Saturday, May 26

New life for Regina's RCMP museum

RCMP Heritage Centre

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It is hard to think of a more truly Canadian story than that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is a story still being written today, and about to be shared with visitors from around the world at Regina’s RCMP Heritage Centre, which is slated to open in late May, 2007.

The 6500 square meter two‑storey facility is designed by world‑renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson and situated on 6.7 hectares of land adjacent to the RCMP Academy. It will offer guests immersive environments, interactive exhibits and multi‑sensory simulations featuring artifacts from the RCMP collection and rich archival materials. According to president and CEO Vic Huard, at $40 million it is one of the most ambitious heritage interpretation projects in recent Canadian history.

“The initiative goes back to 1995, when a number of community leaders , including representatives from the Friends of the RCMP Centennial Museum, began discussing ways to enhance the profile of the RCMP Centennial Museum," says Huard. "The Centennial Museum (which opened in 1973) had served its purpose, and more space and newer approaches were needed to allow the public to get a better sense of the RCMP story." Huard explains how discussions shaped a vision that would eventually incorporate the architectural guidance of Arthur Erickson. “From that moment, the new facility really started to take shape. This has led to commitments from various levels of government, backed by a massive fundraising initiative.

The two‑phase project is nearing the end of Phase I, which includes the completion of the actual building and of the first phase of exhibits encompassing 18,000 square feet of main exhibit hall space including 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibit. The location of the Centre is seen as critical; the authenticity of having it right where the cadets are trained – where the story begins – is an essential element. "We will continue to offer tours during the summer as occurred with the old Centennial Museum, notes Huard, "but we will link that to programming based out of the RCMP Heritage Centre.” He promises a visitor experience unlike any other: “Interpretive programming will go beyond simple guided tours."

Despite his optimism and earnest belief the impact of the Heritage Centre on Regina’ economy will be significant, Vic Huard is quick to caution those who claim this much awaited attraction will dramatically increase tourism activity in Saskatchewan’s capital city: “Those shoes are too big for us to fill alone. Some people think in those terms and we don’t want to get ourselves in that position. We are well aware that single point attractions aren’t what drive tourism. We know this from the research carried out during the development of Regina’s recently completed destination marketing strategy.”

Huard prefers to see the Centre work with some of the other attractions within the city and across the province. “How can we leverage the iconic drawing power of the RCMP? It is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. If we successfully intercept visitors and draw them here, we’ll ask: ‘how can we then keep them in Regina overnight? How can we work with other packages, attractions or heritage and cultural assets?’ We do have a very rich history and we perhaps don’t leverage it as much as we should; this gives us an opportunity to attract people in a way that perhaps wasn’t there before.”

Meanwhile, Huard will concentrate on honing the guest experience. “We need first to ensure the product here works, that the systems work, that we understand our own product and that we deliver a first‑class service. It is the experience on the grounds and at the Centre that will help build our success. The building is architecturally phenomenal, there will be great exhibits, but we are banking on the impressions people will leave with to ensure they keep saying ‘wow! I want to come back!’ We are committed to putting together a team of people who understand that and who will deliver it all the time. It is very critical.”

Enhancing the resort experience through Placemaking

 Placemaking at work at Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Photo: Intrawest

(Originally published in TOURISM)

If one of the golden rules of resort development is the need to create places where guests will experience a certain "pedestrian‑friendliness", few resort developers have been as transparent as Intrawest about the guiding principles they use to achieve this goal. The Vancouver‑based resort company has properties in North America and around the world, but is better known in Canada for its activities at Whistler Blackcomb (BC) and Mont‑Tremblant (Quebec) – two places with very different histories but where the same principles apply, according to executive vice president David Greenfield.

“In 1986, Intrawest had the opportunity to purchase Blackcomb Mountain, one of the two mountains at Whistler. At the time, Intrawest was a real estate developer focused mainly on Vancouver, Western Canada, and North‑western United States," Greenfield continues. "We saw an opportunity to combine the operational management expertise at Blackcomb Mountain with Intrawest’s real estate experience. In the world of winter resorts at the time, you didn’t often see the marriage of the two.”

Intrawest embarked on a master planning exercise at Blackcomb. “We thought the best way to approach this was to bring together some of the better minds in the resort planning world, and Intrawest did just that."

Meanwhile, another opportunity presented itself at the other end of the country, for which this insight of another contributor was required: Eldon Beck. He had been involved with the original master planning of Whistler village and Vail, Colorado. “We realized that he was the only one who had the special eye and skills that were needed to create a ‘true’ resort village,” notes Greenfield. “With his help, we began to grasp what it takes. Eldon Beck understands the true underpinnings of why villages in mountain places really work – and what are the main physical, spiritual and social foundations for those resorts.”

Nowhere would these foundations be more rigorously put to the test than at Mont‑Tremblant: “This was our first real entry into building a village from the ground up, in 1991. Tremblant was absolutely on its last legs and it would probably have withered away if nobody had picked it up when we did. What we found was such an incredible wealth of culture and a rare authenticity. You don’t have to fabricate it; it is just there – in the local history, the history of the province and in the place itself. It wasn’t hard to create a village with so many elements around you to draw from.”

Tremblant was one of the first resort villages in North America, established in 1938, Greenfield explains: “The only other true ski resort in North America to that date was Sun Valley, Idaho. Tremblant was second and, in fact, bought a lift from Sun Valley to create the first ski lift at Tremblant. The architecture at the time was somewhat unique because the original owner/developer – a fellow by the name of Joe Ryan – had a created his own traditions around his view of what should go on in a resort in that particular setting.”

Mont Tremblant had been part of the Quebec psyche for generations, so when Intrawest took it over, the company realized it needed to capitalize on that heritage. “We started talking to people and all these incredible memories about growing up as kids and enjoying this wonderful international destination in the 50s and 60s emerged. We started to piece together all these stories, local styles and cultural elements, and got a sense not so much of what Tremblant should look like, but of what it should feel like.”

Drawing on the knowledge of people who had lived in the area for years (long‑time ski instructors and staff members who had been at the resort for 30 years), Greenfield could envision how to re‑kindle the dream that was so alive in the 1930s and 1940s.

He and his team made trips to Europe to look at resort villages in the mountains, in order to gain insight into how the villages there are physically configured. “We also visited locations throughout Québec to see if there were architectural stylings which we felt were important, and we came up with a plan for the village inspired by some of the original architecture. You can’t just go in there and put up the kind of Western Canadian architecture that we would put up in Whistler and Blackcomb.”

The result had to convey a certain authenticity in the dominant sense of place: “We wanted a hotel that was reminiscent of an old Chateau that you might have seen in Québec City or in other places," emphasizes Greenfield. "We wanted a small commercial area with the old buildings to be very much a statement about what Tremblant was back in the 1930s. Everything that you see there says ‘Quebec’. We also felt it was important to preserve certain buildings as a statement about what Tremblant was and should be in the future."

He gives the example of a church built in the late 1930s that is really an icon for the resort. “There was a collection of smaller buildings which we had to relocate to a place where we could create a kind of historic pedestrian village, and use it in an entertainment capacity with food and beverage areas because there was a heritage theme we felt we should preserve there.”

"Placemaking", as Intrawest sees it, is a philosophy that the organization tries to apply. “We are human; sometimes we are very successful at it and we sometimes miss the mark in our interpretations. People go to Europe and they say: ‘you know these villages are fantastic’. It is easy to forget they have developed over hundreds of years; we are trying to build places in 4 or 5 years!”

Greenfield is of the opinion that we must give today’s villages the time to grow and organically evolve. “The tendency sometimes is to judge results a little too early.” As he boils down some of the principles that make great resort villages, Greenfield makes the following recommendations:

“The village has to be true to its history and culture. It must fit into the natural landscape, so it doesn’t look like it has been forced in there. It has to have a great sense of scale in relation to the surroundings, but also scaled to the size people would expect the architecture for that area to be. There needs to be variety, intrigue and excitement in the environment. Eldon Beck always talks about the voyage of discovery in the village – people should not be able to start at one end and stand there and look and decipher everything at once. You need to be drawn into places and discover your way through the village as you walk – there should be that constant sense of discovery.”

A number of elements contribute to that. In facilities like the Four Seasons Whistler, Greenfield mentions the use of natural building materials in a design which has almost a contemporary feel to it. “It is almost a West Coast derivative. There is a strong sense of the natural environment but we use it in a contemporary way. At Whistler, we don’t have a history harking back to 200 or 300 years ago from which to draw; the flavour therefore is more akin to a national park lodge.”

At Mont Tremblant’s main plaza, there used to be 100 or so Adirondack chairs that, on any given day, people would make use of, moving them around to face the sun. This was a simple tradition that the new owners kept, because of the way guests used the chairs to make themselves at home, expressing even a tiny bit of their own personality. The Adirondack chairs create the animation, and the environment lends itself to personal interpretations.

It has been said that placemaking is the “art of finding yourself in a place where you live.” That is what great resorts make possible.

Summer 2007 lights up Toronto

(Originally published in TOURISM)

At sunset on June 2, 2007, the Royal Ontario Museum will hold its official Architectural Opening & Building Dedication to celebrate the construction completion of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Those in attendance will experience A World of Possibilities, a 75-minute live concert event, with star performances on three stages climaxing in the illumination of the building’s impressive façade. (The event will be filmed for television broadcast.) After this unique performance, the doors of the new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal will open to the public for the first time, with free public admission by timed tickets until 6 pm on Sunday, June 3.

For a special period until June 10, enthusiasts of contemporary design have a once‑in‑a-lifetime chance to enjoy Daniel Libeskind’s architectural design in its purest form throughout the building. During this period only, most of the building’s unique spaces will be empty and open to the public before installation of permanent exhibits, along with the rest of the building.

As this unfolds (June 1–10, 2007), Luminato, Toronto’s inaugural Festival of Arts and Creativity will also take place with a wide‑ranging line‑up of events, special celebrations, world premieres and international artistic collaborations that will inspire and excite the City of Toronto..

“Luminato is a remarkable collaboration between the city’s arts organizations, artists and supporters who have created an unparalleled program highlighting Toronto’s premier arts assets,” said Janice Price, Luminato CEO. “At the same time, as a creative renaissance unfolds in our city, we have united to produce what is certainly a festival of global scale and distinction.”

ROM Crystal instils renewed luminescence to Toronto

(Originally published in TOURISM)

What better gift for a city than to turn one of its most venerable cultural institutions into the equivalent of a hip and hopefully well-trodden 21st Century public square. That is how director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum William Thorsell envisions the aptly-named Renaissance ROM initiative.

“This institution is mandated to be a universal museum of culture, reaching into places like Africa, Asia and into the traditions of Canada’s First Peoples. It also remains one the leading museums of natural history in North America, where the structure of the earth and its minerals can be explored and visitors may journey from the days of the dinosaurs to the fascinating realm of modern bio‑diversity.

"This project is about completely remaking both mandates, by renovating the original wings of the Museum (built in 1914 and 1933), and then creating a whole new, very dramatic architectural statement. This brings the museum right into the city and takes a facility – built almost like a fortress – into a whole new domain, establishing new galleries, restaurants, and retail components. These are places where music, dining and enhanced social activities become possible; we see it very much as an act of city‑building," says Thorsell.

The new Michel Lee‑Chin Crystal, scheduled to open on June 2, will feature great openings of glass that will allow visitors and passers‑by to look through the walls of the museum into the Dinosaur Gallery at night. “As their eyes scan the wall from outside, they will be able to look into the Africa gallery; and above into the costumes and textiles gallery. So it is a very open, urban, transparent kind of gesture to the city.”

On the roof, in one of the crystals, Thorsell describes how visitors in the new Crystal Five Restaurant Lounge will be able to look out over the city: “You can have a "ROMtini" on the roof, have dinner there, or go downstairs to watch a film. The ROM will now have five crystalline shapes locked together in different relationships.

The experience the ROM wishes to convey is one of awe at both culture and nature. “If you look at our minerals collection," Thorsell continues, "we will put out 1,500 samples of different minerals from all over the world. We hope visitors will marvel at how the earth creates these minerals, this jewellery of the earth. You might go from there to the fabulous collection of Chinese temple paintings of the Buddha, then find yourself a little later walking among the 63‑million‑year‑old remains of dinosaurs from Alberta’s fossil beds. You might then take a look at some of the fabulous fashion from the 1950s, all the way back to the work of Marie‑Antoinette’s dressmaker.”

The Renaissance ROM campaign has raised nearly $250 million so far. In all, there will be 27 new and renovated galleries, 10 of which have opened since December 2005. By the time the new ones are completed in 2008‑2009, the ROM will have come closer to realizing the vision of inclusiveness to which it aspires.

“Our cities are becoming very diverse places, with different groups of people moving into them from all over the world," points out Thorsell. He feels that museums have the capacity to become what the churches used to be – a "common ground" reaching into music, arts and science. "Museums should not turn their backs on cities; rather, they should open themselves up and engage them!”

Great Lakes cruise sector more promising than ever

Photo:Great Lakes Cruising Coalition

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It may not be the first destination that comes to mind when one thinks of cruises, but the Great Lakes are enjoying renewed appeal among seasoned cruise consumers these days. This bodes well for this underrated sector of the industry, according to Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition in Kingston:

“The Great Lakes industry is a small, intimate ship industry. We worked with Lloyds of London to establish that there are about 140 small ships around the world which can fit into the St. Lawrence Seaway. Of those, probably 60 are desirable in terms of running a quality operation, and they are of a size that creates a significant economic impact.”

Burnett knows the challenge is supplying the owners and operators of these ships with a strong business case showing they can make money in the Great Lakes. He guided an exhaustive study that looked at how seven small ships (100, 200, 400‑passengers in size) could perform. “We realized there is about $50 million worth of delivery in a 155‑day season that can come from a small cruise ship fleet. If we grew the fleet to 20 cruise ships, the Great Lakes could have $100‑million industry in the blink of an eye.”

This research also confirmed that – as with most cruising operations – there are two revenue streams in the Great Lakes. One, of course, is made‑up of tourists on board, spending money on shore excursions and visiting shops. And, there is the marine operation side, where the ship has to be fuelled and serviced, and crew has to be paid. “At the end of the day, when we stick that into a big pot, what it does is it delivers an economic footprint into the Great Lakes region and influences every port the ships touch.”

To better take advantage of these opportunities, many ports and regions have taken a leap of faith and invested in facilities that can handle those ships, explains Burnett: “Our mission, when we talk to the ports, is to advise them not to rush in and build sophisticated custom terminals that will bring with them a debt to service. We encourage them to use the resources they have already, especially if they have access to a heritage building or a lovely old warehouse.”

In the case of some destinations, investments on a larger scale may be considered, he adds: “Toronto has built a beautiful multi‑use terminal on the east end of the harbour. Little Current, on Manitoulin Island, has the most visited port on the entire Great Lakes and is improving its mooring facilities so that ships can actually come and moor right downtown, as they do in Scandinavia in the Fjords.”

To prepare for future growth, the Government of Ontario funded an initiative that basically teaches a community how to handle a cruise ship when it arrives, according to Burnett. “This helped tremendously in communities that didn’t have a full grasp of the industry.”

Bruce O’Hare is one of these people who – like Burnett – sees the potential for the region. He owns and operates the largest hotel operation in Little Current (the Anchor Inn) built in 1888, and Lakeshore Excursions, a business which caters to passengers from visiting ships: “We are very much like Alaska was 30 years ago,” he believes, “a destination in its infancy but with very committed among member ports.”

This small port regularly welcomes ships bearing 100 passengers, and it is currently in the midst of a $4 million waterfront development. “Typically, passengers are American, older and affluent, and taking higher‑end cruises than mass‑market Caribbean cruise lines offer. These smaller vessels warrant higher per diems and people who visit our ports tend to have traveled significantly. They have been to the Mediterranean twice; they have done Alaska, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and South East Asia and are looking for new destinations. Therein lays the opportunity.”

He believes there is a rebirth of cruising on the Great Lakes at the moment. “What is old is new. There was a time when there were more people cruising on the Great Lakes than on any ocean in the world, and that is slowly returning. The Great Lakes have many advantages. They are very safe and the English language makes the destination accessible. There are many of the conveniences here not found in other parts of the world. ‘Homeland cruising,’ a term coined after 9/11, is the reason why places like Jacksonville, New Orleans, Charlotte and all of these other ports on the eastern seaboard and north of Mexico are now playing host to large cruise ships,” he adds.

Great Lakes attractions are numerous, from film festivals to Grand Prix racing—things that might be also associated with European destinations. The Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, a bi‑national marketing agency, is not shy about making the cruise trade aware of this, notes Stephen Burnett: “We go to Seatrade in Miami to make sure the Great Lakes region takes its place alongside the great destinations in the world, particularly in Germany and South East Asia. What we do see is a huge recognition by the small ship cruise industry that we have a wonderful experience to offer in these freshwater inland seas.”

To make sure the destination gets the attention it deserves, Burnett’s group launched a series of inspections with the help of the Government of Ontario, targeting cruise ship firms from overseas, as well as reputed tour operators that use cruise ships. “We realized that these people are very busy. We brought them to Canada and rented a high‑performance amphibious aircraft to demonstrate to them the creative itinerary planning you can do with small cruise ships in areas like the Georgian Bay and the North Channel.

“So we were able to take off on wheels, land on floats in Parry Sound right in the harbour, and in Little Current, land on wheels in Sault Ste. Marie where we exchanged aircraft for a fast twin‑engine Beechcraft to fly up to the lake head in Thunder Bay, to Duluth, Detroit, Erie, Toledo and back to Toronto. We wanted to showcase the Great Lakes as a magnificent freshwater cruise destination.

“At the end of this, our guests were shaking their heads. They were stunned at not only the physical beauty of our Great Lakes, but also at the amount of culture in the region. They were brainstorming itineraries and concepts – to see just what the economic opportunity was – as they were touring! We are reaping the rewards of this now.”

To do that, a few issues must be addressed. One involves compliance with security regulations. The complexity of clearing a ship after it has been to Canada or the US is daunting and there are some cruise lines that said outright it is too difficult to contemplate.

“We are just going to run an all‑Canadian itinerary or an all‑US itinerary,” they said according to Burnett. “That is not the best way to approach it, unfortunately, as the best itineraries are those that feature both countries because both have a lot to give; for example, one of the most exciting cruises is going from Toronto to Chicago.

"We have been executing this business plan for the last seven years. It is a tremendous challenge because the Great Lakes doesn’t really have a home‑grown cruise industry (cruise ships generally follow the sun). However, there is real growth in the works, suggesting the best is yet to come."

Boom in youth tourism expected

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Young travellers aged 16-24 are the travel industry’s fastest growing sector, according to new statistics from the World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation (WYSE) reported in TravelVideo.TV (February 27,07). Representing over 20% of all international visitors, WYSE said “adventurous young backpackers stay longer, spend more, seek out alternative destinations and enjoy a wider mix of travel experiences” compared with average tourists. “Not surprisingly they are increasingly being viewed as the future of global tourism by the travel industry.”

According to Amsterdam‑based WYSE, it has recently launched a partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Together they hope to promote and develop this multi‑billion pound industry by encouraging governments to actively support and develop youth tourism products and services.

Canada’s success at ITB bodes well for the German market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

With 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries and regions, ITB (originally known as Internationale Tourismus-Börse and held annually in Berlin) represents the full spectrum of global tourism at all levels of the value-added chain. It is therefore encouraging from Canada’s perspective to find out that the March 2007 edition of ITB – the largest marketplace in the world – yielded auspicious signs for Canada in the German market for this year.

CTC managing director in Dusseldorf, Karl‑Heinz Limberg, put it this way: “There is a definite improvement in the air. We have seen a great winter season with an increase of 14% in December and 8% in January, which bodes well. This renewed interest for our destination was reflected at ITB also, where Canada was featured in a newly‑branded pavilion that received many positive comments from both partners and visitors. We had 50 exhibitors from all over Canada, including representatives from every Canadian province and territory and some new exhibitors.”

In Limberg’s assessment, the Canadian industry can expect a slight increase from Germany after a what was a rather bad year in 2006, largely because of the World Cup of Soccer and the high Canadian dollar.

To add a “Wow” element to Canada’s participation, the Canadian Embassy hosted (for the third time) a dramatic reception in Berlin under the theme Keep Exploring. Explains Limberg: “The Canadian Embassy building in Berlin is a very eye‑catching piece of architecture, located right downtown. All the materials used to build it are Canadian. It is a rather fitting venue for an evening celebration that must compete with an array of other events around the city. Needless to say, we were proud to have 225 guests at our event, which is more or less the maximum number of people we can host at the embassy.”

Guest speakers included Canadian ambassador Paul Dubois, The Honorable Stan Hagen, BC Minister of Tourism, Sport and the Arts, and CTC president and CEO Michele McKenzie. Among attendees were some 70 Canadian exhibitors, along with German and Swiss members of the media and trade representatives from the industry as a whole – including tour operators, travel agents and incentives companies.

Limberg notes a celebrity athlete and media personality as well: “Gunda Niemann‑Stirnemann, Germany’s most celebrated speed skater, who won eight Olympic gold medals and several world championship titles between 1989 and 2001, attended the event," he notes. "Today she is a popular sports commentator on TV.” The entertainment component for the event was looked after by Chamaeleon Theatre Berlin (a German‑Canadian variety theatre company best described as a hybrid between comical chaos and Le Cirque du Soleil).

From Mexico to Canada!

(Originally published in TOURISM)

There is no shortage of reasons why the Mexican market is very promising for Canada, according the CTC’s latest segmentation study. Outbound travel from there is growing with over 12 million outbound overnight travellers leaving Mexico each year, and Mexico’s importance to Canada as a source of visitors is increasing, explains Europe/Latin America executive director Sylvie Lafleur:

“After dipping in 2003, overnight trips to Canada rebounded in 2004 and grew by 9% in 2005. There were over 173,000 visitors from Mexico to Canada in 2005. Air capacity is growing and new direct flights are being added on a regular basis.”

To understand how the market is shaping up, the CTC has commissioned research based on three phases:

* Phase 1 (Secondary Desk Research) provided an in‑depth understanding of the Mexican outbound market;
* Phase 2 (Qualitative Survey of Travel Trade) involved 20 in‑depth interviews with key people in the Mexican travel trade, which provided valuable perspectives from key people who influence travellers;
* Phase 3 (Quantitative Telephone Survey) involved 2,500 interviews in total in the three largest cities in Mexico (50% in Mexico City and 25% in each of Monterrey and Guadalajara), targeting higher social strata (A/B or C+) and travellers (in the last three years) or intenders (in next two years).

This is a timely initiative because of emerging conditions that make Canada a good fit for Mexico, Lafleur points out: “Mexico is home to a growing segment of sophisticated, high‑spending independent travellers, and current knowledge suggests there is a strong match between Canada’s tourism products and Mexican travellers’ preferences, especially with shopping, sightseeing, activities relating to history and culture, national park visits and participation in winter sports.”

Moreover, economic signs coming out of Mexico are also encouraging, The country’s economy is expected to grow solidly over the next three years and consumer demand continues to rise at a healthy 4%. Add to this the stability of the current rate of exchange which is anticipated to endure over the coming months.

Mexican travellers tend to travel frequently, with interview respondents in the study report taking an average of 3.1 international leisure trips in the past 3 years. They clearly represent significant potential for international destinations, including Canada and our competitors. Interestingly enough, the propensity for leisure travel appears to increase slightly as travellers/intenders age.

While 70% of travellers have taken a leisure trip to US destinations in the past three years, Canada has attracted 18% of Mexican travellers. This is nearly as many as all European destinations (24%), of which Spain is the most popular (14%). A few Mexicans also travel to destinations in South America (8%) and the Caribbean (5%). It is worth knowing that other parts of the world attract very few travellers from Mexico. Canada attracts proportionately more visitors from the highest socio‑economic level and from Mexico City. Research shows that Ontario is the most frequently visited province among Mexican travellers to Canada. Quebec is a close second, attracting one‑half of Mexican visitors. BC attracts well over one‑third, followed by Alberta at 12%.

The Mexican market shines particularly when one looks at future intentions for international travel. Almost two‑thirds (65%) of respondents state they will definitely – or very likely – take a pleasure trip outside of Mexico and Central America within the next two years. This finding underscores the vibrancy of the market potential among affluent Mexicans.

Travel to Canada is more appealing among younger travellers (20 to 54 years of age) and among those who reside in Mexico City. European destinations tend to be more direct competitors in this age bracket; travellers report longer average durations for trips to Canada and to other parts of the world than they do for trips to the US. Family members tend to travel together when visiting international destinations, especially when visiting the US. There are also large segments of travellers from Mexico who travel alone (17%) or with friends (14%).

Many Mexican travellers take advantage of travel packages that include accommodation and airfare. This is more likely to be the case among those who have visited Canada (37%) or other parts of the world (31%), as compared to those who went to the US (25%). This reinforces the continued marketing of Canada using packages to make the destinations within Canada easier for Mexicans to select and book.

Respondents tend to prefer to stay in mid‑priced hotels (33%) or with a friend or relative (33%), luxury (21%) or resort (11%) hotels. A sizeable segment of the market is clearly willing to pay more for accommodations. Mexican travellers report spending an average of $5,072 CAD on trips for themselves and members of their immediate travel parties. Higher trip spending levels are reported for trips to Canada ($5,929) and to other parts of the world ($5,843) than for trips to the US.

“This is something that works in Canada’s favour,” according to Lafleur. “The US is not perceived as positively as other destinations for providing value for the money spent. Both Canada and other parts of the world, while less affordable to visit, are more positively perceived as providing value. Canada has an opportunity to strongly position itself against the US.”

Add to this the fact Mexican travellers associate Canada with enjoying downhill skiing or snowboarding (the US is a strong competitor), Canada evokes feeling safe and secure (Europe is the closest competitor), and Canada is viewed as a good place to educate children (Europe competes at this). Canada is also perceived as well endowed with places to experience beautiful, unspoiled nature (South America is the closest competitor).

The activities in Canada which generate the most interest are:

* Visiting major cities
* Seeing Niagara Falls
* World heritage sites
* Aurora viewing
* Seeing the Canadian Rockies

And, experiencing French Canadian culture is also a unique offering that appeals to many Mexicans.

On the marketing front, internet penetration among Mexican international travellers is very high at 84%, which supports the belief there is a high level of usage of the internet to research and book travel.

To capitalize on the Mexican market, the study points out that Canada needs a strong online in‑language presence, well‑developed relations with the travel trade sector, and a major influencer on destination selection. It will be important to strengthen Canada's image and awareness so that Canada is part of the consideration set early in the trip planning process.

For the common good

(Originally published in TOURISM)

An icreasing number of people are opting to use their holiday time for the purpose of "altruistic travel", according to new poll results from online travel specialist Opodo. In a report by by Phil Davies in TravelMole March 9, 2007, the poll shows a 67% rise in travellers taking Opodo's "meaningful travel" programs over the last year.

Almost three quarters are female and one in ten are aged over 40, with one in three aged between 25 to 40. This shows that the older generation are now more likely than ever to take up the opportunity of a career break in order to "give something back", according to Opodo.

In partnership with volunteer travel specialists i‑to‑i, the company offers projects ranging from community work with children in Mombassa, to painting favellas in Rio de Janeiro and undertaking conservation projects in the UK. Africa has proved the most popular continent with the conscientious traveller over the past year, with Kenya and South Africa topping the list of most visited destinations for Opodo's meaningful travel projects in 2006. A substantial rise in the number of people taking on projects in Asia is predicted over the coming year.

"Babymoon" pregnant with possibility

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Many expectant couples are packing their bags and taking one last vacation before the baby arrives. More than half of expectant couples take 'pre-baby' vacations for rest and relaxation, according to an article in USA Today. The travel industry is paying attention. Leading names in travel and parenting now offer the first "Babymoon" vacation packages.

According to a recent survey by Liberty Travel (a large US travel agency) and BabyCenter®, the most popular online resource for new and expectant parents, 59% of new parents have taken a special vacation, or "Babymoon," that included an overnight stay away from home.

"Like Honeymoons, Babymoons have become another special vacation couples take and remember forever," noted Lisa Vachna, a Liberty Travel vacation specialist. "The survey confirmed how important this trip is for expectant couples, and also gave us insights on the special touches that are essential for a perfect Babymoon."

More than two million babymoons are taken by US parents‑to‑be each year, and 43% of couples are looking for rest and relaxation, while 41% take this trip as 'one final getaway for just us'. The survey also shows that 62% of Babymooners opt to do nothing or just relax, 59% prefer to shop, and 48% prefer sightseeing. The average Babymoon takes place during the second trimester. Typically, the Babymoon is from two to four nights long. More information can be found at

GITF hosts 90 Canadian delegates

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The Guangzhou International Travel Fair 2007 (GITF) played host to 90 Canadian delegates from 45 partner organizations, including representatives from Tourism BC, Travel Alberta International, Ontario Tourism, and Tourism Montréal, as well as from airline companies, travel agencies, attractions and others from the travel trade industry.

GITF is the largest and most influential travel fair in the South China region and the CTC (which planned and arranged all activities) considers the Southern China market to be a key factor in building visitor numbers to Canada. This year, the CTC made its debut at GITF as the largest exhibitor, displaying the new brand image and visuals alongside Canada’s abundant travel products in its 470 square meter pavilion.

Following its participation in GITF, the CTC delegation continued its Chinese promotional activities with a creative tour that traveled up the Yangtze River on the Viking Century Sky cruise ship. Together with the Canadian delegates, 45 of the leading travel agencies from across China were onboard for three days of intensive business‑to‑business discussions and networking.

Activities at GITF included a sellers' briefing for all the delegates, hosted by CTC’s managing director – China, Derek Galpin, who provided an economic overview of the Chinese market, an update on some of the activities with which the CTC was involved in 2006, and plans for the coming year. Following Galpin's presentation, Albert Guo, of CYTS Beijing, gave an overview of the incentive travel market in China which has seen very fast growth since 2002. He followed with profiles of corporate clients interested in incentives, and concluded by introducing the advantages and disadvantages of Canada as a Chinese incentive destination, leaving delegates with a lot to think about.

Other activities included a lunch for VIP media, co‑sponsored by Tourism British Columbia and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC), with Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, David L. Lindsay. That evening the OTMPC co‑hosted an evening reception with the CTC to highlight the unique wonders of Ontario and Canada; over 200 guests from the travel trade and media were treated to live entertainment from a local jazz band and the Le‑La‑La dancers, and left the event with goodie bags and warm impressions of Canadian hospitality.

"We believe events like GITF and Showcase provide the perfect opportunity for our partner organizations to illustrate to the media, travel trade and Chinese public why they should want to come to Canada," concludes Galpin, "and we will certainly be taking part in similar events in the future.”

Creating the "buzz" for long‑lasting effect

(Originally published in TOURISM)

When selling Canada in key markets, the need to sustain momentum for 12 months of the year is what inspires the Canadian Tourism Commission's (CTC) UK team. Managing director Maggie Davison has high hopes for how this approach will impact Canada’s perception.

“We have been aggressive in anticipation of 2007. We are aiming to shed new light on Canada and certainly to intrigue the consumer with our marketing efforts. I love the radio ads; imagine somebody sitting in traffic, parked on the M25 and trying to get to work on a dull, overcast, rainy morning punctuated by the rants of other drivers wrestling with road rage. Imagine that setting – which is quite common here in the UK – and a radio announcer inviting this person to picture a soothing walk through a fresh pine forest while grabbing the air freshener, bringing it within range of one’s nostril with instructions to inhale deeply to feel like you have just entered a Canadian pine forest!”

This play on British humour is just one of the tactics the CTC‑UK has come up with to grow Canada’s appeal in a country where sustained presence is the only sure way to build awareness.

“We are on radio and on the Underground (subway). We just did a USB drop on the heels of our ice rink campaign at Canary Wharf, where 5,000 USB memory sticks featuring Canada were handed out to staff in office towers overlooking the ice rink. On the ice, we displayed the Canada Keep Exploring logo so they could see from their windows.”

Davison views the whole concept of nurturing familiarity with the Canada, in potentially high‑yield consumer clusters, as extremely powerful. “We imagine the first thing people did that morning at work was to plug the USB stick in their computer and just play the content. This might have provided some welcome relief and something to think about on a Monday after the weekend, when they really don’t want to be at work.”

Another tactic is expected to do very well is the gym poster campaign running nationally at selected health and fitness locations, a concept with a clever twist borrowed from the CTC‑Germany:

“These posters are a play on the muscle charts that are usually posted on exercise machines, except that in this case, if you see the tummy muscles being worked highlighted in red, it’ll indicate that these muscles are exercised while attending a comedy festival in Canada. If the biceps or lower calf muscles are highlighted, those might be targeted while engaging in shopping activities. We put a bit of a different spin on this concept to tie in with all the things Brits like to do when they are away on vacation. As they perspire doing their 15‑minute workout on the treadmill, they can enjoy the humour and realize they can do all these wonderful things in Canada.”

Add to this that Spotlight 2007 was totally revamped this year, and that Canada Day at Trafalgar Square on June 29 is now in the works:

“In conjunction with the Canada Media awards which happen the day before, we are really packing a lot into Canada's birthday weekend. We are hoping to secure a relatively well‑known line‑up, culminating in a big name here in the UK. We have added things like food and beverages promoting Canadian products with the pavilion concept – the idea being that people are attending the celebrations to experience Canada for the day.”

Davison hopes they will get so excited, they will ultimately get on a plane and come to Canada knowing the destination is a really cool place to spend time. “In the fall we’ll be running our Canada Specialist conference which took on a new format last year. Then we will open for the winter with the ice rink again.”

As we move closer to the Vancouver Olympics, that theme will be introduced in marketing activities. “Canada Day and the Ice Rink lend themselves as excellent platforms for that,” Davison notes. “Without the collaboration of all the CTC’s partners, the magnitude of these efforts would not be the same. The goal is to impart a Canada buzz to the UK, and I think we really are doing that. There are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things we’d love to do.”

About hunters, fishers, and bush planes

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The 65-year-old owner of Club Chambeaux, Air Saguenay, Labrador Air Safari (and co-owner of Nolinor Aviation) just doesn't include the words "slowing down" in his vocabulary. Nowadays, he spends a lot of his time travelling around the world to hunt, fish, meet friends and find out for himself how world market trends will influence the business he has built over four decades.

Jean-Claude Tremblay is not only one of the most successful hunting and fishing outfitters in Canada, he also built the largest bush air carrier organization in North America. What is striking about his story is how this Jonquière‑based entrepreneur grew his business through a series of clever air carrier and outfitting allocation deals that leave you wondering how he managed to weather so much risk, so naturally!

Tremblay had his first taste of the hospitality business in the much‑celebrated Saguenay “brasseries” sector (the Quebec equivalent of English pubs). The man had always loved hunting and fishing, and he bought his first small aircraft in 1967, flying enthusiastically all across northern Quebec. His outdoor advertising business (Enseignes Neon Otis) allowed him to dream of one day owning outposts in exotic places with names like “Croissant Vermeil” and “Lac Margane”; his first stake in the outfitting business (in 1973) involved exclusive access over a 324,000 hectare territory, about 150 km north from Chicoutimi at Homamo Lake.

“It was the ultimate destination at the time for indigenous trout in Quebec,” he notes. “The company was in business with Air Saguenay, and we were getting 1,000 to 1,200 guests a year, 80% of whom were Americans. Air Saguenay looked after their transportation needs.”

In 1980, Tremblay bought Air Saguenay.

As he sifted through his new acquisition’s books, he came across a lease covering the Muguet and Delorme Lake areas, where a large hydro electric project meant the Caniapiscau River would be flooded and a huge reservoir created over much of the area. “We realized this territory would soon be under water, and I opted to hold on to the relocation rights until an opportunity came along.” The wisdom of this risky‑appearing venture became apparent much later.

Meanwhile, Tremblay acquired a Fermont‑based air carrier which opened a corridor to northern Québec and gave him the rights to Club Chambeaux Outfitters, which was then mostly undeveloped. “That’s how we got into hunting. We opened 6 lodges there in 1984, welcoming between 800 and 1,000 clients a year, most of whom flew in from Montréal, on now‑defunct Québécair. By 1987, there were already two or three caribou hunting outfitters in Schefferville.”

But the client volume did not justify a direct Montréal to Schefferville air connection, so Tremblay entered into discussions about moving his Fermont operations to Schefferville in order to increase the local client pool. So, with 1,500 clients, the opportunity to lure a carrier for the Montréal leg looked much more attractive; indeed, City Express eventually agreed to 50 regularly scheduled flights from Montréal to Schefferville.

Other outfitters soon came on board. “We ended up collectively bringing 3,000 hunters to Schefferville on a yearly basis. Air Saguenay opened a base there (and ended up keeping Fermont). We acquired another carrier from Wabush (Labrador), and grew the Air Saguenay fleet rapidly, ending up with eight more aircraft."

The company also owned Manicouagan Outfitters and 10 or 12 camps with 400 to 500 American and Canadian annual clients coming through Baie‑Comeau. “As a result, when the fishing season ended in the fall, we were able to assign 4 or 5 of their aircraft to our increasing demand from the growing caribou hunting market. At that point, other outfitters moved to Lake Pau at the Caniapiscau reservoir. So we opened an air base there.”

Remember that risky‑sounding option to hold onto relocation rights? This is where Tremblay exercised his right to relocate, acquiring the village of Caniapiscau for a nominal fee. (The village had been used by hydro project developers in the 1970’s and later been abandoned.)

“Air Saguenay grew again after this with the acquisition of three other carriers and more aircraft as far away as Havre St. Pierre on the Lower North Shore. Today our fleet works out of 12 airbases in Quebec.” When City Express eventually went bankrupt, he and partner Jacques Prud’homme created Nolinor Aviation with a fleet of passenger and cargo aircraft, a main base at Mirabel, and facilities at Dorval (both Montréal area airports).

“We now look after all caribou hunters for Schefferville and Lake Pau regions; we look after 90% of white‑tail deer hunters on Anticosti Island. We carry passengers for Frontiers North Adventures for polar bear watching. We carry salmon fishing clients to the north of the Winnipeg area and we carry many anglers to western Canadian outfitter destinations. We needed an entry point for hunters; Nolinor gave us the hub presence with transfers to Air Saguenay for Club Chambeaux, Club Montagnais, and Nordic Camps where we are one of the partners.”

Every move Tremblay made in his career seems to have had one common ingredient: opportunity to deliver guests to his lodges and outposts in one seamless logistical solution. The control he had over his carrier resources gave him the latitude to assign carrier aircraft according to demand.

“When guests arrive in Montréal, they are welcomed by one of our representatives; when they land in Schefferville, they are greeted again by one of our people. We’re always there supporting our clients at all levels of the hunting experience from when they buy their license, through the service provided by our guides, to the quality of our boats, our engines, our food and lodges. Plus, everything always unfolds on schedule.”

Tremblay claims his organization has welcomed more than 22,000 Canadian and American hunters and more than 6,000 angling guests over the years. “We manage our natural resources in a sustainable manner, therefore our harvest is far from astronomical. We have marketed intensively through FAM trips and we advertise in the best hunting magazines in the US and Canada. We attend more than 40 US and Canada sport shows a year. And while in the past we have focused traditionally on baby boomers, they are now getting older, so we offer enticing rebates for children to bring renewal.”

Increasingly, Tremblay sees fathers bringing their children along: “The baby boomer client numbers went from 3,500 hunters, to between 2,000 and 2,500. We don’t want the numbers to go down further because our infrastructure is there and facility maintenance requirements need to be justified by adequate user levels. That is why our number of aircraft has grown and the number of our lodges decreased (from 6 to 3), so we can better focus on quality. We cover more territory and attractions with our clients, and they feel they are in good hands.”

Jean‑Claude Tremblay has a gift for seeing – and building – opportunities, and he shows no signs of slowing down!

Lunenburg railway a model museum

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Every small Canadian community has a museum dedicated to preserving its past, and just about anyone can have a model railroad these days; but when your museum features a model railroad, something special has to happen. Duane Porter is curator and owner of the Halifax & Southwestern Railway Museum, where he is working to recreate the line built by Canadian railway barons William Mackenzie and Donald Mann at the turn of the twentieth century, which was intended to be the final link of their grand scheme to build a third national transcontinental railway.

Based in the historic Nova Scotia town of Lunenburg, a community designated as a world heritage site by the United Nations, Porter knows how important even the smallest detail will be. "The people in this community know every inch of (the old) tracks, even though they are long gone, and they’ll point out any inaccuracy to you. And, people come from around the world to see the home of the Bluenose,” he says of the famous fishing schooner featured on the Canadian dime, “so we can’t afford to be seen as a second rate side‑show.”

The museum relocated to Lunenburg from nearby Bridgewater in May of 2003 after the shopping mall in which the museum was housed announced it was expanding its commercial space. The move obliged the museum to close for almost a full year, re‑opening in April of 2004.

“In one sense we lost some of our historical validity, because Bridgewater had always been the division point for the railway,” Porter recalls, “and we lost a lot of our traffic since so much of it was a spin‑off from the mall.” Porter and his band of volunteer modellers and tour guides rose to the challenge, and Lunenburg has become a perfect location by virtue of its own unique historic status.

The new location, in a 3,500 square foot warehouse setting, houses the 750 lineal feet of HO (1:87 scale) and S scale (1:64 scale) railway, which in turn is situated above cabinets that hold hundreds of exhibits from the Halifax and Southwestern and the two railways with which it interchanged, the fabled Dominion Atlantic, and the Intercolonial (later Canadian National) Railway. With space to expand, Porter has many plans for new development, including interactive displays for younger patrons, a meeting facility and kitchen, and one day perhaps even some outdoor exhibits of rolling stock.

Like most heritage sites, including publicly funded museums, the Halifax and Southwestern finds a lack of money to be a challenge. So closely linked to the tourist traffic, the success of a single year can hinge upon something as remote as the price of gasoline, a war in the Middle East, or any number of economic factors that oblige people to stay at home for a vacation. “The challenge is to find something fresh each year to bring old visitors back,” Porter said, “and we are finding many who return are pleased to see how our reconstruction of the line in miniature is advancing.”

Sometimes they may have to look very closely, for the towns of Lunenburg, Bridgewater, Liverpool, and Mahone Bay are being rebuilt to painstaking detail. It’s only part of the attraction of the museum, which hopes to bring to life the human drama of a railway that was built with high expectations of wealth by two men who were accustomed to business success. The same two men were devastated when their transcontinental railway plan came crashing down around them, only to be absorbed by the federal government into Canadian National Railways in the 1920s.

“We want to be able so show why this railway, which at 581 kilometres (361 miles) wasn’t very long, should not be overlooked in Canadian history," Porter emphasizes. “For example, it was built through difficult terrain largely dominated by solid granite, and was hand carved by men with dynamite, picks and shovels; and moved by mule and wagon as it inched closer and closer toward Halifax.”

The line also has a strong tie to the community’s fishing heritage. “Moving fish to market was of prime importance to the fishermen in Lunenburg,” Porter continues, “and when the H&SW offered refrigerated box car service, new markets opened up almost overnight.”

Jay Underwood is an author and former newspaper editor and publisher living in Elmsdale, NS. He is president of the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society.

BC 2008: the spirit of community involvement

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The year 2008 marks British Columbia's 150th anniversary. That's not all; the same year is also the 200th anniversary of Simon Fraser’s and David Thompson’s journeys of exploration. The organizers of the BC 2008 celebrations are well aware of how opportunities sometimes arise out of the most simple of commemorations. Secretariat executive director Charles Parkinson knows it, and so, apparently, do Tourism Minister Stan Hagen and Premier Gordon Campbell.

“The Premier himself came up with the concept of creating what he calls Spirit Squares," says Parkinson. "These are outdoor gathering places in communities where people can come together in the spirit of celebration – not for just 2008 but with a view to the future as well." He continues: "Is there a place in your community that is a natural gathering place for people? It could be at the waterfront, downtown, in a park, where communities can go to celebrate what nourishes them.”

BC 2008 earmarked $20 million for the initiative and received 132 applications from communities around British Columbia. These are currently being evaluated by a panel of landscape architects, community planners and design specialists.

“We have really struck a chord, it seems. Many communities seek a physical heart for their sense of place. This heart may become the Spirit Square. All we are doing is providing tools to shape it a bit more.”

Parkinson hopes the tourism industry will capitalize on the celebrations in the works for the province’s 150th birthday: "The Olympics are coming in 2010. And there is more; we are working with the North American Indigenous Games, which are being held in the Cowichan Valley in 2008. An estimated 6,000 athletes and 3,000 cultural performers will attend, so we wanted to come up with an original way of bringing the Games to all the people of BC.”

Organizers decided on an aboriginal version of the torch relay, Parkinson explains. “We are commissioning a totem pole from various aboriginal artists (and their apprentices, who will get valuable training in the process), and its creation will take the form of an interactive exhibition.”

The pole will be selected and the design conceived in traditional fashion, and the monumental sculpture will travel to different communities throughout the province, where people will be invited to carve a piece of the pole before it moves on. Since the totem pole – indigenous to aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Northwest – traditionally represented the history of a particular family or tribe and served as a reminder of its ancestry, this collaborative effort is a fitting symbol of the unification of the communities and regions of BC over the last 150 years.

"In the end, as many as 10,000 people will have contributed to the project. Everyone who participates may keep the shavings as a souvenir and will sign the book of artists, to be put on display alongside the totem,” adds Parkinson. "The pole will eventually make its way to Prince Rupert and be integrated into Tribal Journeys, a celebration of indigenous nations' maritime heritage and one of the most prominent cultural events associated with the North American Indigenous Games. Tribal Journeys of 2008 is slated to be the largest ever, with up to 80 traditional ocean‑going canoes taking part."

The canoe regatta, with symbolic totem pole on board, will travel down the coast, picking up more vessels along the way. As Parkinson describes it, canoes – with participants in full regalia – will come across the Strait of Georgia and gather at the mouth of Cowichan Bay. There they will be invited ashore to receive a traditional Coast Salish welcome. The raising of the pole, equivalent to the lighting of the torch, will be an integral part of the opening ceremonies and will be presented by the people of BC to the people of the Cowichan Tribes.

In elaborating the program for BC 2008, Parkinson and his team identified success factors, taking inspiration from Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s centennials, the Lewis and Clark Bicentennials, Millennium celebrations, Expo 86 and even Canada’s 125th birthday celebration. “It is not just something that you can 'Google'," says Parkinson. "We made our way through the literature, and realized that communities had to feel a sense of ownership and participation in these celebrations. It is also about communications, marketing, and especially about getting your story out there. We saw there was value in building on our pride and identity. We thought ‘if we are trying to double our tourism revenue, how can we make history come alive for people? How do we engage our community across generations and cultures?”

Parkinson’s group adopted a number of compelling solutions, one of which calls for the re‑commissioning of the Royal Hudson, a completely refurbished 1930s‑era steam locomotive that would go around the province to interpret the multiple ways by which railways influenced the province.

“The Royal Hudson will pull seven cars, the first three of which will be vintage cars featuring a traveling exhibit telling the story of the province, produced by the Royal BC Museum. The next 3 cars will be passenger cars citizens will be able to board and ride under steam from point A to B. There may be people in period costumes and storytellers in the cars, representing different periods of BC’s history. The final car will be one of those classic old‑fashioned entertainment cars, so when the train stops overnight in communities, it can host receptions and other events."

At the moment, Parkinson says three themed itineraries being developed: “the Gold Rush Trail will run all the way up to northern BC; the Confederation Route will take the rail procession east to the Kootenays; and the third will see the cars ferried on a barge to Vancouver Island so they can proceed along the Heritage Route.”

Parkinson emphasizes that these ideas are not his or his Secretariat’s. “They come from citizens around the province and from various meetings. Our belief is that history was written locally and it needs to be celebrated locally. The economy is strong, unemployment is low, the resource sector is booming, Vancouver 2010 is coming; there is a genuine feeling in British Columbia that we have much to celebrate, and 2008 gives us that opportunity!”

PAMI releases software to aid in agri-business decisions

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

After months of research and development, the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) has released an innovative software program created to aid producers and entrepreneurs in making critical agricultural business decisions.

The project, which was funded by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Agriculture Development Fund, was initiated to look at the economics of whole-crop harvesting, but the resulting computer program can be applied to many different types of farming operations, explained Les Hill, the Business Development and Technical Services Manager for PAMI.

“The basis of the program is an outline of a farm model, including multiple crops, prices, yield and the cost of growing the crops, which are re-configurable to different farm situations,” he said. Producers begin by inputting data to create a model of their particular farm situation. Once a farm model has been created, the program allows the producer to see the impact of selecting various pieces of equipment for cutting and gathering, combining and handling the grain. The producer can also calculate the economic cost of different methods of byproduct harvesting based on the choice of equipment.

The program also offers an option to create a second farm plan alongside the first one, so that producers can compare and contrast different variations of inputs and approaches. Hill says the goal was to enable as many combinations as farmers might want to see in order to get their farm plans just the way they want them.

He said the comprehensiveness of the program is one of its best features, enabling producers to look at the full implications of any decision on their overall farming operation. An overview of the “complete system” is provided wherever possible. For example, Hill says the machinery section includes financing and depreciation information, which can significantly affect a lot of the choices a farmer might make.

The flexibility of the program allows producers to set their parameters and to tailor the program to suit every possible scenario in which they might be interested, he stated. “What if I were to go for higher-yield crops? What if I were to change my approach here? What would this do for me?”

Currently, producers can have a copy of the software mailed to them free of charge by calling PAMI at (306) 682-5033. In the future, PAMI may begin charging for the program, depending on demand.

At this moment, there is no telephone support line for the program, but Hill assures that PAMI will do its best to help anyone having issues with the product.

“We will be making arrangements with the first few individuals ordering the software to get some feedback on the program,” he said. “This way, we will be able to see whether we missed the mark or if we were dead on.”

For more information, contact:
Les Hill, Business Development and Technical Services Manager
Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute
Phone: 1-800-567-7264, ext. 22

Industry supporters host food and fuel conference

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Emerging industries such as biofuels are creating new opportunities and new challenges with respect to the research being done in the agricultural sector.

A number of organizations, therefore, felt it would be timely to have a discussion around the implications these new areas of interest are having on traditional agricultural research. The result of their efforts is the “Food and Fuel” conference, taking place June 4 to 6 at the University of Saskatchewan.

The conference is being hosted by the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society (CAES), the Canadian Agricultural Innovation Research Network (CAIRN) and Knowledge Impact in Society (KIS), a project affiliated with the U of S aimed at helping to increase the connection between science and the public.

Richard Gray, a professor of agricultural economics at the U of S, is involved in both CAES and CAIRN, and is a member of the conference organizing committee.

“We will be looking at the implications [of the new demands for biofuel crops] on agricultural research policy,” he explained. “The additional demands put on agricultural research – including safety, health and environment, to name a few – have pulled resources away from research into increasing yields and lowering costs on the farm.”

If agriculture is going to provide continued food security while addressing the demand for fuel, Gray foresees a need to revitalize productivity growth. “As the world’s population continues to grow, there is significant global demand for products such as biofuel, which, in turn, has created a real need to increase productivity growth in order to avoid a food crisis in the future.”

The answer, according to Gray, is to figure out how to do research more effectively, and to put more resources into agricultural research.

The conference’s organizing committee has assembled a group of speakers from Australia, the United States and Canada to discuss some of these provocative issues.

“We hope there will be a fair bit of time at the end of the seminar for a panel discussion involving some of the major players in the industry, including both the public and private sectors and various funding groups,” Gray said.

Gray feels the Food and Fuel conference will have considerable interest for a broad range of groups, including producers, academics, agricultural researchers, policy-makers and even members of the general public.

By increasing the overall level and effectiveness of agricultural research, not only producers, but society as a whole, will benefit, he said.

Platinum sponsors for the conference are Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development.

Additional information and registration instructions are available on the KIS website at The registration fee is $200 per person.

For more information, contact:
Richard Gray, Professor of Agricultural Economics
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4026

Provincial pest control program to be administered by PCAB

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification (ADD) Boards for Saskatchewan Inc., or PCAB, will be given responsibility for administering pest control efforts across the province under a new arrangement with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF).

The “Fieldworker Program,” a co-ordinated pest control effort, began in Saskatchewan in 1972. Grants were provided to ADD Boards and rural municipalities, which worked together to organize control initiatives at the local level. Pest Control Officers (PCOs) were employed by the ADD Boards and RMs to deliver services on the ground and to help property owners develop effective control methods.

As the provincial body representing ADD Boards, PCAB has long played an important role in program delivery, maintaining Pest Control Co-ordinators who focused on creating a more uniform pest control initiative across the province.

For its part, SAF administered the Fieldworker Program, including the designation of grants. However, in order to facilitate improved program delivery, streamline the funding process, and encourage education and awareness, SAF has now given PCAB the opportunity to take over the management of the entire initiative.

According to Tracy Wickstrom, PCAB’s Pest Control Co-ordinator, the move will allow the Council to establish a better line of communication with ADD Boards, RMs and PCOs without disrupting the delivery of a program that has been very beneficial across the province.

“PCAB will handle both administration and delivery, rather than them being separated,” she said. “From the average producer’s perspective, they won’t notice a big change in how the program is delivered. They will still look to their local Pest Control Officers as their primary point of contact.

“What it will do is change the contact between the ADD Boards or RMs and SAF. Basically, their project applications will no longer be going to SAF, they will be coming directly to PCAB.”

Wickstrom expects the streamlining will hold a number of benefits for overall pest control efforts in Saskatchewan, simplifying the process and reducing the number of channels through which program stakeholders need to navigate.

“It facilitates our communication amongst our ADD Boards and PCOs as to the efforts they’re undertaking, and enables us to be in better contact with them on a regular basis about their programs and their needs,” she stated.

PCAB is a non-profit agriculture organization that focuses on timely, effective delivery of agriculture programs to Saskatchewan producers. It is committed to working with both government and industry to ensure a co-operative, efficient approach to agricultural program delivery.

PCAB is the provincial level of the ADD system. Each of the 296 RMs in Saskatchewan has an ADD Committee, from which a delegate is selected to serve on one of 41 District ADD Boards. Each District is then represented on one of six Regional Councils. PCAB’s board of directors consists of two delegates chosen from each Regional Council. This structure ensures a strong connection to grassroots agriculture.

For more information on the organization or provincial pest control efforts, please visit, or call (306) 955-5477.

For more information, contact:
Tracy Wickstrom, Pest Control Co-ordinator
Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification Boards
Phone: (306) 955-5477

Producers encouraged to use auger intake guard

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Grain augers rank third in machinery-related injuries on the farm. That’s why producers are strongly encouraged to use an auger intake guard when moving grain.

Jim Wassermann, the Vice President of Saskatchewan Operations for the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI), says the device can be effective in preventing some serious injuries.

“The intake of an auger is a very dangerous component. Flighting has the capability to cut or amputate parts of your hands or feet if you accidentally engage it. The types of injuries that may result are major and cause long-term problems,” he said.

An auger guard acts to protect against such accidents, but Wassermann says there are some situations in which producers may want to temporarily remove these protective devices. Inserting the auger into a bin with a small bin hole or moving a trashy crop that is prone to bridging over the top of the guard are two such instances.

Unfortunately, this is where problems often start.

“I do find that producers are eager to use their auger guards,” Wassermann said. “But once they remove the guard, the timing might be inconvenient for them to put it back on immediately, or they will simply get busy and forget to reinstall it.”

The risks of using an auger without a guard are well known throughout the industry. Yet the statistics have not seemed to encourage much change in the way auger guards are manufactured. Wassermann feels this is partly due to the makers of these products facing competing demands.

“In legal disputes regarding this situation, rulings encourage manufacturers to attach the guard in a way that is very difficult for producers to remove. Therefore, the producer’s only option is to cut it off with a cutting torch or remove the number of bolts that hold it on,” Wassermann stated.

“The downside is that there are still situations when producers might want to temporarily remove the guard. So unfortunately, once removed, it becomes a major job to put it back in place.”

It is possible for producers to safely manufacture their own auger guards. In fact, Wassermann says this currently might be the only alternative for some older augers. To help producers with the task, PAMI has developed a set of instructions that can be downloaded from its website at

A Canadian Standards Association (CSA) committee is also looking at national standards for portable grain augers. One of their goals is to review the effectiveness of the auger intake guard. The resulting new standard could stimulate design changes on new augers.

PAMI has developed an auger guard that addresses many of the traditional problems associated with the devices. The “star mesh” design they have come up with is less prone to bridging in trashy crops, and is capable of supporting a 270-pound person.

As well, in order to eliminate the “nuisance” excuse for not putting the guard back into place once it is removed, PAMI has included a quick-move collar that allows the entire guard assembly to slide six feet up the tube without requiring tools. Removal and replacement are 10-second jobs.

Wassermann says the model is not a completely foolproof solution, but it has several advantages over conventional designs.

Unfortunately, the guard is so new that nobody is manufacturing it at this point. As a result, producers aren’t able to purchase it yet. “We are currently working with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association to look at ways to make it available to producers across Canada,” he said.

But given the potential dangers and injury statistics associated with this essential piece of farm equipment, Wassermann is able to offer one important bit of advice to producers. “Find the best working solution to ensure your auger intake is guarded.”

For more information, contact:

Jim Wassermann, Vice President of Saskatchewan Operations

Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute

Phone: 1-800-567-7264, ext. 223

Cypress Hills workshop highlights native prairie appreciation week

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

June 17 to 23 marks Saskatchewan’s ninth annual Native Prairie Appreciation Week – and also means that another interactive field trip will be organized to showcase the pristine beauty of one of the province’s natural hot spots.

The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP) is one of the organizations involved in planning events around this special week. Manager Karyn Scalise says that PCAP and its partners co-ordinate a workshop and field tour every year as part of their efforts.

“It’s held in a different place each year,” Scalise said. “Part of our goal is to familiarize participants with different wonderful places in Saskatchewan, and to give a snapshot of what that area is like.”

Past field trips have been held in the Big Muddy Badlands, the Great Sand Hills, the Moose Mountain area, Grasslands National Park and the Manitou Sand Hills.

This year, organizers decided to centre their workshop and tour at the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. “It’s the place where we held our very first Native Prairie Appreciation Week back in 1999,” Scalise noted. “For the past three years, it’s also been the site that our participants said in their evaluations that they most wanted to return to.”

The field trip will take place June 20 and 21. It will include a combination of in-class discussions and tours to local ranches and to sites within the park.

“We spend a little bit of time in a chair hearing presentations and a lot of time out in the field experiencing it for yourself – plus good food and lots of it,” Scalise said.

The event kicks off with a workshop covering a variety of topics, such as area plants and birds, heritage ranching and ranching for biodiversity.

Participants will get to put some of their newfound skills into practice, with a native plant identification team challenge and an optional bird hike planned as part of the two-day event.

Discussion will also focus on how to do health assessments on forest and riparian areas (areas near water). “This is a methodology being developed by many different groups in Saskatchewan,” Scalise said. “It’s a series of small tests that you can perform in an area to get an indication of whether your rangeland is healthy, healthy with a few problems that need to be identified, or unhealthy.”

The ranch tours will definitely be among the highlights of this year’s field trip, Scalise says, because they plan on visiting the ranches of two environmental stewardship award winners. Here, participants will see a stock dog demonstration and an example of how to use sheep to control certain weeds.

To provide a unique Saskatchewan experience, a barbeque banquet will be held during the first evening at the Cypress Hills Vineyards. “Whoever thought we’d be wine-tasting in Saskatchewan?” Scalise said with a chuckle.

The event holds a little bit of something for anyone who enjoys the prairies, learning about nature, or experiencing the great outdoors. “That’s the really great thing about this event. It attracts a diverse crowd. It’s everyone from ranchers to birders and other naturalists, to plant and wildlife specialists who work for government or non-government organizations, to average people who simply enjoy learning about nature and the environment around them,” she stated.

“It provides a terrific forum for all of these people with different interests to come together and celebrate the special diversity that native prairie grasslands hold.”

More details and registration information on the Cypress Hills field trip can be obtained on the PCAP website at or by calling (306) 352-0472.

Participation will be limited to 150 people, so anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register early. The pre-registration deadline is June 8. Fees are $75 for producers and students, and $105 for non-producers.

Those attending are expected to make their own arrangements for lodging and transportation to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. From there, bus coaches will be arranged for all tours.

For more information, contact:
Karyn Scalise, Manager
Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan
Phone: (306) 352-0472

Connecting urban and rural: FACS launches billboard campaign

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you happen to be driving down the highway and see your neighbour’s smiling face on a billboard, it’s not a mirage – it’s the latest campaign from the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS).

Executive Director Adele Buettner says FACS restarted its popular billboard campaign after a five-year hiatus because it is an effective way to spread an important message about agricultural producers in the province.

“The message we are conveying through these billboards is that our producers are responsible, that they care about their livestock,” she said. “It’s a very positive and a very useful message. We’re all about being proactive.”

FACS ran billboards every year from 1996 to 2001 before setting the initiative aside for a few years to focus on other projects that required its full attention. However, Buettner says the timing is right to once again let people know about the positive things going on in agriculture.

“With so few people having direct ties to the family farm, we feel it’s important to showcase what modern producers look like, to remind people who no longer have that direct link themselves,” she said.

“So this year, we’re going to feature young, responsible, active Saskatchewan producers who are involved in modern agriculture. It’s the first time we’ve used pictures of actual producers in our billboards, rather than artwork.”

The FACS campaign includes six different billboard designs, posted in 16 locations across rural and urban Saskatchewan. Buettner says that’s a change from past campaigns, which were focused entirely in Regina and Saskatoon.

The campaign is running throughout the month of May, perhaps stretching into June.

Sponsors for the 2007 billboards are Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Saskatchewan Egg Producers, the North American Equine Ranching Information Council and the Saskatchewan Chicken Industry Development Fund.

“Our past billboard campaigns were very successful because it was a unique message,” Buettner said. “This year is the first time for our livestock industry in the province to collectively have a number of different commodities represented in the billboards. It’s not just a beef campaign or a poultry campaign. It’s a livestock campaign that brings all these different sectors together and presents them to the public. I think that’s a really great message.”

The billboards appearing throughout Saskatchewan can also be viewed on the council’s website at

FACS is a membership-based, non-profit organization that represents the livestock industry in advancing responsible animal welfare, care and handling practices in agriculture. FACS endeavours to raise producer awareness of the economic and ethical benefits of animal welfare, and to help consumers achieve a greater understanding of animal care issues.

For more information, contact:
Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 249-3227

New paint job part of maintenance for grain car fleet

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The recently announced repainting program for grain hopper cars owned by the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation (SGCC) is one part of a multi-phase refurbishment plan aimed at keeping the cars operational for the balance of their useful life span, about another 24 years.

The SGCC was set up in the early 1980s after a shortage of grain cars ended up costing Canada some international sales. At that time 1,000 new grain hopper cars were built by the Government of Saskatchewan. The federal government and Government of Alberta also contributed new cars to the fleet.

According to SGCC Vice President of Operations Kelly Moskowy, the refurbishment program came about after sample inspections of the fleet by AllTranstek, a railway consulting company from Chicago.

“They inspected about 12 per cent of our fleet,” Moskowy said. “One of the recommendations that came out is that our cars need to be repainted because of corrosion.”

The first phase of refurbishment actually began last year when metal fatigue cracks in the cars were repaired.

“That upgraded our cars from a 260,000-pound gross rail load to 286,000 pounds, allowing us to load an additional 1,000 tonnes of grain on an average 100-car train,” he noted.

The repainting program will comprise about 100 grain hopper cars per year, which Moskowy says is roughly the maximum that can be done here.

“Since these cars are owned by the taxpayers of Saskatchewan, we want to paint them in Saskatchewan,” he said. “There are only two painting companies that do rail cars in the province, and between the two of them, that’s all they can handle given their other commitments.”

The main contractors are GE in Regina and Arco Graphics in Saskatoon. It will take approximately eight or nine years to repaint all the cars in the fleet.

The final phase of fleet refurbishment will take place between now and 2014, when all cars must have automatic slack adjusters installed on their braking systems to comply with new North American standards for rolling stock.

When the SGCC cars are used to move grain to the ports of Churchill, Thunder Bay, Vancouver or Prince Rupert, there is no lease charge included in the freight fees. As a result, it is estimated the fleet has saved producers $50 to $60 million in freight charges since 1981.

The new look for the cars is a background of what is called “Roughrider green,” Saskatchewan’s official flower, the prairie lily, a yellow stroke emblematic of wheat or canola fields, and the word “Saskatchewan.”

Moskowy notes that the new design “is a great way to promote our province across Canada and into the United States.”

He says the new colour scheme is actually about $1,500 per car cheaper to produce than the original paint job.

For more information contact:
Kelly Moskowy, Vice President of Operations
Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation
Phone: (306) 787-0551

Native Nova Scotian continuing research on the Prairies

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Although he lived in Nova Scotia his whole life, Dr. Michael Nickerson had no qualms about moving to Saskatchewan when opportunity knocked.

When a position became available in the Department of Applied Microbiology and Food Science at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Nickerson jumped at the chance to continue his research here in Saskatchewan.

He applied to serve as the Saskatchewan Research Chair in Protein Quality and Utilization under the Strategic Research Program (SRP), an initiative funded and administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. After being accepted, he packed his bags and headed to the Prairies.

Dr. Nickerson’s educational background began with a Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, concentrating in aquaculture. When he considered attending a graduate program, he came across the Food Science Department at Dalhousie University. It was there that he decided to continue his studies, obtaining both his Master’s degree and his Ph.D.

“I started graduate school and, at first ,was interested in the value-added aspects of aquaculture for food. However, I soon realized that I was really interested in food chemistry, so I switched fields completely and adjusted my research direction accordingly,” he said. His graduate research focused primarily on both polysaccharides and proteins, looking at how they behave and interact as ingredients in food gels.

Most of Dr. Nickerson’s post-doctoral studies have been spent researching ingredient delivery systems developed from plant-based compounds. These systems allow us to deliver a specific ingredient to a specific part of the body (i.e. releasing beneficial bacteria in the small intestine, where it is needed, instead of in the stomach).

Dr. Nickerson is currently administering two main research programs. First, he is looking at the value-added applications of plant protein for food, feed and bio-materials, specifically developing microcapsule delivery systems. These capsules are micron-sized packages made from plant protein specifically for the delivery of bioactive compounds such as flax oil. This will allow food manufacturers to use a stable form of flax oil in a host of recipes and food products.

Secondly, he is also working to deliver prebiotics and probiotic bacteria as an ingredient for food and feed.

Dr. Nickerson says there is a tremendous push to avoid using animal-based proteins, such as gelatin, in the functional food market. That’s where his research comes into play. “The market is encouraging the use of plant proteins as an alternative source for these delivery systems,” he stated.

Funding for Dr. Nickerson’s research began about six months ago. By September, six or seven graduate students will be working hard in the lab, bringing this technology to the marketplace.

While his work contains a highly technical and scientific element, Dr. Nickerson says it also holds a great deal of relevance for the average producer.

“It’s estimated that the functional food market in the global economy will be an industry worth about US$500 billion per year by 2010, three per cent of which is Canadian. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada anticipates producers could potentially realize between $300 million and $1 billion by growing the raw ingredients used to support this industry,” he stated.

According to Dr. Nickerson, the current plant protein industry in Saskatchewan is primarily focused on feed; however, his research intends to broaden its use by entering the functional food market.

“I’m taking the protein already extracted from the crop, and then finding value-added applications for those proteins based on their functional properties. The benefit to producers is the opening of new markets, increased product demand, increased prices and price stability,” he said.

“As in so many aspects of the Saskatchewan agricultural industry, supporting and investing in value-added opportunities is highly beneficial [to the Saskatchewan economy].”

For more information, contact:
Dr. Michael Nickerson
SAF Research Chair for Protein Quality and Utilization
Department of Applied Microbiology and Food Science
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-5030