Mapping and Mobilizing Assets for Sustainable Rural Tourism Development in UNESCO’s Frontenac Arch Biosphere
This presentation will share insights from a research project exploring the UNESCO Frontenac Arch Biosphere’s (FAB) potential for sustainable rural tourism through community-based asset mapping. The purpose of asset mapping is to identify and map a region’s assets, allowing for the resources and strengths of a region to be recognized, understood, and harnessed in a coordinated way, in accordance with community values. Sustainable tourism has emerged as an important development avenue for rural Canadians, helping many small towns and communities to be reinvented and re-branded in the face of economic hardships, and supporting income diversification for small-scale rural enterprises. Particularly in a post-pandemic context, rural communities are recognized to hold opportunities for place-based tourism operations that could help to preserve heritage, culture, and the environment, and that support rural revitalization and livelihood.
In Fall 2022, three asset mapping workshops were held in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere (FAB), involving approximately 22 residents from across the region. From these workshops, 132 assets spanning natural, cultural, and built features were identified and mapped. Community values and perspectives on these assets were also identified through thematic analysis of workshop transcripts. Here, rural community identity, nature and heritage, and education around sustainable development emerged as important attributes of sustainable tourism among workshop participations. Challenges for small-scale tourism operators also emerged, oriented around gaps in infrastructure (cellular coverage, transportation networks, insurance) and a lack of coordinated information transfer regarding the region’s attractions.
This presentation will share these key findings and consider more broadly the applications of community- based asset mapping in supporting sustainable tourism development. While these insights are particularly impactful for UNESCO Biosphere Reserves such as the FAB, they are also relevant to rural communities more broadly seeking to balance ecological, historical, and cultural preservation, alongside community development and livelihoods.