions, and incentive travel, also known as MCIT.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Labyrinth-of-Light
  • Cornucopia


6.2 Meetings, Conventions, and Incentive Travel (MCIT)

According to the Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition (MMB Canada), business events are big business. In 2017, Canadian business events:

The business events industry in Canada is as big as agriculture and forestry, and it provides nearly twice the number of jobs that telecommunications and utilities do (MMB Canada, 2017).

Take a Closer Look: Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition (MMB Canada) Canada Economic Impact Study  

To learn more about the impact of business events in Canada, watch the MMB Canada Economic Impact Study video.

There are several types of business events. Conventions generally have very large attendance, and are held annually in different locations. They also often require a bidding process. Conferences have specific themes, and are held for smaller, focused groups. Trade shows/trade fairs can be stand-alone events, or adjoin a convention or conference. Finally, seminars, workshops, and retreats are examples of smaller-scale MCIT events.

Spotlight On: The Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition

The Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition (MMB Canada), the operating name of the Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC), is the national voice of the meetings and events industry in Canada, comprising organizations dedicated to the betterment and promotion of the meetings and events industry. For more information, visit the MMB Canada website.

As meeting planners became more creative, meeting and convention delegates became more demanding about meeting sites. No longer are hotel meeting rooms and convention centres the only type of location used; non-traditional venues have adapted and become competitive in offering services for meeting planners. These include architectural spaces such as airplane hangars, warehouses or rooftops, and experiential venues such as aquariums, museums and galleries (Cornacchio, 2019).

Spotlight On: Meeting Professionals International

Meeting Professionals International (MPI), founded in 1972, is a membership-based professional development organization for meeting and event planners. For more information, visit the Meeting Professionals International website or the Meeting Professionals International: BC Chapter website.

Incentive Travel

For many people new to the travel industry, incentive travel is an unfamiliar concept. The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) has explained that incentive travel is “a self-funding marketing activity that employs unique travel experiences to reward people who achieve exceptional business performance” (2020). Unlike other types of business events, incentive travel is focused on fun, food, and other activities rather than education and work.

Sectors that use incentive travel include insurance, finance, technology, pharmaceutical, and auto manufacturers and dealers. The incentive travel market is extremely competitive and demanding. When rewarding high-performance staff, Fortune 500-type companies are looking for the most luxurious and unique travel experiences and products available.

Take a Closer Look: SITE Crystal Awards

SITE holds annual awards for the best in unique, memorable incentive experiences. In 2019, the winner for Most Effective Incentive/Marketing Campaign, “2018 Living Legends Incentive Program” was the Creative Group. To see the list of other winners, and for more information, visit the SITE Crystal Awards website.

A small inlet with an event centre with many windows on one side and a tall hotel on the other.
Figure 6.3 Pan Pacific Hotel and the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Convention Centres

No discussion of business events would be complete without noting the importance of convention centres — very large venues that can host thousands of delegates.

Key success factors for convention venues include:

BC is home to a number of convention centres, including those in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Penticton, Prince George, and Victoria. The signature venue for the province is the Vancouver Convention Centre, which underwent a significant expansion prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Spotlight On: The Vancouver Convention Centre

The Vancouver Convention Centre is owned and managed by the BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), a Crown corporation. Its team of approximately 800 staff collaborate to host an exciting schedule of year-round events. With its unique “scratch kitchen” that uses fresh, local products, an extensive recycling program, and its legendary “green roof,” the centre is known for its beautiful views and commitment to sustainability. For more information, visit the Vancouver Convention Centre website.

With an understanding of the scope of festivals and events, as well as examples of the venues that host them, let’s turn our attention to the diverse number of attractions that contribute to the tourism entertainment sector.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Pan-Pacific-Vancouver-and-the-Vancouver-Convention-Centre


6.3 Attractions

As a broad definition, tourist attractions are those places of culture, heritage, nature, or activities that draw people to visit. When the Canadian Tourism Commission, now Destination Canada, planned a survey of Canada’s tourist attractions in 1995, there was no official definition of tourist attractions. After consultation, federal, provincial, territorial, and industry stakeholders agreed on a working definition: “places whose main purpose is to allow public access for entertainment, interest, or education” (Canadian Tourism Commission, 1998, p. 3).

Five major categories were established:

  1. Heritage attractions: focus on preserving and exhibiting objects, sites, and natural wonders of historical, cultural, and educational value (e.g., museums, art galleries, historic sites, botanical gardens, zoos, nature parks, conservation areas)
  2. Amusement/entertainment attractions: maintain and provide access to amusement or entertainment facilities (e.g., arcades; amusement, theme, and water parks)
  3. Recreational attractions: maintain and provide access to outdoor or indoor facilities where people can participate in sports and recreational activities (e.g., golf courses, skiing facilities, marinas, bowling centres)
  4. Commercial attractions: retail operations dealing in gifts, handcrafted goods, and souvenirs that actively market to tourists (e.g., craft stores listed in a tourist guide)
  5. Industrial attractions: deal mainly in agriculture, forestry, and manufacturing products that actively market to tourists (e.g., wineries, fish hatcheries, factories)

The term “attraction” can convey a negative meaning. Something becoming a tourist attraction can imply a site that has been commercialized and, likely, negatively impacted by tourism. In addition, attraction typically denotes pleasure and fun, like an amusement park. The term becomes inappropriate, as does ‘entertainment’ when we speak of learning about other cultures and contested histories. For example, the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, in New Denver, BC is a National Historic Site of Canada, and tells the history of Japanese-Canadian internment during the Second World War. Another example may be an Indigenous art gallery, with many objects representing the spiritual beliefs and history of a people’s ancestors. Although both examples are technically sites of interest to tourists and therefore attractions, the mandate, approach, and design of the visitor experience varies from site to site.

To exist, these attractions often need to generate revenue to pay for site operations, to pay for staff, and to run educational programs. The sector involves a range of organizations, some privately owned, while others are government-funded, or non-profit. Revenue to culture- and nature-based sites has the added benefit of supporting their preservation as well as to build awareness and a deeper understanding in the public. In the case of Indigenous heritage sites, visitation can also lead to an opportunity for reconciliation. However, the cost of an attraction, such as a museum, gallery, or park, is typically only a fraction of the total travel cost.

The rest of this chapter explores various types of attractions in more detail.

Cultural/Heritage Tourism

The phrase cultural/heritage tourism can be interpreted in many ways. Destination Canada, formally the Canadian Tourism Commission has defined it as tourism occurring “when participation in a cultural or heritage activity is a significant factor for traveling. Cultural tourism includes performing arts (theatre, dance, and music), visual arts and crafts, festivals, museums and cultural centres, and historic sites and interpretive centres” (LinkBC, 2012). Food is also an integral part of the cultural tourism scene.

A man dressed in a Victorian suit and bowler hat, speaking into a megaphone.
Figure 6.4 A “pioneer” at the Barkerville historic site near Quesnel, B.C.

Take a Closer Look: The First Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions

In 2018, the Department of Canadian Heritage released its Survey of Heritage Institutions, which provides aggregate financial and operating data to governments and cultural associations. It aims to gain a better understanding of not-for-profit heritage institutions in Canada in order to aid in the development of policies and the administration of programs. View the full version of the report at Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions: 2017 [PDF].

A 2018 Government of Canada survey of heritage institutions found:

In 2015, the heritage sector employed over 36,300 people, an increase of 15% since 2011. Volunteers at heritage institutions outnumbered paid staff by approximately three to one, with approximately 115,650 volunteers. The amount of time they donated (over 6.6 million hours) contributed to huge savings for institutions. These statistics indicate that volunteerism is a critical success factor for Canadian heritage institutions.

Overall physical attendance at heritage institutions totalled over 75 million visits in 2015, an increase of 34% from 2011. In addition, as museums and galleries digitize their holding for online access, heritage experienced some 200 million virtual visitors.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Performing Arts

Performing arts generally include theatre companies and dinner theatres, dance companies, musical groups, and artists and other performing arts companies. These activities and entities contribute to a destination’s tourist product offering and are usually considered an aspect of cultural tourism.

British Columbia has 4.7% of the total number of cultural workers in Canada, the second highest concentration, of which performing arts represents some 55% (Hill Strategies, 2019, p.1). Across Canada, there are 726,600 cultural workers.

Spotlight On: Made in BC

Made in BC: Dance On Tour is a not-for-profit organization committed to bringing touring dance performances, dance workshops, and other dance events to communities around British Columbia for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. Originally intended to showcase BC performers, it also brings touring groups from other regions to the province. For more information, visit the Made in BC website.

Art Museums and Galleries

Art museums and galleries may be public, private, or commercial. Both art museums and public galleries present works of art to the public, exhibiting a diverse range of art from more well-known artists to emerging artists. Exhibitions are assembled and organized by a curator who oversees the installation of the works in the gallery space. However, art museums and public galleries have different mandates, and therefore offer different visitor experiences.

Art museums collect historical and modern works of art for educational purposes and to preserve them for future generations. Public galleries, on the other hand, do not generally collect or conserve works of art. Rather, they focus on exhibitions of contemporary works as well as on programs of lectures, publications, and other events.

A few examples of the art museums and public galleries in BC are the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, and the Kelowna Art Gallery.

Many of the smaller galleries have formed partnerships within geographic regions to share marketing resources and increase visitor appeal. One example includes the self-guided Art Route Tour in Haida Gwaii.


The term museum covers a wide range of institutions from wax museums to sports halls of fame. No matter what type of museum it is, many are now asking if museums are still relevant in today’s high-tech world. In response, museums are using new technology to expand the visitor experience. One example is the Royal BC Museum, which hosts an online Learning Portal, lists recent related tweets on its home page, and is home to an IMAX theatre playing IMAX movies that relate to the museum exhibits.

Spotlight On: Canadian Museums Association

The Canadian Museums Association (CMA) is the national organization for the advancement of Canada’s museum community. The CMA works for the recognition, growth, and stability of the sector. Canada’s 2,500 museums and related institutions preserve Canada’s collective memory, shape national identity, and promote tolerance and understanding. For more information, visit the Canadian Museums Association website.

Data from the 2011 Survey of Heritage Institutions in Canada found that attendance at heritage institutions totalled over 75 million visits in 2015, up 34% since 2011. Of that number, there were 14.1 million to art galleries, 15.4 million to heritage sites and another 31 million visits to museums being the most popular (Government of Canada, 2017).

Spotlight On: British Columbia Museums Association

Founded in 1957 and incorporated in 1966, the British Columbia Museums Association (BCMA) provides a unified voice for the institutions, trustees, professional staff, and volunteers of the BC museum and gallery community. For more information, visit the British Columbia Museums Association website.

British Columbia is home to over 200 museums, including Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology and Victoria’s Royal BC Museum, both with impressive displays of Indigenous art and culture. Smaller community museums include the Fraser River Discovery Centre in New Westminster, and the Zeballos Heritage Museum.

Botanical Gardens

botanical garden is a garden that displays native and non-native plants and trees. It conducts educational, research, and public information programs that enhance public understanding and appreciation of plants, trees, and gardening (Canadensis, 2014).

Canadian botanical gardens host an estimated 4.5 million visitors per year and are important science and educational facilities, providing leadership in plant conservation and public education (Botanic Gardens Conservation International, 2014). British Columbia is home to notable botanical gardens such as Vancouver’s Stanley Park, The Butchart Gardens near Victoria, UBC’s Botanical Garden, and VanDusen Botanical Garden, to name just a few.


Zoos all over the world are facing many challenges. An article The Atlantic entitled “Is the Future of Zoos No Zoos at All?” discusses how the increased use of technology by biologists, such as habitat cameras (nest cams, bear den cams), GPS trackers, and live web feeds of natural behaviours, has transformed the zoo experience into “reality zoo TV” (Wald, 2014). There is also growing opposition to zoos from organizations such as PETA, who claim that zoo enclosures deprive animals of the opportunity to meet their basic needs and develop relationships (PETA, 2014).

Spotlight On: Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums

Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) was founded in 1975. It represents the 33 leading zoological parks and aquariums in Canada and promotes the welfare of, and encourages the advancement and improvement of, related animal exhibits in Canada as humane agencies of recreation, education, conservation, and science. For more information, visit the Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums website.

Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) work in support of ethical and responsible facilities. Examples of CAZA members in BC include the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, the Greater Vancouver Zoo, and the Vancouver Aquarium (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, 2014).

Canadian zoos with high attendance levels include the Toronto Zoo with over 1.3 million guests in 2010 (Toronto Zoo, 2010), and the Vancouver Aquarium with over 1 million visitors in 2013 (Vancouver Aquarium 2013). In 2013, the Calgary Zoo employed almost 300 full- and part-time staff and an additional 99 seasonal employees (Calgary Zoo, 2013).

Amusement and Theme Parks

An amusement park ride that is like a carousel with swings, whirling people through the air.
Figure 6.5 Wave spinners at Vancouver’s Playland amusement park.

While cultural and heritage attractions strive to present information based on historic and evolving cultures and facts, amusement parks are attractions that often work to create alternate, fanciful realities. Theme parks have a long history dating back to the 1500s in Europe, and have evolved ever since. Today, it is hard not to try to compare any amusement park destination to Disneyland and Disney World. Opened in 1955 in sunny California, Disneyland set the standard for theme parks. The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver is considered one of BC’s most recognizable amusement parks and recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary (PNE, 2015).

Canada’s ability to compete with US theme parks is hampered by our climate. With a much shorter summer season, the ability to attract investment in order to sustain large-scale entertainment complexes is limited, as is the market for these attractions. It’s no wonder that in 2011 profitable Canadian amusement parks only saw an average net profit of $73,200, with 34% of firms failing to turn a profit that year. BC has only 22 amusement parks, and more than half of these are considered small, with under 100 employees (Government of Canada, 2014d).

Spotlight On: International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities worldwide. Dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry, it represents more than 4,300 facility, supplier, and individual members from more than 97 countries, including most amusement parks and attractions in the United States. For more information, visit the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions website.

Motion Picture and Video Exhibitions

The film industry in Canada, and particularly in BC, has gained international recognition in part through events such as the Toronto International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, and Vancouver International Film Festival. According to the Motion Picture Association — Canada (2013) these festivals attracted an estimated audience of 1.9 million in 2011, as well as over 18,000 industry delegates. Festival operations, visitor spending, and delegate spending combined totalled $163 million that year and generated 2,000 jobs (full-time equivalents).

There are no statistics available on film-induced tourism in Canada, but several notable feature films and television series have been shot here and have drawn loyal fans to production locations. In BC, some of these titles include Reindeer Games and Double Jeopardy (Prince George), Roxanne (Nelson), The Pledge (Fraser Canyon), Battlestar Galactica (Kamloops), The Twilight Saga, Smallville, and Supernatural (Greater Vancouver).

Spotlight On: The Whistler Film Festival

Founded in 2001, the Whistler Film Festival has grown to become one of Canada’s premier events for promoting the development of Western Canada’s film industry and an emerging venue in the international circuit. The festival, held during the first weekend in December, attracts an audience of over 8,200 and more than 500 industry delegates to the ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia, for seminars, special events, and the screening of over 80 independent films from Canada and around the world. For more information, visit the Whistler Film Festival website.

Spectator Sports and Sport Tourism

Spectator sports and the growing field of sport tourism also contribute significantly to the economy and have become a major part of the tourism industry. According to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (2013), sport tourism is any activity in which people are attracted to a particular location to attend a sport-related event as either a:

In 2012, the sport tourism industry in Canada surpassed $5 billion in spending. The domestic market is the largest source of sport tourists, accounting for 84% of all spending, followed by overseas markets (10.8%) and US visitors (5.3% of sport tourism revenues) (Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, 2014).

Spotlight On: Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance

The Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (CSTA) was created in 2000 to market Canada internationally as a preferred sport tourism destination and grow the sport tourism industry in Canada. The purpose of the alliance was to increase Canadian capacity to attract and host sport tourism events. The alliance has over 400 members including 142 municipalities, 200+ national and provincial sport organizations, and a variety of product and service suppliers to the industry. For more information, visit the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance website.

In British Columbia, sport tourism is supported through the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, which invests in event hosting and the ViaSport program (formerly known as Hosting BC). Building on the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the program has a goal to maintain BC’s profile and reputation as an exceptional major event host. One success story is Kamloops, dubbed the Tournament Capital of Canada, which has made sport tourism a central component of its economy and welcomes over one million visitors to its tournament centre facility each year. And since 1977, the BC Winter and Summer Games have moved around the province, drawing attendees and creating volunteer opportunities for up to 3,200 community members.

Take a Closer Look: The Sport Tourism Guide

The Sport Tourism Guide from Destination BC’s Tourism Business Essentials series covers topics including understanding sport tourism, industry trends, event bidding and hosting, balance sheets, economic impacts, case studies, best practices, and links to additional information. For more information, read the Sport Tourism Guide [PDF].


According to the Canadian Gaming Association, gaming is one of the largest entertainment industries in Canada. It has larger revenues than those generated by magazines and book sales, drinking establishments, spectator sports, movie theatres, and performing arts combined (Canadian Gaming Association, 2011).

A curved staircase leading to an entrance of a building with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Figure 6.6 Vancouver’s Edgewater Casino, which shut down in 2017.

In 2017, the association released an national economic benefits report stating that the industry produced a total of $17.1 billion in annual revenue and reinforced that gaming is an important employer in addition to providing significant economic returns to Canadians (Canadian Gaming Association, 2017).

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) is a Crown Corporation that manages socially responsible gaming in BC. According to the BC Lottery Corporation in 2019, the BCLC, via multiple betting channels and distribution channels, provided:

Gaming at these facilities and online generated $1.4 billion in net tax revenue to the province of BC, which was reinvested into the heath care system and distributed to communities through a series of grants (BC Lottery Corporation, 2019).

Spotlight on: The BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC)

The BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) is a provincial Crown corporation that operates under the provincial Gaming Control Act. It is responsible for operating lottery, casino, online, and bingo gaming in BC. For more information, visit the BC Lottery Corporation website.

The gaming industry is growing and the BCLC monitors the marketplace, noting that consumer behaviour and expectations are shifting. Advances in technologies allow consumers to enjoy more digital gaming experiences while those looking for more social interaction can enjoy land based casino gambling with enhanced amenities such as expanded food and beverage options. (BC Lottery Corporation, 2019).

Agritourism, Culinary Tourism, and Wine Tourism

Let’s now have a closer look at the world of farms, food and wine in the entertainment and tourism industries.


The Canadian Farm Business Management Council defines agritourism as “travel that combines rural settings with products of agricultural operations within a tourism experience that is paid for by visitors” (SOTC, 2011). In other words, rural and natural environments are mixed with agricultural and tourism products and services.

Agritourism products and services can be categorized into three themes:

  1. Fixed attractions such as historic farms, living farms, museums, food processing facilities, and natural areas
  2. Events based on an agricultural theme such as conferences, rodeos, agricultural fairs, and food festivals
  3. Services such as accommodations (B&Bs), tours, retailing (farm produce and products), and activities (fishing, hiking, etc.) that incorporate agricultural products and/or experiences

The local food movement is growing in popularity; agritourism presents a great opportunity to use farm resources to create experiences for visitors, whether they be for entertainment, education, or as venues for business/meeting events. In BC, examples of agritourism businesses include Salt Spring Island Cheese, and the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm near Kelowna (HelloBC, 2014).

The three primary agricultural regions in BC are:

  1. The Fraser Valley (outside of Vancouver)
  2. The Cowichan Valley (on Vancouver Island)
  3. The Okanagan Valley (in the southern central part of BC)

A number of self-guided circle tours and other experiences are available in these and other areas, including annual festivals and events. Some examples of farm tours can be viewed at the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.

Culinary Tourism

Culinary tourism refers to “any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional, or national cuisine, heritage, culture, tradition, or culinary techniques” (Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, 2013). The United Nations World Tourism Organization has noted that food tourism is a dynamic and growing segment, and that over one-third of tourism expenditures relate to food (UNWTO, 2012).

Culinary tourism in Canada began to gain traction as a niche in 2002 when Destination Canada, formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission, highlighted it within the cultural tourism market. According to a Ryerson University study, the average culinary tourist spends twice the amount of a generic tourist (Grishkewich, 2012).

For examples of farm fresh meals, artisan drinks etc. visit the Hello BC visitor web page Food, Drink and Wellness. Organizations such as the UNWTO see food-making and wine-making as a key part of maintaining and preserving cultural traditions in addition to promoting local economic development. Culinary (or sometimes referred to as gastronomy) tourism and wine tourism are closely related and often promoted together. Wine tourism will be explored next.

Wine Tourism

The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) defines wine tourism as the “tasting, consumption, or purchase of wine, often at or near the source, such as wineries.” It also includes an educational aspect and festivals focusing on the production of wine (Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, 2014).

According to the 2015 Wine Tourism in Canada report [PDF], Canada welcomes over 3 million visitors annually to 550 Canadian wineries with an annual annual economic impact worth 6.8 billion. Nationally three key grape regions exist: British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia with the majority of production in Ontario and British Columbia (Canadian Vintners Association/Tourism Industry of Canada, 2015).

Similar to France’s AOC and Italy’s DOC wine production quality controls, BC and Ontario use VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) to assure quality and knowledge the wine is grown and produced.

Rows of grapevines in a field.
Figure 6.7 Saturna Vineyards on Saturna Island, B.C.

The BC wine industry has grown significantly since the 90’s when only around 17 wineries were in existence. Today, there are more than 280 wineries in BC, ranging from small family-run vineyards to large estate operations. According to the British Columbia Wine Institute’s quick facts, BC’s wine industry generated $2.8 billion in 2019 to the provincial economy and welcomes over a million visitors annually (British Columbia Wine Institute, 2020).

Canada makes great wine, which is a surprise to many international visitors. Many think of Canada as cold and snowy and just too cool to produce great wine. However, BC’s combination of extreme heat during the warmer months and cooler winters creates intense, fruit forward quality wines. BC wines receive many prestigious international wine awards (British Columbia Wine Industry, 2019).

Take a Closer Look: Wine & Food Tourism Strategy 2016-2019

For more information on the wine and food sectors in British Columbia, read this 2016 report that speaks to the wine and food tourist, industry key insights and other important information: British Columbia Wine Institute Wine and Food Tourism Strategy 2016–2019 [PDF] found on the Wines of British Columbia website.

Industry experts agree that agritourism, culinary tourism, and wine tourism will continue to attract lucrative visitors and play a growing role in BC’s tourism economy.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Barkerville-pioneer
  • Swingers-and-Spinners
  • Edgewater-Casino
  • Saturna-Vineyards


6.5 Conclusion

Across Canada and within BC, the range of activities to entertain and delight travellers runs from authentic explorations of cultural phenomena to pure amusement. Those working in the entertainment tourism sector know that providing a friendly, welcoming experience is a key component in sustaining any tourism destination. Whether through festivals, events, attractions, or new virtual components, the tourism industry relies on entertainment to complete packages and ensure guests, whether business or leisure travellers, increase their spending and enjoyment.

Thus far we’ve explored the key sectors of transportation, accommodation, food and beverage, and recreation and entertainment. The final sector, travel services, brings these all together, and is explored in more detail in Chapter 7.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • Agritourism: tourism experiences that highlight rural destinations and prominently feature agricultural operations
  • Art museums: museums that collect historical and modern works of art for educational purposes and to preserve them for future generations
  • Botanical garden: a garden that displays native and/or non-native plants and trees, often running educational programming
  • British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC): the rown corporation responsible for operating casinos, lotteries, bingo halls, and online gaming in the province of BC
  • Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC): an advocacy group for the meetings and events industry in Canada
  • Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (CSTA): created in 2000, an industry organization funded by the Canadian Tourism Commission to increase Canadian capacity to attract and host sport tourism events
  • Community gaming centres (CGCs): small-scale gaming establishments, typically in the form of bingo halls
  • Conferences: business events that have specific themes and are held for smaller, focused groups
  • Conventions: business events that generally have very large attendance, are held annually in different locations each year, and usually require a bidding process
  • Culinary tourism: tourism experiences where the key focus is on local and regional food and drink, often highlighting the heritage of products involved and techniques associated with their production
  • Cultural/heritage tourism: when tourists travel to a specific destination in order to participate in a cultural or heritage-related event
  • Entertainment: (as it relates to tourism) includes attending festivals, events, fairs, spectator sports, zoos, botanical gardens, historic sites, cultural venues, attractions, museums, and galleries
  • Event: a happening at a given place and time, usually of some importance, celebrating or commemorating a special occasion; can include mega-events, special events, hallmark events, festivals, and local community events
  • Festival: a public event that features multiple activities in celebration of a culture, an anniversary or historical date, art form, or product (food, timber, etc.)
  • Incentive travel: a global management tool that uses an exceptional travel experience to motivate and/or recognize participants for increased levels of performance in support of organizational goals
  • International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA): organization that supports professionals who produce and support celebrations for the benefit of their respective communities
  • Meetings, conventions, and incentive travel (MCIT): all special events with programming aimed at a business audience
  • Meeting Professionals International (MPI): a membership-based professional development organization for meeting and event planners
  • Public galleries: art galleries that do not generally collect or conserve works of art; rather, they focus on exhibitions of contemporary works as well as on programs of lectures, publications, and other events
  • Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE): a global network of professionals dedicated to the recognition and development of motivational incentives and performance improvement
  • Sport tourism: any activity in which people are attracted to a particular location as a participant, spectator, or visitor to sport attractions, or as an attendee of sport-related business meetings
  • Tourist attraction: place of interest that pulls visitors to a destination and is open to the public for entertainment or education
  • Trade shows/trade fairs: can be stand-alone events, or adjoin a convention or conference and allow a range of vendors to showcase their products and services either to other businesses or to consumers
  • Wine tourism: tourism experiences where exploration, consumption, and purchase of wine are key components


  1. Review the categories of events. What types of events have you ever attended in person? What types of events are held in your community? Try to list at least one for each category.
  2. Should the government (municipal, provincial, federal) support festivals and events? Why or why not?
  3. Aside from convention centres, where else can meetings, conventions, and conferences be held? Use your own creative ideas to list at least five other venues.
  4. What are some of the main sources of revenue for attractions (both mainstream and cultural/heritage attractions)? What are the main expenses?
  5. Should private sector investors receive government funding for tourism entertainment facilities? Should they be required to contribute their revenues to the community? Why or why not?
  6. Name a cultural or heritage attraction in your community. Where does its revenue come from? What are its major expenses? Who are its target markets? Based on this information, make three key recommendations for sustaining its business.
  7. Do you agree with certain animal rights groups that zoos should be shut down? Why or why not?

Case Study: Merridale Estate Cidery

Purchased by husband and wife team Janet Docherty and Rick Pipes in 2000, Merridale Estate Cidery is located in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The cidery itself was established by the previous owner in 1990 who planted apple trees in the location, which is considered ideal by many for its terrain and climate. With the purchase of the cidery, Janet and Rick undertook an extensive renovation in order to transform the facility into an agritourism attraction. They expanded the cellar and tasting rooms and created the Cider House in 2003 from which they began running tours and tastings. From there they added:

  • The Farmhouse Store with retail sales of their cider product, local agriculture products, and BC arts and crafts
  • The Bistro and Orchard Cookhouse, two distinct food and beverage operations
  • The Brick Oven Bakery (producing artisanal baked goods in its on-site brick oven)
  • Yurts (two cabin-style tents) for onsite accommodation

The cidery is now a destination for special events such as weddings. It also runs an InCider Club for frequent purchasers of its products.

Visit the Merridale website and answer the following questions:

  1. What is Merridale’s core business?
  2. Who are its customers?
  3. Merridale comprises food and beverage, retail, accommodations, and is an attraction. How would you classify it as a tourism operation?
  4. Is Merridale a seasonal operation? What would you consider to be its peak season? How has it extended revenue-earning opportunities?
  5. Merridale’s slogan is “Apples Expressed.” Does this tagline capture its essence? Why or why not?
  6. Consider Merridale’s products, experiences, and markets. What partners should the cidery work with, either globally or locally, to attract business? Name at least three.
  7. Do you think Merridale should add components, or eliminate components, from its business? Explain your answer.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2014). The Canadian wine industry. Retrieved from

Botanic Gardens Conservation International. (2014). Welcome to BGCI Canada. Retrieved from

British Columbia Alliance for Arts and Culture.

British Columbia Lottery Corporation. (2019). BC Lottery Annual Report 2018/2019 Retrieved from—disclosures/all-reports.html?filter=annual-reports&sort=desc&page=1

British Columbia Wine Industry. (2019). Media Kit – The Wines of British Columbia.Retrieved from

British Columbia Wine Institute. (2020, June 15). Wines of British Columbia Reports. Retrieved from

Calgary Zoo. (2013). Calgary Zoo 2013 annual report. [PDF] Retrieved from

Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. (2014). About us. Retrieved from

Canadensis.(2014). FAQ. Retrieved from

Canadian Gaming Association. (2011, October 19). Canadian gaming industry matures into one of the largest entertainment industries in the country. Retrieved from

Canadian Gaming Association. (2017). The National Economic Benefits of the Canadian Gaming Industry Key Findings Report. Retrieved from

Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. (2013). Value of sport tourism. Retrieved from

Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. (2014). Sport tourism: Full steam ahead! Retrieved from

Canadian Tourism Commission. (1998). Canada’s tourist attractions: A statistical snapshot 1995-96.

Canadian Vintners Association/Tourism Industry Association of Canada. (2015). Wine Tourism in Canada Retrieved from:

Cornacchio, D. (2019, October). Non-traditional event venues: Going beyond the ballroom. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2009, October). Wine tourism insight. [PDF] Retrieved from

Festival and Major Events Canada. (2019). Festival and Major Events Canada Annual Report 2019 [PDF]. Retrieved from

Getz, D. (2005). Event management and event tourism (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cognizant Communications, p.6.

Goldblatt, J. (2001). The international dictionary of event management (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, p. 78.

Government of Canada. (2014a). Funds awarded – Major events. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2018). Survey of heritage institutions: 2017. [PDF] Canadian Heritage. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2020). Performing arts, operating statistics. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2014d). Amusement and recreation, summary statistics. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2017). A celebration of cinema: The government of Canada supports the Vancouver International Film Festival. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2019).Grouped arts evaluation. Canada arts presentation fund, Canada cultural spaces fund, and Canada cultural investment fund 2013-14 to 2017-18. Retrieved from

Grishkewich, Cheryl. (2012, January 12). Culinary tourists: Recipe for economic development success. Retrieved from:

HelloBC. (2014, October 20). Down on the farm: Agritourism in BC. Retrieved from–agritourism-in-bc.aspx

Hill Strategies (2019). Artists in Canada’s provinces and territories in 2016. With summary information about cultural workers. [PDF].

LinkBC. (2012). Cultural & heritage tourism: A handbook for community champions. [PDF] Retrieved from

Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition. (2017). Home. Retrieved from

Motion Picture Association – Canada. (2013). Issues and positions. [PDF] Retrieved from

Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. (2013). Culinary tourism: A definition. Retrieved from:

Pacific National Exhibition. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from

PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (2014). Our views. Retrieved from

Society of Incentive Travel Excellence. (2014). History. Retrieved from

SOTC – Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation. (2011). What is agritourism? Retrieved from

Swarbrooke, J. (2002). The development & management of visitor attractions, 2nd ed. Oxford, UK: Butterworth Heinemann.

Toronto Zoo. (2010). Toronto Zoo 2010 annual report [PDF]. Retrieved from

United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2012). Global report on food tourism. Retrieved from

Vancouver Aquarium. (2013). Vancouver Aquarium annual report 2013 [PDF]. Retrieved from:

Wald, C. (2014, November). Is the future of zoos no zoos at all? The Atlantic. Retrieved from


Chapter 7. Travel Services

Original authors: Heather Knowles and Morgan Westcott
Revisions made by: John Brouwer

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the key characteristics of the travel services sector
  • Define key travel services terminology
  • Differentiate between types of reservation systems and booking channels
  • Discuss the impacts of online travel agents on consumers and the sector
  • Identify key travel services and organizations in Canada and British Columbia
  • Explain the importance of additional tourism services not covered under NAICS
  • Describe key trends and issues in travel services worldwide


7.1 Components of Travel Services

The travel services sector helps travellers arrange and reserve their vacation or business trips (StatsCan, 2018). This sector is made up of businesses and organizations that work in a coordinated effort to provide travellers with seamless arrangements to maximize their travel experience. Go2HR describes travel services experiences and employment opportunities as follows:

Within this sector, you have the flexibility of working in various capacities with event and conference planning organizations, travel companies and organizations, as well as associations, government agencies and companies that specialize in serving the needs of the tourism sector as a whole. (go2HR, Essential Tips – Travel Services, 2020)

Before we move on, let’s explore the term travel services a little more. As detailed in Chapter 1, Canada, the United States, and Mexico have used the NAICS guidelines, which define the tourism industry as consisting of transportation, accommodation, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and travel services (Tourism HR Canada, 2020). These five sectors are defined and further detailed in B.C. by the B.C. government (BC Government, 2014) and go2HR on their website (go2HR, Career Explorer, 2020).

For many years, however, the tourism industry was classified into eight sectors: accommodations, adventure and recreation, attractions, events and conferences, food and beverage, tourism services, transportation, and travel trade (Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture, 2020; go2HR, 2020, What is Tourism? – Travel Services).

Travel website showing outdoor activities in B.C., such as skiing and surfing.
Figure 7.1 The homepage of, a site where consumers can research and plan their trip to British Columbia.

Tourism services support industry development and the delivery of guest experiences, and some of these are missing from the NAICS classification. To ensure you have a complete picture of the tourism industry in BC, this chapter will cover both the NAICS travel services activities and some additional tourism services.

First, we’ll review the components of travel services as identified under NAICS, as well as exploring popular careers within:

  1. Travel agencies (brick and mortar)
  2. Online Travel Agencies/OTA
  3. Tour operators
  4. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs)
  5. Other Organizations

Following these definitions and descriptions, we’ll take a look at some other support functions that fall under tourism services. These include sector organizations, tourism and hospitality human resources organizations, training providers, educational institutions, government branches and ministries, economic development and city planning offices, and consultants.

Finally, we’ll look at issues and trends in travel services, both at home, and abroad.

While the application of travel services functions are structured somewhat differently around the world, there are a few core types of travel services in every destination. Essentially, travel services are those processes used by guests to book components of their trip. Let’s explore these services in more detail.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Travel Agencies

Travel agency storefront, which is plastered with sales posters and advertisements.
Figure 7.2 A travel agency in the United Kingdom.

A travel agency is a business that operates as the intermediary between the travel industry (supplier) and the traveller (purchaser). Part of the role of the travel agency is to market prepackaged travel tours and holidays to potential travellers. The agency can further function as a broker between the traveller and hotels, car rentals, and tour companies (Goeldner & Ritchie, 2003). Travel agencies can be small and privately owned or part of a larger entity.

A travel agent is the direct point of contact for a traveller who is researching and intending to purchase packages and experiences through an agency. Travel agents can specialize in certain types of travel including specific destinations; outdoor adventures; and backpacking, rail, cruise, cycling, or culinary tours, to name a few. These specializations can help travellers when they require advice about their trips. Some travel agents operate at a fixed address and others offer services both online and at a bricks-and-mortar location. Travellers are then able to have face-to-face conversations with their agents and also reach them by phone or by email. To promote professionalism within the travel industry, travel counsellors can apply for a specialized diploma or certificate in travel from ACTA (ACTA, 2020a; go2HR, 2020a).

Today, travellers have the option of researching and booking everything they need online without the help of a travel agent. As technology and the internet are increasingly being used to market destinations, people can now choose to book tours with a particular agency or agent, or they can be identified as seeking Domestic Independent Travel (DIT) or Foreign Independent Travel (FIT), by creating their own itineraries from a number of suppliers.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Online Travel Agents (OTAs)

Increasing numbers of travellers are turning to online travel agents (OTAs), companies that aggregate accommodations and transportation options and allow users to choose one or many components of their trip based on price or other incentives. Examples of OTAs include iTravel2000,,,, and OTAs continue to gain popularity with the travelers; in 2012, they reported online sales of almost $100 billion (Carey, Kang, & Zea, 2012) and almost triple that figure, upward of $278 billion, in 2013 (The Economist, 2014).

In early 2015 Expedia purchased Travelocity for $280 million, merging two of the world’s largest travel websites. Expedia became the owner of, Hotwire, Egencia, and Travelocity brands, facing its major competition from Priceline (Alba, 2015).

Although OTAs can provide lower-cost travel options to travellers and the freedom to plan and reserve when they choose, they have posed challenges for the tourism industry and travel services infrastructure. As evidenced by the merger of Expedia and Travelocity, the majority of popular OTA sites are owned by just a few companies, causing some concern over lack of competition between brands. Additionally, many OTAs charge accommodation providers and operators a commission to be listed in their inventory system. Commission-based services, as applied by Kayak, Expedia, Hotwire,, and others, can have an impact on smaller operators who cannot afford to pay commissions for multiple online inventories (Carey, Kang & Zea, 2012). Being excluded from listings can decrease the marketing reach of the product to potential travellers, which is a challenge when many service providers in the tourism industry are small or medium-sized businesses with budgets to match.

While the industry and communities struggle to keep up with the changing dynamics of travel sales, travellers are adapting to this new world order. One of these adaptations is the ever-increasing use of mobile devices for travel booking. The Expedia Future of Travel Report found that 49% of travellers from the millennial generation (which includes those born between 1980 and 1999) use mobile devices to book travel (Expedia Inc., 2014), and these numbers are expected to continue to increase. Travel agencies are reacting by developing personalized features for digital travellers and mobile user platforms (ETC Digital, 2014). With the number of smartphone users expected to reach 1.75 billion in 2014 (CWT Travel Management Institute, 2014) these agencies must adapt as demand dictates.

A chunky computer with a black and green screen.
Figure 7.3 This is what a computer looked like in 1996. Less than 25 years later, you can access the world from your mobile phone.

A key feature of travel agencies’ (and to a growing extent transportation carriers) mobile services includes the ability to have up-to-date itinerary changes and information sent directly to consumers’ phones (Amadeus, 2014). By using mobile platforms that can develop customized, up-to-date travel itineraries for clients, agencies and operators are able to provide a personal touch, ideally increasing customer satisfaction rates.

Take a Closer Look: PATA — The Future of Travel is Personalisation at Scale

“The industry has changed monumentally over the past decade. The rise of meta-search websites and sharing economy services like Airbnb is giving travellers more control and choice than ever before. However, this is nothing compared to the changes that are on the horizon as technologies like mobile, AR, AI, and VR become mainstream.

One thing is certain; the pace of change is accelerating. Against this backdrop, the travel industry as a whole will need to fundamentally shift its focus to continuous innovation.” (PATA, 2019)

Despite the growth and demand for OTAs, brick and mortar travel agencies are still in demand by travellers (IBISWorld, 2019) as they have both an online presence and physical locations. The COVID-19 pandemic may see an increase in travellers relying on personal contact with brick and mortar travel agencies but at a distance through mail and phone.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Tour Operators

People walk across the snow in the mountains. A tour bus is parked behind them.
Figure 7.4 A group tours the Columbia ice field in Alberta.

A tour operator packages all or most of the components of an offered trip and then sells them to the traveller. These packages can also be sold through retail outlets or travel agencies (CATO, 2020; Goeldner & Ritchie, 2003). Tour operators work closely with hotels, transportation providers, and attractions in order to purchase large volumes of each component and package these at a better rate than the traveller could if purchasing individually. Tour operators generally sell to the leisure market.

Inbound, Outbound, and Receptive Tour Operators

Tour operators may be inbound, outbound, or receptive:

Destination Marketing Organizations

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) include national tourism boards, state/provincial tourism offices, and community convention and visitor bureaus around the world. DMOs promote “the long-term development and marketing of a destination, focusing on convention sales, tourism marketing and service” (Destinations BC, 2020).

Spotlight On: Destinations International

Destinations International is the global trade association for official DMOs. It is made up of over 600 official DMOs in 15 countries around the world. DMAI provides its members with information, resources, research, networking opportunities, professional development, and certification programs. For more information, visit the Destinations International website.

With the proliferation of other planning and booking channels, including OTAs, today’s DMOs are shifting away from travel services functions and placing a higher priority on destination management components.

Working Together

One way tour operators, DMOs, and travel agents work together is by participating in familiarization tours (FAMs for short). These are usually hosted by the local DMO and include visits to different tour operators within a region. FAM attendees can be media, travel agents, RTO representatives, and tour operator representatives. FAMs are frequently low to no cost for the guests as the purpose is to orient them to the tour product or experience so they can promote or sell it to potential guests.

Other Organizations

The majority of examples in this chapter so far have pertained to leisure travellers. There are, however, specialty organizations that deal specifically with business trips.

Spotlight On: Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Canada

“GBTA Canada is the voice of the Canadian business travel industry. We believe in providing the business travel and meetings community with a global platform to serve as a resource library for their peers, to implement world-class Conferences, workshops and virtual meetings, and to foster an interactive network of innovation and support.” The GBTA state that their economic impact contributes $23.5 billion CAD in Canadian business travel (Economic Impact Study) and “$435+ billion CAD of business travel and meetings expenditures represented globally.” Visit the GBTA website.

Business Travel Planning and Reservations

Unlike leisure trips, which are generally planned and booked by end consumers using their choice of tools, business travel often involves a travel management company, or its online tools. Travel managers negotiate with suppliers and ensure that all the trip components are cost effective and comply with the policies of the organization.

Many business travel planners rely on global distribution systems (GDS) to price and plan components. GDS combine information from a group of suppliers, such as airlines. In the past, this has created a chain of information from the supplier to GDS to the travel management company. Today, however, there is a push from airlines (through the International Air Transport Association’s Resolution 787) to dissolve the GDS model and forge direct relationships with buyers (BTN Group, 2014).

Destination Management Companies

According to the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI), a destination management company (DMC) specializes in designing and implementing corporate programs, and “is a strategic partner to provide creative local experiences in event management, tours/activities, transportation, entertainment, and program logistics” (ADMEI, 2020). The packages produced by DMCs are extraordinary experiences rather than general business trips. These are typically used as employee incentives, corporate retreats, product launches, and loyalty programs. DMCs are the one point of contact for the client corporation, arranging for airfare, airport transfers, ground transportation, meals, special activities, and special touches such as branded signage, gifts, and decor (ADMEI, 2020). The end user is simply given (or awarded) the package and then liaises with the DMC to ensure particular arrangements meet his or her needs and schedule.

As you can see, travel services range from online to personal, and from leisure to business applications. Now that you have a general sense of the components of travel services, let’s look at some examples in Canada and BC.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • HelloBC-Homepage
  • Travels-Agent-Huddersfield
  • ATT-PC-6300-c.-1996
  • Up-on-the-Glacier


7.2 Travel Services in Canada and BC

Travel Agencies

Travel agencies are the retail side of the industry. Working in cooperation with suppliers throughout the distribution chain, travel agencies provide an important link for the consumer to connect with the best options for a successful trip. Planning vacations or business trips can be complicated matters and qualified agents can help the traveller with professional services.

In British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, advocacy for travel service organizations and professional certification for individuals is provided by the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA). ACTA is an industry-led, membership-based organization that aims to ensure customers have professional and meaningful counselling. Membership is optional, but it does offer the benefit of ensuring customers receive the required services and that the travel agencies have a membership board for reference and industry resources (ACTA, 2020b).

Spotlight On: Travelcuts Travel Agency

Travelcuts is 100% Canadian owned and operated. As a student, you may have seen its locations on or around campus. With a primary audience of post-secondary students, professors, and alumni, Travel CUTS specializes in backpack-style travel to a variety of destinations. It is a full-service travel agency that can help find flights for travel, book tours with a variety of companies including GAdventures or Intrepid Travel, assist in booking hostels or hotels, and even help with a “Live and Work Abroad” program. For more information, visit Travelcuts website.

Although travel agencies may be located in a specific community, the agencies and their representatives may operate internationally, within Canada, within BC, or across regions. In Vancouver alone there are over 650 travel agencies available to the searching traveller (Travel Agents in BC, 2020). Examples of some of the more recognized larger travel agencies and agents operating in BC include the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), Marlin Travel, and Flight Centre.

Tour Operators

Many different types of tour operators work across BC and Canada. Tour operators can specialize in any sector or a combination of sectors. A company may focus on ski experiences, as is the case with Destination Snow, or perhaps wine tours in the Okanagan, which is the specialty of Distinctly Kelowna Tours. These operators specialize in one area but there are others that work with many different service providers.

Spotlight On: Canadian Association of Tour Operators

The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) is a membership-based organization that serves as the voice of the tour operator segment and engages in professional development and networking in the sector. For more information, visit the Canadian Association of Tour Operators website.

Tour operators can vary in size, niche market, and operation capacity (time of year). An example of a niche BC tour operator is Prince of Whales Whale Watching in Victoria. Prince of Whales offers specialty whale-watching tours year-round in a variety of boat sizes, working with the local DMO and other local booking agents to sell tours as part of packages or as a stand-alone service to travellers. It also works to sell its product directly to the potential traveller through its website, reservation number, and in-person sales agents (Prince of Whales, 2020).

Close-up of three killer whales swimming a few hundred metres from the shore.
Figure 7.5 Whales off of Victoria, B.C.

An example of a large RTO representing Canada is Jonview. Operators of all kinds frequently work closely with a number of destination marketing organizations, as evidenced during Canada’s West Marketplace, which is a trade marketplace hosted by Destination BC and Travel Alberta. Each year the location of the marketplace alternates between Alberta and BC (past locations have included Kelowna and Canmore). This event provides an opportunity for Alberta and BC sellers (tour operators, local accommodation, activities, and DMOs) to sell their products to international RTOs who in turn work with international tour operators and travel agents to repackage the travel products. In a span of 10-minute sessions, sellers market and promote their products in hopes of having an RTO pick up the package for future years.

On a national scale, Rendez-vous Canada is a tourism marketplace presented by the Destination Canada (formally the Canadian Tourism Commission) that brings together more than 1,500 tourism professionals from around the world for a series of 12- minute sessions where they can learn more about Canadian tours and related services (Canadian Tourism Commission, 2020).

Let’s now look a little closer at the role of BC destination marketing organizations (DMOs) in providing travel services.

Destination Marketing Organizations

At the national level, Destination Canada is responsible for strategic marketing of the country. It works with industry and government while providing resources for small and medium-sized businesses in the form of toolkits. In BC, there a variety of travel service providers available to help with the planning process including Destination BC/HelloBC, regional destination marketing organizations (RDMOs), and local DMOs.

Destination BC/HelloBC

HelloBC is the official travel service platform of Destination BC, British Columbia’s provincial DMO. offers access to festival activities, accommodation, transportation options, and trip ideas. This website is complemented by a social media presence on TripAdvisors (HelloBC, 2014a).

To assist with trip planning, HelloBC features a booking agent system, offering discounts and special deals created in partnership with operators. Although the site can process these value-added components, it does not handle accommodation bookings, instead directing the interested party to the reservation system of a chosen provider.

Figure 7.6 Cyclists make a stop at a Visitor Centre, identifiable by its distinctive blue and yellow logo.

In addition to operating HelloBC, Destination BC also oversees a network of 136 Visitor Centres that can be identified by the blue and yellow logo. These are a source of itinerary information for the FIT and a purchase point for travellers wishing to book trip components (HelloBC, 2014b,c).

Regional Destination Marketing Organizations

BC is divided into six regional destination marketing organizations, or RDMOs: these are: Vancouver, Coast, & Mountains; Vancouver Island; Thompson Okanagan; Northern British Columbia; Cariboo Chilcotin Coast; and the Kootenay Rockies (HelloBC, 2020d). Along with Destination BC, these RDMOs work to market their designated region.

People carrying large backpacks hike through a forest.
Figure 7.7 A tour group in the Kootenay Rockies.

Housed within the HelloBC online platform, each RDMO has an online presence and travel guide specific to the region as well as a regional social media presence. These guides are important as they allow regional operators to participate in the guide and consumer website in order to encourage visitation to the area and build their tourism operations.

Take a Closer Look: BC’s Regional DMOs

For more information on each RMDO, visit the following consumer and industry websites. Similar to Destination Canada and Destination BC these DMOs provide services for both consumers (travellers) and industry.

Vancouver Island
Consumer: Vancouver Island
Industry: Vancouver Island

Thompson Okanagan
Consumer: Okanagan
Industry: Okanagan

Northern British Columbia
Consumer: Northern BC
Industry: Northern BC

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
Consumer: Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
Industry: Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

Kootenay Rockies
Consumer: Kootenay Rockies
Industry: Kootenay Rockies

Community Destination Marketing Organizations

Community destination marketing organizations (CDMOs) are responsible for marketing a specific destination or area, such as Whistler or Kimberley. Travel services typically offered include hotel search engines, specific destination packages and offers, discounts, events and festival listings, and other information of interest to potential visitors. In the absence of a CDMO, sometimes these services are provided by the local chamber of commerce or economic development office.

Spotlight On: Tourism Tofino 

Tourism Tofino is the local DMO for the Tofino area, located on the west side of Vancouver Island. Tofino is a destination region that attracts travellers to Pacific Rim National Park, surfing opportunities, storm watching, and the Pacific Ocean. As part of its marketing tactics, Tourism Tofino offers visitors key planning tools on the landing site. To encourage shoulder season visitation, storm-watching deals are highlighted, which also allows visitors to inquire directly with the accommodation provider and/or tour operator. For more information, visit the Tourism Tofino website.

Complementing BC’s Visitor Centre network mentioned earlier, local visitor centres are managed by individual communities. Visitor centres may be housed in gateway buildings at strategic locations, in historic or cultural buildings, or at an office located in town.

Other Systems and Organizations

A number of customized and targeted reservation systems are used by BC DMOs and other organizations. One example is the BC campground reservation online booking systems. BC Parks, Parks Canada, and private campground operators all use different proprietary reservation systems. Both BC Parks reservations and Parks Canada reservations open on a specific date in the spring for bookings later in the year. These systems let visitors review what a site looks like through photos or video and pick which site they would like to book in the campground. Many campgrounds also offer a first-come-first-served system, as well as overflow sites, to accommodate visitors who may not have reserved a site.

In the business market, there are several companies in BC and Canada that facilitate planning and booking. SAP Concur is an example of a expense management company widely used in British Columbia and Canada by organizations including CIBC, Kellogg’s, and Pentax. It provides services including efficiency software for use by employees, expense and invoicing software for use by managers, and a mobile application that ensures clients can take the technology on the go. Its services have contributed to client savings, such as reducing the travel expenses (Concur, 2020).

So far we’ve looked at travel services as defined by go2HR and NAICS. Next let’s have a closer look at additional services generally considered to be part of the tourism economy.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Whales-Off-Victoria
  • Visitor-Information
  • Floe-Lake-Kootenay-National-Park


7.3 Tourism Services

Many organizations can have a hand in tourism development. These include:

The rest of this section describes Canadian and BC-based examples of these.

Sector-Specific Associations

Numerous not-for-profit and arm’s-length organizations drive the growth of specific segments of our industry. Examples of these associations can be found throughout this textbook in the Spotlight On features, and include groups like:

These can serve as regulatory bodies, advocacy agencies, certification providers, and information sources.

Tourism and Hospitality Human Resource Support

Tourism HR Canada — formally the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) — is a national sector council responsible for best practice research, training, and other professional development support on behalf of the 174,000 tourism businesses and the 1.75 million people employed in tourism-related occupations across the country. In BC, an organization called go2HR serves to educate employers on attracting, training, and retaining employees, as well as hosts a tourism job board to match prospective employees with job options in tourism around the province.

Training Providers

Throughout this textbook, you’ll see examples of not-for-profit industry associations that provide training and certification for industry professionals. For example, the Association of Canadian Travel Agents offers a full-time and distance program to train for the occupation of certified travel counsellor. Closer to home, an organization called WorldHost, a division of Destination BC, offers world-class customer service training.

You’ll learn more about training providers and tourism human resources development in Chapter 9.

Educational Institutions

British Columbia is home to a number of high-quality public and private colleges and universities that offer tourism-related educational options. Training options at these colleges and universities include certificates, diplomas, degrees and masters-level programs in adventure tourism, outdoor recreation, hospitality management, and tourism management. For example, whether students are learning how to manage a restaurant at Camosun College, gaining mountain adventure skills at College of the Rockies, or exploring the world of outdoor recreation and tourism management at the University of Northern BC, tomorrow’s workforce is being prepared by skilled instructors with solid industry experience.

Spotlight On: Emerit

Emerit is Canada’s award winning training resource developed by Tourism HR Canada in collaboration with tourism industry professionals from across Canada. For more information on Emerit, visit the go2HR website.

Government Departments

At the time this chapter was written, there were at least eight distinct provincial government ministries that had influence on tourism and hospitality development in British Columbia. These are:

Ministry names and responsibilities may change over time, but the functions performed by provincial ministries are critical to tourism operators and communities, as are the functions of similar departments at the federal level.

At the community level, tourism functions are often performed by planning officers, economic development officers, and chambers of commerce.


A final, hidden layer to the travel services sector is that of independent consultants and consulting firms. These people and companies offer services to the industry in a business-to-business format, and they vary from individuals to small-scale firms to international companies. In BC, tourism-based consulting firms include:

For many people trained in specific industry fields, consulting offers the opportunity to give back to the industry while maintaining workload flexibility.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


7.5 Conclusion

Travellers continue to seek authentic experiences. The tools they use to research and book these experiences are constantly changing due to innovations in technology. Destinations are also challenged by limited financial resources and strong competition for tourist dollars from other iconic and even lesser known locations. The personalisation of travel suggests that independent travel will have a stronger presence than group travel, however, we must always consider the type of traveller. The travel services sector is being forced to innovate at a startling rate.

In the past, face to face consultations with a travel agent was paramount for booking both leisure and business travel. Technology and global circumstances, such as pandemics, financial collapses, and terrorism, have put pressure on tourism and travel services. With the development of OTAs and emerging and disruptive technologies, the travel services landscape is constantly changing.

So far we have discussed the elements of the five sectors of tourism: transportation, accommodation, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and travel services. With this foundation in place, let’s delve deeper into the industry by learning more about how these sectors are promoted to customers in Chapter 8 on services marketing.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA): a trade organization established in 1977 to ensure high standards of customer service, engage in advocacy for the trade, conduct research, and facilitate travel agent training
  • Canada’s West Marketplace: a partnership between Destination BC and Travel Alberta, showcasing BC travel products in a business-to-business sales environment
  • Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO): a membership-based organization that serves as the voice of the tour operator segment and engages in professional development and networking in the sector
  • Community destination marketing organization (CDMO): a DMO that represents a city or town
  • Destination management company (DMC): a company that creates and executes corporate travel and event packages designed for employee rewards or special retreats
  • Destination marketing organizations (DMOs): also known as destination management organizations; includes national tourism boards, state/provincial tourism offices, and community convention and visitor bureaus
  • Familiarization tours (FAMs): tours provided to overseas travel agents, travel agencies, RTOs, and others to provide information about a certain product at no or minimal cost to participants — the short form is pronounced like the start of the word family (not as each individual letter)
  • Fully independent traveller (FIT): a traveller who makes his or her own arrangements for accommodations, transportation, and tour components; is independent of a group
  • HelloBC: online travel services platform of Destination BC providing information to the visitor and potential visitor for trip planning purposes
  • Inbound tour operator: an operator who packages products together to bring visitors from external markets to a destination
  • Online travel agent (OTA): a service that allows the traveller to research, plan, and purchase travel without the assistance of a person, using the internet on sites such as or
  • Outbound tour operator: an operator who packages and sells travel products to people within a destination who want to travel abroad
  • Receptive tour operator (RTO): someone who represents the products of tourism suppliers to tour operators in other markets in a business-to-business (B2B) relationship
  • Regional destination marketing organization (RDMO): in BC, one of the five DMOs that represent a specific tourism region
  • Tour operator: an operator who packages suppliers together (hotel + activity) or specializes in one type of activity or product
  • Tourism services: other services that work to support the development of tourism and the delivery of guest experiences
  • Travel agency: a business that provides a physical location for travel planning requirements
  • Travel agent: an individual who helps the potential traveller with trip planning and booking services, often specializing in specific types of travel
  • Travel services: under NAICS, businesses and functions that assist with the planning and reserving components of the visitor experience
  • Visitor centre: a building within a community usually placed at the gateway to an area, providing information regarding the region, travel planning tools, and other services including washrooms and Wi-Fi


  1. Explain, either in words or with a diagram, the relationship between an RTO, tour operator, and travel agent.
  2. What type of services does HelloBC provide to the traveller? List regional services from your area that are currently offered.
  3. Who operates the provincial network of Visitor Centres? Where are these centres located?
  4. List the RDMOs operating within BC. How do each of these work to provide information to the traveller?
  5. List two positives and two negatives of OTAs within the travel services industry.
  6. With an increase growth in mobile technology, how are travel services adapting to suit the needs and/or demands of the traveller?
  7. Choose an association that is representative of the sector you might like to work in (e.g., accommodations, food and beverage, travel services). Explore the association’s website and note three key issues it has identified and how it is responding to them.
  8. Choose a local tourism or hospitality business and find out which associations it belongs to. List the associations and their membership benefits to answer the question, Why belong to this group?

Case Studies

Case Study One: BC Government Response to COVID-19 for Community Destination Marketing Organizations that participate in the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI)

Read the news release B.C. government announces over $10 million for resort municipalities.

  1. Will or was this response be enough for the DMO’s to sustain themselves?
  2. Will or was tourists return to these iconic BC tourism sites?
  3. What was the impact to the local economies at these RMI destinations?

Case Study Two: Travel Agencies Operating in British Columbia


Consumer protection is a key part of provincial and federal government departments. The travel industry in BC is licensed through the provincial governments Consumer Protection BC.

Research the website listed above to prepare a report on how this department protects travellers based on the BC Travel Industry Act.

Case Study Three: Online Travel Agents Sue

In late 2014, an online travel agent and airline combined forces to sue a 22-year-old and his company Skiplagged helped users find less expensive flights by uncovering “hidden city” tickets. These are flights with stopovers in multiple locations, whereby the passenger gets off at one of the stopover cities rather than the final destination (Harris and Sasso, 2014). Hidden city tickets work when the cost to travel from point A to point B to point C is less expensive than a trip from point A to point B. Passengers book the entire flight but get off at the stopover. This practice is generally forbidden by airlines because of safety concerns and challenges to logistics as it renders passenger counts inaccurate, causing potential delays and fuel miscalculations. If discovered, it can result in a passenger having his or her ticket voided.

The lawsuit against Skiplagged founder Aktarer Zaman stated that the site “intentionally and maliciously … [promoted] prohibited forms of travel” (Harris and Sasso, 2014). Orbitz (an OTA) and United Airlines claimed that Zaman’s website unfairly competed with their business, while making it appear these companies were partners and endorsing the activity by linking to their websites.

Based on this case summary, answer the following questions:

  1. What are the dangers and inconveniences of having passengers deplane partway through a voyage? In addition to those listed here, come up with two more.
  2. Could this lawsuit and the ensuing publicity result in unintended negative consequences for United and Orbitz? What might these be?
  3. On the other hand, could the suit have unintended positive results for Try to name at least three.
  4. Should Zaman be held responsible for facilitating this type of travel already in practice? Or should passengers bear the responsibility? Why or why not?
  5. Imagine your flight is delayed because a passenger count is inaccurate and fuel must be recalculated. What action would you take, if any?
  6. Look up the case to see what updates are available (United Airlines Inc. v. Zaman, 14-cv-9214, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). Was the outcome what you predicted? Why or why not?


ACTA (2020a). Membership. Retrieved from

ACTA. (2020b). About us. Retrieved from

ADME. (2014). What is a DMC?. Retrieved from

Alba, Davey. (2015, January 23). Expedia buys Travelocity, merging two of the web’s biggest travel sites. WIRED. Retrieved from

Amadeus. (2014). Trending with NextGen travelers [PDF]. Retrieved from

Amadeus. (2020). Online Travel Agencies. Retrieved from

Associated Press. (2014, March 17). Helena judge rejects state’s lawsuit against online travel companies. The Missoulian. Retrieved from

British Columbia (B.C.) Government. (2014). Tourism Builds Jobs & Communities in B.C.[PDF]. Retrieved from

BTN Group. (2014). Global travel trends 2014. Business Travel News. [PDF] Retrieved from

Canadian Tourism Commission. (2020). Rendez-vous Canada 2020 – About. Retrieved from

Carey, R., Kang, K., & Zea, M. (2012). The trouble with travel distribution. Retrieved from

CATO. (2020). About the travel industry. Retrieved from

Consumer Protection BC (2020). Who We Are. Retrieved from

CWT Travel Management Institute. (2014). Who’s equipped for mobile services.

Deloitte Development LLC. (2019). Tech Trends 2019: Beyond the Digital Frontier – Intelligent Interfacces [PDF]. Deloitte Insights. Retrieved June 2020, from

Destination BC. (2020), How to Work with Receptive Tour Operators. Retrieved from

Destinations International (2020). Community. Retrieved from

Economist, The. (2014, June 21). Sun, sea and surfing. Retrieved from

ETC Digital. (2014). Mobile smartphones – North America. Retrieved from

Expedia, Inc. (2014). The future of travel report. [PDF] Retrieved from

GBTA. (2020). About GBTA Canada. Retrieved from

Goeldner, C. & Ritchie, B. (2003). Tourism: principles, practices, philosophies, 9th edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

go2HR. (2020, May 16a). Career Explorer. Retrieved from go2HR – The Resource for People in Tourism:

go2HR. (2020, May 16b). Essential Tips – Travel Services. Retrieved from go2 Tourism HR Society:

go2HR. (2020, May 28c). Find a Job. Retrieved from go2HR:

go2HR, (2020, May 28d) What is Tourism – Travel Services.

Harris, A. & Sasso, M. (2014). United, Orbitz sue travel site over ‘hidden city’ tickets. Bloomberg Business. Retrieved from

HelloBC. (2020a). Home Page. Retrieved from

HelloBC. (2020b). Plan Your Trip, Accommodations. Retrieved from

HelloBC. (2020c). Visitor Information & Services. Retrieved from

HelloBC. (2020d). Regions. Retrieved from

IBIS World. (2020). Travel Agencies in Canada – Market Research Report. Retrieved from

Jonview Canada. (2020). About Us. Retrieved from

Offutt, B. (2013). PhoCusWright’s travel innovations & technology trends: 2013 and beyond. [PDF] Retrieved from

PATA, (2019) The Future of Travel is Personalization at Scale, Retrieved from

Prince of Whales. (2020). About us. Retrieved from

Smyth, M. (2014, November 20). Why is the BC government shutting down popular tourist info without consulting industry? The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

StatsCan. (2018, March 23). North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Canada 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from Statistics Canada:

Tourism HR Canada. (2020). Tourism Facts – Labour Market Information. Retrieved from

Tourism Vancouver (2020). About Us. Retrieved from

Travel Agents in BC. (2020). Travel agents. Retrieved from

Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture. (2020). Tourism sectors. Retrieved from


Chapter 8. Services Marketing

Original author: Ray Freeman and Kelley Glazer
Edited by: Garrett Stone

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the meaning of services marketing
  • Describe the differences between marketing services and marketing products
  • Describe the characteristics of a marketing orientation and its benefits
  • Define key services marketing terminology
  • Explain the PRICE concept of marketing
  • Provide examples of the 8 Ps of services marketing
  • Gain knowledge of key service marketing issues and trend


8.1 The Evolution of Marketing


Vintage advertisement. Long description available.
Figure 8.1 A vintage ad marketing the cost-effectiveness of Econo-Travel hotels from the July 1978 National Geographic. [Long Description]

Marketing is a continuous, sequential process through which management plans, researches, implements, controls, and evaluates activities designed to satisfy the customers’ needs and wants, and meet the organization’s objectives. According to Morrison (2010), services marketing “is a concept based on a recognition of the uniqueness of all services; it is a branch of marketing that specifically applies to the service industries” (p. 767). In general, the aims of marketing are to “create value for customers,” “build strong relationships” and “capture value from customers in return” (Kotler, Armstrong, Trifts, & Cunningham, 2014, p. 2).

Marketing in the tourism and hospitality industry requires an understanding of the differences between marketing goods, services, and experiences. To be successful in tourism marketing, organizations need to understand the unique characteristics of their tourism experiences, the motivations and behaviours of travelling consumers, and the fundamental differences between marketing goods, services, and experiences.

Until the 1930s, the primary objective of businesses was manufacturing, with little thought given to sales or marketing. In the 1930s, a focus on sales became more important; technological advances meant that multiple companies could produce similar goods, creating increased competition. Even as companies began to understand the importance of sales, the needs and wants of the customer remained a secondary consideration (Morrison, 2010).

In 1944, the first television commercial, for Bulova watches, reached 4,000 sets (Davis, 2013). The decades that followed, the 1950s and 1960s, are known as an era when marketing began to truly take off, with the number of mediums expanding and TV ad spending going from 5% of total TV revenues in 1953 to 15% just one year later (Davis, 2013).

A colourful abstract poster that says, "Life is so beautiful. Stay alive. Don't smoke cigarettes."
Figure 8.2 A 1970s Peter Max–designed ad for the American Cancer Society, urging people to not smoke.

The era from approximately 1950 to around 1970 was known as a time of marketing orientation (Morrison, 2010). Customers had more choice in product, which required companies to shift focus to ensure that consumers knew how their products matched specific needs. This was also the time when quality of service and customer satisfaction became part of organizational strategy. We began to see companies develop internal marketing departments, and in the 1960s, the first full-service advertising agencies began to emerge.

Societal marketing emerged in the 1970s when organizations began to recognize their place in society and their responsibility to citizens (or at least the appearance thereof). This change is demonstrated, for example, by natural resource extraction companies supporting environmental management issues and implementing more transparent policies. This decade saw the emergence of media we are familiar with today (the first hand-held mobile phone was launched in 1973) and the decline of traditional marketing through vehicles such as print; the latter evidenced by the closure of LIFE Magazine in 1972 amid complaints that TV advertising was too difficult to compete with (Davis, 2013).

The 1990s ushered in the start of the online marketing era. E-commerce (electronic commerce) revolutionized every industry, perhaps impacting the travel industry most of all. Tourism and hospitality service providers began making use of this technology to optimize marketing to consumers; manage reservations; facilitate transactions; partner and package itineraries; provide (multiple) customer feedback channels; collect, mine, analyze, and sell data; and automate functions. The marketing opportunities of this era appeared limitless and paved the way for the maturation of social media marketing and a number of other marketing shifts including the increased use of big data, mobile technology, and short- and long-form video content in marketing, as well as a more empowered and engaged consumer. Table 8.1 summarizes the evolution of marketing over the last century and beyond.

Table 8.1 Evolution of marketing in the 20th century and beyond
[Skip Table]
Timeframe Marketing Era
1920–1930 Production orientation
1930–1950 Sales orientation
1950–1960 Marketing department (marketing orientation, internal agency)
1960–1970 Marketing company (marketing orientation, external agency)
1970–Present Societal marketing
1990–Present Online marketing
2000–Present Social media marketing
2010–Present Several competing and interwoven trends (big data, customer-centricity, content strategy, mobile, etc.)
Data source: Morrison, 2010; Callahan 2020

Typically, the progression of marketing in tourism and hospitality has been 10 to 20 years behind other sectors. Some in the industry attribute this to the traditional career path in the tourism and hospitality industry where managers and executives worked their way up the ranks (e.g., from bellhop to general manager) rather than through a post-secondary business education that is more the norm today. It was previously commonly believed that to be a leader in this industry one had to understand the operations inside-out, so training and development of managers was based on technical and functional capabilities, rather than marketing savvy. And, as we’ll learn next, marketing services and experiences is distinct and sometimes more challenging than marketing goods. For these reasons, most businesses in the industry have been developing marketing skills for only about 30 years (Morrison, 2010).

Long Descriptions

Figure 8.1 long description: A black-and-white advertisement. A man holds up a calculator looking skeptical. He says, “Are you kidding me? A big double bed, television, air conditioning, and only $12.95 a night? It doesn’t compute.” A hotel staff member stands behind him looking pleased and says, “Please, sir. Economy is our first name.” At the bottom of the ad, it says, “Econo-Travel: Motor Hotels and Lodges. Economy is our first name.” [Return to Figure 8.1]

Media Attributions


8.2 Differences Between Goods and Services

The Christmas lights covering the parliament buildings reflect in the Victoria harbour at dusk.
Figure 8.3 Selling a moment like this one, captured over the holidays in Victoria’s inner harbour, is different from selling a tube of toothpaste.

There are four key differences between goods and services. According to numerous scholars (cited in Lovelock & Patterson, 2015) services are:

  1. Intangible
  2. Heterogeneous
  3. Inseparable
  4. Perishable

The rest of this section details what these concepts mean.


Tangible goods are ones the customer can see, feel, and/or taste ahead of payment. Intangible services, on the other hand, cannot be “touched” beforehand. An airplane flight is an example of an intangible service because a customer purchases it in advance and doesn’t “experience” or “consume” the product until he or she is on the plane.


While most goods may be replicated identically, services are never exactly the same; they are heterogeneous. Variability in experiences may be caused by location, time, topography, season, the environment, amenities, events, and service providers. Because human beings factor so largely in the provision of services, the quality and level of service may differ between vendors or may even be inconsistent within one provider. We will discuss quality and level of service further in Chapter 9.


A physical good may last for an extended period of time (in some cases for many years). In contrast, a service is produced and consumed at the same time. A service exists only at the moment or during the period in which a person is engaged and immersed in the experience. When dining out at a restaurant, for instance, the food is typically prepared, served, and consumed on site, except in cases where customers utilize takeout or food courier options such as Skip the Dishes.

Rows and rows of empty airplane seats.
Figure 8.4 These empty seats represent lost revenue for the airline.


Services and experiences cannot be stored; they are highly perishable. In contrast, goods may be held in physical inventory in a lot, warehouse, or a store until purchased, then used and stored at a person’s home or place of work. If a service is not sold when available, it disappears forever. Using the airline example, once the airplane takes off, the opportunity to sell tickets on that flight is lost forever, and any empty seats represent revenue lost (Figure. 8.4).



An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • British-Columbia-Parliament-Christmas-Lights
  • Empty-Flight


8.3 Planning for Services Marketing

To ensure effective services marketing, tourism marketers need to be strategic in their planning process. Using a tourism marketing system requires carefully evaluating multiple alternatives, choosing the right activities for specific markets, anticipating challenges, adapting to these challenges, and measuring success (Morrison, 2010). Tourism marketers can choose to follow a strategic management process called the PRICE concept, where they:

In this way, marketers can be more assured they are strategically satisfying both the customer’s needs and the organization’s objectives (Morrison, 2010). The relationship between company, employees, and customers in the services marketing context can be described as a services marketing triangle (Morrison, 2010), which is illustrated in Figure 8.5.

Services marketing triangle. Long description available.
Figure 8.5 Services marketing triangle (adapted from Morrison, 2010). [Long Description]

In traditional marketing, a business broadcasts messaging directly to the consumer. In contrast, in services marketing, employees play an integral component. The communications between the three groups can be summarized as follows (Morrison, 2010):

  1. External marketing: promotional efforts aimed at potential customers and guests (creating a promise between the organization and the guest)
  2. Internal marketing: training, culture, and internal communications (enabling employees to deliver on the promise)
  3. Interactive marketing: direct exchanges between employees and guests (delivering the promise)


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

The direct and indirect ways that a company or destination reaches its potential customers or guests can be grouped into eight concepts known as the 8 Ps of services marketing.

8 Ps of Services Marketing

The 8 Ps are best described as the specific components required to reach selected markets. In traditional marketing, there are four Ps: price, product, place, and promotion. In services marketing, the list expands to the following (Morrison, 2010):

It is important that these components all work together in a seamless set of messages and activities known as integrated marketing communications to ensure the guests receive a clear message and an experience that meets their expectations.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Integrated Marketing Communications

Canvas with a white brick design is draped over a rounded building entrance to resemble an igloo.
Figure 8.6 During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, many marketing partners came together to deliver an integrated experience to guests, including shopping malls disguised as igloos.

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) involves planning and coordinating all the promotional mix elements (including online and social media components) to be as consistent and mutually supportive as possible. This approach is much superior to using each element separately and independently.

Tour operators, attractions, hotels, and destination marketing organizations will often break down marketing into separate departments, losing the opportunity to ensure each activity is aligned with a common goal. Sometimes a potential visitor or guest is bombarded with messaging about independent destinations within a region, or businesses within a city, rather than one consistent set of messages about the core attributes of that destination.

It is important to consider how consumers use various and multiple channels of communication and reach out to them in a comprehensive and coherent fashion. As a concept, IMC is not new, but it is more challenging than ever due to the numerous social media and unconventional communication channels now available. Each channel must be well maintained and aligned around the same messages, and selected with the visitor in mind. Too often businesses and destinations deploy multiple channels and end up neglecting some of these, rather than ensuring key platforms are well maintained (Eliason, 2014).

In order to better understand our guests, and the best ways to reach them, let’s take a closer look at the consumer as the starting and focal point of any marketing plan.

Long Descriptions

Figure 8.5 long description: The services marketing triangle. At each triangle point is the company, customers, and employees. Between the company and its employees is internal marketing; between the company and its customers is external marketing; and between the employees and the customers is interactive marketing. [Return to Figure 8.5]

Media Attributions

  • Services-Marketing-Triangle
  • Pacific-Centre-Igloo


8.4 Consumer Behaviour in Tourism and Hospitality

Customers use their senses to see, hear, smell, and touch (and sometimes taste) to decipher messages from businesses, deciding on a product or service based on their perception of the facts rather than, at times, the actual facts. A number of factors have been shown to impact the choices the consumer makes, including personal factors, which reflect needs, wants, motivations, previous experience, and a person’s lifestyle, and interpersonal factors, such as culture, social class, family, and opinion leaders.

Perception Is Reality

The area of perception can be further broken down to screens and filters, biases, selective retention, and closure (Morrison, 2010). Let’s look at these concepts in more detail.

A man holding a hand in front of where one eye should be, but the eye appears on his hand.
Figure 8.7 All people view things through their own perceptual filters.

The world is filled with things that stimulate people. People are exposed to thousands of messages every day. Some stimuli come from the people around us; for example, a person on the bus might be wearing a branded cap, the bus may have advertising pasted all over it, and free newspapers distributed at the bus station could be filled with advertising. The human brain cannot absorb and remember all of these messages; people will screen out most of the stimuli they are exposed to. They may remember a piece or segment of a message they have seen or heard.

Take a Closer Look: 100 BC Moments Vending Machine 

As part of a 2012 integrated campaign, Destination BC (then operating as Tourism BC) created a vending machine that offered users the opportunity to experience moments that could be part of their visit to British Columbia. At 14 feet tall, this vending machine dispensed free items like bikes, surfboards, and discounts on flights to encourage people to travel British Columbia. This experiential innovation was a way to provide a tangible element to intangible services. It was complemented by an online and social media campaign using the hashtag #100BCMoments and special web landing page at A video of the San Francisco installation earned hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube; cutting through the clutter both in person and online. Watch it here: “Giant Tourism BC Vending Machine comes to San Francisco” on YouTube.

A 20-foot-tall vending machine invites users to "discover your perfect British Columbia moments."
Figure 8.8 A “vending machine” in San Francisco entices people to experience 100 BC Moments.

Perceptual Biases

Everyone has perceptual biases; each person sees things from his or her own unique view of the world. An advertising message can be received and changed to something very different from the marketer’s intended statement.

Selective Retention

Once messages have made it through the screens, filters, and biases, they still may not be retained for long. Customers will practise selective retention, holding on only to the information that supports their beliefs and attitudes.


Skyscrapers viewed through eyeglasses.
Figure 8.9 People use multiple filters to process information.

The brain does not like incomplete images. There is a state of psychological tension present until the image is complete (closure). Where information is unavailable to round out the images, the mind adds the missing data. Over time, through the use of imagery and music (such as jingles), messages are ingrained in a customer’s mind, and he or she automatically adds the company’s name, whether it is mentioned or not.

Applying Psychology to Marketing

Marketers may determine a degree of predictability about customer perceptions. 

Customers are likely to:

Customers are less likely to:

Tourism marketers are in the business of reminding and making customers aware of their needs. Customers have to be motivated to act on satisfying their wants and needs, while marketers need to trigger the process by supplying objectives and potential motives.

Spotlight On: Tourism Victoria’s Visitor Centre

Tourism Victoria’s Visitor Centre is a member of the Visitor Centre Network. Staff are available to provide travellers with tourist information, assistance, and advice. The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre provides travellers with a wide range of services, including professional visitor counselling, helpful travel information and literature, and accommodation reservations (Tourism Victoria, 2020).

Consumer Decision-Making Process

Storefronts by a harbour, lit by streetlamps at night. A clock tower rises from a visitor centre.
Figure 8.10 The Victoria Visitor Centre (at the base of the tower), located in downtown’s bustling harbour, helps consumers through the decision-making process.

In 1968, Kollat, Blackwell and Engel released the first edition of a book called Consumer Behavior where they identified a distinct five-step pattern for consumer decision-making (1972). These steps are: need recognition, information search, pre-purchase evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation.

Here are some critical components at each stage:

Spotlight On: BC Ferries Vacations

BC Ferries Vacations offers over 100 unique travel packages to 40 destinations, connecting travellers to unbeatable scenery, accommodations, and activities. With world-class hotels, activities, and adventures to choose from, travellers can experience BC’s pristine wildlife or urban coastal culture with each customized vacation package. BC Ferries Vacation’s travel experts help travellers create a personalized vacation complete with ferry reservations to bring all-in-one convenience, quality, and value. And, in partnership with some of BC’s best hotels, BC Ferries Vacations is able to provide customers with the best rates, customer service, and overall experiences, whether travelling to Vancouver, Victoria, the north coast, or to remote and amazing destinations in-between (BC Ferries Services, 2020).

In order to reach consumers and stimulate need, tourism marketers can employ a number of traditional and online channels. These are detailed in the next section.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Eye-of-the-Holder
  • BC-Tourism-Vending-Machine
  • Precious-Treasure
  • Victorias-Inner-Harbour-at-Night-2012


8.5 Reaching the Consumer

Marketers have more choices than ever when it comes to broadcasting their message to consumers. Potential travellers and guests will respond, in varying degrees, to traditional channels and emerging online communications tools. There are many choices in marketing and communication channels, each with strengths and weaknesses. Determining the right mix, frequency, and message depends heavily on establishing objectives, completing research, performing a situational analysis, and creating a positioning approach (Morrison, 2010). Let’s take a closer look at communications channels that may form part of the marketing mix.

Traditional Channels

Mass Media

Mass media is best described as the use of channels that reach very large markets. Examples include national newspapers and radio or television advertising. The immediate advantage of using mass media is the ability to reach multiple target markets in significant numbers. Disadvantages include the high expense and difficulty in effective target marketing and measuring return.

An ad for skiing, saying, "You deserve a little après-work."
Figure 8.11 This is an out-of-home ad for Grouse Mountain, in a downtown Vancouver rapid transit station, targeting people working in the area. Note the special web address for the campaign:

Out-Of-Home (OOH)

Out-of-home (OOH) channels refer to four major categories: billboards, transit, alternative outdoor, and street furniture. OOH advertising plays an important role in the tourism and hospitality industry as it provides an opportunity to inform travellers in unfamiliar territory. Transit advertising includes airports, rail, and taxi displays. Alternative outdoor refers to arenas, stadiums, and digital media. Street furniture includes bus shelters, kiosks, and shopping malls.

Take a Closer Look: Tourism Business Essentials: Travel Media Relations Guide
Travel journalists, freelance writers, social influencers, editors, and broadcasters play an important role in ensuring a destination is well represented in the press. As part of their travel media relations strategy, Destination BC uses tools such as Familiarization Trips (FAMs), the Visiting Journalist Program, one-on-one consultation with a Travel Media Specialists, and a Travel Media Relations Guide. The Travel Media Relations Guide outlines how to invite, host, and follow up with media in the best way possible. To read the guide, visit Travel Media Relations Guide [PDF].

Print Media

Print media includes newspapers, magazines, journals, and directories. There is an increased trend away from traditional purchased print advertising toward editorial features, as these are more trusted by consumers. A print ad and an editorial feature created together is known as an advertorial.

Spotlight On: Beattie Tartan

In 2017, Britain’s Beattie Communications Group merged with Canada’s No. 1 travel public relations firm, the Tartan Group, to become one of the world’s most successful integrated communications consultancies, serving tourism and hospitality clients including Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Harmony Hotel, Inn at Laurel Point, and Hotel Zed. The staff have extensive experience working in the industry, and the organization has relationships with multiple tourism associations and press groups. For more information, visit the Beattie Tartan Website.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Online Channels

Hotel partner web page with the heading "Harbour to Harbour with Helijet Package."
Figure 8.12 This is a web page detailing cross-promotion and partnership between the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Helijet. Consumers are being offered this transportation option next to the hotel booking info.

As discussed in Chapter 7, the internet is nearly twice as important as travel agents as an information source for travel (Deloitte, 2015). There are an estimated 4.5 billion people around the globe with internet access, and social media has become truly integrated into the travel and hospitality industry. TripAdvisor and similar sites have become the customer’s first point of connection with tourism and hospitality products and experiences. This can be both an opportunity and a threat: an opportunity to open the channels of communication, but a threat if negative information about the travel or hospitality organization is widely spread. As online distribution expands, empowered and savvy travellers are unbundling the booking component and self-booking directly (Deloitte, 2015).

Internet and mobile technology are referred to as interactive media. For tourism and hospitality businesses, an online presence is crucial: it’s cost effective, it provides global reach, it allows a business to be available 24/7, and it provides a reciprocal communication platform for customers. An online presence can also produce instant access to critical consumer data such as click through rates on websites, views of social media posts and pages, paths-to-purchase, and much more.

Social Media and Reputation Management

There are also challenges with online marketing, including being noticed within the volume of information customers are exposed to, and loss of control in delivering a message. Despite these challenges, as more consumers seek real-time information online, tourism marketers are responding with increasingly sophisticated online marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization, personalized content, and social media monitoring and analytics.

Social Media

Social media is a broad term that refers to web-based and mobile applications used for social interaction and the exchange of content (Zheng & Gerritsen, 2014). Social networking is the act of using social media to “communicate directly with people you’re already connected to or with whom you wish to be connected with” (Zheng & Gerritsen, 2014, p. 28). Unlike traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, and television, social media is largely powered by user-generated content. This refers to content created and shared by consumers rather than by marketers, journalists, experts, and other paid professionals, although they too contribute to social networks. Influencers also play a major role in generating content and hype about tourism products, services, and experiences, ultimately affecting consumer purchasing decisions. Tourism marketers are increasingly leveraging influencer authority, knowledge, and relationships to reach and capture new markets.

Word of Mouth in the Age of Social Media

Social networking has transformed how many people interact with businesses and share experiences with others, in a communication channel known as electronic word of mouth where customers share directly with each other in an online environment. Consumers now have a variety of channels (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and formats (e.g., videos, blogs, reviews) on which to leave ratings, express preferences, and share stories. Many of these platforms have large audiences, and much of this commentary is made in real time, on a smartphone, while the customer is still in the business.

Advertising and Trust

Social networks, and review sites in particular, are used more and more to seek information and advice on things to do and products and services to purchase. Travellers and locals alike check out these sites for ideas on where to stay, eat, relax, shop, and explore. These channels are highly trusted. A survey of over 28,000 consumers in 56 countries found that consumers trust the advice of people they know (92%) and consumer opinions posted online (70%) more than any other advertising source (Nielsen, 2012). A more recent survey of over 31,000 consumers in 36 countries confirmed that personal recommendations and internet sties are the most important planning sources for travellers (Skift, 2014).


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Online Reviews = Business Success

Research shows a direct correlation between consumer reviews and purchase decisions. A 2019 survey by BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers made decisions based on online reviews and 76% trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, 2019). A 2011 study conducted by Harvard Business School found that, for independent restaurants, a one-star increase in Yelp ratings led to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue (Luca, 2011). According to a study by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, if a hotel increases its review score on Travelocity by 1 point on a 5-point scale, it can raise its price by 11.2% without affecting demand (Anderson, 2012). Finally, a report published by TripAdvisor and Oxford Economics claims that TripAdvisor was responsible for $US 546 billion in traveller spending in 2017 alone (Tourism Economics, 2020).

Understanding Customer Needs

As we have discussed, service plays an important role in shaping customer impressions, where the ultimate goal of a tourism or hospitality business is to exceed expectations. Every customer has different wants and needs, but virtually all customers expect the following basic needs to be taken care of:

To fully satisfy customers, businesses must deliver in all four areas. If they meet the basic needs listed above, they’ll create a passive customer — one who is satisfied, but not likely to write a review or mention a business to others.

A woman makes a disgusted face and points to a messy pine wreath.
Figure 8.13 This unhappy customer is likely to broadcast news of her bad experience across multiple platforms.

On the other hand, failure to deliver on the promise can result in a disappointed customer undoing all the efforts of the marketing plan. For this reason, the entire process must be well coordinated and well executed.

Media Attributions

  • Out-of-Home-Advertising-for-Grouse-Mountain
  • Fairmont-Empress-and-Helijet-Partnership
  • Wreath-makin


8.6 Bringing it All Together

The Role of Destination BC

Destination BC is responsible for marketing the Super Natural British Columbia brand to the world (British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, 2020). As we learned in the last chapter, this provincial destination marketing organization has been mandated to fulfill several key marketing and leadership responsibilities critical to the long-term sustainable growth of the provincial tourism industry. This includes marketing British Columbia domestically, nationally, and internationally as a tourist destination (Destination BC, 2020a). Destination BC’s 2020–2023 corporate strategy articulates its aspiration to share the transformative power of BC experiences with the world by focusing on key markets, paths to purchase, visitor dispersion, and key partnerships (Destination BC, 2020b).

Take a Closer Look: Online Reputation Management

This guide from Destination BC’s Tourism Business Essentials series helps businesses understand how to manage their online reputation and includes tips for responding to reviews and other best practice. To get a copy of the guide, visit the Online Reputation Management Guide [PDF].

Market Segmentation

Tourism marketers, including the team at Destination BC, choose target markets for their efforts through market segmentation techniques, where potential visitors are separated by:

Destination Canada’s award-winning Explorer Quotient program provides tourism marketers with detailed psychographic and travel motivations information (Destination Canada, 2013). It allows destinations and experiences to market themselves to target audiences based on psychographic profiles (their psychological tendencies) rather than geographic segments.

Take a Closer Look: EQ (Explorer Quotient)

Destination Canada’s EQ tool allows businesses to segment their customers in a new and innovative way. EQ offers a range of online resources from an EQ Quiz (so you can identify what type of traveller you are) to business toolkits and more. Explore this new tourism marketing tool by visiting the Explorer Quotient toolkit [PDF].

BC’s Tourism and Hospitality Key Markets

BC’s key target tourism markets can be broken down into three main categories: nearby markets, top priority markets, and emerging markets (BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts and culture, 2020).

Nearby markets are BC, Alberta, and Washington State, which are characterized by high volume and strong repeat visitation. Marketing activities to these areas are led by the regions, communities, and/or sectors such as ski. Top priority markets of Ontario, California, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia are characterized by high revenue and high spending per visitor. Marketing efforts here are led by Destination BC. Emerging markets, which include China, India, and Mexico, are monitored and explored by Destination BC.

Performance Measurement and Evaluation

In order to measure its success in the realm of destination marketing, Destination BC has introduced a tool called the net promoter score (NPS), a metric designed to monitor customer engagement. The NPS indicates the likelihood of travellers recommending a destination to friends, family, or colleagues. NPS is based on responses to the question, How likely are you to recommend [British Columbia] as a travel destination to a friend, family member, or colleague? Responses are scored from 0 = “not at all likely” to 10 = “extremely likely.” Respondents are divided into three categories:

NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters: NPS = % of detractors — % of supporters. The intention to recommend a travel destination, reported by the NPS, is a proxy measure of overall satisfaction with the travel experience. Satisfaction with the travel experience and the intention to recommend greatly increase the likelihood of a return visit to British Columbia. And word-of-mouth advocacy, either face-to-face or through social media, is critical for attracting first-time visitors to British Columbia.

Destination BC uses NPS as a performance measurement tool (among others) to help determine the overall effectiveness of online and integrated marketing communications strategies (Destination BC, 2020c). Furthermore, Destination BC has developed the Remarkable Experiences program to “shift thinking beyond a tourism product to consider how a business can deliver local, authentic experiences that are designed with the BC traveller in mind” (Destination BC, 2020d).

Spotlight On: Indigenous Tourism BC

As cited on their website: Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) honours the value of Indigenous knowledge in tourism. More than 200 distinct Indigenous communities, with more than 30 living languages, offer unique perspectives and thriving Indigenous businesses ready to host visitors in major urban centres, down fast rivers, before hereditary totem poles, in award-winning cafes and restaurants, and on pristine beaches under the stars. Indigenous tourism hosts in British Columbia invite visitors to come and share their love for this land. Recognizing that indigenous tourism experiences are a primary draw for many visitors, ITBC aims to grow this industry in a “sustainable, authentic, and culturally rich” way. For more information, visit the Indigenous Tourism BC website.

Effective planning, research, customer understanding, integrated marketing communications, and using online customer service strategies to support effective marketing are fundamental requirements for successful services marketing. However, it is critical that marketers understand the key trends and issues that will help to identify tomorrow’s marketing strategies (Government of Canada, 2012).


8.8 Conclusion

Effective services marketing in the tourism and hospitality sector requires marketers to gain a solid understanding of the differences between the marketing of goods, services, and experiences. Successful organizations use market research to learn the preferences and behaviours of key customer segments. Through a strategic planning process, organizations and destinations develop a marketing orientation designed to identify customer needs and trigger their wants, while striving to meet organizational objectives. Activities are designed to support integrated marketing communications across multiple platforms with reciprocal communications — that is, not just broadcasting information, but having conversations with customers. Savvy marketers will leverage these conversations to keep up with evolving customer interests while seeking an understanding of emerging trends in order to anticipate needs and wants. Engaged marketers also know that social media and integrated marketing communications must be complemented with remarkable customer service, which ultimately supports successful marketing strategy.

Chapter 9 will delve further into the components of delivering exceptional customer service as a key component of industry success.


An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Key Terms

  • 8 Ps of services marketing: refers to product, place, promotion, pricing, people, programming, partnership, and physical evidence
  • Advertorial: print content (sometimes now appearing online) that is a combination of an editorial feature and paid advertising
  • Customer needs: gaps between what customers have and what they would like to have
  • Customer wants: needs of which customers are aware
  • E-commerce: electronic commerce; performing business transactions online while collecting rich data about consumers
  • Emerging markets: markets for BC that are monitored and explored by Destination BC — China, India, and Mexico
  • Heterogeneous: variable, a generic difference shared by all services
  • Influencers: individuals with a strong online presence and following who can use their knowledge, authority, and relationships with followers to share brand-aligned content and inspire travellers to visit or purchase
  • Intangible: untouchable, a characteristic shared by all services
  • Integrated marketing communications (IMC): planning and coordinating all the promotional mix elements and internet marketing so they are as consistent and as mutually supportive as possible
  • Interactive media: online and mobile platforms
  • Interpersonal factors: the influence of cultures, social classes, family, and opinion leaders on consumers
  • Marketing: a continuous, sequential process through which management plans, researches, implements, controls, and evaluates activities designed to satisfy the customers’ needs and wants, and its own organization’s objectives
  • Marketing orientation: the understanding that a company needs to engage with its markets in order to refine its products and services, and promotional efforts
  • Market segmentation: specific groups of people with a similar profile, allowing marketers to target their messaging
  • Mass media: the use of channels that reach very large markets
  • Nearby markets: markets for BC, identified by Destination BC as BC, Alberta, and Washington State, characterized by high volume and strong repeat visitation; sometimes referred to as ‘short haul’ markets
  • Net promoter score (NPS): a metric designed to monitor customer engagement, reflecting the likelihood that travellers will recommend a destination to friends, family, or colleagues
  • Out-of-home (OOH): channels in four major categories: billboards, transit, alternative outdoor, and street furniture
  • Passive customer: a guest who is satisfied (won’t complain, but won’t celebrate the business either)
  • Perishable: something that is only good for a short period of time, a characteristic shared by all services
  • Personal factors: the needs, wants, motivations, previous experiences, and objectives of consumers that they bring into the decision-making process
  • PRICE concept: an acronym that helps marketers remember the need to plan, research, implement, control, and evaluate the components of their marketing plan
  • Psychographics: psychological characteristics, such as an individuals attitudes, beliefs, values, motivations, and behaviours
  • Print media: newspapers, magazines, journals, and directories
  • Services marketing: marketing that specifically applies to services such as those provided by the tourism and hospitality industries; differs from the marketing of goods
  • Services marketing triangle: a model for understanding the relationship between the company, its employees, and the customer; differs from traditional marketing where the business speaks directly to the consumer
  • Social media: refers to web-based and mobile applications used for social interaction and the exchange of content
  • Societal marketing: marketing that recognizes a company’s place in society and its responsibility to citizens (or at least the appearance thereof)
  • Tangible: goods the customer can see, feel, and/or taste ahead of payment
  • Top priority markets: markets for BC identified as a top priority for Destination BC — ‘long haul’ markets such as Ontario and California, as well as international markets such as Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia — characterized by high revenue and high spend per visitor
  • Tourism marketing system: an approach that guides the planning, execution, and evaluation of tourism marketing efforts (PRICE concept is an approach to this)
  • Word of mouth: information about a service experience passed along orally or through other social information sources from past customers to potential customers


  1. Fill in the blanks for the acronym PRICE. During a successful marketing planning process, management will:
    1. P
    2. R
    3. I
    4. C
    5. E
  2. Should services be marketed exactly the same as manufactured products and packaged goods? Why or why not?
  3. Name at least three reasons for tourism marketers to do marketing research.
  4. Why is segmentation so important to effective marketing?
  5. What does integrated marketing communications achieve?
  6. What stages do customers usually go through when they make decisions about buying travel services?
  7. Name the three types of market priorities for British Columbia’s tourism experiences (according to Destination BC). What geographic segments are found in each?
  8. What is the net promoter score (NPS) for a destination with 20% detractors and 80% supporters?
  9. Why is delivering great experiences an important part of services marketing? Give five reasons.
  10. Take the Explorer Quotient (EQ) test. Review the EQ profile document to learn more about your traveller type.
    1. What characteristics do you agree with, which ones do you not? Why?
    2. Select one of the experiences (preferably in BC) matched to your profile and determine how it fits your type.
    3. How does the website of that company market to your traveller type? What visuals or key words do they use to get your attention?

Case Study 1: The Wickaninnish Inn

Located in Tofino, the Wickaninnish Inn (or “the Wick,” as it’s affectionately known) is a world-recognized high-end property famous for offering four seasons of luxury experiences on BC’s “wild coast.” But how does the Wick stay top-of-mind with tourism consumers? A quick look at their marketing mix offers some answers:

  • Product: The inn has long been a leader in offering experiences that go above and beyond a room in a luxury hotel, starting with their storm-watching packages in the late fall, a time that was once their off-season.
  • Place: Reservations can be made online on the inn’s website, via a toll-free number, through OTA sites including TripAdvisor (where reviews are constantly monitored in order to engage with customers), and other reservation services including the HelloBC program. The staff constantly engages with, and monitors their customers, tracking trends in traveller purchasing behaviour to ensure it is front and centre with the inn’s target markets.
  • Promotion: The inn has a well-maintained, visually rich website and social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Flickr (a presence that shifts constantly depending on where consumers can be found online). Its site features a media page with blogs, press releases, and high-resolution photos and videos to ensure journalists can easily post a story at any time.
  • Pricing: The inn has a comprehensive revenue management and pricing plan that includes packaging and promotions for all seasons. The pricing reflects offering value to guests, while confidently staying at the higher end of the scale.
  • People: Not only does the inn attract and train staff who deliver on its promise of exceptional experiences, the Wick also has a multi-person team responsible for sales, marketing, and media (blogging, press releases, photography, hosting familiarization tours).
  • Programming: Programs include packaging under themes such as elopement, natural, seasonal, romantic, spa, and culinary. Many packages include the involvement of hotel personnel such as an elopement coordinator or concierge to help guests plan specific value-added and memorable components of their experience, such as a last-minute wedding (Wickaninnish Inn, 2020).
  • Partnership: The Wick partners with other experience providers and events such as the Tofino Saltwater Classic — a fishing tournament hosted by Brendan Morrison of the Vancouver Canucks. By supporting the event as a platinum sponsor (Tofino Saltwater Classic, 2020), the representatives from the inn meet new potential guests and solidifies its place in the community.
  • Physical evidence: In addition to familiarization tours, the media team ensures the inn is considered for a number of high-profile awards, and celebrates wins by broadcasting these as they occur (e.g., Travel and Leisure Awards World’s Best Winner 2014). Prize logos are placed on the inn’s home page online, in print ads, and in physical locations on the property. The inn also has a regular consumer newsletter that celebrates achievements and shares promotions with past and future guests.

Thinking about this example, answer the following questions:

  1. Imagine the inn received a review on TripAdvisor that showed a customer was not satisfied. How might it deal with this?
  2. Visit the Wickaninnish Inn’s website. Who are the target customers? How is this conveyed on the site?
  3. What are the prices for packages and accommodations? What does the price signal to you about the experience you might have at this hotel?
  4. Do an online search for “Wick Inn” using your favourite search engine. What are the first five links that come up? How do these present the property? What hand does the inn’s staff have in these results?
  5. Look at the community of Tofino as it is presented online and name five potential partners for the Wick.

Case Study 2: Crisis Communication

Destination BC has faced its fair share of marketing challenges over the years including an ongoing homelessness crisis, devastating fires and, in 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic. What can we learn about how they respond(ed) to these crises and communicate(d) with their range of stakeholders? The service marketing triangle can be a useful tool to examine Destination BCs response to the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Internal marketing: Destination BC, in tandem with regional DMOs, provided regular bulletins, up-to-date website content, 24-hour email and call center assistance, live webinars and more to help industry partners access provincial and federal resources and align their consumer-facing messaging with provincial and federal travel guidelines.
  • External marketing: In the early stages of the pandemic, Destination BC worked with provincial health authorities and regional DMOs, to leverage social media such as Twitter to send simple, clear messages directly to visitors and residents. For example, in March 2020, at the height of the crisis, they released messages with the hashtag: #ExploreBCLater… In early May 2020, as provincial restrictions lessened, they released messages with the hashtag: #ExploreBCLocal… And, as restrictions continued to lift in late May 2020, they revived a staple hashtag: #BCTourismMatters.
  • Interactive marketing: Industry partners did their part by making the difficult decision to close their doors to visitors or operate in alignment with the provincial health guidelines. For example, Butchart Gardens provided a COVID-19 update on their website reminding visitors to enjoy the beauty of the gardens while maintaining appropriate physical distance (2m), following directional arrows on pathways, and listening to staff. Though regularly changing, these guidelines at time of publication can be found on the Butchart Gardens’ website.

Thinking about this example, answer the following questions:

  1. Analyze Destination BCs response. What did they do well and what could they have done differently during this particular crisis, or others?
  2. How did Did Destination BC use various communication channels to create, enable, and deliver on their promise to keep people safe and businesses solvent during the coronavirus pandemic?
  3. Visit California had a series of devastating fires in the late 2010s. Even though 99% of California’s wine country was still intact during a good portion of this time, the press was sending out the message that “Wine Country” had become “Fire Country”. What role does the media have on visitor perceptions of destinations?
  4. Look for examples online of how Visit California, like Destination BC, may have utilized the services marketing triangle to control the media narrative and deliver on its promise of safe and secure travel. As a starting point, you might look at Visit California’s Grateful Table experience, Share the Love video, Power of Love public service announcement, or West Coast Travel Facts to answer this question.


Anderson, C. (2012). The impact of social media on lodging performance. Retrieved from

BC Ferries Services. (2020). BC Ferries vacations. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture. (2020). Home. Retrieved from

Callahan, S. (2020). So Long, 2010s: Reflecting on a decade in marketing and what is next. Retrieved from:–2010s–reflecting-on-a-decade-in-marketing-and-whats-ne

Destination Canada (2013). The explorer quotient toolkit [PDF] Retrieved from

Davis, K. (2013, July 17). A (kind of) brief history of marketing (infographic). Entrepreneur. Retrieved from

Deloitte. (2015). Hospitality 2015 game changers or spectators? Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2020a). About Destination BC. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2020b). Corporate documents. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2020c). Net promoter score. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2020d). Remarkable experiences program. Retrieved from

Eliason, K. (2014, December 23). The importance of integrated marketing communications. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2013). FedNor: A guide to using market research and marketing measurement for successful tourism destination marketing. Retrieved from

Kollat, D., Blackwell, R., & Engel, J. (1972). The current status of consumer behavior research: Developments during the 1968-1972 period. Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research. Chicago, IL : Association for Consumer Research, pp. 576-585.

Kotler, P.T., Armstrong, G., Trifts, V., & Cunningham, P. H. (2014). Principles of Marketing (9th ed., Canadian ed.). North York, ONT: Pearson Education.

Lovelock, C., & Patterson, P. (2015). Services marketing. Melbourne, AUS: Pearson Australia.

Luca, M. (2011, September 16). Reviews, reputation, and revenue: The case of [PDF] Retrieved from

Morrison, A. M. (2010). Hospitality & travel marketing (4th ed., international ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Nielsen. (2012, April 10). Global consumers’ trust in ‘earned’ advertising grows in importance. Retrieved from

Skift. (2014, March 24). Personal recommendations are still the most important planning source for travellers. Retrieved from

Tofino Saltwater Classic. (2020). Tofino saltwater classic. Retrieved from

Tourism Economics (2020). Sizing worldwide tourism spending (or “GTP”) and TripAdvisor’s economic impact. Retrieved from

Tourism Victoria. (2020). Visitors centre. Retrieved from

Wickaninnish Inn. (2020). Elopement wedding packages. Retrieved from

Zeng, B., & Gerritsen, R. (2014). What do we know about social media in tourism? A review. Tourism management perspectives, 10, 27-36.


Chapter 9. Customer Service

Authors: Andrea Hinck, Mohna Baichoo, and Tania Loken
Adapted from original works by: Ray Freeman and Kelly Glazer

Learning Objectives

  • Analyze the importance of customer service and its relationship with hospitality and tourism
  • Describe the characteristics of exceptional customer service and its benefits
  • Explain how the quality of customer service differentiates a business
  • Describe communications strategies in any service- related situations
  • Explain how technology impacts customer service delivery


9.1 Customer Experience


While there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a tourism business, one of the easiest to control is customer service levels.

Many of BC’s tourism operations have mastered high and consistent customer service levels. Why and how are they able to do this? What are the characteristics of exceptional customer service and the benefits to the business and the employees? How does technology apply to customer service and how is it constantly evolving?

This chapter will answer these questions as we explore the fundamentals of customer service in the context of a competitive global tourism environment. We will interview experienced tourism professionals, as well study the success of BC’s own customer service program, SuperHost, which has been training BC hospitality professionals for over 35 years.

We will be introducing concepts such as Total Quality (TQ), Net Promoter score and Customer lifetime value (CLV) used to measure customer service impact.

A barista smiles with two customers and a child in a stroller.
Figure 9.1 A family getting their regular drink at the local coffee shop, where they are provided with prompt and courteous service.

Customer service delivery and experience in today’s economy is becoming increasingly significant owing to change in demographics and psychographics. Words such as “authenticity”, “unique,” “one of a kind,” and “memorable” are being widely used by BC hospitality and tourism businesses to describe their customer experience.

Experience in the hospitality and tourism industry is a word that has been defined by various authors since 1982 until now. In the published article from Godovykh & Tasci (2020), the literature review explores the definition of the word “experience” spanning across various periods of time (Table 9.1).

Table 9.1 The evolution of “experience”
Authors Defined “Experience” as
Holbrook and Hirschman (1982, p. 132) “a steady flow of fantasies, feelings, and fun”
Pine and Gilmore (1998, p. 99) “…are inherently personal, existing only in the mind of an individual who has been engaged on an emotional, physical, intellectual, or even spiritual level”
Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004, p. 8) “an environment in which consumers can have active dialogue and co-construct personalized experiences”
Gentile, Spiller, & Noci (2007, p. 397) “experience originates from a set of interactions between a customer and a product, a company, or part of its organization, which provoke a reaction”
Bagdare and Jain (2013, p. 792) “the sum total of cognitive, emotional, sensorial, and behavioral responses produced….”
Godovykh and Tasci (2020, p. 8) “the totality of cognitive, affective, sensory, and conative responses, on a spectrum of negative to positive, evoked by all stimuli encountered in pre, during, and post phases of consumption affected by situational and brand-related factors filtered through personal differences of consumers, eventually resulting in differential outcomes related to consumers and brands”

The above word “experience” has seen an evolution in terms of its description where now this is further expanded across the customer journey through various interactions. In the next section, Ben Day sheds some light on what customer service is and how critical it is to the industry.

Industry Conversation: Ben Day, Director of Sales and Marketing, Blackcomb Springs Suites by Clique

What makes customer service exceptional in the hospitality and tourism, from a provider point of view and a customer point of view?

“Exceptional service is most often delivered by people who care. Poor service from a poorly trained staff member is made much worse if the guest doesn’t feel like the employee cares.

Team members who care start by paying attention to what the guest needs and taking the time to think of ways to go above and beyond.  From a customer point of view the next most important thing is for the person providing the service to be well trained and know what they are doing.

From a provider viewpoint hiring the right team members who like to help others and take the time to listen is critical. The next big step is to provide extensive training so that team members are comfortable to help in every situation and empowered to think out of the box and come up with solutions on the spot.”

A smiling woman wearing a phone headset.
Figure 9.2 Great customer service and experience takes place across many platforms and is critical for tourism and hospitality employers.

Media Attributions

  • Terence-at-Work
  • Woman-on-Headset


9.2 Communication Strategies


Two guests in winter coats talk to a hotel front desk employee.
Figure 9.3 Service encounters as a guest enters Blackcomb Spring Suites in Whistler, B.C.

Quality customer service is an experience of feeling valued or heard. Sometimes it’s an intangible component of why a guest may prefer one tourism or hospitality provider over another. There is something about quality customer service that you often can’t put your finger on — but you know it’s there. And it’s a critical factor for tourism success, both as a means of satisfying ever-increasing customer expectations, and as a way to achieve business profitability (Erdly & Kesterson-Townes, 2002).

In 2019, A Forbes article from Blake identified that, “Companies with a customer experience mindset drive revenue 4-8% higher than the rest of their industries. Two-thirds of companies compete on customer experience, up from just 36% in 2010” (Blake, 2019).

Industry Conversation: Ben Day, Director of Sales and Marketing, Blackcomb Springs Suites by Clique

In your own words, how you describe customer service?

Customer service for me is the discipline and some would say the art of the following…. Listening, Understanding, Delivering

  • Listening: Find out by listening, asking questions and watching for non-verbal cues (i.e., body language) what kind of service your guest requires
  • Understanding: Once you have absorbed the verbal and non-verbal cues, takes a moment to understand what it is that the guest really wants and anticipate additional touches that will go above and beyond.
  • Delivering the service: The key to delivering great customer service is in the first two steps. By listening and understanding the guests you can anticipate the type of service that might just make a lasting impression. Sometimes great service is provided by empowering the guest to take action themselves, don’t assume your guest will want you to do everything for them. Some guest may prefer that you send them a link to a website or an app so that they research their options independently.

Training is critical to ensuring quality service and meeting these objectives (Brown et al., 2009). On a global scale, Canada ranks high in human resources capabilities. Unfortunately, due to the seasonal nature of many tourism and hospitality positions, and limited access to affordable and accessible training, the industry isn’t always able to take advantage of this position (Blanke & Chiesa, 2009), as it can be difficult to attract, train, and retain reliable and qualified staff year-round.

Spotlight On: Tourism HR Canada and go2HR

Tourism HR Canada is a pan-Canadian organization with a mandate aimed at building a world-leading tourism workforce. Tourism HR Canada facilitates, coordinates, and enables human resource development activities that support a globally competitive and sustainable industry and foster the development of a dynamic and resilient workforce. Tourism HR Canada has developed a number of programs and services to help students, employers and tourism workers. For more information go to the Tourism HR Canada website.

go2HR is BC’s tourism human resource association, responsible for playing a lead role in executing the BC Tourism Human Resources Strategy. Established in 1979, go2HR helps employers with their HR needs in areas such as occupational health & safety, customer service training, recruitment, retention and labour shortages, employment-related policy and legislation, and labour market research. go2HR also promotes jobs and careers in tourism, hosts the BC tourism job board and helps businesses provide remarkable customer experiences through its signature SuperHost suite of training (former WorldHost Training Services). For more information, visit the go2HR website.

The concept of total quality (TQ) refers to an approach by businesses to integrate all employees, from management to front-level, in a process of continuous learning, with a goal of increasing customer satisfaction. It involves examining all encounters and points of interaction with guests to identify points of improvement. Total quality management (TQM) in tourism and hospitality is a process where service expectations are created by the entire team, with a collaborative approach between management and employees (Kapiki, 2012).

Spotlight On Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

Founded in 1951, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a not-for profit association that is internationally acclaimed for acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific region. The Association provides aligned advocacy, insightful research and innovative events to its member organizations, comprising 95 government, state and city tourism bodies, 25 international airlines and airports, 108 hospitality organizations, 72 educational institutions, and hundreds of travel industry companies in Asia Pacific and beyond. See more on the PATA website.

Employers understand the positive impacts of training on their bottom line. Key benefits may include improved employee attraction/recruitment, retention, engagement, and innovation. Saunders (2009) suggests that to be most effective, training should be oriented to develop employee potential versus addressing deficiencies.Customer service training provides employees with a foundation for effective service delivery. Potential benefits of this training include:

As employees acquire certifications and credentials, and these are recognized by employers, both groups benefit. Employees have a tangible way of demonstrating mastery of service knowledge and skills, and employers have tools to assist with the recruitment and screening of potential staff.

Spotlight On SuperHost

SuperHost® is a suite of quality, affordable customer service training courses for front-line employees. Delivered online and in classroom, SuperHost offers relevant, up-to-date content and best practices that meet the current needs and expectations of employers and visitors. First launched in 1985, SuperHost is recognized as the standard for customer service excellence in BC. For more information, visit the SuperHost website.

Overview of Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a method of calculating how customers are talking about your company and their willingness to recommend your organization to others. NPS breaks down customers into groups based on how they answer a question similar to this:

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company (or product) to a friend or colleague?”

Based on the score they give you, they are sorted into Detractors (scores of 1–6), Passives or Neutral (scores of 7–8), or Promoters (scores of 9–10). Detractors can harm businesses.

They are not only likely to not return, but they may also urge others to do the same (i.e., they will give bad reviews).

Passives are satisfied. Satisfaction is desirable of course, but passives may or may not come back to a business. Passives are not likely to go out of their way to recommend the business (and also likely won’t complete a review).

Promoters are very satisfied or delighted customers. They can help your business — they come back repeatedly and will recommend your business to others. These are the people who give you 4 or 5 star ratings!

Net promoter score scale. Long description available.
Figure 9.4 Net Promoter Score. [Long Description]

To calculate the Net Promoter Score, which is an index ranging from −100 to +100, follow these steps:

Most businesses are looking for a positive number — more promoters than detractors. (Example: If all of your scores would be promoters, you get a +100. If all of your scores would be detractors, you get a −100.)

Given the NPS range of −100 to +100, a “positive” score or NPS above 0 is considered “good”, +50 is “Excellent,” and above 70 is considered “world class.” Based on global NPS standards, any score above 0 would be considered “good.” This simply means that the majority of your customer base is more loyal.

Action/Goal: Once you know your Net Promoter Score, you can then make every effort to appease detractors and to create promoters. (go2HR, 2018, p. 16)

Formulas for calculating net promoter score. Long description available.
Figure 9.5 Calculate Net Promoter Score. [Long Description]

According to Kim (2008), customer-oriented interactions between consumers and tourism employees influence the quality of the tourism experience. Let’s take a closer look at the concept of customer orientation and what this means in today’s tourism businesses.

Recovery from Service Failures

A keyboard with a removed key, which is marked with a sad face and the word "complaints."
Figure 9.6 Handle customer complaints before guests take them online.

If a business fails to meet customer expectations, there’s a risk the customer will tell others about it, often through social media networks. An on-location problem that turns into an online complaint, going from private to public, can become far more damaging to business than the original issue. To avoid any problem from escalating, organizations and staff must work hard to resolve issues before the customer walks out the door — or pulls out a smartphone to make an online posting.

Of course, it’s not always possible to resolve issues on the spot. A customer’s expectations may go beyond the service the business is able to provide, or staff might not be authorized by management to provide the means necessary to resolve the complaint. In these cases, staff must still step up as service professionals, realizing that the actions they take when faced with a complaint can have a significant impact.

Online complaints highlight this point; reviewers are often more upset about how a problem was handled than about the problem itself. As well, potential guests who read online complaints are looking for reassurance that the same thing won’t happen to them. If they don’t find it, they may dismiss the business as an option and move on. How a business respond to complaints, face-to-face and online, is critical to ensuring successful recovery from service failures.

Service recovery occurs when a customer service professional takes action that results in the customer being satisfied after a service failure has occurred. Often service failures are not the fault of front-line staff, and at times, may not even be the fault of the business. Failure may be the result of an error made by another employee, by the guest him- or herself, or by a technical error. Regardless of where the problem originated, when customers bring it to the attention of the staff, they have certain expectations for resolution.

Tiles spell “understand, listen, act.”
Figure 9.7 Listen, understand, act: the building blocks for resolving disputes.

Disappointed customers often want:

Skilled service recovery is especially important in the age of social media. Customers who are active on social networks are likely to be equally vocal about their satisfaction with service recovery when a problem is expertly handled as they are with their displeasure when they are disappointed with service (WorldHost Training Services, 2013).

While service recovery is a critical skill, all tourism and hospitality professionals should approach each encounter with the goal of providing remarkable service. The next section explores how this is accomplished.

Long Descriptions

Figure 9.4 long description: Net Promoter Score scale. The scale shows 11 people in three different ranges.

The first seven people, numbered 0 to 6, are depicted in red and labelled detractors.

The next two, numbered 7 and 8, are depicted in yellow and labelled passives.

The final two, numbered 9 and 10, are depicted in green and labelled promoters.

The net promoter score formula is shown as the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.

[Return to Figure 9.4]

Figure 9.5 long description: Formulas for calculating Net Promoter Score.

To calculate the percentage of customers who are detractors, who rate 0 to 6 (“I am out of here”), divide the total of detractors by the total of statements, then multiply by 100.

To calculate the percentage of customers who are neutrals, who rate 7 or 8 (“okay”), divide the total of neutrals by the total of statements, then multiply by 100.

To calculate the percentage of customers who are promoters, who rate 9 or 10 (“wow”), divide the total of promoters by the total of statements, then multiply by 100.

The Net Promoter Score can be found by subtracting the percentage of customers who are detractors from the percentage of customers who are promoters.

[Return to Figure 9.5]

Media Attributions

  • Service-encounters
  • Net-Promoter-Score
  • Calculate-Net-Promoter-Score
  • Complaints-button
  • Listen-Understand-Act


9.4 Loyalty and Customer Relationships

Industry Conversation: Ben Day, Director of Sales and Marketing, Blackcomb Springs Suites by Clique

What are the benefits of exceptional customer service?

“In hospitality, word of mouth is incredibly powerful tool to drive increased sales and profitability — even more so with the number of review sites online. Positive customer service leads to repeat business and lots of referrals. For team members, there is a natural euphoria when you make someone else’s day.”

Several customer loyalty cards.
Figure 9.10 Customer loyalty cards are very common in the hotel industry. They are often paired with credit cards.

With competition between tourism destinations and businesses continuing to grow, organizations are increasingly focusing on retaining existing customers, which is often less expensive than attracting new ones. This focus forces tourism businesses to look at the customer relationship over the long term, or the customer lifetime value (CLV) cycle, rather than at single transactions only.

It has been proven that it is much less expensive for a company to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one (Beaujean, Davidson & Madge, 2006). Ultimately, successful organizations will strive to build a base of loyal customers who will provide repeat business and may influence other potential customers. Building positive relationships with loyal customers requires planning and diligence for all customer touch points. This may include (Lovelock & Wirtz, 2007):

  1. Managing service encounters: training staff to provide personal service to customers
  2. Providing customer incentives: inducing customers to frequent the business
  3. Providing special service options: offering enhanced services or extra offerings to loyal customers
  4. Developing pricing strategies to encourage long-term use: offering repeat customers special prices or rate
  5. Maintaining a customer database: keeping an up-to-date set of records on customer purchase history, preferences, demographics, and so on.
  6. Communicating with customers: reaching individual customers through direct or specialized media, using non-mass media approaches

Loyalty programs pull together several of these elements to help a business identify, maintain contact with, and reward frequent customers.

Examples of Outstanding Service

If one uses the definition of quality in service as “meeting or exceeding customer expectations” (Kapiki, 2012), then the following examples certainly fit the description. These embody a concept known as a moment of truth (Beaujean, Davidson & Madge, 2006) when a customer’s interaction with a front-line employee makes a critical difference in his or her perception of that company or destination. The characteristics of employees that are best able to create these moments include self-empowerment and self-regulation, a positive outlook, awareness of their feelings and the feelings of others, and the ability to curb fear and anxiety while being able to access a desire to help others. These past winners of the WorldHost customer service award demonstrate this concept in action (WorldHost, n.d.):

Tamara Turcotte of the Sidney Airport Travelodge was nominated after she came into work on her day off after hearing that hundreds of travellers had been stranded after a bomb threat led to the cancellation of ferry trips from nearby Swartz Bay. Reporting for duty, she helped coordinate accommodations for these travellers, looking beyond the hotel (which was full) to the homes of coworkers and friends. Her compassion and swift actions helped turn a negative experience for these guests into a moment of truth about visiting British Columbia.

Agazzi Abbay received word that JetsGo, a small airline and his employer, had suddenly gone out of business, and he was out of a job. Concerned for the passengers that would be stranded by this abrupt end for the airline, he went to the airport to give them the opportunity to share their frustration. Even though he was unable to help their situation, he was able to demonstrate empathy and provide a listening ear as the only former JetsGo employee available across Canada.

Andrea Chan, a guest services supervisor at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Vancouver, received a call from a hotel guest who said she was ill. Concerned because the caller sounded disoriented, Andrea recommended a visit to the hospital. To be sure her guest was safe, Andrea accompanied her to the emergency room and stayed with her until her health and safety were assured — working well beyond the hours of her shift, and returning home the next morning. By treating every guest like family, Andrea created a lasting impression about Holiday Inn and its customer service value.

Media Attributions

  • Loyalty-Cards-e1599667918757


9.3 Exceeding Expectations with Remarkable Service

Two women pose with a brochure for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.
Figure 9.8 Customers ready to experience hopping on and hopping off.

Kim defines customer orientation “as the set of activities, behaviours, and beliefs that place high priority on customers’ interests and continuously create superior customer value” (2008, p. 195). Even when employees have positive attributes, it may not be enough to ensure positive customer engagements unless they are specifically trained toward customer orientation (Kim, 2008).

Customer Service and Competition: The Customer-Oriented Organization

According to Masberg and colleagues, “to the customer, only service may distinguish a business from its competition” (Masberg, Chase, & Madlem, 2003, p. 19). While specific customer service jobs require different skills, building an overall customer-oriented organization may better meet customer expectations. One way to ensure quality service may be to encourage tourism and hospitality professionals to acquire industry certifications. Businesses can also choose to implement tools to determine customer satisfactions levels, such as the SERVQUAL technique that compares customer perceptions of quality against customer expectations (Morrison, 2010). Under the SERVQUAL model, the five dimensions of service are:

  1. Reliability: where the quality and level of service is consistent
  2. Assurance: knowledge and courtesy of staff and their ability to convey trust and confidence
  3. Tangibles: the organization’s physical facilities, equipment, and appearance of staff
  4. Empathy: the degree of caring, individualized attention that the organization’s staff provide to its customers
  5. Responsiveness: the willingness of staff to help customers and provide prompt service

You can remember these five dimensions by using the acronym RATER. When these dimensions are consistently met, a company is well on its way to becoming customer oriented.

Spotlight On: Skills BC

Skills Canada BC engages a rich network of educators, labour, industry and government partners to deliver its programs and host its annual Regional and Provincial Olympic-style competitions. For more information, visit the Skills Canada BC website.

So far we’ve explored the reasons good customer service is critical to our industry. And with the acronym RATER, we now understand the basics of what a customer might expect from an organization. Together, these concepts can form part of a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy for tourism and hospitality businesses. CRMs are tools used by businesses to select customers and maintain relationships with them to increase their lifetime value to the business.

There are a number of points in time where this relationship is maintained. For example:

All of these touch points are opportunities to maintain strong relationships with customers and to increase the likelihood of positive word of mouth sharing. Let’s take a closer look at the role of social media in customer satisfaction.

The Role of Service and Social Media in Customer Satisfaction

An online review of a hotel. Long description available.
Figure 9.9 A customer reviews a hotel, and the general manager responds to acknowledge their comments. [Long Description]

While the basics of great service haven’t changed, social media and networking have raised the stakes in the service industry. The cost of a negative experience is higher — but so is the value of a positive experience. In fact, the opportunities of social media reviews and ratings far outweigh the risks.

Businesses that take time to “listen” to social media are going to be more successful at leveraging the power of online interactions. These companies effectively read review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and others and respond to guest comments both good and bad.

Many factors contribute to how people rate businesses, including value, quality, and convenience. More than anything, however, service influences customer impressions. Whereas a lapse in quality or convenience can be overcome with excellent service, it is especially challenging to overcome the effects of bad service.

Long Descriptions

Figure 9.9 long description: An online review of a hotel, dated June 25, 2020. The review is titled, “Accomodation [sic] and Location as good as it gets!”

The customer has written, “We really enjoyed our brief stay at The Oswego and would plan another trip to Victoria around staying there. A few short blocks in one direction and you are on Dallas Road for a stroll or a run. A few short block [sic] in the other direction to the harbour, legislature building, museum, restaurants, shops etc. It was a very quiet hidden gem just off the main streets. Clean, well-equipped. Perfect!”

The general manager wrote back, “Thank you so much for your review, and we are pleased to hear you enjoyed your time. Dallas Road is one of our favorites as well for a nearby run! We look forward to welcoming you again soon.”

On a scale of 1 to 5, the customer rated the hotel a 5 for location, service, rooms, cleanliness, and sleep quality. The customer gave the hotel a 4 for value.

[Return to Figure 9.9]

Media Attributions

  • Hop-On-Hop-Off
  • Online-Review-of-the-Oswego-Hotel


9.5 Summary

An inflatable sphere says “welcome” in many languages. Behind it is a silver spherical building.
Figure 9.11 British Columbia set the bar high when it welcomed the world to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

This chapter has explored the importance of customer service and its relationship with hospitality and tourism, particularly in the industry in BC. Using the SERVQUAL technique to describe characteristics of exceptional customer service and its benefits explain how the quality of customer service differentiates a business. Communication strategies in any situation has been reviewed with the service recovery, and proactively through Total Quality (TQ), the Moment of Truth process as well as how to retain and attract new customers through the analysis of customer lifetime value (CLV) and Net Promoter scores (from the SuperHost “Foundations of Service Quality”).

BC tourism and hospitality employers named customer service as the most beneficial training topic in a number of surveys. These skills are integral to customer satisfaction, employee engagement, organizational performance, and a destination’s competitive position (Freeman, 2011; Tourism Vancouver Island, 2010).

Employers can either commit to creating a learning organization or undermine their business depending on their investment (or lack thereof) in training. Essentially, employers get out of training what they put into it, often by attracting and retaining better, more motivated employees. Ultimately, this investment results in a better customer experience with improved levels of customer loyalty and organizational profitability. Prudent employees seek employers who value investment in training.

We know there are a variety of ways to ensure quality of service and recover when things go wrong. A key factor of success is understanding that customers want to be listened to — they would like an apology, a solution, at times compensation, and often follow-up and reassurance. And when a complaint is expertly handled, the customer can be converted from a potential social media detractor to a loyal advocate for the business.

Technology is working at a furious pace, and BC’s tourism and hospitality industry has worked to keep up with the latest opportunities. As a leader in customer service and a well-established international destination, now more than ever, BC’s tourism industry will pivot to ensure its continued success.

Media Attributions

  • Welcome-to-Vancouver-2010


9.6 Conclusion

Key Terms

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): a view of customer relationships that looks at the long-term cycle of customer interactions, rather than at single transactions
  • Customer orientation: positioning a business or organization so that customer interests and value are the highest priority
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): a strategy used by businesses to select customers and to maintain relationships with them to increase their lifetime value to the business
  • Loyalty programs: programs that identify and build databases of frequent customers to promote directly to them, and to reward and provide special services for those frequent customers
  • Moment of truth: when a customer’s interaction with a front-line employee makes a critical difference in his or her perception of that company or destination
  • Service recovery: what happens when a customer service professional takes actions that result in the customer being satisfied after a service failure has occurred
  • SERVQUAL: a technique developed to measure service quality
  • Total quality (TQ): integrating all employees, from management to front-level, in a process of continuous learning, which leads toward increasing customer satisfaction
  • Total quality management (TQM): a process of setting service goals as a team


  1. Complete the checklist for Service Professionals (SuperHost). On a scale of 1–5 (with 5 being highest), rate yourself on the following customer service skills. You can use a recent customer interaction or one from a previous service role. Add any other criteria that relate specifically to your position.
    Qualities of a Remarkable Service Professional Score
    Treat all colleagues with courtesy and respect.
    Treat all customers with courtesy and respect.
    Create a positive first impression for all customers.
    Communicate clearly when sharing directions or information.
    Be aware of the impact of voice and body language during communications.
    Use open-ended questions to clarify.
    Listen in an active and engaged way.
    Listen without judgment to gain understanding.
    Demonstrate empathy to customers.
    Take initiative to deal with challenging situations.
    Solve problems effectively.
    Speak highly of the organization’s products and services on a consistent basis.
    Provide positive recognition to customers.
    Provide constructive feedback using assertive language.
    Look for ways to improve as a customer service professional on an ongoing basis.
    Look for ways to provide remarkable, out-of-the-ordinary service on an ongoing basis.
  2. What are three key benefits of customer service training for employers? What are three benefits to employees?
  3. Identify and discuss three ways how tourism and hospitality businesses can maintain a long-term relationship with their guests.
  4. What kinds of training and credentials are available to tourism and hospitality professionals? What are some of the benefits to both employees and employers of these credentials?
  5. Take a moment to list all of the loyalty programs you belong to (using cards from your wallet or apps on your phone). Next to each, write the following: the reason you joined the program, the benefits you receive from it, and your estimate of the benefits the issuing company receives.
  6. Name five instances in which a guest might interact with each of the following types of tourism and hospitality business:
    1. A tour operator
    2. A hotel
    3. An airline
    4. A ski resort
  7. Choose a tourism business, hotel, or restaurant that has received excellent reviews, and determine which comments can be linked either directly or indirectly to the quality and level of employee training and customer service. Find at least one example of each of the dimensions of RATER.

Case Study: Accent Inn and WorldHost Training Service (now rebranded as SuperHost)

Accent Inns is an award-winning, family-owned and operated company based in Victoria with hotels located in Victoria, Richmond, Burnaby, Kelowna, and Kamloops. All Accent Inns have developed a reputation for their quality, reasonable rates, and excellent service. Guest and staff satisfaction are key components of their service culture to treat every guest like family. The team at Accent Inns put great effort into making every customer interaction memorable.

In 2013, Accent Inns committed to incorporating customer service training at each property to be delivered by Accent Inns assistant general managers (AGMs). Core outcomes were to raise the level of service, empower front-line staff with the tools to exceed guest expectations, and strengthen the facilitation and coaching skills of the AGM team. Building on the business’s existing training culture and strong corporate values, WorldHost Training Services created a customized half-day program for the AGMs to use in their hotels.

To prepare, the AGMs completed an experiential 1.5-day train-the-trainer session. An emphasis on coaching support and a team facilitation approach led many to gain confidence in this new role. One trainer excelled and was selected as the full-time trainer for Accent Inns. Working with the human resources team from Accent Inns, WorldHost also completed a needs analysis at each property to ensure staff had input into future training. Training continues to be developed and delivered internally.

According to Kathy Gaudry, human resources manager for Accent Inns, “The WorldHost team was fantastic; they worked hard to ensure the training was completely relevant to our employees and our culture. The results were phenomenal — our junior leaders have acquired the skills they need to deliver training locally to their own teams — we couldn’t be happier.”

Visit the Accent Inns website and review the information to answer the following questions about their customer service culture:

  1. What kind of experience do you expect by reading the website’s information and looking at the pictures? What kind of service do you feel the inns provide?
  2. Visit TripAdvisor and look up any of the Accent Inn locations.
    1. Select a review for families. What does the reviewer say about the property? How does Accent Inns respond?
    2. Select a review for solo travellers. What does the reviewer say about the property? How does Accent Inns respond?
    3. Are there any negative reviews? If so, how does Accent Inns respond?
  3. Now that you’ve reviewed the case study, the website, and TripAdvisor for Accent Inns, use the RATER dimensions to provide examples of how Accent Inns is using the SERVQUAL model.


Bagdare, S., & Jain, R. (2013). Measuring retail customer experience. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 41(10), 790–804.

Beaujean, M., J. Davidson, & Madge, S. (2006). The ‘moment of truth’ in customer service. Retrieved from

Blanke, J. & Chiesa, T. (Eds.). (2009). The Travel and tourism competitiveness report: Managing in a time of turbulence. World Economic Forum, Davos, p. 525. Retrieved from:

Brown, J., Elliott, S., Christensen-Hughes, J., Lyons, S., Mann, S., & Zdaniuk, A. (2009).Using human resource management (HRM) practices to improve productivity in the Canadian tourism sector. Department of Business, University of Guelph, Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council. Retrieved from

Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). (n.d). Canadian Signature Experiences. Retrieved from

Cornell Hospitality Research. (2012). Summit 2012: Building service excellence for customer satisfaction. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2013) Remarkable service in the age of social media (video). WorldHost Training Services. Retrieved from

Destination BC. (2014) Remarkable experiences program. Retrieved from:

Erdly, M. & Kesterson-Townes, L. (2002). Experience rules, IBM Business Consulting Services’ vision for the hospitality and leisure industry. IBM Business Consulting Services.

Freeman, R. (2011). Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast tourism and hospitality sector customer service training and needs assessment report. Nanaimo, BC: Vancouver Island University.

Gentile, C., Spiller, N., & Noci, G. (2007). How to sustain the customer experience: An overview of experience components that co-create value with the customer. European Management Journal, 25(5), 395–410.

Grey, A. (2006). Upskilling through foundation skills: A literature review. [PDF] Report prepared for the Department of Labour. New Zealand. Retrieved from

Godovykh, M., & Tasci, A. D. A. (2020). Customer experience in tourism: A review of definitions, components, and measurements. Tourism Management Perspectives, 35.

go2HR. (2020). About us. Retrieved from

go2HR. (2018, Spring). SuperHost Foundations of Service Quality Student Toolkit. Retrieved from Superhost Foundations of Service:

Holbrook, M.B.; Hirschman, E.C. The experiential aspects of consumption: Consumer fantasies, feelings, and fun. J. Consum. Res. 1982, 9, 132.

Kapiki, S. (2012) Quality management in tourism and hospitality: An exploratory study among tourism stakeholders. Retrieved from

Kim B. (2008). Mediated effects of customer orientation on customer relationship management performance. International Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Administration, 9(2), 192-218.

LinkBC. (2014). LinkBC roundtable 2014: Dialogue cafe. [PDF] Retrieved from

Lovelock, C. & Wirtz, J. (2007). Services marketing: People, technology, strategy [PDF] (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Retrieved from

Masberg, B., Chase, D., & Madlem, M. (2003). A Delphi study of tourism training and education needs in Washington State. Journal of Human Resources in Hospitality & Tourism, 2(2), 1. doi:10.1300/J171v02n02•01.

Morrison, A. M. (2010). Hospitality & travel marketing (4th ed., International ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Morgan, B. (2019). 50 Stats That Prove the Value Of Customer Experience. Retrieved from

PATA.(2020). About US. Retrieved from

Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. (1998). Welcome to the experience economy. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), 97–105.

Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). Co-creation experiences: The next practice in value creation. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18(3), 5–14.

Půlpánová, L. & Simova, Jozefina. (2012). Factors of customers satisfaction in tourism. E a M: Ekonomie a Management. 15. 160-170.

Saunders, R. (2009). Employer investment in workplace learning [PDF]. Canadian Policy Research Networks. Retrieved from

Stranjancevic, Ana & Bulatovic, Iva. (2015). Customer satisfaction as an indicator of service quality in tourism and hospitality. International Journal for Quality Research. 9. 689-704.

Skills Canada BC (2020). Retrieved from

SuperHost. (2020). Retrieved from

Tourism HR Canada. (2020). Retrieved from

Tourism Vancouver Island (TAVI). (2010). 2010 Training and needs assessment survey [PDF]. Retrieved from:

WorldHost Training Services. (n.d.). WorldHost: Hall of fame. Retrieved from

WorldHost Training Services. (2013). Remarkable service in the age of social media. Retrieved from


Chapter 10. Environmental Stewardship

Original author: Don Webster
Adapted by: Becky Pelkonen

Learning Objectives

  • Define commonly used environmental stewardship terminology
  • Explain how the destination life cycle works and how it affects tourism destinations
  • Articulate the impacts of climate change on tourism
  • Identify other environmental impacts caused by, and affecting, tourism and hospitality sectors
  • Describe various frameworks and models for environmental stewardship in the tourism industry including sustainable tourism, responsible tourism and ecotourism 
  • Describe a variety of initiatives to mitigate the impacts of environmental damage
  • Explain how the environmental management system in BC functions
  • Illustrate the conflicts that exist between tourism and resource extraction in BC


10.1 Definitions and Environmental Stewardship Ideas

One of the main reasons people travel is to visit areas that are unspoiled, natural, beautiful, or unique in terms of their local environment. Unfortunately, through our actions either as tourism businesses or as visitors, we risk damaging the natural environments we depend on (Hardin, 1968; Williams & Ponsford, 2008). Establishing management practices in tourism that limit harm and damage to the environment is a key priority for most tourism destinations. For this reason, environmental stewardship in tourism is of paramount importance.

Environmental stewardship can be defined as “the responsible use (including conservation) of natural resources in a way that takes full and balanced account of the interests of society, future generations, and other species, as well as of private needs, and accepts significant answerability to society” (Worrell & Appleby, 2000, p. 263). Further to this, indigenous peoples within BC and Canada see people and communities as integral pieces to the land management and caretaking process. As noted by the Assembly of First Nations (2020):

Indigenous peoples are caretakers of Mother Earth and realize and respect her gifts of water, air and fire. First Nations peoples’ have a special relationship with the earth and all living things in it. This relationship is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guided indigenous peoples to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity. It is also based on the subsistence needs and values extending back thousands of years. Hunting, gathering, and fishing to secure food includes harvesting food for self, family, the elderly, widows, the community, and for ceremonial purposes. Everything is taken and used with the understanding that we take only what we need, and we must use great care and be aware of how we take and how much of it so that future generations will not be put in peril.

This chapter explores the concept of environmental stewardship, the impacts of tourism on the natural environment (and vice versa), and ways we can minimize these impacts.

A black bear checks under a rock by a river.
Figure 10.1 A foraging black bear is photographed by a tourist on a wildlife viewing trip. Protecting B.C.’s natural assets is paramount to maintaining the province’s tourism product.

Generally speaking, environmental education, research, stewardship and practice have been informed by the traditions of western, Euro-centric culture. It is critical to note that Indigenous peoples throughout the world, including the various Indigenous Nations throughout the land now known as British Columbia have always been the original stewards of their Territories and lands. 

Stewardship is often defined as having the duty of and then actively participating in the careful management of resources. Resource stewardship concepts have roots in a diversity of early practices, often founded on intimate connections between humans, their unique cultural practices and nature (McMillen et. al., 2020). Indigenous knowledge and practices of stewardship concepts were pushed aside for decades as European and white settlers in British Columbia removed Indigenous people from their Lands and implemented Euro-centric systems of land management (Kimmerer, 2013; Wildcat et. al., 2014). Indigenous peoples are often ideally suited to implement stewardship of lands due to in-depth knowledge of their Territories and the stewardship practices developed over centuries of ecosystem management and land connection (Bird & Nimmo, 2018; Kimmerer, 2013). 

The topic of stewardship entered Western thought in the middle of the last century in the works of writers such as Aldo Leopard (A Sand Country Almanac), Garret Hardin (The Tragedy of the Commons), and Rachel Carson (Silent Spring). Building on this growing consciousness, concepts of sustainability and sustainable development was introduced into mainstream policy and thought.

One of the first commonly accepted definitions of sustainable development came from the World Commission on Environment and Development, later renamed the Brundtland Commission. It defined sustainable development as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987, p. 41). Sustainable development models include aspects that interconnect components of social, economic and environmental sustainability, and how these components can work together for long-term, intergenerational outcomes.

A related concept is environmental management, where the natural resources of the environment are managed through policies designed to protect natural values while providing a framework for use. In tourism, this management may be the responsibility of many groups including individual operators, tourism industry organizations, non-governmental organizations, or government agencies (Mercer, 2004; Williams & Ponsford, 2008).

A large crowd of people sit in an auditorium.
Figure 10.2 Delegates at the 2009 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

The Need for Change

Experts around the world agree that the need for stewardship has never been greater, as there exists overwhelming evidence that the environment is being irrevocably damaged by human actions. Climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions (World Tourism Organization, 2008a) and the loss of biodiversity due to declining habitat loss are just two compelling issues.

Tourism, in particular, relies on environmental resources of land, waters, wildlife, air, etc. and often abuses these resources at the detriment to local people and ecological systems. Tourism continues to grow globally, and many tourists are in pursuit of pristine, natural environments. Development of tourism products results in increased urbanization, overuse, exceeding carrying capacity, and contamination of natural resources (Williams & Ponsford, 2008). Later in this chapter, we’ll provide several examples of specific tourism and hospitality impacts and approaches to mitigating them.

There is one issue that is currently taking precedence over all others: climate change. The next section focuses specifically on this critical global issue and its relationship to the tourism industry.

Media Attributions

  • Bear-Watching
  • COP15-UNFCCC-Climate-Change-Opening-Ceremony


10.2 Tourism and Climate Change

A large mountain with bare rock showing through the snow.
Figure 10.3 The Helm Glacier in Garibaldi Provincial Park, melting.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded the “observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (> 90% probability) the result of human activities that are increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” (World Tourism Organization, 2008a, p. 38). Climate change should be considered to be one of the most important challenges currently facing the tourism industry.

Take a Closer Look: Climate Change and Tourism

The report entitled Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges, published by the World Tourism Organization (2008b), discusses the implications of climate change to the global tourism industry. It also suggests climate change adaption measures to be undertaken. Find the full report as a PDF at Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges.

Impacts of Climate Change

According to the World Tourism Organization, impacts from climate change on tourism include the following (2008a):

Direct climate impacts are changes that occur as a result of warming trends, cooling trends, or extreme weather events. Examples include a lack of snow to operate mountain resorts, melting glaciers in mountainous regions, and floods, landslides, and wildfires that could affect tourist areas.

Debris and a banged-up boat are strewn across a beach. Battered buildings are in the distance.
Figure 10.4 The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed large sections of coastline in New York and New Jersey, including popular tourist attraction Coney Island (seen in the distance).

Indirect environmental change impacts are the byproducts of climate change. Global temperature changes may create water shortages, a loss of biodiversity, impacts to landscape aesthetics, and damage to infrastructure through extreme weather events. Examples in tourism include the inability to maintain resort facilities in desert environments due to water shortages, erosion of tropical atolls from rising sea levels, extinction of valuable wildlife species due to changes in habitat, and increased costs of maintaining infrastructure in the face of environmental change.

Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility will become apparent as the tourism industry adjusts to environmental changes. Environmental impact mitigation strategies may create challenges for the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry. Tourism products may be offered over a shorter season, prices may increase due to a rise in operating costs, and there may be a shortage of pristine natural areas available for visits.

Indirect societal change impacts will slowly become apparent. Economic growth may be stunted in some areas and increase in others, creating societal inequality between nations. Political instability may arise in areas that are facing drastic environmental impact. All these changes will present new challenges to the industry and may threaten the long-term security of the industry (Watson, Zinyowera, & Moss, 1997; World Tourism Organization, 2008a).

Table 10.1 provides a detailed list of these impacts and their implications for tourism, as compiled by the World Tourism Organization.

Table 10.1 Major climate change impacts and implications for tourism destinations
[Skip Table]
Impact Implications for Tourism
Warmer temperatures Altered seasonality, heat stress for tourists, cooling costs, changes in plant-wildlife-insect populations and distribution, infectious disease ranges (e.g., mountain pine beetle infestation in BC)
Decreasing snow cover and shrinking glaciers Lack of snow in winter destinations, increased snow-making costs, shorter winter sports seasons aesthetics of landscape reduced (e.g., early closure of Lower Mainland mountain resorts due to lack of snow in 2014)
Increasing frequency and intensity of extreme storms Risk for tourism facilities, increased insurance costs/loss of insurability, business interruption costs (e.g., superstorm Hurricane Sandy and its destruction of parts of Coney Island)
Reduced precipitation and increased evaporation in some regions Water shortages, competition over water between tourism and other sectors, competition for water between visitors and residents, desertification, increased wildfires threatening infrastructure and affecting demand (e.g., drought in California)
Increased frequency of heavy precipitation in some regions Flooding damage to historic architectural and cultural assets, damage to tourism infrastructure, altered seasonality (e.g., flooding in Souris, Manitoba, causing washout of swinging bridge attraction)
Sea level rise Coastal erosion, loss of beach area, higher costs to protect and maintain waterfronts (e.g., threat to PEI’s historic West Point Lighthouse; now close to falling off cliff due to erosion)
Sea surface temperatures rise Increased coral bleaching and marine resource and aesthetics degradation in dive and snorkel destinations, increased invasive species in waterways (e.g., threat from yellow perch driving out salmon in BC rivers and lakes)
Changes in terrestrial and marine biodiversity Loss of natural attractions and species from destinations, higher risk of diseases in tropical-subtropical countries (e.g., heavy rainfall leading to an increase in dengue fever and malaria)
More frequent and larger forest fires Loss of natural attractions; increase of flooding risk; damage to tourism infrastructure (e.g., destruction of Kettle Valley Railway bridges used by cyclists in 2003 BC forest fire)
Soil changes (e.g., moisture levels, erosion, and acidity) Loss of archaeological assets and other natural resources, with impacts on destination attractions
Data source: World Tourism Organization, 2008a, p.61

To understand how we might begin to address these impacts and other environmental issues, it’s helpful to understand the fundamentals of environmental stewardship theory, which is explored in the next section.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • The-Helm-Glacier-melting-in-the-hot-sun
  • Dirty-Boat


10.3 Environmental Stewardship Theory in Tourism

Some basic concepts of environmental management and ethics, especially as they apply to tourism, include carrying capacity, footprint, tragedy of the commons, and the tourism paradox.  This section also outlines some of the key approaches to dealing with environmental and sustainability issues in the tourism industry including sustainable tourism, ecotourism, and responsible tourism management.

Carrying Capacity

Carrying capacity is “the average maximum number of individuals of a given species that can occupy a particular habitat without permanently impairing the productive capacity of that habitat” (Rees, 2001, p. 229).

People on a beach at night turn their backs on beer bottles left on the sand.
Figure 10.5 A tourist’s snapshot of a “full moon party” in Thailand, where bottles, trash, and human waste litter the beach for days afterward and noise and light pollution are common.

This concept has been applied to tourism in the context of a tourism carrying capacity (TCC), “the maximum number of visitors which an area can sustain without unacceptable deterioration of the physical environment and without considerably diminishing user satisfaction” (Salerno, Viviano, Manfredi, Caroli, Thankuri, & Tartari, 2013, p. 116).

Take a Closer Look: Vehicle Congestion in Banff National Park

In late 2014, the Town of Banff approved $70,000 to study the feasibility of introducing a gondola network to connect the Banff Centre, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Upper Hot Springs, and the existing mountain gondola. That summer the town experienced 54 days of congestion that exceeded its threshold of 20,000 vehicles per day, with vehicle waits and idle times of up to 1.5 hours during peak periods. To learn more about the issue and proposed solutions, read “Banff Considers Potential of Gondola Network.”

Carrying capacity factors are determined within a scientific framework and must adapt to various changes and needs of local people and ecosystems. There are many examples of TCC being applied in tourism globally and it is important to note that no two areas have the same set of factors to determine carrying capacity. In Canada, national parks use the concept to ensure visitor numbers are restricted to a sustainable level along with other wilderness areas, protected areas, Indigenous Territories and waterways, campgrounds, and front country experiences.

Although TCC is a theoretical concept that is often discussed and utilized for analysis, in reality it can be challenging to restrict the numbers of tourists arriving at a destination.  Both determining and managing the carrying capacity of a destination requires input from local peoples and environmental data.  One successful approach is to limit access to an area or to simply limit tourist numbers.

Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprint is essentially a tool to analyze the impact of a population on Earth (Rees, 2001). The model calculates the total area of land and water resources used to support the population, presenting it in a manner that can be easily related to — usually in terms of the amount of land needed to support an individual at the standard of living that person is used to.

Many countries and people of those countries use more natural resources within and beyond their own borders than ecosystems can regenerate (biocapacity). Because of this, these countries and people are essentially running an “ecological deficit.” Nations and people can run these ecological deficits by overusing their own (and other Nations’/peoples’) resources, such as by overfishing, taking resources from other areas, and/or emitting higher levels pf carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than can be absorbed (Global Footprint Network, 2020).

Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the commons is an economic theory first proposed by Garrett Hardin in 1968, which states that if individuals are given the chance to overuse a common property, they will, in order to realize the maximum personal benefits. If every person does this, common property quickly becomes overused and damaged (Hardin, 1968).

For example, a group of tourism operators may look at a pristine natural area and see a chance for economic profit, and in the race for development, little or nothing is done to protect the area. If this unchecked development were to continue, the damage to the environment could reach a point where the elements that attracted tourists in the first place are irreversibly damaged, thus resulting in the “tragedy” that Hardin discusses (Hardin, 1968).

The tragedy of the commons leads to something known as the tourism paradox, a concept that describes the paradoxical nature of tourism’s relationship with the environment.

The Tourism Paradox

Snowy mountains can be seen across the ocean from a rocky shore.
Figure 10.6 B.C.’s tourism assets centre heavily on scenery. Seen here are the Coast Mountains and the Georgia Strait, as viewed from Neck Point Park near Nanaimo.

A common theme promoted by many tourism destinations is their location in some of the most ecologically fragile environments in existence — coastal, mountain, and river environments (Williams & Ponsford, 2008). Tourism requires these areas to be intact to serve as an attraction to visitors. Tourists expect a clean physical environment, appropriate seasonal conditions, and diversity of wildlife. Destinations failing to provide at least some of these elements risk losing their competitive edge in the global market; visitors will steer clear of polluted, barren landscapes with unpredictable or uncomfortable weather.

Spotlight On: The Resort Municipality of Whistler

The community of Whistler relies heavily on natural resources for its local tourism products, such as skiing, and has long been active in sustainability initiatives. The plan, Whistler 2020, sets out integrated community strategies for enhancing community life, enhancing the resort experience, ensuring economic viability, protecting the environment, and partnering for success. For more information about the plan and Whistler’s progress with these initiatives, visit the Whistler2020 website.

At the same time, the tourism industry is itself causing environmental damage through its own development in pristine areas, consumption of resources, and contribution to climate change. This is the paradox: as an industry, tourism both creates damage and suffers from it. That’s why it’s critical for the industry to be proactive about environmental sustainability in tourism; failing to do so may result in our downfall (Williams & Ponsford, 2008).

Before we gain a better understanding of the ways the tourism industry and individual operators can try to mitigate their impacts, let’s take a closer look at the overall management of BC’s environmental resources.

Sustainable Tourism

The UNWTO sees sustainable tourism as a set of guidelines and management practices that can be applied to all forms of tourism (from small-scale to mass tourism) and in all destination types (2005).  When referring to sustainable tourism, sustainability principles relating to environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development must be addressed.  As such, sustainable tourism development requires the informed consent and input from local people and stakeholders and must address the need to:

  1. Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
  2. Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  3. Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation (UNWTO, 2005, p. 11–12).

Many industry leaders feel that the sustainable tourism movement is fragmented and lacks leadership and accountability due to the fragmentation of the tourism industry itself (Mullis, 2017). Tourists themselves have a large role to play in this equation in that their experiences are generally more positive when experiences incorporate sustainability principles and it has been found that tourists are more likely to visit or make purchases from tourism companies that have sustainability practices in place (Mandala Research, 2015).

Responsible Tourism

Responsible Tourism is an approach to tourism development that was defined through the Cape Town Declaration in 2002 in an effort to provide practical, evidence-based solutions that sustainable tourism approaches have not succeeded to do.  Responsible tourism is defined as “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit” (Cape Town Declaration, 2002).  Responsible tourism approaches focus on identifying important issues to local people and their environments, addressing those issues and transparently reporting and monitoring on those issues.

The Cape Town Declaration recognizes that Tourism can provide numerous benefits to people and destinations however tourist and industry behaviour must be managed in a way that is defined by local people who know what they need best.

The Responsible Tourism approach is defined by tourism that:

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • Full-Moon-Party
  • British-Columbia-Coast-Range


10.4 Environmental Management in BC

Environmental impacts in BC are managed by a variety of governmental organizations and should always be in consultation with and by the consent of First Nations people and governments. Each of these agencies at First Nations, provincial and federal government levels have a role to play, from regulation of land access and resource extraction to environmental monitoring and cleanup. To understand how the impacts are managed, let’s review the basic categories of land use in BC.

Land Use

There are essentially four broad land categories in BC: First Nations land, private land, provincial Crown land, and federal Crown land.

First Nations land includes any area where “Aboriginal title” has been established and responsibilities for management lie with the relevant First Nations group. Large areas of designated Crown land in BC are considered by First Nations groups as traditional, and these are currently going through the treaty negotiation process, which will likely result in a larger proportion of the BC land area coming under First Nations management.

In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Delgamuukw case that Aboriginal title is “a right to the land itself—not just the right to hunt, fish and gather.” This case confirmed that “Aboriginal title still exists in BC and that when dealing with Crown land the government must consult with and may have to compensate First Nations whose rights are affected” (BC Treaty Commission, 2020).

Private land in BC is any land where private property rights apply. This includes residential, commercial, and agricultural zoned land throughout the province. If private property rights apply, the owner has more rights over that land for development and use than any other classification of land. Tourism companies wishing to operate on private property need to gain ownership of the land, or failing that, permission to operate on the land. Private property accounts for approximately 5% of the land mass in BC (Government of BC, 2011).

The term Crown land applies to any land that is owned by either the provincial or federal government. Provincial Crown land makes up 94% of BC, making it the largest category of land in the province. Provincial Crown land is available for a wide range of activities that encourage recreation and economic development, including tourism (Government of BC, 2011).

A park ranger holds out a clear plastic cube to a young girl while crouched in tall grass.
Figure 10.7 A BC Parks ranger conducts an interpretive program.

Designated park areas are managed by BC Parks, the agency that reviews and issues permits for tourism companies to operate within a park. Other provincial Crown land is managed by a variety of government agencies, such as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNR).

Federal Crown land is all land that is owned by the Government of Canada; in BC, less than 1% of the overall land is federal Crown land. It primarily consists of parks and protected areas that are managed by Parks Canada, the federal agency that has a mandate to preserve and share “natural and cultural heritage” and help ensure enjoyment and appreciation “for present and future generations” (Parks Canada, n.d.).

Take a Closer Look: Parks and Protected Areas in BC

Two examples of pristine parks in BC are Pacific Rim National Park and Garibaldi Provincial Park. Pacific Rim is operated by Parks Canada. It covers a beautiful stretch of land along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Visit the webpage at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Garibaldi is managed by BC Parks. It is located just north of Vancouver and protects a pristine mountainous region. Learn more at the Garibaldi Provincial Park website. Both parks serve as significant natural attractions for tourism in BC.

Land Use for Tourism and Hospitality

Businesses and organizations wishing to use Crown land for economic development must apply and be approved for Crown land tenure, which is an agreement with the BC government to use the land for commercial purposes. Examples of the types of tourism operations that might seek tenure include mountain resorts, golf courses, backcountry lodges, tour operators, resort development, and marina construction. It’s estimated that about 16% of the tourism industry in BC depends on access to Crown land through the Crown land tenure program (Government of BC, 2010).

Different tenures are available depending on the type, location, and intensity of use proposed. A temporary permit grants use for approved activities for up to two years, but not exclusive use (other commercial operators may still use the area). A licence of occupation, the next level of tenure, provides for light development (e.g., semi-permanent structures or trails). This type of licence is typically issued for terms of five to 30 years and is renewable. A lease is a long-term contract for tenure, typically for 30 years. With a lease, operators can make substantial improvements to the land including significant structures such as lodges, restaurants, ski lifts, roads, and so on. It is the longest term and the most secure type of tenure (Government of BC, 2010).

Any tourism business wishing to operate on First Nations land requires permission from the local First Nation. Companies wanting to operate in a National Park also need to apply for a permit. Although resource extraction is restricted, national parks often encourage tourism development that is sustainable and appropriate for the local environment.

Other elements of environmental stewardship in BC fall to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. This ministry focuses on environmental protection, environmental sustainability, strategic policy, managing and developing parks and protected areas, climate action, and managing Conservation Officer Servicea.

Additionally, the Environmental Assessment Office plays an important role in environmental stewardship on Crown lands in BC. All major projects being proposed for development on Crown land must undergo an environmental assessment and have it approved by this office, which is a neutral agency set up specifically for this purpose. Projects are evaluated not only for their potential impacts on the environment, but also on their economic, social, cultural, and heritage aspects. Large-scale tourism projects such as mountain resorts are required to proceed through the environmental assessment process (Environmental Assessment Office, n.d.).

Aerial view of mountainsides that have large sections of trees missing due to logging.
Figure 10.8 Logging sites visible from the air in Jervis Inlet.

The current land management system in BC has led to numerous conflicts between tourism operators and resource extraction operations such as mining and forestry. Often, overlapping tenure is given to multiple companies with conflicting operational goals. Tourism operators typically require a clean environment, high-quality viewscapes, intact biodiversity, and an environment free of industrial scars. To maintain these values, any resource extraction needs to occur far from where tourism operators conduct their activities. In recent years, tensions have been building as access to wilderness areas becomes scarcer, with tourism values often falling second to resource extraction under the existing system (Webster, 2013).

Take a Closer Look: Conflicts Between Tourism and Resource Extraction in BC

Tourism companies complain that despite being part of the $1.6 billion nature-based tourism industry in BC, the government favours traditional logging values. This article discusses one example on northern Vancouver Island where a kayaking operator feels logging is threatening its livelihood. Learn more by reading the article, “Logging Threatens Tourism, Kayaking Company Charges.”

The issues discussed above provide a framework for thinking about environmental management and the impacts of the tourism industry in BC. As part of the industry, we have an important responsibility to recognize impacts and take steps to reduce them. The next section addresses how we might do just that.

Media Attributions

  • BC-Parks-Ranger-A.J.
  • Logging-decimation-in-Jervis-Inlet


10.5 Mitigating Tourism and Hospitality Impacts

The sun shines on tracks in the snow.
Figure 10.9 Moose tracks on Liard River in northern B.C.

In recent years in BC, the tourism industry has felt the impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and increased conflicts over the use of natural areas. The winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 were two of the warmest on record, and numerous low-elevation coastal mountain resorts were forced to close in the middle of the winter season (Hager, 2015). As well, the province is experiencing increased pressure on endangered wildlife species that draw tourists and residents alike. The death of an orca whale off the coast of Vancouver Island in late 2014 raised questions of water pollution and contamination (Theodore, 2014).

Take a Closer Look: The Future of Mountain Resorts 

With their dependence on quality snow conditions for guests, ski areas will likely be among the first to be impacted by climate change. Read an article on this topic from the Tyee, “Peak Snow? BC Ski Resorts Brace for Warmer Era.”

In the face of this negative environmental news, there are a variety of initiatives underway that have the potential to implement real change. These include:

This section explores these potential solutions.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is a standardized, regulated system that provides organizations with the ability to invest in green initiatives that will counterbalance their emissions, hence creating a carbon neutral situation (David Suzuki Foundation, 2009).

The concept of carbon offsetting stems from a recognition that despite a desire to entirely eliminate carbon emissions, sometimes doing so isn’t immediately feasible. Consequently, carbon offsetting has proven popular with tourism companies that can offset some or all of their emissions, either by themselves or by providing the opportunity for customers to do so. Examples are most commonly found in the transportation sector, where the reliance on traditional fossil fuels makes it challenging to completely eliminate carbon emissions.

A symbol saying "carbon neutral" on the side of a sea plane.
Figure 10.10 A detail from the side of a Harbour Air seaplane.

Take the small B.C. airline Harbour Air, for instance. Since 2007, the company has completely offset all of the emissions produced by its airplanes by investing in energy-efficiency and fuel-switching projects in BC. The cost of the projects is passed on to passengers through a small levy added to the ticket price, and despite the cost increase, passenger traffic increased by 12% to 15% in the following year (Offsetters, n.d.).

Take a Closer Look: Carbon Offsetting and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were the first carbon-neutral Olympic Games. For more information, read the discussion paper, Meeting the Challenge: A Carbon Neutral 2010 Winter Games.

Carbon offsetting isn’t just for the transportation sector, however. Tinhorn Creek Winery in Oliver has become a tourism destination for wine and culinary tourists and has some innovative conservation concepts. In addition to having an offsetting program, the winery runs its vehicles on biodiesel. It also holds virtual tastings with travel media over the web (media obtain samples of the product ahead of time), eliminating travel to the Okanagan to have a Tinhorn experience. The property remains dedicated to exploring sustainability concepts as its survival is based on mitigating climate change and the negative effects of drastic weather changes on wine production (Tinhorn Creek Winery, 2014).

Energy Conservation

Despite the relatively low cost of electricity in BC, it benefits all operators to do their part by reducing consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Not only is this the right thing to do for the physical environment, it’s also a means to save money.

For example, the Four Seasons in Vancouver reduced their electricity consumption by 4,000 megawatt hours in the period between fall 2012 and spring 2014. They did this by installing timers and photocells on lights, auditing appliances, ensuring proper maintenance of the furnace and HVAC systems, and cleaning light fixtures and fans so these operated at their best. The energy reduction represented a savings of $135,000 for the property (Hui, 2014).

Take a Closer Look: Energy Conservation in the Hospitality Sector

BC Hydro’s PowerSmart program for businesses has helped operators large and small — from BC Ferries to the Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby — to reduce their footprint and save money. Read success stories, check out helpful tools, and learn more about the program by visiting Hospitality: Increase profits by reducing energy costs.

BC Ferries is another organization that has realized energy savings. It did this with the help of BC Hydro education programs and incentives, retrofitting lighting and installing radiant heat in a workshop and toll booths. These efforts yielded an energy savings of over 335 megawatt hours in one year. That represents enough energy to power 31 average homes over the same time period (BC Hydro, 2013).

Water Conservation

A large stream runs down a hillside in a misty forest.
Figure 10.11 A hiker comes across surging fresh water from a “pineapple express” storm on B.C.’s coast.

British Columbia is home to 25% of Canada’s fresh water, and so to many it appears that water conservation is not an issue in the province. However, water is not evenly distributed across regions, nor is it equally available all seasons of the year (BC Ministry of Environment, n.d.b). This is especially evident on Salt Spring Island, a popular tourist destination with numerous small accommodation properties. The island experiences water shortages in the peak summer season when lake and groundwater levels drop and demand is highest.

In 2006, a number of local water conservation groups on Salt Spring Island surveyed 117 accommodation providers to determine what measures might be taken to alleviate the summer pressure on freshwater systems. They were pleasantly surprised to find that several properties had already taken steps, including installing low-flow toilets and flow restrictors on shower heads, requiring minimum two-night stays (which reduces the amount of laundry required), and offering visitor education campaigns. The combined efforts of properties on the island have proven to make a significant difference to the collective capacity of 1,500 guests per night (O’Callaghan, 2006).

Food Production and the Environment

As discussed in Chapter 4 on food and beverage services, there is increasing awareness among the general public about the importance of healthful eating. This goes hand in hand with an increased understanding of food production issues including environmental impacts such as pollution, soil depletion, and the toxicity (both to humans and the environment) of industrial food growth practices. Over the last 30 years, American (and to an extent, Canadian) food growth has centred on the mass production of inexpensive staple foods such as corn and soy, which are used in unhealthy foods like high-fructose corn syrup and soybean oil, and are fed to the animals we eat (University of Minnesota, 2009).

Spotlight On: Island Chefs Collaborative

The Island Chefs Collaborative (ICC) is an organization that supports connections between local agriculture and the food and beverage industry. Its vision is a local and sustainable food and agriculture system for Vancouver Island. For more information, visit the Island Chefs’ Collaborative website.

Farming mass amounts of one crop is known as monoculture, a practice that depletes the soil and encourages the use of pesticides and fertilizers for increased production. The impacts of these chemicals to date include the creation of a “dead zone” at the outflow of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, where no fish or other animals can live (University of Minnesota, 2009).

The soil in which food is grown is becoming less rich as commercial fertilizers focus only on building specific nutrients. Combined with the long distances that foods are shipped (sometimes causing nutrients to be depleted), consumers are becoming wary of commercially produced foods (University of Minnesota, 2009).

The 100-Mile Diet and Farm to Table

In 2005, two BC-based journalists, J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, began chronicling the challenges of only eating food produced within 100 miles of their homes, as part of a serial of articles for the Tyee. Their posts became a book, The 100-Mile Diet, launched in 2007 and heralded as a vanguard of the local food movement (Tyee, 2005).

Spotlight On: Circle Farm Tour

Created through a partnership between destination marketing organizations in the Fraser Valley communities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz-Harrison, and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, the Circle Farm Tour brings awareness to farming practices and farmland conservation while creating a collaborative tourism product. Self-guided tours are made possible through a series of branded maps, brochures, and a central website. For more information, visit the Circle Farm Tour website.

Organizations such as FarmFolk CityFolk, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to food sustainability in the province, have been promoting farm-to-table dining for over 20 years. Their efforts include working with restaurants to bring quality ingredients to the sector, and hosting annual events that celebrate the “feast of fields” in regions such as the Okanagan (FarmFolk CityFolk, 2014).

Waste Management

Several brown food waste bags in a compost bin with a plastic lining.
Figure 10.12 A food scraps bin ready for composting, collected at a Vancouver farmer’s market.

In 2012 in BC, the amount of garbage generated was equivalent to 570 kilograms per person. With landfills and treatment sites filling to capacity (and sometimes beyond), it’s imperative that communities and businesses work together in the practice of proper waste management through implementing recycling programs, reducing garbage, properly treating industrial and hazardous waste, and treating sewage and wastewater (Government of BC, n.d.).

One very effective means of reducing garbage taken to the landfill is implementing a food waste program in which food scraps are placed in a green bin and collected by the community for composting. The City of Vancouver initially introduced such a program to single family households from 2011 to 2013 and saw a 30% drop in garbage generated. In 2014, the program was expanded to include all households and businesses and placed a ban on food scraps in the garbage. The program met resistance from the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which viewed the initiative as placing an extra cost and being a logistical challenge for members (Nagel, 2014). Individual restaurateurs were hopeful, however, that the city would help businesses by increasing pickup and expanding the efficiency of their other recycling programs (Robinson, 2014).

Plants & Wildlife

The impact of tourism to plant-life and wildlife in BC is immense, and the impacts range from habituation of animals to humans to the actual destruction of ecosystems and habitats as well as the hastening of species decline. Tourism can affect plant-life through acts of trampling sensitive ecosystems, gathering branches for campfires, over-collecting flowers and plants, litter, and/or careless acts with backcountry use that have sparked uncontrolled forest fires in BC especially this past decade. Wildlife are also affected wherein many animals have become habituated and tolerate tourists wherein feeding and breeding habits are disrupted, habitats are destroyed/access is limited, and food systems are altered greatly.

Accreditation and Certification

Environmental accreditation or certification is a type of voluntary regulation where an organization agrees to follow a set of standards, predefined processes, or regulations. These are generally developed by independent non-governmental organizations with a goal of reducing the environmental impact within an industry. Accreditation can encompass any of the practices discussed so far — from carbon offsetting to energy and water conservation to waste management.

Beyond the value of making the ethical decision of working to reduce environmental impacts, organizations receive value by being able to promote themselves as being environmentally friendly and therefore attracting consumers (Font, 2002). And for guests, choosing an independently accredited business may help them avoid companies that are guilty of greenwashing, which is the promotion of environmentally friendly tourism products without actually achieving the environmental standard promised (Lelenicz & Simoni, 2012; Self, Self, & Bell-Haynes, 2010).

Spotlight On: Green Key Global

Green Key Global is an international certification body that evaluates the accommodations and meetings industries on the basis of their sustainable initiatives. Headquartered in Ontario, its Green Key Eco-Rating Program awards from 1 to 5 keys to hotels, with 47 properties currently holding the highest rating. Green Key Global conducts an on-site assessment and provides operators with suggestions for improving their sustainability efforts. Awarded keys are then used as marketing and promotional tools. A similar program serves the meetings and events sector. For more information, visit the Green Key Global website.

Organizations join such programs voluntarily. This typically involves going through an audit to prove adherence to a set of environmental standards (Font, 2002). Generally, an audit consists of an independent third party visiting a business or operation and reviewing its practices against a checklist of standards; those that pass earn the certification or accreditation.

It is estimated that over 100 different tourism environmental certification programs exist, each with different standards and criteria (Self, Self, & Bell-Haynes, 2010).

Spotlight On: Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable Tourism is an environmental tourism certification program where tourism operators are assessed for adherence to sustainability principles. It offers ongoing support and consultation so that operators may work to achieve a high level of environmental sustainability. For more information, visit Sustainable Tourism.

Whether it be through carbon offsetting, energy and water conservation, increased use of local and organic food products, or official accreditation programs, the tourism industry has a number of options for lessening the impacts of businesses on the physical environment.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Media Attributions

  • I-Will-Follow
  • Harbour-Air-the-worlds-first-Carbon-Neutral-Airline
  • Pineapple-Express
  • Food-Scraps-Drop-Spot-project-by-Vancouver-Farmers-Market


10.6 Conclusion

Numerous studies suggest society will face increasing pressure for scarce resources and a changing natural environment due to habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change (Hardin, 1968; Mercer, 2004; Williams & Ponsford, 2008; Wong, 2004; World Tourism Organization, 2008b). The tourism industry must recognize its considerable contribution to this global challenge and take aggressive steps to mitigate the impacts.

Deciduous trees lining a picturesque lakeshore.
Figure 10.13 Bertram Beach near Kelowna, one of many B.C. sites the industry should strive to keep beautiful.

On a global scale, the tourism industry needs to recognize its release of significant carbon emissions and explore ways to reduce these while maintaining the mobility needed for travel. On a local scale, tourism stakeholders need to recognize the risk they pose to the destruction of local pristine environments and take steps to ensure the sustainability of their operations. Only by working together can we ensure a future for tourism and our society as a whole.

This chapter has addressed a major risk to the tourism industry — the threat of environmental impacts and disasters on businesses and communities. Chapter 11 addresses the concept of risk management and legal liability in the industry.

Key Terms

  • BC Parks: the agency responsible for management of provincial parks in British Columbia
  • Carbon offsetting: a market-based system that provides options for organizations to invest in green initiatives to offset their own carbon emissions
  • Carrying capacity: the maximum number of a given species that can be sustained in a specific habitat or biosphere without negative impacts
  • Crown land: land owned and managed by either the provincial or federal governments; Crown land also lies within First Nations Territories and much of this land is unceded by First Nations
  • Crown land tenure: rights given to commercial organizations to operate on Crown land
  • Direct climate impacts: what will occur directly as a result of changes to the climate such as extreme weather events
  • Ecological footprint: a model that calculates the amount of natural resources needed to support society at its current standard of living
  • Environmental accreditation or certification: a voluntary system that establishes environmental standards and regulates adherence to reducing environmental impacts
  • Environmental Assessment Office: the provincial agency responsible for reviewing large projects occurring on Crown land in BC
  • Environmental management: policies and procedures designed to protect natural values while providing a framework for use
  • Environmental stewardship: the practice of ensuring natural resources are conserved and used responsibly in a way that balances the needs of various groups
  • First Nations land: land under Aboriginal title or that is managed by First Nations
  • Greenwashing: the act of claiming a product is “green” or environmentally friendly solely for marketing and promotional purposes
  • Indirect environmental change impacts: what will occur indirectly as a result of climate change, including damages to infrastructure
  • Ministry of Environment: the provincial ministry responsible for the environment in BC
  • Monoculture: a farming practice that depletes the soil and encourages the use of pesticides and fertilizers for increased production
  • Parks Canada: the federal agency responsible for management of national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas
  • Private land: any land where private property rights apply in BC
  • Responsible tourism: a tourism management approach that focuses on identifying important issues to local people and their environments, addressing those issues and reporting/monitoring those issues in an effort to “make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”
  • Stewardship: having the duty of and then actively participating in the careful management of resources
  • Sustainable development: planning and development that is mindful of future generations while meeting society’s needs today
  • Sustainable tourism: a set of guidelines and management practices applied to all forms of tourism and destination types wherein areas of environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects are addressed
  • Tourism carrying capacity (TCC): the maximum number of people that can visit a specific habitat in a set period of time without negative impacts, and without compromising the visitor experience
  • Tourism paradox: the concept that tourism operations destroy its very requirements for success — a pristine natural environment
  • Tragedy of the commons: the tendency of society to overconsume natural resources for individual gain


  1. What does carrying capacity mean? Provide an example from your local tourism industry.
  2. List five impacts that climate change will create and five corresponding implications for the tourism industry.
  3. Articulate the difference between provincial Crown land, federal Crown land, private land, and First Nations land.
  4. What is the Environmental Assessment Office and what are its responsibilities?
  5. Use the carbon footprint calculator to determine your household carbon footprint. How many tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) do you emit per year? Name three actions you could take to reduce your footprint.
  6. Explain what the tourism paradox is, giving examples from your local tourism industry.
  7. What is sustainable tourism and what are some important things to consider within a tourism destination for sustainable tourism to work? How is a sustainable tourism approach similar and/or different to a responsible tourism approach?
  8. This video from the David Suzuki Foundation presents the case that insurance companies are reacting to climate change because it is impacting them financially through claims after extreme weather events. Watch the video Your insurance is being affected by climate change, here’s how. What do you think? Will insurance companies continue to offer coverage in the face of increasing extreme weather events and large-scale insurance payouts?
  9. Visit the website of The Story of Stuff Project. Watch the movies and review the fact sheets. Reflect on the message that the organization is delivering and answer the following questions:
    1. What is the core message of the organization? Why is it important?
    2. How can you as an individual make a real change to mitigate consumptive behaviour?
    3. Relating these principles to tourism, how would you implement them in a tourism company?

Case Study: Qat’muk / Jumbo Mountain Resort

The proposed Jumbo Mountain Resort within Ktunaxa Territory near Invermere BC had long been one of the most controversial tourism developments in BC. Proponents claimed that it will add a world-class skiing resort product to the economy. Opponents argue that the environmental impacts are not worth the limited economic return it offers, including threatening grizzly bears and other sensitive species (Lavoie, 2014). The Ktunaxa Nation did not consent to the development and fought the proposal in court. Ultimately, the Nation was victorious in court, and the final statement from the Ktunaxa Nation, including outcome of the 2020 decision [PDF], may be found online.

The planning process for the resort had taken over 20 years with initial permits issued in 2004. Since then the project faced several delays in order to clear conditions of its environmental assessment, one of which was to receive consent from the Ktunaxa Nation. In December 2014, the project was delayed again as the government asked for more time to evaluate whether the newly poured foundations for lodge buildings were located in avalanche zones (Shaw, 2014). Ultimately, the proposed ski resort area became part of a new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area spanning approximately 70,000 hectares.

Conduct your own research about Qat’muk and the originally proposed Jumbo Mountain Resort using a minimum of three sources, and answer the questions below.

  1. What are some of the negative socio-cultural and environmental impacts listed by those opposed to the resort?
  2. How might those impacts have been mitigated? Did the company take any steps to do this?
  3. What did this case study teach you about informed consent with Indigenous peoples?
  4. Given documented record warm temperatures and low snowfall in other resort areas of the province, do you think new ski resorts are a good long-term investment? Why or why not?
  5. What is the progress of the project today or any new resorts being developed in BC today? Do a scan of social media and news sites and try to determine where public opinion lies on new resort developments within BC.


BC Hydro. (2013, November 1). BC Ferries saves energy, from lighting to radiant heat in tollbooths. Retrieved from

Bird, R.B. & Nimmo, D. (2018) Restore the lost ecological functions of people. Nat. Ecol. Evol., 2 (2018), pp. 1050-1052.

British Columbia Ministry of Environment. (n.d.a). Ministry divisions. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Environment. (n.d.b). Water stewardship. Retrieved from

Brundtland, G. H. (1987). Report of the World Commission on environment and development: our common future [PDF]. United Nations. Retrieved from:

Cape Town Declaration. (2002). Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism. Retrieved from:

David Suzuki Foundation. (2009). Purchasing carbon offsets: A guide for Canadian consumer, businesses, and organizations. [PDF] Retrieved from:

Environmental Assessment Office. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

FarmFolk CityFolk. (2014). About Us. Retrieved from

Font, X. (2002). Environmental certification in tourism and hospitality: progress, process and prospects. Tourism Management, 23(3), 197-205.

Goodwin, H. (2002). What is responsible tourism? Retrieved from:

Government of BC. (2010). Mountain resorts. Retrieved from:

Government of BC. (2011). Crown Land: Indicators and statistics report. [PDF] Retrieved from

Government of BC. (n.d.). Waste management – Environment. Retrieved from

Hager, M. (2015, January 30th). How B.C.’s ski resorts are coping with global warmings’ threat to their existence. The Globe & Mail. Retrieved from:

Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243-1248.

Hui, Stephen. (2014, March 27). Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver shares energy conservation lessons for Earth Hour. Georgia Straight. Retrieved from

Kimmerer, R. (2013) Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Lavoie, J. (2014, October 31). Jumbo Glacier Resort threatens grizzlies. Troy Media. Retrieved from

Lelenicz, M. & Simoni, S. (2012). Ecolabels in tourism. Agricultural Management, 14(4), 49-52.

Mandala Research. (2017). The Role of Sustainability in Travel and Tourism in 2016. Retrieved from:

McMillen, H. L., L. K. Campbell, E. S. Svendsen, K. Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, K. S. Francisco, and C. P. Giardina. 2020. Biocultural stewardship, Indigenous and local ecological knowledge, and the urban crucible. Ecology and Society 25(2):9. Retrieved from:

Mercer, D. (2004). Tourism and resource management. In C. Hall, A. Lew & A. Williams (Eds.) A Companion to tourism (pp. 462 – 472). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Mullis, B. (2017). The Growth Paradox: Can tourism ever be sustainable? Retrieved from:

Nagel, Jeff. (2014, May 22). Metro Vancouver disposal ban on food waste ‘unworkable’. Peace Arch News. Retrieved from

O’Callaghan, P. (2006). The greening of tourist accommodation on Salt Spring Island. The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. Retrieved from

Offsetters. (n.d.). Harbour Air. Retrieved from

Parks Canada. (n.d.). Mandate. Retrieved from

Rees, W. (2001). Ecological footprint, concept of. In Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (vol. 4). Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 229-244.

Robinson, M. (2014, October 2). For Vancouver restaurants, it’s not easy being green. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

Salerno, F., Viviano, G., Manfredi, E. C., Caroli, P., Thakuri, S., & Tartari, G. (2013). Multiple carrying capacities from a management-oriented perspective to operationalize sustainable tourism in protected areas. Journal Of Environmental Management, 128, 116-125.

Self, R. M., Self, D. R., & Bell-Haynes, J. (2010). Marketing tourism in the Galapagos Islands: Ecotourism or greenwashing? International Business & Economics Research Journal, 9(6), 111.

Shaw, R. (2014, December 12). More delays for Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

Theodore, T. (2014, December 5). Endangered female killer whale found dead off Vancouver Island. The Globe & Mail. Retrieved from

Tinhorn Creek Winery. (2014). Tinhorn – Our winery – Sustainability – Carbon. Retrieved from

Tyee. (2005, June 28). 100-mile diet. Retrieved from

UNWTO. (2005). Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

University of Minnesota. (2009, March 19). How are food and the environment related? Retrieved from

Watson, R. T., Zinyowera, M. C., & Moss, R. H. (Eds.). (1997). The regional impacts of climate change: an assessment of vulnerability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from

Webster, D. (2013). Adventure tourism operators and snowmobiles; managing interactions. [PDF] Retrieved from

Wildcat, M., McDonald, M., Irlbacher-Fox, S., & Coulthard, G. (2014). Learning from the land: indigenous land based pedagogy and decolonization. Decolonization: Indigeneity Educ. Soc., 3 (2014), pp. I-XV

Williams, P. W., & Ponsford, I. F. (2008). Confronting tourism’s environmental paradox: Transitioning for sustainable tourism. Futures, 41(6), 396-404.

Wong, P. (2004). Environmental impacts of tourism. In C. Hall, A. Lew & A. Williams (Eds.) A companion to tourism (pp. 450 – 461). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

World Tourism Organization. (2008a). Climate change and tourism: Responding to global challenges. [PDF] Retrieved from

World Tourism Organization. (2008b). From Davos to Bali: A tourism contribution to the challenge of climate change [PDF]. Retrieved from

Worrell, R., & Appleby, M. C. (2000). Stewardship of natural resources: definition, ethical and practical aspects. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 12(3), 263-277.

Media Attributions

  • Beautiful-Bertram-Beach


11.1 Overview

This chapter examines the concepts of risk management and legal liability within the context of tourism and hospitality. We’ll review theoretical risk concepts and practical risk management applications while exploring applicable areas of statute, tort, and contract law. Insurance and occupational health and safety are also discussed.  Examples from tourism and hospitality will be used throughout. Please note that the content provided in this chapter is provided for educational purposes, and should not be relied on in the event of legal action.

What is Risk Management?

Risk is defined as the potential for loss or harm (Destination Canada [publishing as CTC], 2003a). This could be experienced as a financial loss, damage to property, or injury to workers or guests. Understandably, tourism operators are interested in preventing these events from occuring, which is why practicing risk management is an essential business skill.

Sign beside a stream. Long description available.
Figure 11.1 Signage indicates a risk for people wanting to fish in this stream near Waneta, B.C., due to turbulent flows and rapidly rising water levels. [Long Description]

Risk management refers to the practices, policies, and procedures designed to minimize or eliminate unacceptable risks (Cloutier, 2000; Destination Canada [DC], 2003a; Heshka & Jackson, 2011). Depending on the type of operation undertaking the risk management process, these may vary greatly. Vastly different risks exist across the breadth of tourism and hospitality businesses; there are significant differences in the operation of a hotel as compared to delivering an adventure tourism activity.  Consequently, it is helpful to think of risk management as being a process of determining the exposure to risk, and then initiating action to either minimize or eliminate the risk specific to your operation (Enterprise Risk Management, 2004).  Mastering a generic model of risk management allows you to apply that model to all operations.

Why Practise Risk Management?

There are generally two core objectives in the practice of risk management by tourism operators: to avoid injury to guests and employees, and to protect their business operations from financial or physical ruin.  Keeping guests and employees safe is a moral, ethical and legal responsibility; this is not to be taken lightly. Protecting business operations includes protecting against damage to property, damage to reputation, and any financial impacts occurring from litigation (Centre for Curriculum, Transfer, and Technology [CCTT], 2003a). By practising this twofold approach, operators demonstrate that they are prioritizing the health and safety of individuals, while still taking steps to protect the operational sustainability of their company.

Several people operate four video cameras on tripods close together. One wears a headset.
Figure 11.2 Media scrutiny after an incident can be damaging to a business that has not demonstrated effective risk management.

On a larger scale, practising effective risk management can be seen as an important business skill. Destination Canada (2003a) suggests that risk management:

Risk management can be undertaken at any scale. Individuals, companies, societies, communities, cities, regions, and even governments can follow the process in order to protect themselves from risks, which may range from company-specific risks associated with the operation or significant international risks such as climate change and civil disturbances.

Some risk management initiatives are more straightforward to implement than others; they are required by law and enforced by government agencies. For example, companies providing transportation services (such as commercial motor vehicle transport ) have clearly defined requirements as set out by their local motor vehicle branch in government. They are required to use appropriately licensed commercial drivers, submit to regularly scheduled commercial vehicle inspections, and insure their vehicles as required. Failing to adhere to these standards may result in suspension of operating privileges, fines, or even imprisonment.  Similar to this is occupational health and safety; this is discussed later in the chapter.

However, other aspects of risk management are not regulated. This is characteristic of the majority of tourism and hospitality activities offered in Canada today. Operators offer services to the general public and self-regulate in terms of safety. If injury to a guest occurs, and that guest feels that he or she has grounds for a financial claim, that person can initiate a lawsuit against the tourism operator. If this claim is found valid in court, then the tourism operator may be responsible for a financial settlement to that claimant for damages – physical, financial or otherwise.  To prevent, or to respond adequately to scenarios such as this, operations need to be both proactive and diligent in the practice of risk management.

In short, tour operators must comply with applicable statutory requirements and be sure to self-monitor to determine if the standard that they are operating at is acceptable to society and their peers. Failing to do so may result in a range of consequences including fines, suspension of operations, or a lawsuit.

Concepts of Risk

Before we proceed deeper into an examination of the risk management process, let’s look at three theoretical concepts of risk: real risk, perceived risk, and inherent risk.

Real risk is the actual statistical likelihood of an incident occurring. This is typically established through reviews of statistics and other relevant data, and by an analytical process and use of expertise in the field. There is little ambiguity or subjectivity in real risk (DC, 2003a).

Perceived risk is the perception of risk by those undertaking or evaluating the risk itself; it may vary greatly based on their level of apprehension, anxiety, or experience with the specific risk. Perceived risk can also vary greatly from the real risk of an activity; it can be higher or lower than the actual risk. In Adventure Tourism, successful management of perceived risk may include operators promoting the risk of activity as high, even if in reality the risk is minimal (Dowling, 1986).

Inherent risk is the risk that must exist for the activity to occur; examples include the risk of drowning whilst swimming and the risk of falling during skiing. It is impossible to eliminate inherent risk from these activities because it would preclude participating in them. However, operators should take steps to minimize inherent risk; this could include, for example, conducting safety inspections, providing appropriate safety equipment for guests, training staff, and informing participants of the hazards of the activity (CCTC, 2003b).

An ambulance parked outside a covered hotel entrance.
Figure 11.3 An ambulance outside a Vancouver hotel.

Long Descriptions

Figure 11.1 long description: A person walking a dog stops to read a sign beside a rushing stream. The sign reads, “Danger: Turbulent flows and rapidly rising water levels. Fish at own risk. Siren indicates emergency spill in progress.” [Return to Figure 11.1]

Media Attributions

  • Turbulent-Flows
  • Larry-OBrien-Verdict-Press-Corps
  • Not-a-good-thing-to-move-from-a-hotel-room-to-a-hospital-room


11.2 Risk Management Process

There are a variety of risk management models that have been utilized and promoted. Each is generally a variation on the same theme, with each having a slightly different approach to the analysis. You’ll find that large operations, government agencies, military, search and rescue all have their own proprietorial processes. Outlined below is the model from Destination Canada for small and medium enterprises. It has four stages: risk identification, risk analysis, risk control, and risk treatment (DC, 2003a).

Risk Identification

The initial stage of the risk management process is systematically identifying risks facing the organization. This step is often referred to as risk assessment. An organization can identify risks in the following ways (CTC, 2003a, p. 6):

Once an exhaustive list of the risks is compiled, the next step is to ensure a thorough analysis occurs.

Risk Analysis

A typical risk analysis compares the probability (frequency) of any risks occurring by the consequence (severity) if they do occur. This can be done either in a qualitative or quantitative manner, with either numerical values or descriptors applied. For example, an analysis of the risk of the catastrophic failure of a ski lift at a resort resulting in passengers falling to the ground would likely indicate that the probability of this incident occurring is low due to historical records of use, and required maintenance for safety. However, the consequence would likely be high, considering there could be a large number of passengers involved in a significant fall, resulting in multiple casualties.

Operators need to respond (through risk control, see section below) if the analysis determines any of the following: 1) the probability of the risk occurring is unacceptable; 2) the consequence of the risk occurring is unacceptable; or 3) the combined impact of the probability and consequence is deemed unacceptable (Cloutier, 2000).

A carabiner with a twist lock.
Figure 11.4 Technical safety equipment needs to be regularly inspected as part of the risk management process.

Risk Control

Once the risks are identified and analyzed, the next step is implementing mitigation strategies for any unacceptable risks. This step is called risk control, and it comprises two primary concepts: exposure avoidance and loss reduction.

Exposure avoidance involves any mitigation strategies used to avoid the exposure to the risks. Examples are eliminating particularly hazardous activities or services, avoiding certain areas due to environmental threats, or changing a tour destination due to political unrest.

Loss reduction is a different approach; it assumes that you have acknowledged the risk of a particular activity or service, and choose to continue to offer it, but will take steps to mitigate the severity of damage that may occur (CCTT, 2003a). An example is requiring all participants in a ski lesson to wear helmets; the risk of falling still exists, but you have taken action to reduce the severity of any fall.

Risk Treatment

Failing the ability to control all risks identified, the next step in the process is risk treatment. This includes the concept of risk transfer and risk retention. Risk transfer refers to the transfer of responsibility to another party, either contractually or by insurance. Risk can be transferred through contract either by entering into a contract for service, or by requiring participants to sign a waiver. Risk is transferred through insurance by paying premiums to an insurer, wherein they absorb the financial risk of an incident. Risk retention refers to the level of risk that is retained by the company through a conscious decision-making process. Examples of this may include the decision to increase the size of insurance deductible to use, the use of self insurance, or consciously not transferring risks due to an inability to do so (CTC, 2003b).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Take a Closer Look: Emergency Response Plans/Emergency Action Plans

Part of a robust risk management process is either an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) or Emergency Action Plan (EAP). These documents are plans designed assist staff in responding to emergency situations. You will find an EAP in virtually every public building in BC. Your classroom most likely has one posted by the exit. The idea behind having such a plan prepared in advance is that it will help staff respond in a consistent, effective manner if an emergency occurs. The scope and nature of the activities dictate what type of plan is required. For more information on specific plans check with accrediting or licensing agencies related to the specific activity.

Media Attributions

  • Carabiner


11.3 Laws and Regulations

Tort Law and Negligence

A red metal sculpture with a spring-like tunnel and two arms sticking out at wide angles.
Figure 11.5 The plaza at B.C.’s provincial law courts.

Tort law in Canada refers to the “body of the law which will allow an injured person to obtain compensation from the person who caused the injury” (Tort Law, n.d.). Two categories of torts exist: intentional and unintentional. Intentional torts consist of assault, battery, trespass, false imprisonment, nuisance, and defamation. Unintentional torts primarily consist of negligence (Tort Law, n.d.). In tourism, most lawsuits involve negligence, with one party seeking financial compensation.

Take a Closer Look: Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts Ltd.

The ruling in Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts Ltd. provides an examination of the elements of a negligent action. The case describes an incident where a ski/snowboard resort hosted a tubing competition and allowed an intoxicated customer to participate. An accident occurred, and the customer was paralyzed as a result. The resort was found to be negligent as it failed to maintain an appropriate standard of care. Damages were awarded to plaintiff (the person suing) but were reduced for “contributory negligence on behalf of the plaintiff,” which means the injured person was also held partly responsible. The ruling can be found here: Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts Ltd.

Tourism operators must consider their exposure to unintentional torts, primarily negligence. Negligence can be defined as “the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something a prudent and reasonable man would not do” (Cloutier, 2000, p. 13). In other words, if the safety standards of a business fall below an established standard and injury occurs as a result, the injured person may sue for negligence.

Pursuing legal action against an operation for negligence is a process that needs to be initiated by the party who has been injured (plaintiff). To be successful, four elements have to be proved: injury, duty to care, breach in the standard of care, and causation.

The first of these, injury, means that it must be shown that the person suing did, in fact, receive an injury that resulted in damages. This might be physical damage, such as a bodily injury, or it may be damage to property.

The concept of duty to care refers to the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, a relationship requiring the defending party to care for the plaintiff. For example, in tourism, duty to care relationships exist between hotels and guests, tour guides and tour participants, and instructors and students. Is it expected that the person or organization in the relationship is responsible for ensuring the other person is safe from reasonable harm.

Take a Closer Look: The Steveston Hotel Case

The Steveston Hotel Case, made famous in 1999, still serves as a warning to establishments serving liquor. A hotel was held liable for 50% of the damages that occurred when it permitted a patron to drive home intoxicated. The case demonstrated that the hotel had a duty of care to stop serving an already intoxicated person, and to prevent the intoxicated party from driving. You can read more details of the case by visiting Hotel Held Liable for Drunk Driving Accident.

Once a duty has been established, the next step is proving negligence is to show that there was a breach in the standard of care. Can it be shown that the defendant failed to work to the recognized standard? The standard may be established by professional organizations or simply by the “reasonable person test,” which is an assessment of what other individuals or operations would have done in the same situation. Tourism operators are responsible for determining what current standards in industry are; not being aware of industry standards is not be an acceptable defence in the courts.

The last element that needs to be proved is causation. This means that there must be a strong link between the actions of the defendant that caused injury to the plaintiff. As an example, if a ski resort failed to clear the ice off its pathways, and a guest fell and was injured on the icy path, it is likely that causation could be proved (Heshka & Jackson, 2011).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Take a Closer Look: Bindseil v. McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited

The ruling in Bindseil v. McDonald’s illustrates the importance of causation. While Mr Bindseil developed colitis (a serious stomach condition) in the time following a meal at a McDonald’s restaurant, he was unable to prove that the meal had caused the colitis because the testimony of his medical experts was countered with experts testifying for McDonald’s. The ruling can be found here: Bindseil v. McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited.

Contract Law

A close-up of a hand signing a contract.
Figure 11.6 Signing a contract.

Contracts are frequently used by tourism operators. Common types of contracts include contracts for service, employment agreements, rental agreements, and legal releases [waivers] (Cloutier, 2000). Given the importance of all of these types of agreements, it is vital that operators use documents that are valid and based in contract law. For a contract to be valid and legally enforceable, it must contain all of the following components: an offer and acceptance, consideration, an intent to enter into a legal relationship, and sufficient capacity (understanding) of those involved involved (Longchamps & Wright, 2007). Each of these is described below.

Offer and acceptance means that the “offer” (e.g., a rental car agency will advertise a car for rent) must be clear, unequivocal, and include all of the important and relevant terms in the contract. The acceptance also must be clearly expressed (e.g., the renter agrees to rent the car according to the terms and conditions offered by signing the contract). Once the offer is accepted, it becomes a promise with both parties being bound by the terms of the contract.

Consideration refers to the value that is exchanged between parties in the contract, such as money or services (e.g., the renter pays for use of the rental car). Sometimes consideration is waiving your legal rights for a right to participate in an activity.

Capacity refers to the ability of individuals to enter the contract. If a person signing a contract does not have sufficient capacity, the contract will not be binding. The most common reason for not having sufficient capacity is age. In most cases, a person who has not reached the legal age of majority cannot contract with someone else. Other requirements for capacity include having sufficient mental capacity, and being the authorized signatory (the person with the authority to sign on behalf of an organization) (Longchamps & Wright, 2007).

The implications of contract law to the tourism and hospitality industry are extensive; any contact signed needs to have unambiguous terms, be clearly accepted, have an exchange of value, and be signed by an adult with full mental capacity or by an authorized signatory of the organization. Failing to adhere to any of these conditions will likely result in the contract being considered void.


For many tourism operators, waivers are considered a key part of their risk management process. Waivers are particularly important in the adventure, outdoor, and sport tourism sectors where there is a greater risk of personal injury, and have been proven as an effective risk management tool.

Take a Closer Look: Sample Waiver

Waivers are frequently made available by businesses online. To view a sample of a waiver for a snowcat operator on the Valhalla Powdercats website.

A waiver is a form of contract that transfers acceptance of the risk to the participants by requiring them to acknowledge the risks present in the activity. It also requires participants to waive their right to take legal action if an accident occurs. In Canada, these have been repeatedly successful in defending against lawsuits. Despite their effectiveness, there have been cases where waivers have failed to protect an organization, often because the waiver was poorly written or delivered incorrectly (Importance of Waivers in Recreation Programs, n.d.).

To be effective, a waiver should include the following four components:

  1. It should clearly outline the risks in the activity; this is ‘voluntary acceptance of risk’ in that the signee accepts the risks of the activity.
  2. It should waive the participant’s right to pursue legal action against the tourism operation in case of negligence; this is a ‘waiver of claims’ in that the signee agrees not to pursue legal action.
  3. It should be relatively short and easy to read, be easily recognized as a legal document, and include a place for signature that can be witnessed by a company employee. Current best practices indicate a waiver should not be signed by a friend of the signee or another guest.
  4. It should be signed by participants only when they have been given ample time to read and understand it well in advance of the event or activity. Failure to provide enough time may be interpreted by the courts as signing under duress, which would make the contract void and mean that the waiver could not be used as a defence against negligence

The components above are brief summary of what components should be included in waiver documentation; legal counsel should be sought to draft a waiver for specific operation (Importance of Liability Waivers in Recreation Programs, n.d.; Karroll v. Silverstar Resorts, 1988).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Take a Closer Look: Loychuk v. Cougar Mountain Adventures Ltd.

This case illustrates the effectiveness of a waiver program for a tourism operation. It involves two participants in a zip-line tour in Whistler, BC. A mistake made by an employee of Cougar Mountain Adventures resulted in the participants colliding on the zip-line at high speed. Negligence was admitted, but because of the effectiveness of the waiver in both the way it was drafted and delivered, the courts dismissed the claim. The ruling can be found here: Loychuk v. Cougar Mountain Adventures Ltd.

Statutory Requirements for Tourism and Hospitality in BC

All tourism companies must adhere to the laws in the jurisdiction in which they operate. In BC there are certain statutes (laws) that are particularly relevant to tourism and hospitality. These are outlined in brief below.

Hotel Keepers Act

The Hotel Keepers Act allows an accommodation provider to place a lien on guest property for unpaid bills, limits the liability of the hotel keeper when guest property is stolen and/or damaged, and gives the provider the authority to require guests to leave in the event of a disturbance (Hotel Keepers Act, 1996).

Take a Closer Look: Hotel Keepers Act 

The Hotel Keepers Act is posted online as a resource for managers and staff at BC accommodation properties. Take a closer look at the act by visiting Hotel Keepers Act.

Hotel Guest Registration Act

The Hotel Guest Registration Act requires hotel keepers to register guests appropriately, which includes noting a guest’s arrival and departure dates, home address, and type and licence number of any vehicle (Hotel Guest Registration Act, 1996).

Liquor Control and Licensing Act

The sales and service of alcohol in BC hospitality establishments is highly regulated by the provincial government through the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB).

Spotlight On: BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) is responsible for regulation of liquor service, private and public liquor stores, the importing and manufacture of alcoholic products, and distribution of those products. For more information, visit the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Hospitality operators and their staff must be aware of fundamental requirements of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, which defines the ways in which alcohol can be made, imported, purchased, and consumed in BC. As these requirements change frequently, it is the responsibility of operators and staff to keep up-to-date on the particulars of liquor legislation.

Take a Closer Look: BC Liquor Law Handbook

The Government of BC has put together a handbook of information regarding the selling of liquor. View Liquor Primary Licence: Terms and Conditions [PDF] online.

Travel Industry Regulation

As part of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the Travel Industry Regulation outlines the requirements for licensing, financial reporting, and the provision of financial security for travel sales. Additionally, it requires licensed travel agents to contribute to the Travel Assurance Fund, which compensates consumers if a travel provider is unable to provide the purchased product due to insolvency (Travel Industry Regulation, 2009).

Occupiers Liability Act

The Occupiers Liability Act specifies the responsibilities of those that occupy a premise such as a house, building, resort, or property to others on their property. It includes a definition of a premise, as well as the duty of care the occupier has to care for the condition of the premises, activities on the premises, and the conduct of other people (third parties) on the premises. It also outlines when occupiers liability is excluded, such as on Crown land or private roads (Occupiers Liability Act, 1996).

The abandoned La Siesta Motel. A sign features a man wearing a sombrero, leaning against a cactus.
Figure 11.7 An abandoned hotel outside Radium Hot Springs, B.C.

Take a Closer Look: Cempel v. Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Ltd.

The legal ruling in this case highlights the responsibility of a hospitality organization under the Occupiers Liability Act to keep premises in safe condition even for trespassers. Ms. Cempel had trespassed onto hotel property, fell into a particularly dangerous hotspring, and suffered severe burns as result. The hotel was found partly responsible for her injuries and was required to pay damages. The ruling can be found here: Cempel v. Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Ltd.

Resort Associations Act

The Resort Associations Act was developed to provide opportunities to fund a variety of promotional services for a resort community. It outlines the organizational structure for the community and allows funding through member fees for activities such as marketing, planning special events, developing signage, and acting as a central booking agency (Resort Associations Act, 1996). To meet the criteria for this Act, resort areas are required to be within a designated resort region, have alpine ski lift operations, and provide year-round recreational facilities or commercial overnight accommodation (Government of BC, 2015).

Spotlight On: The BC Laws Website

All BC statutes are available online at the BC Laws website, operated by the Government of British Columbia. For more information, visit the BC Laws website.

Media Attributions

  • Red-Spring
  • Ive-Contracted-An-Agreement
  • Motel-No-Mo


11.4 Insurance

Obtaining and maintaining appropriate insurance coverage is an important part of the risk management process. Insurance transfers the financial risks to a third party — the insurance company. Operators pay premiums that are established by the insurer based on the risk of the coverage. If the likelihood or the uncertainty of claims is high, the premiums will be higher. There are a variety of reasons why a tourism company requires insurance: to control the risk of offered activities, to meet statutory requirements, because industry partners require it, to protect business and assets, and to protect employees (DC, 2003b, p. 3). Insurance does not prevent accidents from happening, nor does it make an operation safer. It does, however, provide a reasonable amount of financial protection if an accident does happen.

Common types of insurance policies required by tourism operators include commercial general liability (CGL), property insurance, and accounts receivable insurance. CGL insurance can be one of the most important coverages, but unfortunately it can also be one of the most difficult and expensive to obtain. CGL policies cover operators for liability if an accident occurs, including bodily injury, medical payments, and personal injury. Property insurance provides coverage for the financial risks associated with loss of assets such as buildings, equipment, and merchandise. Accounts receivable insurance can cover a large proportion of account receivables if a customer fails to pay due to default or insolvency, thus providing a considerable safeguard to any tourism operation (DC, 2003a; DC, 2003b; Destination BC, 2013).

Some insurance coverage is optional, and operators may decide to self-insure on assets such as property and accounts receivable. Self insuring is the practice of an operation retaining the risk rather than transferring through insurance; it may be a conscious choice or a necessity based on lack of available coverage. Other insurance coverage may be required, such as motor vehicle insurance or liability insurance (required by most industry partners and some statutory requirements). In the end, the tourism operator must determine what coverage is required and what optional additional coverage is desired.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Spotlight On: go2HR Certificate of Recognition (COR)

As part of its mandate to support human resources best practice in BC’s tourism and hospitality industry, go2HR works in the field of occupational health and safety. In partnership with WorkSafeBC, it offers the Certificate of Recognition (COR) in safety. For more information, visit Certificate of Recognition (COR) Program.


11.5 Occupational Health and Safety in Tourism

So far we have primarily discussed risk management from a client/guest perspective. However, substantial effort in a tourism and hospitality operation must be put into managing worker safety as well. Responsibilities for worker safety are generally legislated by occupational health and safety laws, which clearly dictate safety standards. Employers who fail to adhere to these standards may be penalized or fined (WorkSafeBC, 2015a).

WorkSafeBC is the provincial organization for occupational health and safety in BC. It is an independent agency managed by a board of directors who are appointed by government. The mandate of WorkSafeBC is to:

There was an average of 4300 tourism and hospitality WorkSafeBC claims each year from 2014 to 2018, which is slightly below the average of all sectors within BC. (WorkSafeBC, 2020c). To reduce these claims and protect workers, WorkSafeBC has an extensive worker safety program with educational resources and training programs available. A partnership with go2HR — the tourism and hospitality human resources organization — has been developed to raise awareness in tourism and hospitality about worker safety, particularly for young, vulnerable workers (go2HR, 2015).

A kitchen knife is held in one hand. A finger on the other hand has a bandage with a sad face.
Figure 11.8 Kitchen accidents are a common workplace injury in hospitality. Many are more serious than this.

The nature of tourism and hospitality often means operations need to employ a considerable number of employees; these are often entry-level positions, requiring little experience. Employers need to be cognizant of the requirements for worker safety under WorkSafeBC; failing to do so may result in fines for the operation, or far worse — workplace injuries to employees.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Spotlight On: WorkSafeBC BC Tourism and Hospitality Resources

WorkSafeBC has extensive resources for tourism and hospitality workers to avoid workplace injury. These include prevention tools for accommodation, adventure tourism, food and beverage, and events. WorkSafeBC also explains updates and changes to workers’ compensation in BC, and provides opportunities for courses and training in first aid and injury prevention. For more information, visit WorkSafeBC BC Tourism and Hospitality website.

In addition to concerns about safety, employers and employees must be aware of the Employment Standards Act. This act defines the legal requirements around employment such as minimum wage, breaks, meal times, vacation pay, statutory