New survey to study link between tourism and happiness in the Thompson Okanagan

·2 min read

A new initiative aims to provide a better sense of just how happy Thompson Okanagan residents are, and provide insights into how the tourism sector figures into it.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) is teaming up with Planet Happiness, a non-profit measuring the happiness of residents living in World Heritage sites, and Thompson Rivers University (TRU) to carry out the project, which will be launched this November.

The survey at the heart of the initiative is part of a global effort aimed at measuring well-being in tourism destinations in ten countries. It will measure a number of relevant measures, including life satisfaction, access to nature and arts, and community engagement.

John Hull, an associate professor at TRU, who teaches in the Tourism Management Department, said that the survey will serve as an important resource for policy makers.

“We’re hoping that this will be a project that goes on for a long number of years,” he said. “We want to [provide] a long-term perspective over time.”

Hull added there are many variables that factor into how happy a population might be, with countries such as Cambodia reporting higher levels of happiness than those with greater wealth.

The path to recovery for tourism is not crystal clear, and Hull noted that there are many variables at play.

Destination Canada’s forecast for recovery to 2019 tourism spending levels, with the virus contained, would be in 2022, said Hull, adding that if the virus is still not contained by the end of 2021, tourist spending will not surpass 2019 levels until 2024.

On a positive note for the Thompson Okanagan, Hull noted that that the majority of visitors to the region are domestic travellers.

Speaking on a global level, Hull said many are hoping that the tourism industry becomes more sustainable going forward.

“I think a lot of people are hoping that it’ll change for the better,” said Hull, noting the frustration at over tourism that is being expressed in many places around the world, including the Sea to Sky corridor.

In a statement, TOTA president Glenn Mandziuk said the survey will assist the region in achieving its sustainability goals.

“The long-term viability of destinations depends on tourism improving the quality of life of local communities,” he said. “Over time, the Happiness Index will help measure how well this is being done by engaging with residents directly.

“These findings will assist TOTA in assessing how the region is meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as inform our ongoing efforts toward tourism recovery and resiliency.”

Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.