Winter tourism experiences and Chinese visitors to the Yukon Territory, Canada: implications for sustainable tourism development

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Zhang, Xinhui
Winter tourism in the polar and sub-polar regions is flourishing with challenges and opportunities. A culture change involving development of Arctic winter tourism has also been noticed. Yukon Territory is one of the most visited regions in the Canadian Arctic with a relatively fragile environment. Chinese tourists, as an emerging tourism market, have become one of the main target groups of Yukon Territory and in Canada, and understanding the tourism experience is important for future tourism development, which can be achieved by maximally meeting experiential needs and minimizing negative impacts on the sustainable use of tourism resources. The purpose of this research is to understand the experiential features of winter tourism promoted to Chinese visitors and to identify the relationship of experiential features to sustainable tourism development in an Arctic context. A qualitative approach and two methods were used to collect data for content analysis: 1) field notes, using a reflective journal that documented the researcher’s own experience as a participant in the 2018 Yukon Winter Tourism Field School; and, 2) tourism website content analysis, focusing on sixteen Yukon tourism websites selected by the information matrix. Based on the tourism experience conceptual model (Cutler & Carmichael, 2010), an experiential feature matrix was used to allocate relevant information, filter the effective information and analyze visitors’ experience. Then, a sustainable tourism framework, focusing on economic, social-cultural and environmental aspects, was developed through a review of the literature related to sustainable tourism development principles and strategies in the Arctic. Finally, the findings related to the extraordinary experiential features were conceptualized as consisting of three themes that included ‘nature’, ‘unique’ and ‘people-oriented’. The analysis provided insight into how winter tourism experiences aimed at Chinese visitors benefit sustainable tourism beyond economic considerations and how development of winter tourism in the north that extends its benefits to environmental and cultural sustainability, issues that relate to community participation, tourism services and the market segment should be addressed.
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