Kootenay Rockies Tourism, Selkirk College explore cannabis tourism opportunities

Kootenay Rockies partnered with Selkirk College on a report looking at opportunities for cannabis tourism in the region.

As a regional destination marketing organization, Kootenay Rockies Tourism is always seeking ways to increase economic growth for the region’s tourism industry. And one of the opportunities they see is cannabis tourism.

Cannabis tourism is defined as “the act of travelling to a place because of the ability to purchase cannabis legally.”

In order to look at possibilities for the growth of this sector, Kootenay Rockies partnered with Selkirk College to produce a report, Exploring Opportunities for Cannabis Tourism in the Kootenay Rockies.

Current opportunities in the Kootenays include cannabis tours, educational experiences, museums and art galleries, recreation, camping and cannabis-friendly accommodations.

READ MORE: Could Canada become the Napa Valley of cannabis tourism?

Potential opportunities, that will need some policy changes, include farm-gate indirect delivery programs, and on-site consumption.

The report notes that there are rich ties to cannabis in the Kootenay region.

“The major towns in the region include Castlegar, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Radium Hot Springs, Revelstoke, Golden, and Nelson which contribute to the cannabis industry currently. The city of Nelson is particularly well known for their cannabis culture in the region,”said KRTA CEO, Kathy Cooper.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the region to be at the forefront of an emerging sector of the tourism industry. B.C. has been progressive in the thinking around cannabis legalization and this report will provide the sector and tourism industry with valuable insights to aid in making informed decisions on business opportunities.”

“Further, this report confirms the importance of respecting host communities’ wishes for welcoming cannabis tourism into their communities if they choose to do so. Understandably, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all but if we are to expand the visitor economy, create unique visitor experiences and drive revenues, niche sectors like this can bring diversity of creative business models and opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

Other interesting points made in the report include the fact that the typical customer for cannabis tourism spends an estimated $300 to $400 at dispensaries during visits. This estimate is roughly three times as much as an average transaction with locals.

READ MORE: Cannabis tourism in Canada: The problems … and the potential

The report’s authors looked at the state of Colorado for data.

“Cannabis tourism has brought opportunity and economic benefit to Colorado in recent years. Research from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and partner Strategic Marketing and Research Insights (SMARI) shows that cannabis-motivated visitors tend to have longer visits and spend more money than other visitors per visit.

The average visitor to Colorado spent $1,869 per trip; a visitor who participated in cannabis activities spent $1,930 per trip; and a cannabis-motivated visitor spent an average of $2,030 per trip. Visitors who went to a dispensary also reported dining at local restaurants, shopping, enjoying the scenic areas, skiing/snowboarding and visiting state and national parks.

Multiple visitors take cannabis tours that stop at grow facilities and dispensaries, as well as restaurants and sightseeing spots. The tours customize the experience based on individuals attending and 95 per cent of customers come from out of state. In total, cannabis sales from 2014 to date exceeded $6.56 billion in Colorado and stimulated tourism in the state. This data is from Marijuana Tourism Attracts Million of Visitors and Dollars, by Nora Caley (2019).”

Though that all sounds promising, the report also notes there are barriers to a successful cannabis tourism industry. These include the difference in perceptions of cannabis across different levels of government.

READ MORE: B.C., Alberta becoming ‘Dope Destinations’ for weed-seeking U.S. travellers

“All legal cannabis in British Columbia is sold exclusively at government-run stores, licensed private retailers, and the B.C. government’s online store (Province of British Columbia, n.d.). Additionally, there are strict federal rules for promoting cannabis as well as provincial regulations against marketing, advertising, and promoting consumption spaces for cannabis or places to spend time after consuming cannabis. The BC Chamber of Commerce recommended that incorporating cannabis sales and agri-tourism into rural economic development strategies would enable better access to legal cannabis (B.C. Chamber of Commerce). The current regulations make cannabis tourism initiatives difficult to implement and market,” the report notes.

You can read the full report here.

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