Enhancing tourism opportunities in Sooke
What makes a great place to live a great place to visit?
According to students in the Master of Arts in Tourism Management (MATM) program, great things include a community vision, a strong sense of place, a destination brand and amenities.
The District of Sooke has great things in spades, say the students. As project work for their Transforming Destinations course, they looked at ways the district might enhance Sooke’s tourism potential and presented their findings at the district’s Dec. 7 council meeting.
“The intent of the project is to help frame the discussion around tourism as a destination opportunity for Sooke’s new town centre,” says Prof. Brian White, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management director.
“This project was a voyage of discovery, because we toured towns on Vancouver Island, including Tofino, Cowichan Bay and Coombs, and came up with advice and assistance which Sooke council can consider in terms of how to move forward,” he says. ”They don’t want to end up with a commercial strip and parking. People want development that references the historical background of Sooke and also provides a substantial amount of public space.”
With a range of professional experience held by members of the accelerated, on-campus MATM cohort, individual students made recommendations for ways Sooke could capitalize on its existing amenities and heritage to increase tourism opportunities.
In her presentation, Jing Wang highlighted the potential for tourism among Chinese tourists already interested in high-end excursions in Canada.
“When Chinese tourists visit large Canadian cities, they don’t find too many different things than they can find in other large cities of the world, like shopping or fine dining. But a visit to Sooke can give them a different, authentic experience of the slower west coast lifestyle in a small town with a great natural beauty,” she says.
“This slow feeling can be a big attraction for Chinese tourists. And in China, we don’t have high quality, natural food, but Sooke’s farms which are close to the ocean, provide clean, safe food from a natural place that Chinese travelers appreciate,” says Wang. “Sooke also has a lot of handicrafts which we cannot buy in other places, or in Vancouver’s shopping malls.”
The students’ recommendations ranged from culinary trips and wedding planning to branding, renewable energy, retirement opportunities to the establishment of a brew pub.
“Many of our students have professional experience in tourism, and as mature and experienced people with relevant backgrounds, they have a great deal to offer,” says White.
With an extensive background in hotel management, Scott Hoadley related the Sooke destination framework project to his professional experience.
“I have been able to do some of the things which are also highlights of my professional experience, like being a mentor and providing leadership,” he says. “Achievement of the master’s degree is like an exclamation mark on my professional experience.”
‘What makes Royal Roads so special is this real-world experience in the cohort model and working in a team. That happens in business,” says Hoadley. “You’re not out there by yourself – you develop a project and make the presentation together, whether it is a budget presentation or to community or to members of the tourism establishment. It’s absolutely relevant, and real - that’s what made it so exciting. And the fact that we were well received in Sooke made it so much greater.”