The Islander Way project was launched at a community event on 8th October 2021. The Islander Way is a Council-led project that explores the future of tourism on Flinders Island. The project charts a pathway for regenerative tourism on the Island.
What is a community launch?
Over 70 locals attended the community event, and the feedback has been generally positive. "To launch" is to start, or set in motion, an activity or enterprise (Cambridge English Dictionary). A community launch is the beginning of the journey. It's the start of an ongoing consultation process. In the launch event, we learned about the community, its expectations, and the scars created by past approaches to tourism. We also listened to the hopes, dreams and values of the community. We saw a diversity of opinions, and clusters of people working towards different but intertwined agendas. We saw a community with strong and divergent opinions and yet they also have a sense of cohesion and support for each other that is unmatched.
We learned that many in the community are accustomed to a "launch" being something quite different. For some, the "community launch" triggered a range of feelings from frustration to annoyance: "Here we go again. This is yet another plan dropped on our laps with no consultation. Why weren't we consulted?" Understandably, suspicion was high that tourism was being done to the community instead of with the community yet again. The feelings and opinions emerging at the community launch included frustration, opposition, curiosity, openness, optimism, and tiredness. Our role at this stage is to listen and understand, to remain open and curious, and to hold constructive conversations.
Others saw the event as a real opportunity to reboot the conversation about tourism and to address the increasing impacts of tourism on the environment and the community. There was a sense of optimism that a regenerative tourism project might chart a pathway forward. But the word "regenerative" was confusing and the word "tourism" brought up negative feelings. Finding the right language to use may well be the first challenge to address.
What is this project?
Regenerative tourism is community-led and environment-centred, and is based on the authentic qualities of local places. Put simply, it's about respecting and protecting the connections between local communities and the places they live, and where those who visit make a positive contribution towards a flourishing future.
The project represents a very different way of approaching tourism because instead of adopting metrics and goals generated by "those from away", this project gives the community an opportunity to identify the type of visitors that are consistent with the Islander Way, and the kinds of projects that the community would benefit from.
Why is this project different?
Let's face it, the traditional approach to consultation is dead. The drop-in drop-out consultant who deliver a workshop of two, call it co-design, then go away and deliver a report is no longer appropriate. Communities deserve more. The stakeholder ecosystem is also much more complicated. The traditional approach to destination management plans fails to understand the complexity of local places and communities. This project is different.
In this project, we journey with the community over a two year period. The emphasis is on the process, on facilitating capacity, and on helping new ideas grow into local businesses that can sustain and support the community. In contrast to the traditional approach, the emphasis is not on the report at the end, but on supporting the community to build capacity and generate a unique relationship between tourism, communities and nature.
Where to next?
This project has only just begun. We are keen to dig deeper, connect and understand more. As you read these short posts, questions and ideas will come to mind. We are keen to hear your thoughts, give you an opportunity to share your ideas, and to build a collaborative pathway. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org