Examining the Use of Student Extension Tours to Expose the Costs and Benefits of Tourism to Rural Communities


  • Patrick Maher University of Northern British Columbia
  • Nicole Vaugeois Vanvouver Island University
  • Dan McDonald Vancouver Island University


This article focuses on the use of student extension tours to understand the realities of tourism development in the rural context through dialogue with community and business leaders. The examples provided will be drawn from three tours that took place within British Columbia from 2006 to 2008. In an extension tour, the learning environment is expanded outside of the classroom as a group of faculty and students (usually from a number of tertiary institutions) venture into rural communities. In this project, the focus of extension activity was to (a) give students from typically urban backgrounds the opportunity to gain insight through a “rural lens”; (b) connect rural community operators and local/municipal government agencies with resources from the academic sector; and (c) initiate dialogue about the realities of tourism in rural Canada. Theoretically, the notion of extension tours follows along the continuum of Kolb?s (1984) experiential learning cycle, with a modification that such a cycle links to both individual students and the wider communities with which they interact. Students, as future industry leaders, learned to apply their book knowledge to real life in a rural setting. During their experience they became more aware of the costs and benefits, challenges, and opportunities of and for tourism in rural areas. Upon reflection that took place each evening, students were able to generalize what should or could be done differently or better. They then applied these lessons in the next community along the route. Through a number of mechanisms this knowledge was then fed back to participants on the other side of the dialogue (community members/operators/local and municipal government), both in immediate and longer-term ways. Keywords: extension tours, tourism development, rural communities

Author Biographies

Patrick Maher, University of Northern British Columbia

Pat Maher is an Assistant Professor in the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management Program at the University of Northern British Columbia. His PhD research examined visitor experience in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Pat’s research expertise on tourism in rural and remote tourism has been shaped by many projects across the globe. He collaborated on both the Fostering Innovation in Sustainable Tourism (FIST) project and the Tourism Research Innovation Project (TRIP) in BC, links with the BC tourism industry by being a board member for the Northern BC Tourism Association, is active in University of the Arctic curriculum development regarding northern tourism, and helped found the International Polar Tourism Research Network.

Nicole Vaugeois, Vanvouver Island University

Nicole Vaugeois is the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development at Vancouver Island University. In this role, Nicole works with colleagues and students within BC to support rural communities that are pursuing tourism and amenity based industries as a form of economic development. Over the past three years, Nicole led a multi partner project called TRIP – Tourism Research Innovation Project which developed and shared innovative tools and resources to enable rural tourism success. She has visited most regions of BC in her work and maintains active relationships with rural operators and community leaders and finds ways to bring their shared experiences into discussions with government agencies and academic institutions. Nicole’s passion for rural survival is embedded in her from her childhood where she was a ranch kid from Alberta. She continues to live in a rural area, operating a small organic farm south of Nanaimo. She is a long distance equestrian rider, backcountry horsewoman, equine artist and photographer.

Dan McDonald, Vancouver Island University

Dan McDonald of Métis and Scots heritage, and was raised in the Red River area of Manitoba (Winnipeg). He has a B.P.E. in Outdoor Recreation from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, an M.A. in Recreation and Park Administration from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and is a PhD candidate in Recreation, Park & Leisure Studies at the same university. His main research interests are in aboriginal recreation and sport, the relationships First Nations people have with their natural environment, outdoor recreation resource management by First Nations communities, co-management of recreation resources, racism in outdoor recreation settings, aboriginal tourism, and in changing the unequal distribution of resources in Canadian society. Much of his work has been among the Anishinabe, Cree, and Métis of Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Minnesota. Dan is a former Department Chair of First Nations Studies, and currently holds a teaching appointment in First Nations at Vancouver Island University. He has played an active role in the Tourism Research Innovation project which has enabled him to engage with aboriginal communities in rural BC.