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Moreover, in British Columbia (BC) alone, more than one million non residents took a holiday in their car or ... motivation for travel, behaviour whilst planning their trip and ...

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Distinct Segments of Rubber Tire Traffic

More interaction with wild lands & more physically active

Less interaction with wild lands and less physically active

Soft RV’ers

Hard Core RV’ers


Lines indicate movement between segments influenced by lifestyle, age, income, $ and weather. Solid lines indicate greater likelihood of mode switching.

  • Camper trailers/ smaller motor homes
  • Social groupings
  • Larger motor homes/ 5th wheels
  • Status- look down on tenters
  • Little interaction with local community
  • Often form their own community
  • Non-active
  • Safety a big issue
  • Possession
  • Personal comforts- their own bathroom!

Soft Hotelers

  • Will camp if weather bad or have little $

Hard Core





HardCore Hotelers

  • Feeling the elements
  • Believe they get the real experience
  • Look down on RVers
  • Active & environmentally orientated
  • Like being able to access remote areas
  • Like flexibility
  • Will change to B&Bs or hotels if weather is bad
  • Contact with the locals a key driver
  • Social travelers
  • High interaction with community
  • Less social
  • Less active
  • Only stay in hotels

Driving into the Wild: An Investigation into

Self Drive Visitors’ Perceptions of Wilderness

Anne Hardy, Ph.D., Pamela Wright, Ph.D. and Jovan Simic, MNRES Candidate

Coming to a Wilderness Near You

The drive tourism industry and particularly the use of recreational vehicles (RV’s) is increasing rapidly in Canada. Per capita, Canada has a higher level of RV ownership than the USA, with 13% of the population owning an RV, compared to 10% in the USA (Go RVing, 2004). Moreover, in British Columbia (BC) alone, more than one million non residents took a holiday in their car or a rented car (Statistics Canada, 2001). This figure, which has most likely increased and does not include residents, suggests that a summer influx of RV and car travelers in regional and remote areas can have dramatic social and environmental impacts on wild land areas. Given that the goal of sustainable development is now a cornerstone of many tourism development and protected area agencies, an understanding of the nature of this market is imperative in order to plan and create policy for prevention of negative environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts.

To date, little research has been conducted on the drive tourism market and it is often refereed to as a homogeneous market sector. We are interested in exploring whether self drive travelers (using cars and RVs) may be segmented into groups according to their motivation for travel, behaviour whilst planning their trip and traveling, types of vehicle and attitudes towards wilderness. In particular, we are interested in examining self drive travelers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards wilderness, interactions with wildlands, and the role that the idea of wilderness plays in planning their holiday destinations.

Drive-Thru Wilderness

Focus groups and interviews with self-drive tourists suggest that there are distinct segments of the market differentiated by accommodation type. For the dedicated RV traveler, surrounding themselves with their own possessions, not sharing, safety, and minimizing physical contact with the outdoors and with people are key. Wilderness may be pretty to look at right along the road side but its inconvenient and potentially dangerous to enter.

  • “We prefer to enjoy wilderness from the comfort of our own home”Hard-Core RVers
  • “After spending time here [WalMart], everything else is quite scary. I’ve gotten used to the bright lights of the parking lot”Boondocker
  • “We feel safer in our motorhome at night, and we can still enjoy nature from it”Hard-Core RVers


  • Fear and Loathing
  • Phase two of the research project involves investigation of a subset of the hard-core RV group: WalMart boondockers. The scourge of community organizations, city councils and private RV parks, boondockers travel the country from parking lot to parking lot. Given the cost of the RV – campground fees can’t be prohibitive so what’s the attraction?
    • maps are provided free by WalMart
    • itinerary is ‘planned’
    • the safety of the ‘lights’ of the store are critical
    • all the comforts of home
    • re-supplying is easy
    • no dangerous bears
    • can drive thru wild-lands without fear
    • cost is key
  • Methods
  • Beginning of a multi-phase research project with phase one located in Bella Coola, BC (central coast) and the result of collaboration between UNBC, CCRD, BC Ferries and BC Real Estate Partnering Fund
  • Qualitative research concentrated on motivations &
  • behaviour of visitors to examine:
    • Why they travel
    • Activities whilst traveling
    • Travel habits over their life
    • Interactions with wildlands
    • Perceptions and attitudes towards wilderness
    • Choice of accommodation
    • Social interaction whilst traveling and

decision making

  • Triangulated methods include:
    • 4 Focus Groups
      • Tenters/RVs provincial parks
      • Hotels/B&Bs
      • Tenters/RVs private campgrounds
    • 40 In-depth interviews
    • Observations
  • “I’m afraid of tents… if it rains its open to all the elements…I’m also afraid of bears”Hard-Core RVers
  • “I want to feel the rain, hear the wind and get hot by the sun”Hard-Core Tenter


Resource Recreation and Tourism Program

University of Northern British Columbia3333 University Way,Prince George, British Columbia,Canada V2N 4Z9

Tel:  (250) 960-5114