Sunday, June 24

Looks like the makings of a fine summer

(Originally published in TOURISM)

If 2006 seemed the year of increased hardships for travellers and the industry, 2007 brings with it a fragrance of careful optimism after some rather acrid whiffs. To get a sense of the general mood for what is hoped to be a period of renewal, we have asked a few industry members about what developments prevailing winds may bring on the eve of yet another summer.

Lynn Flury, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn in Saskatoon, describes the coming summer as “looking pretty solid”:

“One of the things we rely on in this market (particularly with downtown hotels) are those national conferences that tend to come in the summer. It is very difficult to predict leisure travel at this point in time but I expect it will be strong, based on what we are seeing across the country. We see a significant amount of US travel on the business side (Hilton is such a strong brand in the US). We have seen a strong economy in Saskatoon in the last couple of years; if it continues to be strong, we will continue to see strength in our sector.”

A sentiment echoed in Alberta by Pierre Frigon, director of marketing and group/leisure sales at Jasper’s Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre:

“Our summer is going to be awesome. We are expecting fewer US travellers than ever before and more from Alberta than ever before. Our leisure peak is from June 15 to September 30-October 15 (on either shoulder of that is conference business). Jasper National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and to commemorate this, a play around the theme of water conservation will be staged in the ballroom which is under-utilized in the summer time.”

You might remember the fury of the storms that hit Vancouver’s Stanley Park this winter? Gerry O’Neil of Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours hopes visitors to Vancouver won’t think there is nothing left of the world-famous attraction:

“We have roughly between 5000 and 8000 trees that came down, and as a result there was substantial media coverage around the world. This has led to a number of tour operators calling to ask if things were still a 'go' for us. People should bear in mind the destruction affected less than 1% of all the trees in the park, in very concentrated areas away from where our tours run. We have advised those tour operators who have called of that; I am more concerned about those who haven’t called. It is still a bit early to say but all indications are there won’t be a drop. We had a good increase last year, with 12% more in sales than the previous year.”

For David Pancoe of Northern Soul, a Manitoba canoeing experience operator who has invested his marketing dollars strategically, there are signs of pending rewards:

“Deposits are coming in. I am following up on all the inquiries from the trade shows and things are falling into place, especially with guests from the UK. That is where I have seen my biggest leap in growth. I attribute it to the tradeshows I have been attending and to the availability of direct flights from London to Winnipeg.”

Industry veteran Paul Leeson of Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC offers this candid analysis of the trends he is witnessing:

“There is a bit of optimism, but the bookings are still not back to pre-9/11 level. The crawl back is very much slower than we anticipated; we are at least a little better off than we were last year. I don’t want to blame everything on 9/11; I think there was a perfect storm going on. There is a huge growth in the adventure and wilderness travel product and I really don’t think demand has caught up. Will it catch up? I don’t know. Globally, there is such a menu of adventure travel product and with the expansion in the industry in the last 10 years, no wonder some of us aren’t full anymore. Our focus now is on the travel industry itself, on packaging and small group kind of tours. This is what has to happen; our FIT is just not recovering and we are going to have to have better partnerships and relationships to make some inroads. We have had some success with Japanese group and other specialty hiking groups; we can’t just rely on North America anymore.”

Rudolf Hegetschweiler, commercial director at Victoriaville-based Misa Tours International, sees some encouraging signs of recovery. His markets are mainly European:

“It is shaping up to be a year more like 2005 than 2006, which hit us like a ton of bricks. We made it through that and things are looking up with increased bookings. Is this due to the stabilization of world currency markets? Is it because people have learned how to deal with fears and the stress of going through airports? I believe people have been forced to become more frugal about their travel plans in the last five or six years and stayed home because of that. The pressure to fulfill travel plans is getting stronger and they feel the urge to make them happen or to forget about them altogether.”

Nathalie Blouin is with Québec Maritime. She often gauges what the summer will look like by taking stock of what Europeans are up to:

“Because Europeans book earlier than short haul markets, we often get a sense of what the summer will bring by finding out what overseas visitors are doing. Reservations are coming along nicely. We recently attended the Salon Mondial du Tourisme in Paris with the CTC, where we really felt the longings of French-speaking Europe for experiences in natural environments. With our national parks, the marine mammal viewings we offer across our region, the sea kayaking and hiking opportunities, we are well positioned. The demand for these experiences shows no sign of tapering off anytime soon.”

Nunavut tourism industry representatives will be the first to point out that cruising experiences are a good way to see a greater portion of the territory at one time (rather than flying from community to community). Dugald Wells couldn’t agree more. He is the president of Cruise North. Cruise North’s expedition vessel is the Lyubov Orlova:

“The ship is our means of transportation, but we use it as a platform from which to launch Zodiaks and get ashore, hike and engage in wildlife viewing activities. We are in our third year of operation; we focus exclusively on Canada. Most trips are 8 nights long only. We include the airfare out of Montréal; the airline is a sister company also owned by the Inuit. This summer, we are looking at doubling the number of bookings. Last year, 10% of our business originated from overseas. This year, almost 70% of our business will come from there, mainly from France and Germany.

“On the operational side, we are working assiduously to get more Inuit people involved in the business. We have 14 Inuit staff on the ship this year and we are doing a lot of training for hospitality, first aid, advanced first aid and Zodiak driver training. This is a big part of what we do and why people enjoy the trips so much; the authentic Inuit experience here is simply about spending time with Inuits as opposed to featuring Inuit people as living artifacts (like being in the presence of a famous carver). Our guests get to know the Inuit at a different level when they are being driven around by them in Zodiaks.”

Product Development: What makes a boutique hotel?

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Indeed, just exactly what is a boutique hotel? Christiane Germain, a trailblazer in the boutique sector, recognizes there are many definitions of the concept. Germain is CEO of Le Groupe Germain, which operates several hotels in Québec, Montréal and Toronto, and she has this to say:

“I would characterize a boutique hotel is an establishment which exhibits more of its personality, through a more conceptualized layout and a better‑defined style,” she says. “Boutique hotels come in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps those that best fulfil what the boutique concept evokes succeed by being reflective of the longings of the individuals who prefer this type of establishment.”

There are other aspects, sensitivities and research elements that must be taken into account in the operational development, Germain continues, but once the product exists, the service component must be harmonized with the property: “Guests will expect a certain polish there. This is something members of the staff can help achieve; staff members impart to the establishment the kind of well‑honed atmosphere that resonates with the feel of the place itself.”

Germain’s insight is the product of a relatively young family tradition with roots in the Québec City area, dating back to 1988: “We opened our first hotel, the Germain‑des‑Prés, at Sainte‑Foy, after we had visited Morgans Hotel in New York City.” Opened in 1984, Morgans Hotel claims to be the original boutique hotel. “We very much liked it,” admits Germain, “and we were inspired by its elegance. We realized there was potential for something similar to it in Québec that would render some of the local authenticity and would translate well to our context, without plagiarizing what we saw in New York.”

As the developmental journey within Germain’s team took shape, the true potential became apparent. “We kept on travelling to different places and found this kind of product was missing in many cases. We started to work on a second hotel, this time in the heart of Old‑Québec City: Le Dominion 1912. It would have a more luxurious touch to it than our first hotel, and it became an instant success.”

Instant success indeed: Le Dominion 1912 was named Canada’s Best Hotel (all categories) by Condé Nast Traveler magazine in 2005. Meanwhile, Le Groupe Germain embarked on an expansion initiative that would take it to new markets.

“We opened our Montréal hotel in 1999; another one in Toronto in 2003. Our objective is clear: to open a Germain Hotel in Canada’s major urban areas. We have a very unique concept with a residential component in the works in Calgary; we have plans for Vancouver; we are planning a second hotel in Toronto; and, we would love to go to Halifax. It is about bringing a certain Canada‑wide resonance to our brand.”

This is something which can ultimately be achieved only by enlisting the complicity of all Groupe Germain employees in their respective establishments, she believes: “First, we need to give our employees the right tools and resources. We need to convey to them how we value what they do. The challenge in service enterprises is to support the staff mandated to cater to other people’s needs; we address this by actively seeking employee input into the organizational decision‑making process. They are the stewards of much insight into customer relationship‑building, they often know the answers and solutions to some of the challenges we face, and they frequently identify the problems before we do. Because we engage them at this level, they feel that much more valued and appreciated.”

And this approach is not limited only to higher‑end hotels. Le Groupe Germain has another label in the works. “I don’t want to call it a chain yet because the first one is just being built and will open in Montréal in September. This new line is named: ALT Hotels.” The inaugural property will feature a series of energy‑efficient measures: heating and cooling with geothermal systems, recovery of heat from outdoor air and exhaust air leaving the building, recovery of heat from the water used in commercial washers, energy‑efficient lighting throughout, a main light switch to control all lights in the room when guests check out, geothermal hot water heaters, geothermally‑heated tiles on the ground floor, door contacts in stairwells to reduce lighting by half when not in use, among other things.

“We conceived the ALT line as an alternative to the more expensive hotel product, a segment where we find there is not a lot of differentiation between the hotels," explains Germain. "The ALT room itself might not be as large as a conventional room in that category, but there will be a much better use of the available space from a conceptual perspective. The decor will be more contemporary. There will be particular emphasis on the materials we use and on how they contribute to enrich the experience. What we have in mind is far more than an increased personalization; it involves an essential exploration of the design to impart to it a more contemporary flavour.”

Germain believes this kind of approach does not impede affordability from the consumer’s point of view. “We are just trying to give them something that has better craftsmanship to it, with comfortable beds and sheets. Even if you pay less, you don’t want the sheets to feel as though they were washed with sandpaper.”

Much of Germain’s perception was acquired through her own travels and analysis: “When we develop products, everything is related to the individual customer nowadays. When customers travel, they seek are distinctive moments; consequently, we communicate more with people, rather than with population segments. I would suggest that with us, age is not a valid frame of reference. It is more about curiosity and people’s interest in trying new things that matters. The desire to experience new decors – that is what will lure and satisfy them. We are laying the groundwork for that.

VoIP services popular in international trade

(Originally published in TOURISM)

We recently asked TOURISM Daily News readers what they thought of the increasing number of competitively priced VoIP (Voice over Internet protocol) or internet telephony services that abound right now. Responses came quickly and many shared with us their secrets about how they use Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Voipstunt and others.

Robin Banerjee is president of Call of the Wild and Algonquin Eco‑Lodge in Markham, Ontario, and he is a Skype user. Skype is a free program that uses cutting edge p2p (peer‑to‑peer) technology to bring affordable, high‑quality voice communications to people all over the world.

“We offer wilderness canoe trips in Algonquin Park and dog sledding trips in winter time. Forty to fifty percent of our clients originate from Europe; a service like Skype gives them a free way to phone us. The "Skype Me" button is always there on our web site for them to click on,” Banerjee notes.

The Skype Me mode allows everyone else on Skype to know that you are available. This includes people who you do not know you but who can find you by searching the Skype directory, or by coming across your Skype address in advertisements or through other means. Skype is very popular in Europe.

Banerjee says he has ambitious plans that will involve programs like Skype in the near future: “Our wilderness lodge is on the southern tip of Algonquin Park, where there is no electricity or cell phones. We have a waterfall and we are in the process of putting in a micro hydro‑generator where we will generate our own electricity from the waterfall. Once that is in place, I will be able to use satellite Internet, MSN and Skype, although I have been told the satellite delay will be an issue with Skype.”

Trent Schumann of Mountain Quest/Experienca in Calgary, a stager of corporate retreats, executive getaways and leadership training programs explains that this type of technology makes sense especially if your activities bring you into contact with persons in overseas locations. “We deliver programs in other countries and I have partners I work with there with whom I use Skype and MSN to talk all the time because it is cheaper," says Schumann. "I don’t use Skype to talk to clients overseas because it can be unreliable. But sometimes Skype is so clear; it is like talking to the person next door.”

Dirk Terpstra is director of marketing and sales at Canadian Travel Design, a receptive tour operator in Salmon Arm, BC. “We use Skype in order to enhance our services and to cut costs. We purely focus on the trade sector within the industry which means that our customers are travel agents and tour operators across the world. We have a directory with most of our customers and we use Skype with about 15% of them with whom we have daily contacts," he says. “What they usually do is they email their bookings to us us. If there are questions or if they would like to explain something, we use Skype a lot. Because of my sales and marketing function, I use Skype to discuss new features, brochures, new developments and to maintain relationships. Where my clients are not Skype users, I use Skype Out to call them.” (Skype Out allows the user to place calls to regular telephones (landlines or mobiles) all over the world for a much smaller fee than you would find in more conventional phone services.)

“Recently," says Terpstra, "we had an issue with an operator in the Netherlands and we wanted to discuss a couple of subjects. We spoke with two people in the Netherlands at two different locations, setting up a conference call with four people. I used Skype Out for the two in the Netherlands and one regular free Skype call for my colleague.

“We have our reservation office in Salmon Arm where we work with four people and I do most of my marketing/sales stuff from home. I visit the office once a week and when I am working from home, my Skype is on with the office at least two hours a day, giving me very regular contact with the office; I simply leave the line open, and it is like I’m always there.”

Judy Karwacki of Small Planet Consulting Inc. in North Vancouver says she uses a whole range of programs depending on the country she works with or from. “Skype also works well as a chat program, but I use Voipstunt, a system similar to Skype that allows you free calls to over 30 countries, says Karwacki. "If I am calling the UK, Australia or one of those countries, I use it because it absolutely free – you can actually call phones with Voipstunt for free.

“I have also started to use Yahoo over the internet for calling. Right now, if I look at my desktop I have Skype, MSN, Yahoo and Voipstunt open, and I am working with people in Australia, Fiji, the UK, Guyana.”

Director of sales Alain Carbonneau is in the convention management business at JPdL in Montréal. He believes these systems are a great way to save on costs. “We are sometimes on Skype conference calls involving up to 6 people located elsewhere in the world. A nice feature is that you can make transfers of large files – documents as large as 20 or 30 Megabytes – without difficulties. All the person at the other end has to do is to accept the transfer. It is works flawlessly. Meanwhile you can still be on the phone with the person.”

With Skype, when the phone rings, you have to take the call, unless you subscribe to Skype Voicemail. “Or you just write a short email to the caller to say you are tied up on another line,” adds Carbonneau, who has heard that European companies are working on a concept inspired by Skype for cell phones. “This would totally open up the current fee schedule. If this happens, it will totally change the world of phones.”

On the downside, use of Skype and all those programs, of course, can have an impact on your company’s network performance, if many are on Skype simultaneously. How much Internet telephony do you want in your business? The decision is yours to make, and there is certainly no shortage of product out there.

Americans interested in going green

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,000 travellers worldwide has found that 40% take environmentally-friendly tourism into consideration when making travel plans, according to an article by Bev Fearis in TravelMole. The survey also found that 66% believe that environmentally-friendly measures in travel are making a difference.

The survey also reveals nearly 25% believe that air travel should be avoided, whenever possible, to help preserve the environment, while 38% said would pay more to take an eco‑friendly flight and 26% would pay a 5‑10% premium. However, only 3% have ever purchased carbon credits.

The accommodation sector is also on the green radar: 34% of those surveyed said they would pay more to stay at an environmentally‑friendly hotel, while 38% said they had already stayed at an environmentally‑friendly property, and 9% would specifically seek out environmentally‑friendly establishments.

A second TravelMole article – by David Wilkening – reports on an Orbitz profile of environmentally‑friendly destinations that claims 65% of Americans say it would somewhat impact their decision to stay at a hotel if they knew the hotel was using solar or wind energy to supplement the powering of the building, and 63% say they would pay a little more to rent a hybrid vehicle or stay at a "green" hotel.

Refresh, develop, and invest, say tourism experts

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Canadian tourism operators need to invest in higher-end, more unique experiences if they want to compete successfully against emerging competition elsewhere in world, according to comments included in an article by Geoffrey Scotton of the Calgary Herald (April 18, 2007).

"We need to make sure that we improve the quality of our tourism product," Rocky Mountaineer Vacations president and chief executive Peter Armstrong is quoted as saying in an address to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. "The No. 1 thing that we've learned is that you can reinvent yourself and create a new product – and gain huge dividends."

Armstrong also suggests Canada's tourism industry needs to invest in order to build exciting and inviting new experiences or risk continuing to lose market share and dollars to other countries and locales. Derek Coke‑Kerr, executive director of Travel Alberta, is quoted as saying the industry does need to invest in a broader offering. "You can only market the mountains so much," said Coke‑Kerr. "The private sector needs to get significantly more involved from an investment point of view in developing additional products (and) additional attractions."

American travellers: what do they want, anyway?

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to a recent article in Hotel News Resource, the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and American Express have released results of a landmark report profiling what Americans actually do on vacation trips, versus what they "want" to do. The Ideal American Vacation Trip report is based on a representative sample of 2,500 vacation travellers conducted online in 2006, and highlights unique travel behaviors by market segments.

’While the American love affair with the vacation trip is still strong, this research reveals that the travel industry has the opportunity to do much more to enhance the vacation experience for travellers of all ages, family types, and motivations,’ said Lisa Gregg, vice president of marketplace development – North America – for American Express. Dr. Suzanne Cook, Senior Vice President of Research for the Travel Industry Association, agreed, ’In a day and age of relatively modest growth in travel, targeting specific groups of vacation travellers is more important than ever.’

The complete article is available at:

CTC US campaign targets high yield consumers

(Originally published in TOURISM)

With US overnight visits to Canada declining 11% since 2002 (when Canada peaked even though US outbound was in steep decline post 9/11), these are challenging times for the US market, but the CTC is unrelenting in its efforts to feature Canada south of the border. Says US leisure marketing manager Ernst Flach: “The exchange rate, perceived border crossing hassles, WHTI and oil prices are all significant factors, but our biggest challenge from a marketing perspective is with the US traveller: Americans just don’t have Canada on the radar as a vacation destination; they like Canada as a whole, but don’t feel an urgent desire to visit.”

The CTC’s US leisure team wants to change that: “Our US program aims to make Canada a compelling place Americans will want to visit in the short term. Our program is driven by the objective of generating return on investment by targeting and converting highest yield travellers. This implies defining and targeting our best prospects, the ones who are most likely to overcome any barriers between them and Canada.”

These are the people who will spend more, stay longer and who will influence others to come as well, explains Flach. “We want them to think of Canada as a leisure destination of choice, lead them down the path to purchase with partners to close the deal. For this to happen we need to create brand relevancy," he explains. "The new Canada brand gives us an opportunity to leverage and integrate that platform not only within the CTC channels, but also by getting partners to come on board and collectively build a louder Canada voice in the marketplace as a result.”

As it stands, Flach goes on, Canada and all its partners, together, have an advertising share of voice of about 4% in the US. “So there is a lot of competition out there. Plus, consumers actively screen out advertising they deem irrelevant.”

“And looking ahead, we need to plant seeds that will generate marketing and business intelligence. This translates into pilot programs, innovative partnerships, e‑marketing leadership, and on‑going consumer research that will help us in the years to come – the desired outcome of all initiatives being increased tourism export revenues.”

The key word in the US strategy is “segmentation,” Flach points out, something which is rooted in a very research‑based approach inspired by the 2006 US Travel Study that was commissioned by the CTC: “Among other things, the study suggested we should target the US outbound traveller, a sector that is growing by about 5% a year. Outbound folks have passports; they are less sensitive to currency issues. They tend to fly, and the average people who fly spend $851, whereas people who drive spend about $379 per trip.”

Flach notes that previous visitors to Canada represent a 27% share of outbound travellers. Research indicates we should be targeting them, as “people who have been here before are easier to convert, and they have influence on people who haven’t been to Canada.”

The US Travel Study highlighted that the mid‑ to southern US states are the ones with the highest potential yield, because they are home to people who tend to fly, and there is a slight increase in passport ownership as one moves south. Add to this the fact New York, California and Massachusetts are states that are particularly rich in high yield travellers, apply the CTC’s Explorer Quotient (EQ) research, and you have quite the audience filtering tool, explains Flach: “The EQ stems from an in‑depth analysis which groups people in nine different segments based on their travel values and lifestyle motivations. In the US we will focus on three of these segments: the Authentic Experiencer, the Free Spirit, and the Cultural Explorer.”

Members of these three segments have higher passport ownership, tend to be travellers rather than tourists, and spend more: “The Authentic Experiencer is someone who wants to see or observe an authentic vacation moment. The Cultural Explorer is similar to the Authentic Experiencer, but he or she seeks more of a learning experience. The Free Spirit is just somebody who wants to have a great story when they get home, so they can brag about it and share it with their friends.”

This strategic platform will be integrated across all three marketing channels of Direct‑to‑Consumer, Media/PR, and Travel Trade/MCIT. It starts with a constant brand message that will be consistently leveraged in order to position Canada as the destination of choice.

With the direct‑to‑consumer tactics, the first step was determining where they can best be reached. “This means we will put emphasis on New York, LA and Boston. We looked at a number of counties, ranked them in terms of household income, and identified those where the foreign travel index is highest. We narrowed it down to six counties in New York, three in LA, and four in Boston. In a many instances, we drilled down to Zip Code level.

“Now that we know where the target is, the right consumer channels to reach them needed to be identified,” says Flach. “Outdoor advertising indexed high against all three of our segments. This means that in New York and Boston, commuter trains will play a role in our campaigns. In LA, where the target doesn’t really use public transit, it became clear to us that outdoor is a good brand building channel there. It generates a high number of impressions at a relatively low cost per thousand.”

Daily newspaper showed strong reach against adventurers and travellers in all three target markets, Flach comments:

“Newspapers rated high against our older and more affluent targets. For that reason, major dailies will play a role. In addition, Free Standing Inserts (FSIs) will be used again, as they are an important tactical tool for partners. This year, we will be a little more precise about where the inserts are being dropped, using Zip Codes where our targets live. Furthermore, our program is integrated from a media relations point of view, as we have a list of the writers and editors at each of those community papers where we are dropping inserts. We will be contacting them to generate content in the newspapers that will contain the Canada inserts.”

Magazines and e‑marketing will also be used. “We are spending significant amounts on national and targeted regional online buys," says Flach, "and we are in select national and city magazines, too. Of course, the much celebrated Pure Canada magazine is playing an important role in all this, as are niche‑oriented programs in gay and ski markets, while the high‑end fishing lodges campaign from last year has evolved into a luxury campaign.

“In all programs, we have made sure to create opportunities for partners to join the CTC. And the response has been terrific. “In terms of messaging, a new ad campaign we call “Intrigue” has been created. It portrays specific experiences within Canada in unusual, surprising ways which will provide inspiration for the curious traveller to learn more – and visit!” concludes Flach.

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 Honourable 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).

Cool gift for a cool cub: promoting Canada in Germany

Photo: Canadian Tourism Commission

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Talk about content-based marketing! A cover story, TV series and video podcast don't come along every day, let alone a tourism promotion that centres around a polar bear cub. The photogenic little fellow has received wide coverage, playing with his very own beach ball that very clearly says "Canada: Keep Exploring".

The red beach ball is a gift from the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), presented to the orphan cub at his home at a zoo in Berlin, Germany. Knut the bear hams it up for his adoring fans from around the world as one of Canada's youngest ambassadors for tourism. Raising his profile even more, Knut is the poster "cub" to raise awareness for the International Polar Year, climate change and everything green.

The CTC office in Berlin presented the ball "to thank Knut for all his good work, shining a light on Canada's amazing wildlife-viewing experiences such as polar bear watching in the northern Manitoba and the Arctic". As part of this campaign, German consumers will get a chance to win a six-night all-inclusive polar bear watching trip to Churchill, Manitoba compliments of the Canadian Tourism Commission, Travel Manitoba and Frontiers North Adventures.

Grappling with a red-hot economy: an HR perspective

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Graeme Barrit is Business Co-Chair of the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) and president of Coast Hotels & Resorts. He spoke with TOURISM magazine during the CTHRC Tourism HR Forum in Vancouver on May 1, 2007:

TOURISM: Employee shortages are endemic in Canada, across all sectors. Strong economic growth coupled with an aging workforce are having their impact in all industries, to be sure, but are there any factors that make tourism unique in this overall climate?

Barrit: Immigration policy in this country over the last number of years has not favoured the type of immigrant who has traditionally populated the tourism workforce, so we believe our situation is perhaps exacerbated by this problem. We do indeed face an aging workforce, as well as a growth in our industry that we see as unprecedented, over the next ten years. All projections for tourism industry growth across the country are exponentially larger than they have been historically, so we don't only face a decrease in the available workforce - we also face increased activity in our sector.

TOURISM: Are there overall strategies at play to address this?

Barrit: Immigration is a short-term fix for us that may or may not translate into a longer-term fix. The CTHRC and its member organizations across the country are focused on developing tourism as a real career choice for younger folk. I would like grade ten high school students to be waking up in the morning saying, "I want to be a hotel general manager when I grow up." So, we need to educate at that level, and we need to improve the distribution of the professional credentials that we offer through the CTHRC's emerit program. Tourism needs to be seen as not only a bona fide career choice, but one where you can receive industry recognition that is transportable.

The goal must be to educate, retain and attract more people into the industry, and immigration is only one of the tools and is seen as a near-term strategy. We are very interested in developing employment opportunities in the Aboriginal sector of our population; we see that as a great untapped resource for the industry, folks we'd love to have involved in tourism and hospitality across Canada.

TOURISM: Where are the biggest challenges right now? Is it at the front-end positions (like room attendants, restaurant service) or is it at the management level?

Barrit: It is not felt as strongly at the leadership levels within the organizations. That, too, is an issue, but - for example - a hotel can get by without a manager for a period of time but you cannot get by without a room attendant for any period of time; someone has to clean that room today! So you feel it more at the line level; nonetheless, shortages are present for positions right up through the organizations. When it comes to shortages at the line level, the pain is immediate because you can't serve customers.

TOURISM: How much have wages got to do with the challenge of bringing employees into tourism?

Barrit: We have an unfortunate reputation for being a low-paying sector, but I am not sure the reality supports that reputation. There is a legacy of that, definitely, but over the last five-plus years, as an industry our rate of pay has escalated to the point where we don't believe pay is the issue. People are looking for a more complete work environment, and in a lot of cases, if you can provide that, it will outweigh a dollar difference. Important things include the respect of your peers, professional accreditation, recognition - all those things that present us as a palatable industry.

TOURISM: Talking to people who have gone through tourism management programs, at both the diploma and degree levels, I hear comments that seem to point to industry's lack of recognition for training and certification received - a sense that industry isn't willing to hire people into management positions until they have "done their time in the trenches", in a manner of speaking. Do you hear this too?

Barrit: This is similar, in some ways, to the pay issue. I think there has been a legacy of that attitude, but I think it is fading. I think people are starting to recognize the difference between the acquisition of skills and the development of leaders. Employees need to confirm they have acquired the necessary skills, but then the transition from being skills-based to becoming a leader is a very different process. Education - at some level - is one method of improving leadership skills, so it has a role, and I think you can see an evolution in that thought within the industry.

TOURISM: How is it working at the transition point where employees move from the line level to take on supervisory roles?

Barrit: The transition level from line worker to leadership is a very difficult area for all industries because that first step up is the most difficult one for many people. It is important that organizations recognize this, and provide a support network to help people with that transition. Certainly, it is the most difficult transition in the development of a career.

TOURISM: So, is there room for people to progress from the line to supervisory positions?

Barrit: Of course. There are wonderful opportunities in this industry at all levels, in all sizes of organizations. I don't believe we are a closed shop at all - no forward-thinking organization could allow that to happen within itself.

TOURISM: The CTHRC has put a lot of emphasis on emerit, the organization's training program for the tourism and hospitality sector. How is it working?

Barrit: Well, last year there were over 600 graduates at various levels of certification in the province of Alberta alone. Speaking from the perspective of Coast Hotels & Resorts, all of our employees, as part of their probationary period, complete their emerit certification in their area of expertise. I think the program is very well used by people who recognize its value. It helps with retention, and shows a commitment on the part of employer and employee alike that they have taken the time to do the training. I'll give you one example: we recently employed a restaurant manager in one of our hotels, and when I met the young woman, she was most proud of the fact she had - of her own volition - completed all of the necessary emerit certification online while she was on maternity leave and was looking forward to coming back into the workforce. How can you say "no" to someone like that? And it's great example of people's faith in the emerit program, and having it online is a great advantage.

TOURISM: Senior governments recognize that human resources are a huge issue - in all sectors - these days. Are they investing enough in tourism training?

Barrit: Well, of course, the simple answer is that there is never enough money from government, but the reality is that as an industry we get our share. We are not at all disadvantaged compared with other sectors.

TOURISM: Thank you!

Americans concerned about their image abroad

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership, contends that travellers are more afraid of US government officials than they are of the threat of terrorism or crime. A Discover America survey has found that – by a margin of more than two to one – the US ranked first among 10 destinations that included Africa and the Middle East as the most unfriendly to international travellers. Foreign tourists were worried they will be detained for hours because of a simple mistake or a mis-statement at a US airport; even accessing a visitor's visa appears to be becoming time-consuming and problematic.

The Discover America Partnership is an effort led by some of America’s foremost business leaders to strengthen America’s image around the globe, recognizing that public diplomacy is not the sole responsibility of government, but also of business and the American people. The partnership aims "to empower the American people as our greatest ambassadors – by increasing their opportunities to interact with international visitors. With each new visitor, we have an opportunity to share what is best about America – our diversity, our energy and our optimism."

In a presentation to the Pacific Asia Travel Association Board (PATA), meeting recently in Vancouver, Freeman noted that these perceptions stem from the US government's security responses to 9/11, and called for travel‑friendly improvements such as enabling entry visas to be processed in 30 days or less and a world‑class entry system in which visitors are processed in 30 minutes or less.

Freeman says one factor that consistently stands out is the perception foreign travellers are no longer even welcome to come to his country; he is calling for a targetted promotional campaign to reverse these negative perceptions. Freeman's comments were received with considerable interest from PATA delegates in attendance; some delegates saw the possibility many potential overseas visitors may even be postponing visits to Canada which might otherwise have been part of a larger North American holiday.

Intelligence: Conference Board report finds promise in life sciences

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada for Ag-West Bio Inc. has concluded that Saskatchewan—already a national leader in the life sciences sector—can become a significant global player.

The sector refers to the science and technology being developed to transform renewable feedstocks such as agricultural and forestry materials into new sources of energy, industrial products, health-related products and other products or services.

The study was funded by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, Saskatchewan Industry and Resources, the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority, Western Economic Diversification, and Industry Canada.

Ag-West Bio Inc. President and CEO Dr. Ashley O’Sullivan says the study is intended to give focus to life science efforts in the province.

“The province needs a strategic direction to understand where the opportunities are in the emerging bio-economy,” O’Sullivan said. “We need to know what our comparative strengths are and how we can build on those.”

The study was conducted through consultations and surveys with over 100 life science leaders in Saskatchewan, including representatives of business, producer organizations, and the research community.

“They also looked at other jurisdictions and their strengths compared to ours,” said O’Sullivan. “So it’s not just a look at Saskatchewan, it’s a look at Saskatchewan in the context of other jurisdictions and their capacities, as well.”

The Conference Board report comprises a Life Sciences Strategy for Saskatchewan, with a list of 20 recommendations aimed at establishing an industry-led biofuels and bioproducts centre to champion the industry within the province and enable world-leading research and commercialization efforts.

The strategy indicates that Saskatchewan should focus on a few key areas of development in life sciences. It deals with the substantial capacity that already exists to convert crops and forests into biofuels and other products.

“Obviously for Ag-West, the whole area of bioproducts and biofuels is an important area. We’re moving ahead with that right away in the sense that we’re looking at doing an analysis of what the sector should look like and working with stakeholders to make that happen,” O’Sullivan said.

In addition, the strategy looks at Saskatchewan’s opportunities to take a leadership role in developing products in the nutrition, health and wellness sector for both humans and animals. These include food and feed with added nutritional value, functional foods, natural health products and nutraceuticals.

The study also highlights the large supporting sector of the highly-respected research community, and a number of early-stage companies in Saskatchewan working in the areas of immunology and vaccines. It discusses assets such as the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, and the National Research Council’s Plant Biotechnology Institute, among others.

Dr. O’Sullivan says that plans have already begun to put the Life Sciences Strategy recommendations into action.

“We have a steering committee that was established to oversee this process, and we’ve had one meeting to look at the recommendations in terms of who would be best to deliver on what,” he noted. “The strength here is that the steering committee also involves different levels of government, so they are an important part of it, too.”

A copy of the Life Sciences Strategy report is available at

For more information, contact:
Dr. Ashley O’Sullivan, President and CEO
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 975-1939

New president at the helm of Biofuels Council

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

She says the challenges are many, but so are the opportunities.

Judie Dyck, the new president of the Saskatchewan Biofuels Development Council (SBDC), is optimistic about the future of the industry in Saskatchewan, but realistic about the work ahead.

An agrologist and past co-chair of the Saskatchewan Biodiesel Task Force, Dyck says the SBDC will bring the efforts to build an ethanol and biodiesel industry in Saskatchewan under one umbrella organization.

She feels there are a number of advantages to combining the two efforts, beyond the cost savings of having just one organization spearheading the effort.

“I think it was good to initially keep things separate, because there are some differences between ethanol and biodiesel, and the industries were at different stages. Ethanol is much further ahead than biodiesel,” Dyck noted.

“However, it now makes sense to pull them together. There are only so many associations and so many resources and, for example, when you are dealing with government, you can now approach them as a single entity with a consistent message.”

The SBDC is the successor of the Saskatchewan Ethanol Development Council.

“The SBDC’s goal is to develop an inclusive and comprehensive biofuels industry that employs a diversity of feedstock and technologies towards establishing Saskatchewan as a leader in biofuels production in Canada,” Dyck explained.

She says there is no shortage of tasks ahead for the new organization.

“I look forward to the new challenge and working with both industries, pulling them both under one umbrella and moving them forward. I am very passionate about the industry and I think there are still a lot of opportunities,” Dyck said. “There is a lot of hard work ahead, too. But if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

Those challenges include finding new markets beyond our own borders.

“If you look at ethanol, the three existing plants we have already meet the Saskatchewan mandate, so we will have to be looking for markets outside the province,” she stated. “That is critical, because if you don’t have the ability to market the product, you are going to have a hard time going to the bank.”

On the biodiesel side of the equation, Dyck is confident that construction of new plants will get underway by next year.

“There is interest in building biodiesel plants in this province. The feasibility studies will dictate what the producers will be able to build, and their ability to market will dictate the size,” she said.

“One of the challenges is that the players are all at different stages. Some are just starting and other groups are already raising capital. It’s an enormous task, but we are well on our way.”

For more information, contact:
Judie Dyck, President
Saskatchewan Biofuels Development Council
(306) 221-6954

Grazing tour coming to Stockholm

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Pheasant Hills Grazing Tour will be taking place in Stockholm on July 4 and 5, offering tours, workshops, panel discussions, a trade show, and terrific entertainment to those wishing to attend.

Consistent with the tour’s theme, “Bringing Youth into Ranching,” the two-day event is being offered free of charge to anyone 18 years of age and under. The registration fee for adults is $30 for a single day or $40 for both days, which includes the full program and meals.

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Livestock Development Specialist Naomi Paley says organizers wanted to particularly focus on getting the younger generations involved in the event, in addition to those already established in the cattle industry.

“The average age of our farmers is now over 50 years old, and wanting to make sure that agriculture is a viable and desirable career option for their children is something that we often hear from the current generation of producers and ranchers. So we wanted to make that a special focus of this year’s grazing tour,” Paley said.

“We’ve even built some sessions into the program that focus specifically on strategies for assisting young producers to get established in ranching, or setting them up to take over an existing operation from their parents.”

To better enable those with younger farm families to attend, children’s activities (non-supervised) have also been arranged for kids five years old and up.

A number of practical aspects of cattle production and grazing will be discussed over the two days through presentations and tours, including alfalfa and forage rotations, grass establishment, bale grazing, switching fields from grain to grass, winter feeding options, and watering cattle through deep and shallow buried pipelines.

In addition, speakers will conduct information sessions on important business topics, such as succession planning and financial transition options for outgoing and incoming generations of ranchers, as well as what investors look for when partnering with young entrepreneurs.

Concurrent workshops will also be held in areas such as fencing, working with stock dogs, intensive grazing management, forages and soil health, cattle marketing, and investors working with youth.

Paley says that participants will have a chance to hear from a range of experts in various fields, coming from the local area, other Prairie provinces, and even neighbouring states.

“The speakers that have been lined up are producers and ranchers themselves, or have a lot of practical experience in the agricultural industry,” she stated. “So those attending will have a great opportunity to hear from people just like them who have actual hands-on experience in grazing, cattle production and agri-business.”

Part of the social aspect of the event will be an evening entertainment and jam session with local musicians that will be featured after supper on July 4.

The events occurring as part of the grazing tour will be based out of the Stockholm Skating Rink. Those interested in learning more about the program can contact Naomi Paley at (306) 786-1686, Stuart Cairns with Ducks Unlimited Canada at (306) 782-2108, or the Yellowhead Regional Economic Development Authority (REDA) at (306) 743-5176.

Registrations are also being handled through the REDA. Participants are encouraged to register early, as space is limited.

For more information, contact:
Naomi Paley, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 786-1686

Literacy support helps rural Saskatchewan flourish

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Literacy support programs can help rural communities attract and retain immigrants to build a stronger labour force in their manufacturing and agricultural industries.

With an increase in the immigrant population coming to Saskatchewan, there is a need to offer many services to these families, including literacy support.

Shaun Haskey is a Community Literacy Co-ordinator for the Humboldt Region with the SaskSmart Literacy Project. She says that setting up literacy programs in Saskatchewan communities will specifically address two areas of concern.

First, it will address the needs of the immigrant population moving into rural communities to work in the province’s manufacturing and agricultural industries. “These families usually have English as a Second Language (ESL) challenges because they come from countries such as the Ukraine, China, and the Philippines,” Haskey stated. “We want to provide support services for them, and literacy is certainly one of them.”

Second, it will address the need to develop the potential in Saskatchewan’s existing labour force. “There is always an opportunity to provide support to adults who would like to improve their reading and writing skills so that they are better suited for the workforce,” she added.

The SaskSmart Literacy Project is focused on setting up literacy programs in various communities around the province.

“The biggest need in the Humboldt region specifically is for the immigrant families that are coming into the area. My job was to identify what the literacy needs were, to recognize gaps in the existing literacy services in our communities, and to set up a volunteer tutor network to help address those issues.”

One of the goals of the project was to recruit volunteers in the region who might be interested in working one-on-one with other adults. “In this manner, we look to partner people who need help with their reading or writing skills, whether they are immigrants or adults in the community wanting to improve their literacy skills. We also focus on conversation skills for ESL adults.”

Haskey says the work done through the SaskSmart project to develop the viable workforce and improve the literacy levels of immigrant workers coming to the province is benefitting on Saskatchewan’s rural and farming sectors.

“These literacy programs allow immigrants to experience a smoother transition into our culture. They ensure that we are better able to support them so that they remain in our rural communities while working in our agriculture industry,” she noted.

Immigrants bring several opportunities to small-town Saskatchewan, the biggest being an addition to the labour force in areas that have experienced chronic shortages. They also provide a means to revitalize rural communities that have perhaps experienced population declines.

But Haskey says is it is important for rural communities to set up support systems and services for immigrant families if they hope to not only attract, but retain newcomers.

“We want immigrants to stay in our rural communities. We don’t want them to be lured away by the services that are available in bigger centres. To make this a reality, services need to exist in the rural communities so that the needs of immigrants will be met and they will be comfortable with having a future in our small towns.”

Volunteers who might be interested in helping out with the SaskSmart initiative can get involved by contacting Shaun Haskey at (306) 231-6596. “We provide training to our tutors, as well as ongoing support,” she said. “But we are also looking for those interested in being on the learning side of the equation. Those who would like some help with their reading and writing skills can also contact me.”

Haskey feels the work being done through the project holds a lot of potential for the future of the province. “We have a tremendous opportunity to bring in a new wave of immigration and to revitalize and repopulate our rural communities,” she stated. “I think we have a great opportunity to get it right, to provide support services and to create an environment that immigrants are going to want to stay in and be a part of.”

For more information, contact:
Shaun Haskey, Community Literacy Co-ordinator, Humboldt Region
SaskSmart Literacy Project
Phone: (306) 231-6596

Yorkton's annual summer fair: 124 years of enjoyment

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Yorkton Exhibition and Summer Fair celebrates 124 years of agricultural and entertainment excellence this year. The 2007 edition will be held from July 4 to 7.

The annual four-day event will take over the Gallagher Centre and exhibition grounds. It will include such crowd-pleasers as the midway, nightly entertainment in front of the grandstand, horse racing, cattle shows and sales, and a wide variety of commercial exhibits and sales booths.

“The Exhibition and Summer Fair started out as an agricultural society and has grown up with the town through the years since then. It has been around for a long, long time,” said Don Kunkel, the General Manager of the Yorkton Exhibition and Gallagher Centre.

“This year marks the 125th anniversary of the settlement of Yorkton, and the fair has been around one year shy of that. So it is a big part of Yorkton’s history.”

Kunkel says the Yorkton Exhibition started out as most other fairs did in those days, “as a gathering point for rural folks to exchange farming ideas and practices.” It then evolved into a venue to compare farm practices and included livestock shows. From there, it progressed to incorporate entertainment attractions.

While organizers today try to ensure that a wide variety of entertainment is featured at the event, they still work hard to uphold the program’s agricultural flare. “Although most summer fairs are now more entertainment-oriented then they are agricultural-oriented, we still try to maintain that agricultural component,” Kunkel noted.

“We host a large 4-H Regional Beef Show and Sale in conjunction with our Summer Fair. We have a 4-H horse show, a miniature horse show, and a boar and dairy goat show that all tie into the agricultural component. We also have chuck wagon and chariot races, as well as standard-bred horse racing all at the same time.”

The event’s ties with the 4-H organization have become particularly strong over the years. The group’s Beef Show and Sale has been an annual component of the Yorkton Exhibition for roughly 30 years now.

Kunkel says the timing and history of the event always make it a popular draw, and he expects that to continue again this year. “Since everybody goes to their local exhibition in the summer, we are expecting another large turnout. There will be a million different things to do and a million different things to see,” he stated.

The annual fair is organized and hosted by the Yorkton Exhibition Association. More details surrounding the event’s program and activities will be made available as the date approaches. Additional information can also be obtained by calling the Exhibition office at (306) 783-4800 or searching the Gallagher Centre website at

Inquiries about booking commercial booth space can likewise be forwarded to the Yorkton Exhibition Association at (306) 783-4800.

For more information, contact:
Don Kunkel, General Manager
Yorkton Exhibition and Gallagher Centre
Phone: (306) 783-4800

Consistency is first priority for new VIDO director

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Continuing an outstanding track record of research and development of new vaccines for both animal and human diseases is the goal of Dr. Andrew Potter, the newly appointed Director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan.

Potter was appointed to replace Lorne Babiuk, who has accepted the position of Vice President of Research at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Potter has been a member of the VIDO team for 22 years.

“It’s certainly an honour to be chosen for the position,” he said. “It’s a bit of a change for me, but former director Lorne Babiuk really has established such a team culture that it makes for an easier transition.”

In announcing Potter’s appointment, U of S Vice President of Research Steven Franklin stated, “With the growing threat of emerging diseases in both animals and humans, the U of S is extremely fortunate to have someone of Dr. Potter’s calibre to lead VIDO, and soon InterVac, as these world-class labs assume an increasingly important role in the development of Canada’s national infectious disease-fighting strategies.”

InterVac is the new $100 million International Vaccine Centre now being built at the university.

In assuming the new position, Potter says he will be seeking to maintain the tradition of excellence at VIDO.

“I think all of us have bought into the vision for VIDO’s future and where we’ve been in the past, and I believe continuity is what it’s all about now,” Potter said. “In terms of the research we do, I think we’re on track, and with InterVac coming on stream three years down the road, we’re really building towards that.”

Potter is highly respected for his previous work on animal diseases. His research is said to have generated world-firsts in disease prevention, and more than 40 patents for animal vaccine developments and therapeutics. He was the first scientist to develop a licensed animal vaccine through the use of biotechnology.

Potter says the progress on animal diseases has been remarkable. “It’s the switch over to some of the chronic diseases that really excites us,” he said. “On BSE specifically, and some of the work on CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease), we have seen phenomenal progress over the last six to eight months.”

Recently, Potter has overseen new research on the application of genomics to the animal health field, as well as the forging of links between the animal and human infectious disease research communities to ensure that technologies common to both fields can be used.

The massive InterVac laboratory building is a bio-secure facility that will allow advanced study of some of humanity’s greatest disease threats, including pandemic influenza, West Nile Virus and tuberculosis.

“The funding for InterVac is all in place now,” Potter said. “We actually have our first employee, the bio-safety officer. We are looking at a ground-breaking in late June, with a scheduled completion date around January of 2010.”

In the meantime, Potter expresses confidence in the VIDO staff.

“VIDO is only as good as the people who work here, and we have just an incredible group of 142 people,” he stated.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Andrew Potter, Director
Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306)966-7484

Saskatoon seminar to address new rules for SRM disposal

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) has organized a seminar for the various cattle industry stakeholders that are affected by new disposal regulations for Specified Risk Materials announced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The new limitations come into effect July 12, and deal with the handling, transportation and disposal of a list of materials, including skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia of cattle over 30 months of age, plus the distal ileum from cattle of all ages.

The new controls are aimed at preventing any of these materials from being used in livestock feed, pet food or fertilizers, as part of the overall, goal to eradicate BSE from the Canadian cattle herd.

Wendi Dehod, Environmental Engineer in the SAF Livestock Development Branch, says the seminar should be useful for a wide range of industry players.

“We’re hoping this seminar will address the concerns and some of the information requests being put forward to the department from both the slaughter and processing industry here in Saskatchewan, as well as large livestock operations such as feedlots and larger cow-calf operations,” she stated.

Registration for the seminar is open to all interested parties. “Anyone who is going to be dealing with Specified Risk Material is welcome,” Dehod added. “It could be anyone from a local landfill operator to someone thinking of being a regional solution provider.”

While the agenda includes a review of the new regulations by CFIA, the emphasis will be on discussing the various solutions that are available for destruction or containment of SRM.

“We have invited technology providers from incineration companies to in-vessel composters to speak, as well as gasification companies and those who employ processes such as anaerobic digestion,” Dehod said. “We also have Sask Power on the agenda to talk about independent power generation.”

SAF is similarly opening the door to companies that are offering new disposal solutions to the industry.

“Although we’ve made some invitations to some specific disposal companies, it’s only because we have had contact with them in the past,” Dehod noted. “If there is anyone who has a technology they would like to debut or present information on, we’re willing to hear from them.”

The seminar will be held June 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Travelodge Hotel in Saskatoon. Registration forms can be obtained by calling Debbie Meriam at (306) 933-5992, and may be returned by fax or mail before June 12.

There is no charge for the seminar and it is open to the public.

Dehod says the information at the seminar is timely.

“We need to prepare our industries and place some technology on the ground to make sure that Saskatchewan is ready” she stated.

For more information, contact:
Wendi Dehod, Environmental Engineer
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5357

Jared Ward, Environmental Engineer
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4692

Sunflower session explores future of industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Sunflowers will be in the spotlight at an upcoming event.

The day-long information session and tour will be held June 27 at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Experimental Farm in Saskatoon.

Ray McVicar with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food says the session is targeted to both producers who grow sunflowers already and those who are interested in adding sunflowers to their crop rotation.

The recent Census of Agriculture indicates there were 15,800 acres of sunflower grown in Saskatchewan in 2006, and McVicar feels the crop has a lot of potential.

“It has been a crop that has regularly provided a good economic return, and it is a broad leaf crop that could fit well into rotations with cereal crops,” he stated.

McVicar says building local markets for sunflowers would help boost the acreage.

“We have a few good sunflower processors and buyers in the province, but we need additional markets and uses. Much of the product has to be shipped out of province, so freight costs are a factor holding back the crop,” he noted.

That is one of the issues the information session will get into, with discussion about new uses and new varieties to drive the future of the sunflower industry in Saskatchewan.

“There will be a presentation on potential new uses for sunflower, such as livestock feed, bio-diesel and other possible applications. Then we will also have a chance to look at the variety trials and the research plots that are going on at the Agriculture Canada Research Station at Saskatoon,” McVicar said.

The free session is hosted by the Saskatchewan Sunflower Committee and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and sponsored by NuFarm Canada.

It runs from 10:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and also includes a tour of the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering Laboratory to look at processing research.

Anyone interested in attending should pre-register by June 22 by contacting Ray McVicar by phone at (306) 787-4665 or e-mail at

For information, contact:

Ray McVicar P.Ag
Provincial Specialist – Specialized Crops
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4665

Blue-green algae blooms may be toxic to cattle

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The spring runoff from melting snow recharges dugouts and other surface water bodies with much needed water, while at the same time bringing nutrients to the soil. With the warm weather of summer, these soil nutrients can act as the perfect food for algae growth.

The appearance of algae on surface waters such as dugouts, dams, sloughs, and lakes should be treated by livestock producers as an indicator that conditions may be right for the growth of potentially toxic blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria.

“Cyanobacteria are capable of producing toxins, which in high concentrations can actually kill livestock and companion animals,” warned Bob Klemmer, a Beef-Forage Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

“Commonly called blue-green algae, these organisms are quite often mistaken for true algae. However, they are, in fact, a type of bacteria called Cyanobacteria.”

Several factors increase the risk of toxic blooms to livestock. In addition to spring run-off or heavy summer rains, which wash soil nutrients into surface water bodies, direct watering of livestock introduces nutrients from urine and feces into the drinking area. Extended periods of hot weather increase the temperature of nutrient-rich surface waters during summer. As well, if blue-green algae is present, wind can cause the bloom to concentrate on one side of the water body.

“The combination of readily available nutrients and warm weather provides the optimum conditions for both algae and Cyanobacteria growth,” Klemmer explained.

“When Cyanobacteria are predominant, there is a higher degree of risk for livestock. Many animal deaths that occur each year are due to toxins released from the Cyanobacteria when the bloom dies off.”

But Klemmer says there are several management practices which can reduce the risk of algae and Cyanobacteria growth.

“Installing remote watering systems and restricting livestock from direct access to the body of water is one method of prevention,” he stated. “Properly designed aeration systems can also reduce the levels of nutrients available for algae and Cyanobacteria growth.”

Producers are able to find more information on the appropriate sizing and design of aeration systems through the water quality publication website maintained by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) at

Planting forage buffer strips along water runs and around dugouts, streams, sloughs, and dams will help to reduce the amount of soil nutrients entering these water bodies and helps to clarify the water.

Producers are encouraged to monitor algae and Cyanobacteria growth, and to be prepared with alternate fresh water sources during times of higher risk.

However, Klemmer says that the best approach to reducing the risk of Cyanobacteria poisoning is to learn how to recognize it. Cyanobacteria, unlike true algae, are single celled organisms, and do not typically stick together. “Using this habit of growth, producers are able to identify Cyanobacteria by running their hand with fingers slightly open through the bloom,” he stated.

“Cyanobacteria will largely flow through their fingers, or individually stick, whereas algae will clump together and not flow through.” Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after doing this.

Klemmer points out that some Cyanobacteria will also form a thick, pea-soup-like appearance, while others look like a shimmering blue-green sheen across the surface of the water.

Algae and Cyanobacteria blooms cause off tastes and smells in water bodies, as well. This side effect may cause a reduction in livestock water intake and poor cattle performance.

There are several treatment products containing copper sulfate that can be used to control algae and Cyanobacteria blooms in dugouts and smaller water bodies. The PFRA fact sheet “Copper Treatments for Dugouts” lists the products available, the amounts of product necessary for given water volumes, and the methods of treatment. This fact sheet can be found at

For more information, contact:
Bob Klemmer, Beef-Forage Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 848-2380

Moose Jaw hosts annual hometown fair and horse show

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The time has come to once again discover the fun, food and magic of the Moose Jaw Hometown Fair and Horse Show. The 124th annual fair will be held from June 22 to 24 this year, on the fair grounds in Moose Jaw.

“The Moose Jaw Hometown Fair and Horse Show has been around since 1873,” stated Glen Louis, General Manager of the Moose Jaw Exhibition Company Ltd. “The fair started back in the 1800s as an agriculture society event and then progressed. As time went on, entertainment and amusement rides were added.”

This year’s theme is “Saluting 90 years of 4-H” to represent the partnership the fair has built with the

4-H organization over its many years. Organizers continue to partner with the 4-H club, which holds its annual beef show and sale in conjunction with the event.

“As usual, we have a little taste of everything this year,” Louis said. “We have the original miniature to light and heavy horse shows, and this year we have added a couple of different events.”

A colt-breaking demonstration will be put on by Garry Hunt, a very well known and reputable expert in this field from Calgary. He will be demonstrating how to break a colt that has never been halter-broken or ridden before. The presentation will take place in a five-hour timeframe over a three-day period. By the final day, Hunt says the horse will be broken. More information on his work is available on the website at

“Other attractions include a llama show and cattle shows,” Louis added. “The livestock events recognize the best in the agricultural backbone of our community.”

A number of different main stage shows will also be taking place. They include a MuchMusic Video Dance Party and a singing competition entitled “Moose Jaw Idol.”

Louis highlighted other unique demonstrations that will be featured as part of the fair. “Rick Mahone, a chainsaw carver, will perform a fascinating show through the weekend, cutting designs into 10-inch round logs. As well, the West Coast Lumberjack Show features a repertoire of lumberjack-type activities that are very exciting to watch. It’s definitely something you don’t see everyday in Saskatchewan!”

The fair will also explore old-fashioned pleasures through its “Lifestyles” displays, including the best in baking, canning, sewing, photography and handicrafts. As a tribute to seniors, a Seniors’ Tea will be held Friday afternoon, as well.

“The intent of the fair is to provide education and entertainment to area citizens of all ages. Everybody has an opportunity to participate and enjoy the event. People are encouraged to come down and take in the rural flavour,” Louis said.

More information on the Moose Jaw Hometown Fair and Horse Show can be found by accessing the Moose Jaw Exhibition Company’s website at, or by e-mailing

For more information, contact:
Glen Louis, General Manager
Moose Jaw Exhibition Company Ltd.
Phone: (306) 692-2723

New exhibits spice up Canada's national farm show

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Canada’s largest dry land farm technology and equipment show will feature a variety of spicy new exhibits this year that will be of great interest to producers and their families.

The Western Canada Farm Progress Show is being held at IPSCO Place in Regina from June 20 to 22.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the internationally renowned event, but the show is still leading the way in innovation, technology and education for producers, buyers and sellers from here at home and around the world.

Two specific exhibits, the Heartland Woman’s Expo and the Energy Centre, will be the focus of this year’s event.

“The main stage will be dedicated to the needs and interests of prairie women as featured in the Heartland Women’s Expo, an exciting event dedicated to providing value, entertainment and education to all women of the prairies,” said Rob O’Connor, Show Manager for Western Canada Farm Progress Show.

The keynote speaker is Elaine Froese, an author and certified coach, who has been working with farm families for over 25 years. Elaine is presenting a specific topic each day at 1:00 p.m. Topics include: Living an Intentional Life – extreme self-care in a complex world; Discussing the Undiscussabull™ – tools for talking about tough issues; and Encouraging the Heart of your Family and Business – know what young families and farmers want.

The Heartland Women’s Expo will feature more than 175 exhibiting companies on more than 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, and is specifically tailored to meet the needs and lifestyles of today’s everyday women. Areas of the expo include fashion and beauty, travel and leisure, food and beverage, health and wellness, transportation, home improvement and décor, and financial planning.

“The second stage is dedicated to various types of renewable energy, as well as green issues,” O’Connor stated. Through trade displays and educational seminars, the Energy Centre will highlight the positive impact that ethanol, bio-diesel, solar, geothermal and wind energy will have on agricultural practices.

“It’s important for producers to learn how different forms of renewable energy have the ability to affect their operations as this growing industry creates opportunities,” he said.

According to O’Connor, “What makes the farm show so unique in Canada is that it is so relevant to the industry. The dealers bring with them the newest of new… technology that pertains to efficient agricultural practices that will make the producer more profitable. The types of equipment and technology showcased will be improved over models from previous years.”

He pointed out that a New Inventions area will highlight between 30 and 40 innovative products and devices that have been created within the past two years. “These inventions are totally new to agriculture,” O’Connor said.

Since 1978, the show has grown from approximately 70 exhibitors to over 700. It now features over 1.4 million square feet of exhibit space. “We have expanded to include an International Business Centre which brings in about 400 international buyers representing 30 different countries,” stated O’Connor.

Over 40,000 people from nearly 30 countries attend the show every year.

“The purpose of the event is to give associations, manufacturers, and dealers of farm equipment and technology the ability to highlight themselves and showcase their products to attendees,” he said. “Producers should attend the show to look at new inventions and techniques geared towards improving their farming operations.”

In addition to the treats for the eyes, there are also treats for the ears. Two concerts have been included in this year’s show, featuring country legend Willie Nelson on June 20 and Paul Brandt on June 21. Tickets are available for purchase and include the price of admission to the show if they are purchased in advance. Regular admission is $10 and can be paid upon entry.

Producers can find more information on the Western Canada Farm Progress Show by visiting the website at

For more information, contact:
Rob O’Connor, Show Manager
Western Canada Farm Progress Show
Phone: (306) 781-9219

Monsanto offers scholarships for rural graduates

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Monsanto Canada is offering some help to graduating students from across Canada who plan to pursue post-secondary studies pertaining to agriculture or forestry.

The 2007 Monsanto Canada Opportunity Scholarship Program will award an estimated 50 scholarships valued at $1,500 apiece to students entering their first year of post-secondary education at a recognized Canadian educational institution.

“The scholarships falls under our corporate giving program, which is really meant to help out the communities and the people who help make our business successful,” said Trish Jordan in Monsanto’s Public Affairs office. “Because we’re an agricultural business, and we’re successful when farmers are successful, that’s what we’ve chosen to focus on in our giving program.”

In order to qualify, students must come from a family farm or have a forestry background, and must have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership capabilities, and a keen interest and involvement in their rural community.

“We’re looking at kids from rural areas or from farm families who actually want to explore a career in agriculture,” Jordan said. “That doesn’t mean they necessarily have to go into farming. There are a wide variety of opportunities in the agricultural sector, from things like business, marketing and accounting, to science, agronomy and agricultural engineering.”

Monsanto has been offering the scholarship program for 16 years. Over that time, Jordan says about $825,000 has been provided to deserving students across Canada.

“The scholarship program falls into one of our top priorities, which is science and agricultural education,” she stated. “That’s obviously the foundation of our business. We feel that by encouraging kids to explore careers in science and/or agriculture, ultimately that’s going to benefit not only our company, but the industry as a whole.”

Jordan added that Saskatchewan students tend to do very well under the initiative. “Historically, I would say Saskatchewan has been the highest recipient of our scholarships. There are a lot of kids from the province who want to explore agriculture, and the University of Saskatchewan has a very strong program.”

Students interested in pursuing a Monsanto scholarship need to submit a completed application, including an essay outlining what area of agriculture or forestry they would like to work in and why.

Application forms will be distributed to high schools, 4-H clubs, provincial and federal agriculture offices, farm retail outlets and seed companies. Forms are also available from Monsanto’s CustomCare line at 1-800-667-4944 or can be accessed online at

Applications must be postmarked no later than July 16. They will be reviewed by an independent panel of judges, and winning entries will be announced in September 2007.

For more information, contact:
Trish Jordan, Public Affairs
Monsanto Canada
Phone: (204) 985-1005

The Taste of the Southwest is back: register today

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If your business contributes to the food industry, do not miss your opportunity to market your products at the second annual “Taste of the Southwest” on August 11. This year’s event will take place on Main Street in downtown Swift Current.

The Taste of the Southwest was started to help promote food products being made in southwestern Saskatchewan by agricultural producers, processors, caterers and restaurants in the region. The event creates exposure and new markets for those in the region whose service area may currently be limited.

“This event is a very inexpensive way for businesses to feature their food products to a wide range of the public,” said Gerry Holland, Regional Business Planning Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. “Last year’s event served over 900 clients.”

The event also creates a level playing field by requiring each booth to be of a similar size and appearance for a consistent cost structure. Taste of the Southwest allows booth participants to sell samples of their products to current and future customers, all done in a fun atmosphere. Participating booths will be limited to serving three of their specialty food items.

“The goal is not to provide meals, but to allow attendees to sample as many food products as possible,” Holland stated. “Not to mention providing businesses with a fantastic marketing opportunity.”

Food tokens will be sold to the public for $1 each. These tokens can then be exchanged at the booths for the customer’s desired food items, with a maximum charge of four tokens per food item. Ten per cent of the sales are kept by the organizing committee to cover event advertising and rental costs.

The event is organized by a non-profit committee. As a result, any profits following the event will be retained for the next year’s function. This year’s organizing committee includes Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, producers, the Southwest REDA, Community Futures Southwest, Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development, Tourism Swift Current and Golden West Radio.

“A variety of entertainment will be available, such as face painting and games for the children, as well as a mixture of live entertainment,” Holland said. The event will be featured as part of the Swift Current Fun Fest Weekend.

The deadline for early bird registration is sneaking up quickly. Until June 15, participants interested in renting a booth may register and secure their spots at the event for $100. After that date, booths will cost $150 apiece, with the final registration deadline being July 15.

The registration price includes access to approximately 1,000 potential customers, as well as a 10-foot by 20-foot booth with tables, chairs and electricity.

Holland encourages people not to miss this wonderful marketing opportunity for your food-related business. To obtain a registration package, contact one of the following individuals:

Britney Blackmore
Southwest REDA, Swift Current
Phone: (306) 778-4243

Sandy Garrett
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, Swift Current
Phone: (306) 778-8285

For more information, contact:
Gerry Holland, Regional Business Planning Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4051