The stories we tell, and how to use them to develop sustainable tourism
WHITEHORSE - Have you ever found yourself explaining life at minus 40 to a tourist from Florida?
For a visitor this story of your everyday life could be one of the most meaningful experiences they take away from their trip here-fulfilling their sense of wonder and reinforcing the uniqueness of Yukon. For you, sharing this story may help to reinforce your own identity of being a survivor, of your resourcefulness in keeping yourself and your house warm.
Interactions like this take place every day through winter and summer in Yukon. They are part of our cultural geography and have a huge impact on the value and meaning visitors take away from their experience here. However, unlike the number of people entering via the airport or the highway and how full our hotels are, the sharing of stories and their impact is much harder to measure, and therefore value.
Dr. Suzanne de la Barre, a long time Yukon resident, began her doctoral research with a fascination for Yukoners’ “sense of place” – our relationship to Yukon through how we talk about it and how that informs our selling of it as a tourist destination. Suzanne believes that this place identity and cultural geography could play a bigger role in how we think about, develop and implement sustainable tourism in Yukon.
In her doctoral research, Suzanne set out to create a framework to better understand our sense of place and then explore how it can be used to inform our approach to sustainability. In the initial stages of the study, she examined a wide range of media including newspapers, magazines and film, as well as tourism marketing materials, and identified three dominant themes in the stories we tell and experiences we sell.
“Masculinist” is the frontier story of rugged, determined, self-sufficient people who value their independence. “New sublime” stories feature tales of solitude and spiritual renewal, of unique experiences in the wilderness, of leaving our city personas behind and reconnecting with our authentic selves. Stories of “loss” are those where we talk of Yukon changing – the loss of frontier, the loss of the wilderness, and the loss of values that have helped to define our sense of what Yukon means to us. However, stories with this theme of loss can also be empowering and feature positive changes like First Nations self-government, changes to the power grid, or increased uses of technology.
Suzanne also interviewed 16 wilderness and cultural guides across a broad spectrum of activities, and was an observing participant in 15 winter and summer tourist experiences. In this part of her research, Suzanne was looking to see what stories were shared by wilderness and cultural tour guides and how these stories impacted the design and delivery of the tourism experiences they offered to visitors.
Suzanne’s overall goal was to identify how sense of place can contribute to more creative ways of defining and implementing sustainable tourism.
Please join Suzanne as she gives a very visual presentation of her research as part of the Yukon College Brown Bag Lunch Speaker Series on Tuesday October 23 from Noon-1pm in room A2206 (the Lecture Hall). www.yukoncollege.yk.ca/hub
Dr. Suzanne de la Barre is faculty with the Department of Recreation and Tourism Management, Vancouver Island University, and a Research Associate with Umeå University (Sweden) and Yukon College.
For more information, contact: