Experience the Gulf Islands (ETGI)
ETGI is an inter-island community tourism initiative for the Southern Gulf Islands to develop and promote authentic experiences for residents and visitors to the area.
Designed to build from and support existing island tourism and community development initiatives, ETGI represents an innovative, broader strategy that looks to coordinate and enhance community tourism planning across the Salt Spring and Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Areas. ETGI recognizes and seeks to realize the larger social, environmental and economic contributions of community tourism in order to build an archipelago-wide mobility network and organization for developing the unique experience that is the Southern Gulf Islands.
Experience the Gulf Islands presents a shared and attainable vision of the future. While not explicitly stated, the Vision maintains the environmental conservation and protection ethic that is the foundation of all planning on the islands, and the prime operational directive of the Islands Trust.
An accessible, interconnected archipelago of living, working communities in the Salish Sea, so close to major urban centres and yet worlds apart. A special place in every season where residents and visitors alike continue to learn about and experience the diverse places, people, arts & culture, histories and conservation ethic that makes the islands unique.
Supporting the vision are five, core community goals developed and prioritized by project stakeholders and participants. The goals were first developed through the Experience the Gulf Islands Proposal and refined during the Concept Plan process. They were also influenced by, and closely align with, existing planning and development objectives found in plans and strategies from area governments (Islands Trust, Capital Regional District, Official Community Plans) and other community strategies and initiatives (e.g., community economic development strategies).
The goals were used to evaluate and organize community tourism opportunities and ideas into a more structured and phased timeline. In time, they can be used to monitor the implementation of Experience the Gulf Islands as measures are identified to track them.
Increase local economic diversity and year-round employment opportunities
Build sustainable, low-carbon, inter-island and on-island transportation connections and linkages that limit or lower on-island car traffic
Enhance and expand inter-community, organizational and government partnerships
Expand enriching experiences of our island communities, histories, cultures, food, arts, and natural environment
Support and promote inter-island and on-island environmental stewardship and protection initiatives
ETGI Development Process
The concept plan marks the second step in a three-step initiative. The first piece of work was completed in 2014 when an initial Experience the Gulf Islands Proposal document was completed (Proposal).The Proposal introduced the experience tourism concept (which had been used to support a similar project in the Lower Mainland called Experience the Fraser) and established Experience the Gulf Islands planning teams on each island who were involved in its creation. The second step – the Concept Plan -- refines the Proposal based on expanded community, partner and stakeholder input, to create a more structured and strategic plan. The third step will involve putting the short and medium-term projects the Concept Plan identifies into action.
To advance implementation of the concept plan and to take advantage of Destination BC funding being provided to regional tourism initiatives a consortium of representatives from Salt Spring and the SGI Chambers of Commerce, SGI tourism interests, the SGI Community Economic Sustainability Commission and the Salt Spring Community Economic Development Commission submitted a joint application to Destination BC to develop “Experience the Southern Gulf Islands” a tourism marketing action plan. This consortium was successful in receiving Destination BC funding in 2017 and 2018 to further advance community tourism ().
ETGI CONCEPT PLAN
With funding from Capital Regional District and the support of a consulting team led by EcoPlan (), the project was led by local residents who were organized into Experience the Gulf Islands Teams on each of the islands. Galiano resident and Project Manager of the Experience the Gulf Islands Proposal, Ed Andrusiak, was a key organizer in the process. Other Gulf Islands community tourism stakeholders also participated in the development of the plan.
Completed in 2016, the Concept Plan provides:
A summary profile of the Southern Gulf Islands and existing community tourism in the area.
A guiding, shared, inter-island vision for the future of community tourism in the area.
Community-defined and prioritized tourism development goals to help guide activities to achieve the inter-island tourism vision.
A community tourism strategy, with short-, medium- and long-term actions identified.
A “long-list” of preliminary community tourism opportunities identified by participants through the project that could be implemented or further developed in the longer-term.
An overview of next steps required to move the Concept Plan towards implementation.
The initiative is supported by parallel processes to improve mobility to and between the islands (CRD Regional Trails Strategy, Integrated Service Review [community bus & inter-island passenger ferry]), as well as studies that support more detailed development of existing and potential experiences (e.g. Southern Gulf Islands Educational Assessment).
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The success of the consortium has lead to a feasibility study to develop a Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO) that will include Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands.This process is now being lead by the Salt Spring CEDC, Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce supported by the SGI CESC and SGI tourism representatives as equal partners.