Yukon Wilderness Guide Licensing & Certification Study Final Report July 1992 Prepared by Renewable Resources Yukon Wilderness Guide Licensing & Certification Study Executive Summary 1.0 Introduction This study explores the proposition put forward by some adventure tourism operators that wilderness guide licensing and certification is needed for this sector of the Yukon tourism industry. It begins from the premise that wilderness is a non-renewable resource with intrinsic ecological and economic value. The focus is on ecotourism and adventure travel defined in the Yukon context as follows: "Adventure Tourism is self-sufficient, expedition oriented outdoor recreation involving physical challenge and risk in a wilderness environment for the purpose of nature appreciation, education and personal growth." It is important to differentiate between "licensing and certification" because these terms are often used interchangeably. Normally "licensing" refers to the regulatory aspects of business operations while "certification" is intended to refer to guide qualifications and competence. 2.0 Adventure Travel Trends Adventure Travellers are sophisticated tourists and value for money rather than cost is their principal concern. In western Canada, adventure travel is estimated to have generated over $70 million in gross revenue in 1989 and to have grown at an average compound rate of 17% per annum since 1976. By 1996, adventure travel in the Yukon is projected to generate gross revenues exceeding $4 million or 20,000 visitors, a fourfold increase since 1986 (ARA Consulting Group 1991). There are significant knowledge gaps about the adventure travel market potential in the Yukon, and the ability of the resource to sustain significant use. The market potential niche identified in the 1991 Yukon Wilderness Adventure Travel Market Awareness Study the Yukon can occupy depends on the perceived quality of its' wilderness resources. Exclusivity carries a price. There is an inherent growth threshold; a point where the natural and social "carrying capacity" of the resource is exceeded. We do not know what that point is or whether Yukon is anywhere near it. The premise of a few knowledgeable Yukon adventure tourism operators is that the inherent carrying capacity of some areas may be nearing their limits, particularly river corridors. 3.0 The Role of the Guide The role of the guide in adventure travel has evolved from "expeditor and leader" to "facilitator and educator". Today guides are assuming an "ambassadorial and gatekeeper" function as well. There is a growing appreciation that all tourism has social and environmental costs. Industry attitude and guide training can and do influence visitor behaviour. Guides are often the first and only line of defense for resource protection in the wilderness. 4.0 The State of the Yukon Industry The industry is growing despite high turnover rates due in part to seasonal preferences, the mix of full and part-time operators and competitive markets. The 1989 Consumer Demand for Wildlife Viewing Study noted "the majority of firms are low volume, low income operations, and often owners derive the majority of their personal income from another source" (Crane Management Consultants). The transition from a home-based, seasonal business to a customer-based, internationally competitive industry is just beginning. Variation in guide skill, business sophistication, and operating scale is significant. Two attempts to establish guide associations have failed in the past 10 years. This attests to the lack of industry maturity and a collective vision. 5.0 Summary of the Issues Adventure travel issues fall into three broad categories: policy or regulatory concerns, technical certification issues and market management. Industry members promote self-regulation. They see a need for operator regulation to prevent crowding, ensure transborder license reciprocity, and protect the quality of the wilderness resource. Technical issues are largely operational concerns related to guide license standards, training and certification procedures, and regulation design. Market management concerns are complex revolving around market growth limits compatible with resource "carrying capacity". 6.0 Assessment of the Concerns The issue most commonly referred to in the international literature, and by all Yukon interests is the need to protect the wilderness resource. This makes sense because the product is "wildness and solitude". As far back as 1981, the Yukon was warned that there was no objective system in place to measure the quality and capacity of the territories resources to sustain adventure travel use. There is general agreement within industry and government that resource protection should have priority over visitor use where conflicts arise. The international literature promotes the potential of "ecotourism" yet acknowledges there are limits to sustainable growth for even this segment of the tourism industry. Both the Northwest Territories and British Columbia are taking an active approach to industry development and regulation. There is concern that increased regulation by these two jurisdictions will limit Yukon operators trans-border activities. The concern is fair access and licensing consistency. River travel in particular, crosses territorial borders and is the primary concern. Concern has also been expressed that the clauses in some land claim agreements may limit operator access to prime areas. The cooperative management arrangements envisioned in the agreements do not appear to be well understood. Much of this concern will be resolved as the bands finalize the individual First Nation Agreements. The case for more industry regulation and guide certification in particular boils down to three issues: resource protection to maintain a quality product, preserving Yukon operator opportunities and benefits and guide training. 7.0 Options, Opportunities & Constraints The issue of guide certification has to be discussed in the context of both resource capability and consumer needs. Wildlands cannot be managed as isolated islands, and the public wants a safe, high quality wilderness experience. Where safety was a prime reason for government intervention in the past, market management with leadership coming from industry itself is becoming more prevalent. Three intervention approaches are reviewed. The first explores the option of education vs. regulation. It puts the onus on industry to take the initiative and demonstrate its' ability to regulate itself. One example of this approach is the development of a common Code of Conduct. The second approach looks at the use of guidelines. Less formal than regulation, it also relies on education, goodwill and inter - agency cooperation to succeed. The regulatory options considered include using the new Environment Act, amending business license regulations or drafting new tourism legislation. The third option discusses the merits and complexity of guide training standards in a number of jurisdictions. The quality of guide certification programs is highly variable. Often, they consist of little more than endorsement of activity specific qualifications. The literature cautions that it is a combination of attitude, judgment and field experience that makes a good guide. 8.0 Conclusions There seems to be a general agreement that whatever approach is taken it should be industry driven. The bottom line is that this sector of the industry needs to define itself, organize and demonstrate its capacity for self-regulation as the Yukon Outfitters Association has done. Developing a code of conduct, setting industry standards, and formulating a collective industry vision is a good place to start. Priorities for action include improving the resource data base, defining the market niche more clearly, and setting realistic goals association members will support. The study concludes the logical approach is educate, demonstrate then regulate.
Pages to are hidden for
"Yukon Wilderness Guide Licensing Certification Study"Please download to view full document