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Value of Wilderness Tourism

Wilderness tourism (also known as nature based tourism, rural tourism, or commercial backcountry recreation, and sometimes referred to as adventure tourism or ecotourism) is a key contributor to BC’s GDP and a significant private sector employer in BC. Direct tourist expenditures on these tourism products is approximately $1.5 billion dollars. This figure does not include the billions of dollars in tourism supply services (hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc) that the sector supports.

The wilderness tourism sector also represents 26,000 direct full-time jobs and some 40,000 jobs in total. According to BC Statistics these jobs on average are relatively high- value jobs, adding over double the value of the average retail services job.

In addition, wilderness tourism is the main driver of all tourism in BC, which in total represents $13.8 billion in revenue and 132,000 direct jobs. We are the ‘Super’ in BC’s tourism brand ‘Supernatural’ BC.

All BC communities feel the impact of wilderness tourism in their economies. A large percentage of these businesses are small, localized businesses that provide stability, diversification and job creation, whether it’s in the remote wilderness, in or near communities and municipalities, or on First Nations settlement land. As other boom and bust resource sectors come and go in our communities, tourism has proven to be a sustainable economic driver for BC and will continue to form a significant part of the economic fabric.

Wilderness landscapes are the foundation of BC’s wilderness tourism sector. But wilderness is more than the sum of its parts. The tangible and intangible qualities of wilderness come from the size and feel of the wilderness or natural environment, it’s natural condition (few roads and undeveloped landscapes/viewscapes), healthy and intact ecosystems and the expectation of seeing wildlife. Wilderness activities are based on wilderness landscapes, parks and special areas, significant wildlife features and wilderness-based historical sites and events.

The quality of BC’s wilderness is an important factor for travelers choosing BC as a tourism destination. Although only a percentage of tourists may experience BC’s wilderness firsthand, they come to BC because of our wilderness reputation. Most all tourism services, including hotels and motels, even in urban areas, derive some portion of their income from visitors attracted by the natural beauty and attractions unique to BC. Our natural endowments is a major drawing card that attracts tourists, serves as a vital ‘backdrop’ to many tourism activities, and validates the holiday experience of many visitors. Our wilderness and natural areas are also a major reason why many British Columbians spend their vacation dollars at home, exploring their own province.

As much of the world’s true wilderness areas are disappearing, the demand for wilderness-based tourism has increased. This trend has increased the economic value of the BC’s intact landscapes and encouraged operators to grow and develop new products.

Through leadership, advocacy, and stewardship the WTA works to protect BC’s wilderness landscapes, marine areas and intact functioning ecosystems. These assets support the high quality opportunities and experiences, which can support a burgeoning nature based tourism sector for BC - an integral part of an ecosystem based economy.

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