Tourism faculty voice concerns over Ajax mine

TRU tourism faculty want to know: How might the Ajax mine affect Kamloops tourism?

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

Robert Hood, TRU professor and chair of the department of tourism management, decided that among the many discussions being held on Ajax mine, little was being said about potential impacts to tourism. He decided to change that.

Robert Hood (left) and John Hall (right), both professors of tourism management at TRU, explain the role tourism plays in the economy and potential impacts of the Ajax mine on the tourism industry. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

Robert Hood (left) and John Hall (right), both professors of tourism management at TRU, explain the role tourism plays in the economy and potential impacts of the Ajax mine on the tourism industry. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

On Sunday Sept. 27, Hood and his co-worker John Hall, a tourism management professor, spoke to a group of over 100 community members, and a handful of TRU students. The presentation was titled “Tourism and the proposed Ajax mine: Undermining the true vision of Kamloops?”

The presentation focused on explaining how tourism plays an important role in a diverse economy in Kamloops and across B.C.

The Thompson-Okanagan region is the second-most visited region in the province, creating $1.75 billion in annual revenue and employing 15,000 people, according to research by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

Kamloops sees over one million overnight visitors, Hood said, citing research done by Venture Kamloops.

Hall said the city is comparable to other major tourist destinations and that “super, natural B.C.” is often compared to New Zealand and Iceland, countries which also market their pristine, natural landscapes.

According to Hall, of the many people passing through Kamloops, those who decide to stay do so because of the allure of the scenic grasslands. But he is concerned about whether people will still decide to stop and stay if they see a large open pit mine instead.

Tourism’s overall economic contribution to Kamloops is $167-million per year, according to Hall.

Hood said he can appreciate mining’s role in the economy, but he has concerns about the size, scale and proximity of Ajax mine.

Hood has spent the last 13 years of his life in Kamloops and has experience in both the mining industry, as a land surveyor, and tourism.

Hall has experience in the private sector of tourism. Previously a professor in Auckland, New Zealand, he had two job offers when he moved to Canada, to teach at either the University of Waterloo or Thompson Rivers University.

Hall said Kamloops’ brand, the “tournament capital centre,” was what made him decide to move to Kamloops, knowing that it could provide him a quality of life Ontario could not.

Kamloops has invested over $60 million into the tournament capital program, and it sees an annual revenue of $11 million according to Hood.

Hood said that tourism isn’t just about taking money from tourists during their brief stay, and that if they like what they see they may stay and become residents, and that they may even bring business with them.

His concern is whether the Ajax mine will have a negative effect on the image that Kamloops has been working to achieve, an image both Hall and Hood believe is starting to get some global attention.

“Kamloops is a small town with interesting amenities found in big cities,” Hood said.

He’s also concerned about social and cultural impacts the mine may have in Kamloops.

“What does it do to a community?” Hood asked before the event, pointing to the divisions the Ajax mine has created within the community.

Hood and Hall recommend an evaluation of the impact Ajax may pose on students’ choice to study at TRU, a visual impact study for leisure tourism’s stop and stay visits and a cost/benefit assessment of mining and tourism.

Hall made note that tourism was only addressed once in KGHM’s assessment process.