As the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, many within and around the industry are beginning to realize just how important cannabis can be with respect to supporting and contributing toward the health and wellbeing of local economies. And, some are looking beyond the simple sale of the product, considering other ways in which the production and use of cannabis might be leveraged to benefit communities and regions everywhere.
Tapping into Cannabis Tourism
In fact, a recently released report titled ‘Exploring Opportunities for Cannabis Tourism in the Kootenay Rockies’ does just that. Developed by Selkirk Innovates—the applied research and innovation hub of Selkirk College—and Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association (KRTA), the report identifies the untapped influence of cannabis as a driver of tourism, the risks in pursuing a cannabis tourism strategy, and the potential benefits that could be enjoyed as a result of doing so.
Just as the cannabis industry is one that’s still bourgeoning in Canada, so too is that of cannabis tourism. In the same ways in which Niagara, Ontario, for instance, has for years been leveraging its locally grown wine product to attract and wow visitors to its region, cannabis tourism plans to lean on the production, use, and culture of cannabis to draw people in. However, the report attempts to illustrate how such a strategy could not only boost local tourism, benefitting the entire region, but could serve to prop up the Kootenay cannabis industry for years to come as well.
The report identifies a number of opportunities related to the production and use of cannabis that the Kootenay region, and other similar regions across the country, can capitalize on. Rural regions, it says, benefit from a more stable economy, specifically due to new business and employment opportunities. Further, the report suggests that a strong partnership between the cannabis and tourism industries can also help to protect the authenticity and brand of cannabis in the Kootenays.
“As the Kootenay region has long been recognized for producing top quality cannabis and hosting generations of production and processing knowledge, the development of tourism around this locally important sector will not only help to preserve the region’s global reputation and experience, but also diversify and strengthen our rural economies,” says Tracey Harvey, who co-authored the report with colleagues Alicia Rattu and Sarah-Patricia Breen.
Benefits and Beyond
For proof of the potential benefits that communities and regions across the country might enjoy from leveraging cannabis tourism as a means to attract visitors, the report details a handful of case studies, the most compelling of which being that of the state of Colorado. Insights gleaned from research developed by the Colorado Tourism Office and partner Strategic Marketing and Research reveals that cannabis-motivated visitors tend to have longer visits and spend more money than other visitors per visit, spending $2,030 as compared to $1,869. Tourists who visited dispensaries also dined at local restaurants, shopped, enjoyed the scenic areas, skied, snowboarded, and visited state and national parks with greater frequency.
Cannabis-motivated visitors tend to have longer visits and spend more money than other visitors per visit.
In addition to the case studies, the report also highlights cannabis tourism models that can be explored and adopted by regions across the country, depending on their needs and objectives. Cannabis tourism models include:
Agritourism Systems Model: considers effective partnerships and communication between tourism providers, destination marketing organizations, and tourists.
Experiential and Educational Model: explores turning steps of the value chain into experiences including touring facilities, learning about cultivation, experiencing how the final product is made, and enjoying tastings.
Sensory Model: explores sensory experiences which use consumer senses to enhance tourism experiences.
The KRTA identified a number of current opportunities that are specific to its region, including the use of cannabis tours, educational experiences, museums and art galleries, recreation, camping, and cannabis-friendly accommodations. It also recognizes the implementation of direct delivery programs as future opportunities. However, as KRTA CEO, Kathy Cooper, points out, opportunities may vary from region to region.
“Understandably, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all opportunity,” she says. “But if we are to expand the visitor economy, create unique visitor experiences, and drive revenues, niche sectors like this can bring diversity of creative business models and opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
Despite the many benefits that can result from the development of a cannabis tourism strategy, the report also warns that there are some risks that need to be considered ahead of its introduction, too. Risks include:
- Addressing and navigating the difference in perceptions and treatment of cannabis across levels of government, policies, and participating organizations.
- Failure to acknowledge resident perceptions towards cannabis tourism development or inability to garner community support prior to development of cannabis tourism.
- Lack of sufficient digital access to improve the quality and safety of tourist experiences.
- Inadvertently facilitating an amenity migration driven by a “green rush” that could result in housing issues, including availability and affordability due to an influx of people.
- Negative contribution to greenhouse gas emissions posing a threat to environmentally-sustainable economic development.
A Way Forward
By developing the ‘Exploring Opportunities for Cannabis Tourism in the Kootenay Rockies’ report, Selkirk Innovates and the KRTA may just be paving a way forward for regions and communities across the country to begin leveraging the production and use of cannabis as a viable means to attract tourists and boost their local economies. And the potential results in doing so can be revolutionary.