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?
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.
Mobile third spaces are among the “trends you need to know to be relevant” in 2017, according to the ad agency sparks & honey.
Why should rural people give any thought to forecasting by urbanites? These ideas offer food for thought about rural opportunities. Many entrepreneurs in rural areas are already acting on these trends.
Food trucks are so 2016. There are many more business opportunities that can be located in an old VW bus, panel van or Airstream trailer. Shopping and leisure activities appear to be the focus when the vehicle isn’t just selling food.
In Norfolk County, Canada, there are many food trucks. But there are also two new mobile businesses that focus on promoting leisure. Red Apple Rides is a vehicle packed with bicycles ready to connect your group with amazing experiences. Ride the Bine is more than a tour bus. It is operated by two women with deep connections to local terroir, food and wine.
Sparks & honey predicts many more mobile third spaces will open.
“Third spaces like cafes – places that are neither home or office – provide us with opportunities for socializing and learning,” says the ad agency. “Expect to see growing numbers of mobile third spaces emerge.”
Some examples of new mobile third spaces include an art gallery in a car in Portland, Oregon. A spin class housed on a bus in the U.K. is currently still conceptual, but over 24,000 people have registered to use it when it launches.
For a mobile business to stay viable in a rural area, it is advisable to avoid wacky offerings. Instead, put a spin on an experience that is authentic to the region, one that will appeal to many demographics.
You can read more about the sparks & honey A-Z Culture Glossary here.
Tompkins Cortland Community College or “TC3” has a Farm to Bistro program that gives students hands-on experience in every aspect of the food-production system.
In Ithaca (pop. 30,000), the College owns and operates TC3 Farm which supplies fresh produce to Coltivare Restaurant, a 17,000 square-foot culinary center including a full- service restaurant, amphitheater, wine cellar and event space.
Coltivare is located on the ground level of a parking garage in downtown Ithaca.
A group of Canadians learned about this innovative initiative in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, while gathering ideas and insights to consider using in their similar region of Southwest Ontario, Norfolk County.
TC3 Curriculum includes Culinary Arts, Sustainable Farming and Food Systems, Wine Marketing and Hotel and Restaurant Management. In the near future, the farm will be run using only renewable energy.
When a group of Canadians visited Greenstar Coop in Ithaca, New York, they observed how a commitment to selling local food can be lucrative.
GreenStar is a member-owned, community consumer cooperative with over 11,000 members in a city of 30,000. Joe Romano, Director of Marketing, showed the Canadians around and provided background about the organization and its activities.
GreenStar celebrates fresh, whole foods, sustainable living and the transformative power of a strong local economy. Sales in 2015 were approximately $19.5 million.
GreenStar carries more than 4,100 local products (within 100 miles) and 3,300 regional products (within 300 miles), resulting in over $4.9 million reinvested into the local economy, and over $1.7 million reinvested into the regional economy.
The Canadians were touring the Finger Lakes region of New York State, gathering ideas and insights to consider using in their similar region of Southwest Ontario, Norfolk County.
“[It’s] amazing that they can compete with the larger scale grocers and it works! Grassroots and that deep local feel that everyone craves,” said one of the participants.
Supporting local builds strong relationships with vendors and customers. Even stronger bonds are created when member-volunteers earn discounts by working in the store.
In 2015, GreenStar had 81 full-time employees and 53 part-time employees. GreenStar provides opportunities for its members to act as “SuperWorkers” or in-store volunteers. By committing to work 2 hours weekly at designate times for a 4 month minimum, the SuperWorker receives a 15.5% discount in addition to the 2% standard member discount on most purchases.
In 2015, 480 member-owners (and their share partners) saved $187,455 through their participation in the Member Labor Program, an average savings of $391 per member-worker.
“Co-op Markets at their best … saw so many members filling shelves,” said another participant. “Although expensive, found the concept fascinating.”
In the Finger Lakes Study Tour Report, you can read all ten learning moments. To keep this read short, let’s concentrate on the first five. The next five are listed in my August 25 post.
This friendly group of Canadians spent two days together learning about businesses and communities in Upstate NY in April 2016
Here are just a few of the ideas and concepts the group from Norfolk County and Ontario’s Southwest learned during the Finger Lakes Study Tour in April 2016:
Enabling Neighbourhood projects: The city of Geneva operates a “center for neighbourhood initiatives” that encourages and supports projects and volunteers that revitalize all parts of the city. Musical porch parties and concerts in the cemetery engage residents and get them communicating and working together.
Upselling second-floor apartments: Chris Wright in Penn Yan upgraded his second-floor apartment in the downtown core and listed it as overnight tourist accommodation on Air BnB. He’s now earning $300 a night for an apartment that used to take in $500 a month.
Story-telling for Business: Telling your story is the most important thing you can do when you are operating a business whose target market is consumers. Ports of New York in Ithaca is a small business but offers a powerful, memorable experience because the owner narrates his family’s story so well.
Social Enterprise: Social enterprises can address community needs by raising money from tourists and consumers. Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan and the GreenStar Coop in Ithaca are great examples of non-profit organizations that rely on income from one stream of business to subsidize the costs of a social need in the community.
Collaboration and Community Mindfulness: Collaboration is everything – there is no “them”, there is only “us”. It was clear in most communities – Corning being a good model – that work got done when people rowed in the same direction, especially if a major corporate sponsor is on board. There was acknowledgment that all players in the community have a role. When everyone respects one another, a lot gets accomplished. As one participant put it: “I love that every place we went was community minded.” This kind of collaboration enabled the ‘Race for Space’ program in Geneva, where entrepreneurs competed for a discounted downtown storefront lease.
The goal of the study tour was to learn from people at similar businesses in communities similar to those in Norfolk County and other parts of Ontario. A report prepared by Norfolk County staff, based on a survey of those who attended the tour, summarizes the learning moments that participants experienced in the Finger Lakes. The report has detailed information about each stop along the way, including key observations and learning moments.
It’s such a cliché, but in the case of the Finger Lakes Study Tour, it is so true.
It was my pleasure and honour to guide the tour, both years, with our driver Harvey (right). He got us there and back safely – even through freezing rain and grumpy border guards. Photo: Tracy Haskett
With help from Southwest Ontario Tourism and Norfolk County, I had the great pleasure and honour to guide 40+ business and community leaders through the Finger Lakes in March 2015. It was a great success. The tour concept won the award for Cross Border Cooperation and Regionalism from the Economic Developer’s Council of Ontario.
Participants enjoyed it and learned so much – they asked me to organize another tour. So, Finger Lakes Study Tour II happened in April 2016.
So, again this year, I wrote up a summary report about what we learned, based on a survey of participants. Over the course of a few blog posts, I’ll break the report down into manageable chunks.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about the 10 “learning moments” we experienced: enabling neighbourhood projects, upselling second-floor apartments, story-telling for business, social enterprise, and so on.
Ryan Rivard of The Combine describes the appetizers he has served the group / Photo: Melissa Collver
During our last meal together, the chef/owner of The Combine in Norfolk County, Ryan Rivard, invited the group to reconvene at his restaurant in two weeks time, to debrief and share experiences.
In the meantime, comments were gathered from the participants on the trip, who generally found value in the Finger Lakes Study Tour.
“Well organized, good itinerary, amazing inclusions! Only by working together will we be able to redevelop our area,” said one participant
“Good for local businesses and Norfolk staff to be able to experience the up and downs of economic development in small towns in the Finger Lakes area,” said another. “With such a wide selection of places to visit there was something for everyone to learn. Thank You! I have a lot of good usable info that can be incorporated in our business.”
“I learned that everyone every now and again runs into adversity. Every village, town, city or establishment has obstacles. I plan on helping to meet the challenges we have face on, to keep thinking of ways to improve.”
Participants in the Finger Lakes Study Tour reconvened at The Combine Restaurant two weeks after the trip to share ideas. Thanks Ryan for inviting us! / Photo: Melissa Collver
Asked if any bright ideas were discovered during the tour, one participant commented: “Not one particular idea, but lots of food for thought. My wheels are still turning, I have researched some of the places we visited. I haven’t stopped talking about it.”
Our group dined at Warfields as our tour drew to a close / Photo: Clark Hoskin
Staying on the theme of supporting rural and small businesses, the final leg of our trip took us west via Highway 5/20 to the town of Clifton Springs. Instead of eating our dinner at a service centre food court on the Interstate, our last stop of the tour was Warfields, a restaurant and bakery.
We were greeted by Jamie Noga of the Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce, who thanked the group for supporting this small town, with its history of sulphur springs with curative powers. In fact, the town’s hospital is located next to the historic Clifton Springs Sanitorium Company, built in 1850 to provide primary and specialty care to the people of the Finger Lakes.
“I found it very interesting to hear that other towns have had similar problems with revitalizing what should be the hub of the community. It was good to know that it could be done with the right organizations all working together to build and promote the cores in their counties.” – comment from one of our participants
The group enjoyed an excellent meal coordinated by Warfields’ Banquet Manager, Diane Fabiaszak, and prepared by Chef Phil Yautzy. Four dinner options were provided for our group to choose from, and many guests purchased pastries and cookies at the bakery after dinner.
Finger Lakes sign / Photo: Clark Hoskin
Our group bade farewell to the Finger Lakes and headed back to Canada. The bus arrived at the Norfolk County Fairgrounds after 11 p.m. on March 4.
Read Part 14 to find out what happened after the tour!
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