Further to my post, “Dreaming of travelling“, here are more favourite places to think about during the travel lockdown.
Coronada Beach, San Diego: Coronado has a beautiful beach that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. We enjoyed walking on the sand, watching the military fighter jets and other planes fly over, and take in the scenes near The Del (Hotel del Coronado), a historic, Green Seal certified resort. We had beers in one of their restaurants and watched the sun set over the Pacific. TripAdvisor Review
Farmer’s Market, Skibbereen, Ireland: This lovely farmers market was in full swing, very vital and vibrant when we visited in September. There was lots of food to taste and buy, vendors who knew their stuff, plus a wide selection of things to choose from. We especially enjoyed picking up a couple West Cork Pies for eating later in the day, as well as the local gouda cheese that was a true delicacy. TripAdvisor Review
Playa Del San Martin, Cozumel: Explore the soft, deep sands of the beaches on the east coast of Cozumel. At the time we visited, that side of the island was not yet developed, just a winding road along the ocean. This is more of a basking-in-the-sun beach than a swimming area, as rip tides here can be dangerous. A nearby restaurant called Coconuts was a great stop for lunch. TripAdvisor List
Spa Nordic Station, Magog, Quebec: Fantastic afternoon! We enjoyed a few hours relaxation at the Nordic Station Spa. The sauna by the creek was a favourite spot, because you could wade right into the stream afterward. For the small price of admission, it afforded us a nice Zen day. Facilities are fastidiously clean, and staff were very friendly. All the small touches here were well thought out. If you’re in The Eastern Townships, definitely spend an afternoon here. TripAdvisor Review
International Bar, Dublin: An essential stop when visiting Dublin — The International Bar hasn’t changed since I first visited in the late 1980s on the advice of a close friend. Their pint of Guinness is immaculately poured, something a non-Irish person needed to appreciate. The other patrons were mainly an older crowd, and they sat quietly and nursed their pints. The stained glass and wood fixtures are beautiful in this tiny pub. It was a great place to take a break from the bustle of the Grafton Street area of Dublin. A tired looking place, but highly recommended. Apparently they have a popular comedy and music night downstairs but we didn’t experience this. TripAdvisor Review
Coki Beach, St. Thomas: Coki Beach is probably the most memorable experience in our ten-day Royal Caribbean cruise. The beach and water was pristine, and snorkelling was fun. The service by Keesh Lorraine on the beach was attentive and good value. And we saw a beautiful rainbow. Loved it. TripAdvisor Review
Hopefully our social-distancing efforts over the past couple months will allow us to begin travelling again in 2021. Where are you dreaming of travelling?
During the pandemic, I’m trying to combat the mundane nature of self-isolation. So, thoughts turn to travel. While we can’t physically visit our favourite places, we can dream about them. Here are some of mine:
Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown Island, Maine: Eat local, very fresh lobster. We really enjoyed seeing the lobster fishermen (and women) pulling up the traps and taking out the lobster, right in the harbour where we ate! You can’t get any fresher than that. The young man at the counter explained the difference between hard-shell and soft-shell lobsters, and weighed up the ones we were going to eat. They were so good! The outdoor dining area allowed us to take in the whole experience. TripAdvisor Review
Kueka Brewing Co., Hammondsport, N.Y.: We loved the atmosphere of this place — so many beers to try, free popcorn, friendly staff. Also, the outdoor patio on the day we visited was empty, while the inside was packed! Staff were very good about recommendations. On a previous visit, I enjoyed the watermelon beer, but since it was June, they said it was best to wait till watermelon season later in the summer. I tried the beer anyway, but it was not as good as I remembered. So, we will return again to try it at the right time. Highly recommended. TripAdvisory Review
Foxy John’s, Ireland: Foxy John’s Pub and hardware store is a must-see stop in Dingle. At one time, pubs often had dual purpose: pub and grocery, pub and fabric shop … and Foxy John’s is part-pub, part-hardware store. There are still lots of items for sale in the hardware side of the pub, from butane cylinders and T-shirts to drill bits, paint brushes and rat poison. The barman was very friendly and poured a great pint of Guinness. The locally made Creans cider was enjoyable. If in Dingle – go here! TripAdvisor Review
Spa Nordic Station, Magog, Quebec: We enjoyed 2 to 3 hours of relaxation. The sauna by the creek was a favourite spot, because you could wade right into the stream afterward. For the small price of admission, it afforded us a very Zen day. Facilities were clean, and staff very friendly. All the small touches here were well thought out. If you’re in the Magog area, definitely come here. TripAdvisor Review
Boca Slagbaai, Bonaire: It’s a long, bumpy drive into the park and to this spot, but it was worth it. Jumping off the cliff into the warm ocean water was fantastic. There are not many people around, and there were no services there that day, apart from clean washrooms. Snorkeling and swimming off the beach was fun. Bring a cooler full of food and drink for a picnic, and take your trash with you. Lots of great photo opportunities here. TripAdvisor Review
Coki Beach, St. Thomas: Coki Beach is probably the most memorable experience in our 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. The beach and water are pristine and clear. Snorkelling was great. The service by Keesh Lorraine on the beach was fantastic. And we saw a beautiful rainbow. Loved it. TripAdvisor Review
Jean Talon Market, Montreal: Amazing late-summer super fresh food — Everything you would ever hope for in a farmers market, plus more! Very friendly vendors, bilingual and cheery. Lots and lots and lots of produce, flowers, meat and cheese from Quebec. Don’t miss this place. TripAdvisor Review
Balm Beach Bar & Smokehouse, Tiny, Ontario: Loved the view, and Jerk Chicken — On a warm evening, we enjoyed dinner at Balm Beach Tavern, especially the view from the second floor outdoor patio. Jerk Chicken was excellent and the beer was cold. Our group enjoyed this place. TripAdvisor Review
The Liberty Distillery, Granville Island, Vancouver: We were so happy to find this distillery while visiting Granville Island Market. It’s practically right next door. We had the whiskey flight and the gin flight, enjoyed both, picked our favourite – the Wit Gin – and bought it. The two Irish lads running the distillery were very friendly and engaging. Highly recommended! TripAdvisor Review
These are just a few of my favourite spots. I’ll post more soon. Where are you dreaming of travelling?
Try and fail. Try again, but course-correct. Ditherers are not respected among economic development and tourism professionals.
Some simple advice shared during Blane Canada’s BR|E COVID-19 Response Network webinar on April 2, 2020. Since mid March, the network (blanecanada.com/bre-covid-19) has grown beyond 300 economic development organizations. Formed voluntarily to determine the business and human impact of COVID-19 in communities, business impact surveys were created for local economic developers to gather solid business and worker impact data to inform local leadership’s response to COVID-19.
But even as the surveying continues, economic development professionals cannot wait.
“You have to act,” said Joe Raso, President and CEO of Greater Fargo Moorehead Economic Development (gfmedc.com).
“You gotta go to know, and just try things and not wait for permission from the governor or the mayor, or anybody else, because people are really looking for organizations that are being leaders and trying things and course correcting.”
Regional business task force
GFMEDC brought together over 40 partners to create a regional business task force, including businesses, non-profits, utilities, government administrators and politicians.
The task force is divided into five sections: on data, communications, business engagement , financial support, and workforce. Teams of people with expertise — not just interest in each of those areas — meet constantly and then as a group every Friday morning.
“You gotta go to know”: Joe Raso, Greater Fargo Moorehead EDC
“Instead of saying ‘hey wash your hands and distance yourselves’, I think we all already know that,” Raso said. “How can we really be helping our businesses at this critical juncture who are looking for people who want to lead. So it’s I think partly our role to lead in these kinds of situations.”
Dangers of over-communication
One of the first things Fargo learned was that communicating too much information and over-surveying businesses can be unhelpful.
“We’re all receiving a million emails and texts on things that are happening … but one thing we’ve already learned is that the business community is really not set to deal with all the changes of the programming that are coming out at the federal and state levels.”
Being able to parse the data and find gaps in business needs quickly and effectively is essential.
In the case of Fargo, survey data showed at least half the companies haven’t talked to their lender, which can become a problem. Understanding that reality and brainstorming solutions can help address the issue.
Leadership is essential
Unfortunately, economic development professionals can be pulled away from their regular duties into emergency response initiatives. It makes sense, since these professionals are great communicators and problem-solvers.
But now is the time for economic development and tourism officials to harness the expertise of their businesses and other agencies to execute a plan to address the impact of COVID-19 on your local economy.
(By the way, Blane Canada is looking for a Canadian organization to help populate business impact data. Contact them for more info.)
Seneca Falls, New York, came to my attention as an avid fan of the film, It’s A Wonderful Life. There are many similarities between the fictional Bedford Falls of the movie and this lovely Finger Lakes town. So much so that Seneca Falls started a winter festival every December, which my wife and I attended.
Statue commemorating women’s rights in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
What we learned when we got there was the town’s connection to the American suffragette movement and women’s rights. Seneca Falls is home to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, celebrating the first women’s rights convention in the U.S., held here in 1848. There’s also a unique store called WomanMade Products, just across the street.
“I am thrilled that WomanMade Products has found a home in Seneca Falls, home to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer and the first women’s newspaper, The Lily,” owner Becky Bly says on her website. “For WomanMade Products, Seneca Falls is a feminist address for a feminist business.”
In 2015, I took a motor coach full of tourism operators and farmers from Norfolk County here, to explore how this town uses its unique attributes to attract tourists. Check out the blog post.
Time is money, so knowing how it’s being wasted will improve your bottom line.
Businesses have the best of intentions when embarking on new construction or expansions. After engaging engineers and architects, filing planning approvals and building permits, everyone hopes the project will proceed as planned.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. For lots of reasons, bottlenecks materialize. Someone fails to communicate. Paperwork goes missing. A policy hasn’t been followed, or someone gets sick. Maybe someone over-promised and under-delivered.
Every agency and business involved in your project has a vested interest in saving face, so people sometimes point fingers of blame in all directions. An objective perspective is important.
Open the lid on stalled projects
Business owners and managers are busy, and don’t have the time to open the lid on a stalled project. Getting things back on track is crucial for success.
Consulting services are available to review the status of a project within the local government approval process, be it building permits, planning permission or other issues. Think about hiring someone to assist you.
Annual reports can be dry, boring documents that fulfill a basic function: provide a record of an organization’s situation, a year at a time.
Yearly summaries can also help us demonstrate accountability, learn from our mistakes, celebrate successes, and build confidence.
One of my final tasks as Director of Tourism and Economic Development in Norfolk County was the assembly of the Department’s 2019 Annual Report. I’m proud of what our team accomplished over 18 years. It was an honour to contribute to a community I have known my whole life, and lived in since returning to raise a family in the 1990s.
Do you prepare an annual report for your business or organization? If you don’t, consider giving it a go. Here’s why.
Demonstrate transparency and accountability
The publication of an annual report tells others that your operation is open to scrutiny. In plain black-and-white (preferably with some colour), you detail your successes and failures for all to read about. There’s no hiding. Show you have confidence in your abilities by reporting on them.
Measure, manage, learn, grow
Management educator Peter Drucker said: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” An annual report forces you to compare your goals with your outcomes, your budget with your actuals. If you have no metrics to report on, now is the time to start. Measuring success allows you to manage adjustments to your go-forward plan. Or as Drucker put it: “A crisis that recurs a second time is a crisis that must not ever occur again.”
Record the moment
Memory is a tricky thing, frequently unreliable. Time passes quickly. Before you know it, another year will pass. Take the time to record the highlights of each year, so you can look back with accuracy when you need to.
Celebrate success, discourage BS
An annual report lets you celebrate the successes of your owners, management, staff and customers, and share the glory with your partners and collaborators. But remember that people smell bullsh*t. If there was no progress on an objective, don’t use buzzwords to prop things up. Example: Disruption in the sector was impactful and resulted in a pivot to new synergies. That’s B.S.! (Check out The Atlantic magazine article, “Corporate buzzwords are how workers pretend to be adults“.)
A powerful document
An annual report has incredible power. It can building confidence in your organization, show how accountable you are, force you to reflect, learn and improve. These are basic strategic elements that should be revisited by all organizations and leaders on a regular basis.
Don’t know where to start? Just sit down and write.
“Tread lightly on the Earth.” Strange words, perhaps, from someone who sells beer.
Charlotteville Brewing Co. Beer
But these are enlightened, welcome words in a community that supports environmental sustainability. The fact a tourism business operator is saying them speaks volumes about their maturity and foresight.
“We are seizing on sustainability, which is at the core of our business philosophy,” said Melanie Doerksen of Charlotteville Brewing Co., which recently won the Sustainable Tourism Award from the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation.
Growing raw ingredients organically or purchasing organic
Recycling grain stock used on-site as livestock feed
Paying personnel a living wage so they too can prosper
Striving for zero waste
Serving artisanal food and drink that’s as sustainable as it is delicious
Melanie Doerksen, Charlotteville Brewing Co. Photo: Jim Byers
Charlotteville’s Melanie Doerksen also told the Simcoe Reformer newspaper. “We’re trying to tread lightly on the Earth and show the community how you can own a sustainable business and make a profit at the same time.”
Fortuitously, at the same award ceremony, Doerksen was named Norfolk County Entrepreneur of the Year.
While business owners are leveraging the power of sustainable tourism in their day-to-day operations, elected officials are also taking risks, by staring down multinational companies.
Politicians are catching up
Cruise ships docked at Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean
One of those politicians is Edison Rijna, Governor of Bonaire. This tiny Dutch Caribbean island is world renowned as a scuba-diving destination. A few years ago, Bonaire started to welcome cruise ships at 75 cents per person. The economic impact has been minimal, and the residents worry about the negative impact of big ships so close to a pristine marine environment. The divers hate the cruise ships — and now others are agreeing. In an interview in Trouw newspaper in the Netherlands, Rijna firmly supports a sustainable tourism model.
“We are prostituting our island”, he said. “I once spoke to an American from such a mass cruise on the quay in Kralendijk. He had paid $ 279 for a week. Unbelievable right? ‘Yes’, he said, ‘for that money I have a week vacation, here and there I buy a souvenir, I walk through the city and I eat and drink myself full on board for seven days’.”
“What are the benefits for us?” Rijna asked. “We don’t want people like that on Bonaire.”
The Governor would rather see efforts focused on smaller, specialized ships with a different audience, such as sailing cruises.
How can a tourism business benefit from sustainability?
Aim for consumers who can afford a higher price point
Focus on experiences that enlighten and educate
Rejig price points to generate bigger sales to a smaller customer base
Kudos to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and the communities of Leamington and Kingsville for hosting the 2019 Agriculture Economic Development Forum recently. There was lots to learn about on-farm diversification, automation, financing, urban agriculture, gleaning and more. Check out our learning moments at https://www.norfolkbusiness.ca/learning-ag-ecdev/.
Many organizations choose to skip the last element – the ability to easily purchase your product.
What is tourism product? It is any location, experience or service that attracts tourists. A B&B, a restaurant, a scenic landscape, a campground: these are all tourism products.
So, what’s tourism product development? It is the bundling and monetization of a number of elements to increase the yield in terms of revenues, while respecting your carrying capacity.
Don’t jump to conclusions, thinking that you need to start developing packages with hotels and bus companies. Keep it simple. Just consider moving your current tourism product beyond a passive offering, to something active.
Moving to active tourism offerings is a challenge for some. For a heritage site or park, keeping things maintained within budget is the primary objective. Think how you could increasing the amount of money from an equal number of visitors through the gate so you won’t tax the resources available to serve them.
Let’s lift the curtain on tourism product development to maximize your revenue and minimize costs. To develop good tourism product, treat the process like producing a play.
I am going to compare one of my favourite travel experiences of 2016, Fab Food Trails in Ireland, to theatre production.
Stage (Property / Venue)
The first basic element is the empty stage. It’s your property. In the case of Fab Food Trails, the stage is the streets and small businesses of central Dublin.
Your stage – your business – is an empty experience without a good story, actors who know their lines, and a box office that sells tickets when the customer wants to buy them.
Story or Play (Tour / Experience / Package)
Write the script. What is the nature of the experience? Fab Food Trails offers a two to three hour guided walking tour of ten food stops. You get to meet and talk to chefs, baristas and cheesemongers, among others. You get to experience the neighbourhood culture of Dublin and receive insider knowledge about the flavours and personalities of Ireland’s foodie world.
Who is your target market – the clientele who will want to experience this play? For Fab Food Trails, the target audience includes foodies and tourists, mainly mature and Millennial couples, willing to participate in a group experience and stretch their legs.
Actors (Guide / Front Line Staff)
Actors tell the story. They need to know their lines and the part they play. As for most tourism experiences, the property employs a paid or volunteer interpretive guide. Fab Food Trails uses a narrator, a walking-tour guide, pulled from a group of food-oriented people, including writers and journalists, chefs and others. Plus, at each of the ten stops along the way, there are more actors: speakers and presenters at the bakery, pub, outdoor market, cafe, etc. The photo at the top of this post features a worker at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, who educated guests about Irish gouda cheese.
Stage Crew (Other Staff)
Like any quality theatre production, there is a professional support team working in the shadows. For Fab Food Trails, these people include the wait staff, chef and counter workers at the stops, plus the workers creating the food samples. These folks need to be prepared and knowledgeable about what is happening. They don’t need to know the script line-by-line, but they do need to change the set and have the props ready.
Producers (Tourism Business Owners)
Let’s take a reality check. Who’s backing this play? Who’s balancing the books? Without them, the play would not go on. This is the tourism business owner / operator. They oversee all the elements of the business, decide the quality of the product or service, and keep costs under control. For Fab Food Trails, the executive producer is founder Eveleen Coyle. But don’t forget her co-producers: the owners of all the stops along the trail.
Publicist (Marketing Plan)
Rehearsals are going well and dates for performances are arranged. Now to get the word out. This is the marketing plan, the promotional tactics. Theatres use digital, web, print and more to publicize the performances. Fab Food Trails runs a website and leverages the great TripAdvisor reviews (the critics) and awards received to garner attention.
Box Office (Reservation System)
Everyone knows you need to contact the box office to buy a theatre ticket – either online or in person. Where’s your box office? In this day and age, it better be online and easily accessible, 24 hours a day. Fab Food Trails has reservation and payment options available on the front page of their website.
Ticket Price (Experience / Package Price)
Don’t underprice your experience! The theatre producer wouldn’t. They need to pay their costs and make a profit. So do you. Fab Food Trails charges at least €55 ($80 Can) per person to experience their top-notch tour.
What taste does your business leave in the mouth of your customer?
After the show (Word of mouth / Bragging rights)
When the curtain goes down, audience members turn to one another and begin a conversation. Did you enjoy it? What was your favourite part? Along the Fab Food Trail, I learned about the Canadian owner of Camerino’s Bakery, who started her business from scratch based on a passion for baking. We tasted her scones slathered with Irish butter and black-currant jam. It melted in my mouth. For me, that was the most memorable scene in the show. My mouth is watering now. What taste does your business leave in the mouth of your customer?
Now it’s your turn. Take the stage (your venue) and create a production that will sell out.
Sharon Judd (right) leads a Walk the Crop Tour at Meadow Lynn Farms (Photo: Meadow Lynn Farms)
Operate a campground or nature park? Develop a guided tour where guests gather food from nature to create a meal. Catch fish or forage for mushrooms – such as the annual Mushroom Foray at Long Point Eco-Adventures in Norfolk County. Charge a fee.
Opportunities in tourism have never been more vibrant, and never have your new customers had such high expectations. Prove that you can put on a good show that audiences will rave about and critics will love. If all goes well, profits will follow.
Thinking of starting a business aimed at tourists? Here are three important qualities that your operation needs to have in place for any chance of tourism success.
Your offering needs to be viable, reliable and buyable.
Being viable is a basic element. Viability means you have a solid business plan behind what you are planning to do. Without a firm financial foundation, your business will not be viable.
You must have realistic expectations about revenue and a clear understanding of how to control your costs. You may need to operate your business in the red for a while, until you gain enough exposure and market share to sustain yourself over the long term.
Reliability is the next core element of tourism success (or any business success, for that matter). Is your product or experience of satisfactory quality? Is it consistently satisfactory?
Is your product or service available when the customer wants it? Consistently?
Do your staff offer good service? All the time? This is what reliability means.
Customers may not expect a “wow experience” of you. But if one of your staff provides “wow” service and the rest are ho-hum, then you have a reliability problem. It’s about meeting the expectations of your customer.
Finally, the most important element of all: assuming your product or service is viable and reliable – is it buyable? When the customer wants to purchase your offering, is it available for sale?
The ability of a customer to buy your product on impulse is extremely important. It will be the difference between your sale and your competitor’s sale.
Fab Food Trails of Dublin / Photo: Clark Hoskin
Having a menu of opportunities on your website, linked to an on-line purchasing system, is key to success.
For example, Fab Food Trails in Ireland posts their available walking tours right on their front page, so you can easily buy them.
If your service is promoted in cooperation with your local tourism authority as well as other agencies and websites like TripAdvisor, customers may buy it easily.
Remember that we live in an anywhere, any when economy, thanks to technology. Some customers may want to book your experience at 1 a.m. because they live three time zones away and they finally got the kids to bed.
Even if you don’t plan to sell online – is your business buyable? Is your store open when tourists are passing it? 70% of all consumer retail spending in bricks-and-mortar stores takes place after 6pm, according to tourism guru Roger Brooks. If you’re not open, you are turning away a lot of business.
Make sure your tourism product or experience is viable, reliable and buyable. If it is, you are making huge strides toward business success.
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