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Friday, October 11, 2002

Tourism Zonation System - Mapping the Province


The Tourism Zonation System (TZS) is a landuse planning approach which allows tourism to be planned in an

environmentally sensitive and economically viable way. Pioneered in British Columbia, the Tourism Zonation System maps the landbase of the province into Urban, Frontcountry, Midcountry, and Backcountry zones according to their:

degree of naturalness (from urban to wilderness); type of tourism outdoor experience possible; environmental sensitivity; method of transport; intensity of use; and, scale of facilities (e.g. from destination resorts to cabins)

Each of the tourism zones has its own features and is best suited to a particular type of tourism. By using the zonation system it is possible to reduce conflict between the needs of tourism and the conservation values of BC's natural areas. The following descriptions of the four zones help show how it is possible to both preserve wilderness and support environmentally appropriate tourism through effective resource planning.

The Backcountry/Wilderness Tourism Zone provides a high quality (often world class) wilderness experience in a pristine environment to a smaller, though generally affluent, clientele. Multiday river rafting, canoe tripping, photo safaris and nature treks, multi-day ski touring, guided mountaineering, sail charters, sea kayaking, and wilderness horseback trips are all associated with this zone. The absence of motorized access and lack of built structures and infrastructure characterize the Backcountry zone. The tourism experience emphasizes personal and small group interaction and physical activity within pristine natural landscapes. It is a value-added tourism product with higher prices charged per visitor day. The emphasis on guides also increases the employment level per visitor day. Examples of high calibre Backcountry zones that are found within the BC park system include Tatshenshini, Tweedsmuir, Spatsizi, Purcell Wilderness, and the Northern Rockies.

The Backcountry zone is a rapidly diminishing resource, and yet it is an especially attractive and internationally appealing tourism image. Few other areas of the planet still retain high calibre large wilderness areas equivalent to those found in BC. Given the shrinking availability of wilderness elsewhere in the world and the growing demand for it by an affluent traveling public, wilderness promises to play an increasingly important part in the future of British Columbia's tourism industry. Managing use and preserving the pristine wilderness, so that it retains its 'wildness', is the key management challenge of this zone. Hence backcountry/wilderness is a fundamental asset of BC's tourism offering.

The Midcountry/Natural Tourism Zone is characterized by recreation opportunities for 'intermediate' numbers of visitors in a high quality natural but not wilderness environment. Therefore, unlike the backcountry, this zone is associated with motorized access and accommodation, but on a smaller scale and to a lesser intensity than in the Frontcountry. For example, Midcountry accommodation might consist of small lodges with simpler facilities. The rustic basics of comfort are provided but the emphasis of the experience is still on the natural environment rather than on the facilities themselves.

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