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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Yukon River tourism potential : resource capacity methodology and assessment Freeman, M. Joan


This study concerns the tourism potential provided by the natural, historic and cultural resources of the Yukon River Corridor between White-horse and Dawson. A method was developed and used to assess the carrying capacity of these resources for tourism. Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum number of tourists that a resource can support without being degraded below an acceptable quality standard. The study focused on two determinants of carrying capacity: the biophysical characteristics of the Corridor and the socio-psychological characteristics or user expectations of tourists. A third determinant, management actions, was not investigated because few management regulations and policies now exist for the Corridor and because the study concerns future potentials; present policies could change in future. Ideally, management goals define the activities for which carrying capacity should be calculated. Since there were no such goals for the Corridor, it was decided to calculate carrying capacities for all activities having a tourism potential. Thus the first step in the analysis was to determine which activities have a tourism potential. This was done by a screening procedure. The screening procedure identified 61 different activities which may have a tourism potential. This was too many activities to consider individually. As a result, activities were grouped into categories according to the benefits they provide to tourists. The literature indicated that the primary benefit tourists gain from travel is an experience. An experience depends on the surrounding environment and kinds of social contacts a tourist has while he or she is participating in a particular activity. The specific variables which differentiate experiences were identified from the literature and used to derive eight experience types. For the purpose of calculating carrying capacities, it was assumed for the most part that every activity within a given category had the same resource requirements. This assumption is invalid for a few specialized activities such as big game hunting which have specific resource requirements. Carrying capacity was estimated for these specialized activities and for five of the eight experience types. The calculation of carrying capacity involved the following five steps: 1) identification of the biophysical and socio-psychological factors that limit or prevent use; 2) determination of the quality standards for each of these factors; 3) resource analysis and elimination of areas unsuitable for each experience or specialized activity; 4) additional resource analysis and estimation of the biophysical and socio-psychological use levels for the remaining areas; 5) comparison of each experience's biophysical and socio-psychological carrying capacity. The lowest value is the overall carrying capacity for the Corridor. The results are preliminary, "ball park" estimates due to the numerous data gaps and assumptions involved. Because of methodological problems, capacities were only estimated for single uses and not for combinations of activities. Yet the Corridor is likely to have a mixture of uses, with different areas being used for different activities and some areas having more than one use. Carrying capacity could not be estimated for three experience types because they are limited by service and facility factors which were not considered in the study. In most cases, the overall carrying capacity was established by socio-psychological factors. This study provides part of the information needed for a complete tourism potential assessment. Markets, services and facilities also need to be investigated to complete the assessment. A tourism potential assessment of the Yukon River Corridor is needed by resource allocation and tourism policy decision makers. The conceptualization and methods of the study are useful to planners because they offer a perspective and approach for tourism analyses.

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