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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Illustrating the utility of gap analysis as a regional tourism planning tool : case study of potential Japanese and German travellers to the Cowichan region Murphy, Ann Elaine

Abstract

Rural regions need tools for developing effective tourism and community plans. This thesis explores the potential for a simplified gap analysis to serve as a useful tourism planning tool for rural regions with limited resources. The Cowichan Region in British Columbia, Canada is the case study for this research, as it is seen to be representative of many rural areas endeavoring to diversify their waning economies with tourism. The literature review for this thesis reviews rural challenges facing ruraf areas, rural tourism impacts, rural tourism markets and gap analysis. A simplified gap analysis compares the preferences of customers (tourists) and the perceptions that the service providers (host regions) have of these customers. Minimal differences between these groups' perceptions creates quality experiences for the customers and service providers and leads to increased profits. This thesis examines the 'gaps' between potential Japanese and German rural travelers' preferences and the perceptions that Cowichan Region professionals have of these markets. Data on the preferences of these markets is drawn from research on Japanese and German pleasure travel markets to North America conducted by national tourism associations. Data on host region perceptions of these markets is drawn from questionnaire responses and interviews conducted with tourism and planning professional in the Cowichan Region. There are some notable gaps between the characteristics of potential Japanese and German 'rural' travellers and the perceptions that the Cowichan Region professionals have of these groups. However, overall these groups are well matched as potential rural travellers and host communities. These research findings suggest that rural areas can satisfy most of the needs of 'mass' and 'target' market travellers by developing core tourism products with some specialised products for sub-markets. This research indicates that a simplified gap analysis can be a practical and useful rural planning tool for rural regions that want to diversify their resource based economies with tourism. A ten step tourism planning strategy is presented as a way for rural areas to integrate a simplified gap analysis into their planning efforts and create cost-effective and holistic tourism plans.

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