The regenerative tourism project is taking a long haul approach to engagement with the community. Our ambition is that this engagement evolves into empowering and working with the different communities on initiatives and projects that will make a difference. In this post, we share some of the insights gathered from the initial "postcard" phase of the engagement process. We are keen to keep the conversation going because the project will be more powerful and deliver greater benefits when participation is highest!
The postcard challenge
Postcards were adopted as an initial engagement exercise. They are physical, they act as reminders, and they can be used to prompt conversations. It will not be the only opportunity to tell us what you think, but postcards can be effectively used to involve the community and create interest, especially at the outset. Postcards appeal to just about everyone too, and they don't require lots of effort.
The aim of these first postcards was to capture some of the initial thoughts, issues and challenges. Some of these issues and challenges might fall away over time, and some might form deep roots and grow. That is why it is important to identify what is going on, and what the challenges and issues are from the diverse and highly knowledgeable perspectives within the community.
The reason why it's important to spend time understanding the issues and challenges as an incorrect diagnosis made prematurely could mean the wrong solutions are adopted. This can lead to wasted time, energy and money, and it doesn't solve the original challenge.
This process is quite different from what you are probably accustomed to. We have been told again and again that 'people from away' come and assume what the problems are, they make a rapid diagnosis, and usually it's wrong. We are trying to break this cycle by creating different opportunities for the community in all its diversity to engage and to get involved. The postcards are simply the first opportunity!
How we implemented the postcard challenge
We distributed postcards across the Island for people to fill out with their thoughts on Flinders Island, tourism and the future. So far we've received a total of 66 cards. Of course these have been supplemented with wide ranging conversations that we had, and continue to have, with community members (you will hear about these in another blog post). The insights below should therefore be regarded as the beginning of the conversation and not a decisive set of results.
Postcards were made available at Bowmans, the Lady Barron General Store, the Flinders Island Airport and Council chambers. They were also distributed at the launch of the Islander Way and by interested members of the community.
Completed postcards could be dropped into boxes at the above distribution points. Alternatively, the postcards could be retained and the responses sent back by scanning the QR code on the back. We received 43 physical cards and 23 images sent to the QR code mobile number.
The postcards canvassed 6 different questions about Flinders Island, current issues, challenges and opportunities for tourism, and what the community's aspirations were for the future of tourism. The postcards used the same questions as those provided on butcher’s paper at the launch of the project, so we have also included those responses in the results below.
Islanders were asked:
About the island lifestyle: what they love and don’t want to see change; and the key challenges and changes they’d like to see.
What they like and dislike about tourists.
Their ideas about tourism.
To imagine the future, 10 years from now.
To sign up to become involved in the project.
Visitors were asked:
What they loved about their stay on the Island.
What the Island and the Islanders gave them during their stay.
What they took away from the Island.
What we learned from your responses
First of all, we are humbled by the passion and interest by all those that responded. It is clear from the responses that there is deep knowledge of the Island, a deep sense of identity and connection that you share, and a strong sense of stewardship and love of place. We are also conscious that there are silences and people who have not responded, and we understand there is a variety of reasons for this. However, as this project evolves, we will continue to seek out your opinions and experiences.
Below are some simple visualisations (presented as word clouds) of the responses received to date. At this stage we are refraining from diagnosing this feedback, but instead allow space for reflection. We encourage you to provide us with any comments and reflections. In particular, as you consider the insights below, think about the following questions:
Is this what you expected the community to say?
Does it resonate with you?
Is there anything surprising?
Have you gained any insights or had a 'lightbulb moment'? What was it?
What do you think about visitors' experiences of the Island?
The brief summary below helps us frame the workshops and further community engagement. So do not think of these results as final results but as the first insights!
Q. What Islanders like about living on Flinders Island?
In this question, we are seeking to better understand what it is that you like about living on Flinders Island, your values and what you hold dear about the lifestyle. This is the first step in better understanding what are the community's key values, and what kind of change might be acceptable and not acceptable.
Q. What are the KEY CHALLENGES and changes you would like to see one the Island?
We wanted to identify the key issues so we can prioritise our attention to what matters most. In our snapshot below it's clear that camping, visitor management and shaping any development so that it is consistent with islander values is essential. That means our work should involve establishing working relationships and communicating your community feedback to key stakeholders whose responsibility it is to manage these assets and activities.
Q. What do you LIKE about tourism and the visitors that come to the Island?
This postcard question was designed to find out a little more about what you see are the benefits and contributions to the Island. It suggests what kind of relationship with tourism the community will support, what is acceptable and not acceptable. This information helps us design further workshops and community engagement.
Q. What do you DISLIKE about tourism and the visitors that come to the Island?
This postcard question was designed to find out about the community's challenges with tourism and the visitors that come to visit. Some of the issues identified below are direct challenges and some are indirect. We will dig deeper into these issues in the next stage of our community engagement while also communicating with other organisations and departments.
Q. Got any ideas you would like to share? What practical steps can we take to build better tourism?
In this postcard question, it starts to identify projects, initiatives and ideas that could help address the issues identified above, and to make clear contributions to the local community and the Island's environment. At this stage, our focus is not to diagnose the issues ourselves (we are mindful that we are 'people from away'), but to collect information, share it and to help the community co-design the future of tourism that they would like to see. In other words, the solutions and actions lie with you, the community, and not with us as outsiders. This is the single biggest difference between this regenerative tourism project, and the experience you may have had with others from away.
Q. What changes (if any) would you like to see in regards to tourism on the Island?
In this postcard question, we ask you to think about any challenges you would like to see on the Island with respect to tourism. The ideas are diverse, but we hear loud and clear that the future of any kind of tourism activity needs to be consistent with the Island lifestyle, the values of the community, and it should be inclusive. managing the environmental impacts of visitors and locals at key (sensitive) sites is essential going forward.
Q. Visitors, what did you love about your stay and what did you take away?
As you would expect, when we asked visitors about what they loved, they certainly loved the Island and the sense of community they experienced. The visitors who responded tended to acknowledge Flinders Island as a special place and they were aware of their privilege in visiting. Our challenge is to connect with those who did not respond, and who have not considered how they impact the community and the Island.
A key challenge in planning for the future of tourism with and for the Island and its community is collecting credible and reliable data and information that can be used to inform decisions. An important role of this project is to collect this data and information and communicate it to the large number of agencies that have a role over some aspects of tourism, and that make decisions about the Island.
We are keen to advocate the interests, the vision, and the values of the Island and the community upwards and outwards. We often hear that the community is tired of having tourism 'done' to the island, not with the island. That is why your engagement in this project is so important.
We will continue to explore the issues raised in the responses to the community postcards when we get together at a series of workshops in early 2022.
If you haven't filled out a postcard and would like to, you can do it here through our e-postcards page. Feel free to share these with other community members who you think might have something to say.
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