Tuesday, November 18

Orcas, Totems and Grizzly Bears cruise -- August 15 to August 21

This is will be the first departure of the season for this trip. So far we have 4 booked + 4 more are expected to book in the next few days. We need a minimum number of 9 passengers to guarantee the departure. We expect fully this trip to go ahead because this is our most popular trip and it is a great time of the year to go. So if you have been thinking about it: August 15 to August 21, 2009!

Monday, November 17

People flying in the face of green concerns

Phil Davies reports in TravelMole that concerns over aviation’s affect on the environment are doing little to discourage people from flying, a new study shows.

While green issues, such as climate change, noise and air pollution, worry almost three quarters of people (74%), only 22% admitted that these concerns had affected the number of flights they take.

More than half (54%) of the 2,023 adults questioned were unconcerned by the proposed third runway expansion at Heathrow and other UK airports.

In fact, 41% felt that more capacity was required to meet flight demands, according to the research conducted by YouGov on behalf of Camcon Technology, the UK developer of the digital valve.

For the 46% of adults that remained more apprehensive about airport development plans, key causes for concern are:

*Noise pollution (67%)
*Climate change (65%)
*Air quality (60%)
*House prices in the surrounding area (30%)

While the research revealed people’s hesitance to reduce their air travel, the majority of those surveyed were more than happy to embrace technology designed to make aircraft more environmentally friendly.

Of those concerned about airport expansion plans, more than three quarters (77%) would feel more comfortable if they knew that airlines and air manufacturers were investing money into the development of environmentally friendly aircraft that burn less fuel and produce less noise.

Camcon CEO Danny Chapchal said: “The majority of the UK population is evidently concerned about the environment but, rather than altering their travelling habits, people expect airline operators and aircraft manufacturers to reduce aviation’s environmental impact.

“To protect the environment, the aviation industry needs to examine the technologies that are now available to reduce carbon emissions and help decrease the noise from engine jets, fans and landing gear.

“With European Union regulations placing pressure on airlines to cut emissions by three per cent in 2012 and airport expansions set to be rolled out across the UK, it’s time that a new generation of quieter and more environmentally friendly planes was developed.”

Yukon dog sledding filling up nicely, but still availabilities

The month of January is one of the best times to view northern lights in the Yukon. In the bottom left ... one of the wall tent camps we use for the longer trips.

Our trips in the Yukon are attracting guests of all ages. February and the first half of March are fully booked.

There is still room in November, December and January. January is an excellent time to go because of the northern lights.

Here are some trip options:

Sunday, November 16

Great Excursions now offers RV rental services across Canada

Discover Canada at your own pace! RVing is gaining in popularity as a mode of travel. Families and friends looking for the ultimate in autonomy while on vacation are looking increasingly to renting a campervan or a motorhome. The freedom to venture off the conventional roadways, the beauty of waking up every morning in a different scenic spot is a hard to resist temptation. Have a look at some of the units we offer through our Canada-wide partnerships. To find out more, call 1-866-975-8687 or email us at info@greatexcursions.travel, and start planning your next holiday now!

Monday, November 10

Rail disruption causes WTM chaos

Bev Fearis reports in the TravelMole that major disruption on the Docklands Light Railway this morning caused chaos for visitors to World Travel Market in London.

On the opening day of the show, hundreds of exhibitors and visitors from around the world experienced the British capital’s transport system at its absolute worst.

DLR staff were unable to explain the reasons for the problems, which saw hundreds of people stranded at Canning Town. A later announcement on the DLR website blamed a faulty train at Royal Albert.

While many were unable to board trains due to severe over crowding, those that braved it had to suffer being crammed in like cattle.

On arrival at Canning Town, they were unable to disembark due to over crowding on the platforms. Doors remained closed until DLR staff had cleared enough space on the platforms to allow passengers to leave the trains.

Eventually a replacement bus service was put into operation, taking visitors slowly through rush hour traffic, and the rain, to Excel.

Many visitors complained that they had been forced to make five or six changes at different stations because of various other problems across the London underground network.

“It doesn’t look good for London,” said one visitor from Cyprus. "It's always bad, but this is the worst I have known it. Next year I will not make any appointments before midday."

Other disgruntled visitors to WTM described the transport chaos as a "farce" and questioned the message it gave to those from overseas about the ability of London to effectively host the 2012 Olympics.

Friday, November 7

Travel companies failing to track online customers

Bev Fearis reports in TravelMole that nearly half of travel companies don’t know if customers using their website achieve what they set out to do.

And according to a survey by digital market research specialists, eDigitalResearch, 33% don’t actively track the opinion of their online customers.

“For a sector hampered by rising fuel costs and with the economic slowdown increasing the demand for online bookings, these results show a lack of online customer knowledge,” said head of research Derek Eccleston.

“With more people turning to the internet to research and book their holidays, finding out how customers like to interact is the cornerstone in helping travel companies to achieve customer loyalty and sustain competitive advantage.”

Companies should be using online polls, panel surveys and rating systems to better understand their online customers, he added.

CanoeSki's Cliff Speer to give talk Wed. Nov. 12 at 7:00 pm at the J.S. Wood Library in Saskatoon

Our friend Cliff Speer sent this note around... A not to miss evening!

"In some ways, Saskatchewan is still a frontier province with many places practically undiscovered. Exploring those places can be a fascinating pursuit. Done in a sustainable, responsible way, such exploration is the essence of ecotourism.

On Wed. Nov. 12 at 7:00 pm at the J.S. Wood Library in Saskatoon, I will be giving a talk and slide show on ecotourism entitled: Eco-explorations in Saskatchewan’s Backcountry. My presentation will, of course, highlight canoeing and cross-country skiing, but will touch on other self-propelled modes of exploring the backcountry. You may be surprised to discover that backcountry in Saskatchewan can be both remote & almost on your doorstep!

The Nov. 12 event is one in a regular monthly series of public presentations on environmentally-related topics co-sponsored by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the J.S. Wood Library. It is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Coffee accompanies the discussion session. I look forward to seeing a whole bunch of eco-oriented explorers come out next Wed. evening!

Winter is hovering in the wings somewhere, but I’m a bit reluctant to bring up the topic of skiing as I’m still trying to catch up from a busy summer of canoeing! When we do get skiable conditions, check out the CanoeSki site for cross-country instruction and tour programs. I’ll be once again teaching all the adult ski courses for the Nordic Ski Club, so there should be plenty of options for everyone interested in learning to ski or improving their technique.

Private lessons have become popular over the last few years as a final option for those with tight schedules or simply wanting personalized attention. Give me a call to discuss any skiing questions. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the fall and dream of a protracted winter of deep snows!

Cliff Speer
CanoeSki Discovery Company
Wilderness Canoeing & Skiing EcoExplorations
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Tel/fax: 306-653-5693

Tuesday, November 4

AAA & Partners Announce 'Best and Biggest' Vacation Bargains to Kick-Start Economy

AAA, North America's largest leisure travel agency network is partnering with domestic and international travel industry leaders to offer special savings on an unprecedented set of travel experiences, TravelMole reports.

The effort,which runs Nov. 8 - 22 is intended to boost the number of Americans traveling this fall and winter, and spur an increase in overall economic activity in the process.

"At AAA's request, many of the world's leading travel providers have come forward with outstanding, special promotional discounts, extras and upgrades to help get America moving again," said Amy Nicholas, managing director of Tour, Cruise and Product Development for AAA. "World-class cruise lines, tour operators, hoteliers, theme parks and other special destinations have agreed to work with AAA in bringing consumers the widest-possible menu of incredible travel opportunities over the next few months. We are positive new and experienced travelers will like what they see," she said.

An estimated $700 billion is spent on travel annually and the travel industry directly or indirectly employs 7.5 million Americans. It contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to global trade and enriches our collective understanding and appreciation of other people and places.

To access AAA's "Best and Biggest" travel promotion, consumers will be directed through a series of media and AAA club advertisements to: www.AAA.com/SavingsEvent. Savings are available to members and the non-members, but there are additional exclusive benefits for members.

The complete list of travel industry participants and their special offers will be available via the website Oct. 31. The promotional portion of AAA's "Best and Biggest" campaign begins with a virtual travel show on Nov. 12 which will guide consumers through the various experiences and elements that are available or on sale. Consumers will be invited to attend the virtual show via advertising on web banners, regional promotions, and postcard and email campaigns.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com.

Airlines Set to Turn Profits

TravelMole reports that even though the troubled economy has dimmed the 2009 outlook for most sectors, airlines are poised to equal their most profitable year this decade, according to a veteran airline industry analyst.

FTN Midwest analyst Mike Derchin said he expects carriers to produce net income of $5 billion next year, equaling the 2007 level, assuming oil is at $80 a barrel, revenue per available seat mile grows at 8% to 9%, and domestic capacity is reduced by 8% to 9%.

With similar metrics currently in place, Derchin also expects the industry to report a small profit for the fourth quarter.

"Consolidation has begun, resulting in a sharp reduction in capacity and higher average fares," he wrote in a research report. "Managements are focusing on core operations, eliminating noncore flights and grounding inefficient fleets."

Ironically, the U.S. airline industry is in a strong position because it began to reduce capacity early this year in response to high oil prices. Capacity showed slight declines in the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, growth by the three principal low-fare carriers slowed to zero, resulting in an industry-wide decline of 9%. Now fuel prices are falling, as is demand, but reduced capacity means current booking load factors are generally flat.

Additional favorable trends include the merger between Delta(DAL Quote - Cramer on DAL - Stock Picks) and Northwest, which was approved by regulators last week. It "is expected to result in additional capacity removed in 2009," Derchin said.

The five remaining legacy carriers have formed alliances with foreign carriers, with antitrust immunity likely, enabling coordinated pricing and scheduling. And "numerous marginal carriers have gone into liquidation," further reducing capacity.

"There may be worst cases, but most airlines have done what needs to be done to get back to profitability," said US Airways CEO Doug Parker in a recent interview.

After posting net income of $2.5 billion in 2000, the industry lost $35 billion in the next five years, then made $3.1 billion in 2006 and $5 billion in 2007, according to the Air Transport Association. Through the first three quarters of 2008, airlines lost about $4.8 billion, the ATA said.

A recent report by Avondale Partners analyst Bob McAdoo says airlines still trade at the same prices as they did when oil cost $120 to $125 a barrel, even though it now sells for half that.

"Investors seem convinced that the recession will outweigh the positives from lesser capacity and $65 oil," McAdoo wrote. "Looking back, recessionary airline revenues have only dropped about 1.2%, even during the most severe economic downturn of the last couple of decades. Combining today's jet fuel costs with capacity cuts, even with an assumed recessionary revenue shortfall of 2.0%, still leaves the airlines with near record profits.

Source: TheStreet.com

Friday, October 24

Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Country

A quick note to let you know about a slideshow by Robin and Arlene Karpan, and Ric Driediger of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters at the University of Regina's Education Building Saturday October 25 at 7:00 pm.

The event is put on by the Historic Trails Canoe Club.

I'm attaching a pdf file about the event.


Wednesday, October 22

What's happening in Canada this winter?

by Lori McNulty
Courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission

From BC hot springs crawls to all-acoustic jams in Nova Scotia.


In a kitchen the size of Yankee Stadium, I still couldn’t fit in all the friends who whoop it up during the annual, 10-day Festival du Voyageur in Saint-Boniface, MB. Because during “The World’s Largest Kitchen Party,” everyone’s family. Take in the fiddle and jigging, feasting, fireworks and musical performances—all capturing the joie de vivre of the French-Canadian voyageur and fur-trading era. (Video)

Yukon Territory

Cue the music and huddle close when the Northern Lights electrify the Yukon sky in February. The Frostbite Music Festival is Canada’s coolest musical buzz. International performers hit the stage for hot sets of blues, gospel, funk, reggae, Cajun, Celtic and First Nations music. When the dancing stops, hit the Takhini Hot Springs for a soothing soak.

Nova Scotia

No doubt about it. Halifax is the soul of down-east sound. The jamming is all-acoustic during the In the Dead of Winter Music Festival in January, when Atlantic, Canadian and US musicians perform up close and unplugged just for you.

British Columbia

International crowds flock to Brackendale north of Squamish, BC, to catch some rare but ruffled celebrity headliners. From mid November to mid February, the community hosts the largest gathering of bald eagles in North America. Catch them as they feast on spawned salmon during the 23rd annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival & Count in January. (Video)

Call it the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Crawl, grab your friends and go. BC’s Kootenay Rockies is home to seven unique hot springs. Soak in mineral-rich comfort amid deep canyons, old-growth forests, flowing rivers, craggy mountain peaks and caves. Smile included.


Canadians don’t all live in them, but igloos (also iglu) are still pretty cool. Head to Parc national du Bic in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River Estuary and you’ll see. The park’s NUNA BIC Package sets you up with an overnight igloo stay, snowshoe rental, winter sleeping bag and fleece blanket, ground mattress and more.

Winter sea kayaking is a becoming a hot sport in Quebec. Guided kayaking trips take you through the stunning Mingan Archipelago and Lower North Shore region where you’ll paddle among sea birds and ice floes, then sample home-cooked salmon. In late February and early March, join an excursion to visit thousands of white harp seals on the ice near Îles de la Madeleine.

Sun salutation meets single-track

by Kathryn Harley
courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission

Nova Scotia cycling-yoga trip is chick-trip nirvana. Freewheeling Adventures customizes tours for every woman’s taste, but the gorgeous scenery stays the same.

Two things I really like: riding my bike and yoga. But together? Downward Dog over the handlebars? Warrior pose on pedals? Silly thought, sure, but that’s what crossed my mind when I heard about Freewheeling Adventures’ Bicycle and Yoga Getaway, launched in 2006. Turns out the real thing is much smarter. No two-wheel acrobatics, just the strength and focus-enhancing benefits of yoga applied to biking, as you tour the rural seaside roads near Nova Scotia’s south shore, Freewheeling Adventures’ home base.

It’s what every woman needs—what Freewheeling co-founder Cathy Guest calls “a relaxed excursion into mindfulness.” Talk about a perfect tune-up, and a perfect tuning-in to the health/wellness vacation trend.

Freewheeling Adventures also leads international cycling tours and tours elsewhere in Canada. But it’s at home where Guest dishes up this flexible (in every sense) trip. Every tour is different, she says, because “people come with different expectations of the yoga.” Some add blow-out lunches at LaHave Bakery and a nighttime feast of fresh-from-the-sea lobster. For others, it’s vegan and silent meditation over dinner. What never varies: the beauty of the routes and the magic of saluting the sun looking across St. Margaret’s Bay to famed Peggy’s Cove (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8wuUyHSzBQ&feature=related), and stretching beside the surf at Blue Rocks.


Emirates pitches Calgary flights

The Calgary Herald's Gina Teel reports that in a perfect world, Emirates Airline would be able to offer a daily flight to Calgary in about six months' time.

"But with little success thus far in convincing Transport Canada to expand the Dubai-based airline's presence in Canada beyond the three flights per week currently permitted -- which all go to Toronto -- Emirates instead took its business case to a blue-chip crowd at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce."

Andrew Parker, Emirates' senior vice-president for public and environmental affairs, said the inability to increase the carrier's flights to Canada, particularly to the desired Calgary and Vancouver markets, is frustrating and hampers trade, tourism and economic development opportunities here.

Three flights per week are all that's allowed under the current air transport agreement between Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Teel writes.

"That's an extremely restrictive environment," Parker said.

However, Transport Canada said there's no need to renegotiate the agreement, signed in 2001.

"At this time, we feel that the agreement is OK, it meets the needs of the current market," said department spokesman Patrick Charette.

Parker disagreed, noting Alberta exports to the UAE are $173 million, while Canadian exports there hit $1.12 billion in 2007, a 43 per cent year over year increase.

That's more trade than other countries with which Canada has reached "open skies" type agreements, he suggested.

Teel notes that Mayor Dave Bronconnier, who met with the Emirates team earlier in the day to discuss "the importance of a direct air connection between Dubai and Calgary," seemed to be on board. He white-hatted Parker prior to lunch.

"Let me assure you that as a customer who has flown with Emirates, if you ever want to fly and have a nice rest, Emirates air is it," Bronconnier said.

Thursday, August 21

We Are Many Festival

This just in from Regina EcoLiving

"Saskatoon will be the site of the transformative project, We Are Many: A Festival, which presents a model of sustainability for mid-sized cities throughout North America. We Are Many (WAM) will use the energy and community spirit of the arts — music, theatre, dance, literature, and visual art — in taking a dramatic step toward a more environmentally friendly community. The festival will feature arts exhibits and performances as well as hands-on workshops and symposia on the whats, hows, and whys of sustainability.

For more information, visit www.wearemanyfestival.com or call 306.343.1757"

Sunday, August 17

Earls keeps on serving honest value: Review

This is the latest review that I wrote about about Earls restaurant which just got published on Tripadvisor. I don't know why there such a vacuum when in comes to encouraging citizens and visitors to blog and write about the tourism establishments they frequent in Regina, when most marketers would agree that this is the single most effective way to raise awareness about destinations and what they have to offer. Nothing short of total transparence and honesty will do, if we want to raise awareness about the city and the authentic experiences it offers.

The fact that the last review prior to this one dated back to January is of real concern!!!

Saturday, August 16

Mortlach's tourism efforts are starting to pay off

I don't know if any of you have had a chance to stop in Mortlach, located on Trans-Canada Highway west of Moose Jaw, but it seems their tourism efforts are paying off. Mortlach Mayor Ron Locke just shared the following with me.
"We are still working to make Mortlach a tourist destination. Our Mortlach Saskatoon Berry Festival on 5 Jul 08 was a huge success with over 2500 people in attendance. Check out our website www.mortlach.ca to see how things are progressing."

I wrote an article abou their efforts that was published in this publication a few years back.

And I went back to the area to lead an archaeological survey with the Regina Archaeological Society later on.

Kudos to the community!

Saskatoon leader has huge impact on river stewardship

I was happy to see that Meewasin Valley Authority' Susan Lamb is profiled in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix this morning. Susan's good work over the years has certainly helped guide resource stewardship in the South Saskatchewan River Valley.

Until I read Ned Powers' article, there is a lot about her background I didn't know:

"Lamb attended the University of Saskatchewan, where she earned a bachelor of science in 1974 and an education degree in 1978.
She joined The StarPhoenix as a writer in 1977 and became the Newspaper-In-Education co-ordinator. As a founding member, she coined the title, READ Saskatoon, an organization which has become a powerhouse in literacy activities.
After her first turn with the MVA, she joined Tourism Saskatoon in 1991, and admits to facing a real challenge.
"We were near bankruptcy. We developed some marketing ideas, formed some partnerships and it became a time of significant growth within the industry. In 1997, we were named the fastest-growing tourism destination in Canada."
She was a founding director of the Saskatoon Airport Authority and founder of the Women's CEO Group. She's been a director with Tourism Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Foundation, Persephone Theatre, Winterfest and Big Sisters, among others.
She won the YWCA's Women of Distinction award in 1995 for leadership in business and community work.
She and Ron have been married for 39 years and her husband was a longtime educator in the Moose Jaw and Saskatoon public schools systems."

Friday, August 15

Whale watch operators set the record straight

I came across this story by the Canadian Press today... Dan Kukat is a first rate operator that we work with. It is good to see him and his group step forward to provide a bit of context and to educate consumers about how the industry operates:

B.C. man who barreled through pod of killer whales fined $3,500

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man who mowed over a pod of killer whales at full speed in his boat, either hitting or just missing one of the endangered animals, has been fined $3,500.

Xi Change Gao, of Sidney, B.C., was convicted in April after video showed the man's eight-metre crab-fishing vessel, the Vien Duong, tearing through the pod near South Pender Island.

"The video indicated that the Vien Duong appeared to collide, or very nearly collide, with a killer whale while continuing to manoeuvre around other members of the pod at full speed and in close proximity," said a Department of Fisheries news release.

The video was captured in an area where the southern resident killer whales are often spotted. There are only 87 animals left in that whale population, and they are listed as an endangered species by the federal government.

Xi was fined $3,000 in a provincial court for disturbing marine mammals and another $500 for a crab-fishing licence violation.

When fisheries officers looked through his logbook shortly after the August 2007 incident, they found he failed to keep it up to date.

Xi's actions are completely contrary to whale protection laws and whale-watching etiquette.

Dan Kukat, president of Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest, said that type of incident is unusual.

"I'm sure it was unintentional," he said of Xi's actions.

"I don't want to sound apologetic, but you know it could happen to anybody. However, once you find yourself amongst killer whales, the law clearly requires us to take evasive action where possible."

Most whale-watching groups in B.C. and Washington State have signed an agreement that limits boats from getting closer than about 400 metres to whales.

If boat operators finds themselves close to whales, they must immediately slow down to seven knots and turn off their engines if the whales get closer.

Kukat, who runs Springtide Victoria Whale Tours, said whales are extremely adept at getting out of the way of boats and are a lot smarter than many people believe.

"They spend as much time watching the whale watchers as whale watchers are watching whales," he said with a chuckle. "They are highly intelligent creatures. Some people think maybe even more intelligent than human beings."

David Roberts, sales and operations manager at the Victoria-based Prince of Whales whale-watching company, said most people are respectful of wildlife, but the few who aren't seem to stand out.

"You have people who do all sorts of strange things around, not just whales, but all wildlife," said Roberts.

"I've seen people try to get their kids up close to a rutting elk to get a nice picture. People who will feed wildlife on the corner of a road, people who drive through a pod of killer whales. Some people just don't have the understanding."

Lisa Spaven, marine mammal incident co-ordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the recovery strategy for southern resident killers whales identifies boating activity as an issue.

"It's an issue in that these animals rely on their aquatic environment to perform their normal life process."

Spaven said the southern resident population has lost a few whales this year, but has also gained a few, including a new calf just spotted a two days ago.

Kukat said the protection of killer whales along the coasts of B.C. and Washington State has come a long way.

Decades ago, people would shoot at them to keep them away from fish nets and fishing lines - or worse.

"Go back to the war: they were used for bombing practice, as stories have it," said Kukat.

Thursday, August 14

How safe do you feel in Victoria Park?

The Regina Downtown BID is circulating a City Police questionnaire about your use of Victoria Park:

"Regina Police Service in partnership with the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District is currently examining Victoria Park and is interested in receiving your feedback. We appreciate you taking the time to fill out this questionnaire which can be faxed to Regina Downtown at 359-9060, or emailed to info@reginadowntown.ca."

Here is your chance to help guide the folks tasked with making Regina a better place.

Tuesday, August 12

Drop in US travellers coming through Saskatchewan comes as no surprise

Earlier this month, Memory McLeod reported in the Leader-Post that there are fewer American travellers coming through the province:

""We are about to see an influx of American travellers who come through this time every year on their way back from Alaska. Other than those, no we have not seen a lot," said Peggy Henderson, visitor services manager at Tourism Regina.

The amount of American travellers to the province was down in July by 30 per cent compared to last year. June saw a 26 per cent decrease and a 4 per cent decrease in May."

That was really to be expected given the fuel prices, the current challenges in getting tourism stakeholders working together to harmonize our tourism offering around Saskatchewan's distinctive character in a way that makes our products attractive to international markets, and given current uncertainties around passports requirements.

I received phone calls from clients in the US requesting clarifications. One would be traveller from Michigan called us after visiting websites both in Canada and the US, and being left confused.

There is no doubt that Saskatchewan, its cities and rural communities have the potential to grow tourism revenues from sources other than the domestic market... but the entire Canadian tourism industry is struggling with the US market at the moment. It is indeed a time for innovation an renewed emphasis on collaborative strategies and tourism partnerships.

Friday, August 1

Britain's first new steam engine for 50 years puffs out of locomotive works

This is a great little story from The Times of London

"The first new steam engine built in Britain for almost 50 years steamed slowly out of Darlington Locomotive Works today to loud applause, a blizzard of camera flashes and a guaranteed future of full-speed mainline running, the length of Britain's rail network. Tornado, a replica of the A1 Peppercorn Pacific class, has taken 18 years to build and cost almost £3 million. With sponsorship from some of Britain's leading engineering companies, funds have come from steam enthusiasts across the country through deeds of covenant and a bonds issue.

About 250 people, including four BBC camera crews, made the journey to the shed where it was built to see the engine, belching thick smoke and blowing its whistle, move for the first time under its own steam."

Wednesday, July 30

Looking for examples of cultural tourism best practices for a new course aimed at tourism practitioners

A crew of local iceberg enthusiasts head out to take
a closer look at Dunfield (Newfoundland and Labrador) earlier this month
Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

I am currently developing a cultural tourism course for the recently created Bonavista Institute of Cultural Tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador. The course will take place this fall on the Bonavista Peninsula. The course’s emphasis will be on the development of tourism partnerships that lead to increased revenue generation through the enhancement of the tourism value chain to which tourism operations with a focus on heritage, culture and the arts belong.

As part of the curriculum development process, I am looking for examples of partnership best practices in the cultural tourism field from around the world that we can use to illustrate some of the processes involved in generating partnership solutions that build on the authentic character of cultural tourism experiences, and that help bring out the sense of place of the destinations where they take place.

I would welcome any suggestions of such partnerships that we could feature in the course, especially those that facilitate market-readiness and which take into account principles of environmental, social and economic responsibility.

Wednesday, June 11

A Dragon Boat Festival approved for Banff National Park

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The first-ever Dragon Boat Festival for Banff National Park has been approved to glide the mystical waters of Lake Minnewanka on August 23 & 24, 2008. The non-motorized long-boat canoe race and festival activities are set to showcase National Park environmental stewardship through educational opportunities and an enhanced visitor experience.

A centuries-old race features four boats with teams of up to 20 paddlers in race heats of 200, 500 and 1000 metre stints. According to Andrea Thiessen, Director of Events and Special Projects, "group participants bring their competitive spirits to the lake and are required to build unity in an outdoor environment in order to successfully cross the finish line". Specialty cup races will include Breast Cancer Survivors and Emergency Medical Services. Cultural festival activities and interpretation will add excitement to the downtown core of Banff, while a "Towards Zero Waste" strategy continues to demonstrate our leadership in low-impact special events.

"Hosting cultural events in Banff National Park provides a non-traditional way of engaging Canadians and educating them about the special and unique place that is located in their backyard" says Julie Canning, President and CEO of Banff Lake Louise Tourism. "We look forward to working collaboratively with Parks Canada, the Town of Banff, and the Alberta Dragon Boat Race Foundation on an integrated approach to running this exciting new event".


A Heritage Moment
Lake Minnewanka, originally called Devil's Lake, was renamed in 1888 because it was believed the name was too ominous for visitors. Its new name is translated from the Stoney word 'Minnee-wah-kah', which means the "Lake of the Water Spirit". In the late 1800's, the lake was home to Minnewanka Landing, a popular resort community. When the lake was dammed, the reservoir submerged Minnewanka Landing and it has now become a popular location for cold water diving.

Author: Annik LaRoche
Organization: Banff Lake Louise Tourism
E-mail: Annik@banfflakelouise.com

American workers are vacation deprived

(Originally published in TOURISM)

For the eighth consecutive year, Americans were found to receive and use the smallest amount of vacation time among their counterparts in other countries.

Expedia recently commissioned its eighth annual Vacation Deprivation(TM) survey; despite reporting an average of 14 paid vacation days again this year (the same as 2007 and two more than in 2005), an estimated 47.5 million Americans (31 % of employed US adults) will not use all of their vacation days. Again this year, employed US adults will leave an average of three vacation days on the table, giving back more than 460 million vacation days in 2008.

Despite these statistics, Americans do see the value in vacations, with more than one-third (39 %) reporting they feel more productive and better about their job upon returning from vacation and 52 % claiming to feel rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life. Work responsibilities are one of the biggest deterrents to taking vacation, with 18 % of US adults responding that they've cancelled or postponed vacation plans because of work and 29 % admitting they have trouble coping with stress from work at some point in the vacation cycle. Additionally, nearly one quarter (24 %) report that they check work e-mail or voicemail while vacationing. That figure is up from only 16 % in 2005.

Expedia analyzed the vacation habits of employed workers in the US, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy (and for the first time, the Netherlands and Austria). Canadians receive an average of 17 annual days, two less than 2007 but still three more than Americans. Among the European countries studied in the past, all workers receive more vacation days in 2008 than 2007. Great Britain has a two day increase over 2007, with 26 days, and Germany, Spain and France all saw increases of one day, receiving 27 days, 31 days and 37 days respectively. Employed workers in the Netherlands and Austria are awarded an average of 28 days in 2008.

When it comes to making vacation a priority, Expedia research saw a shift in attitudes toward taking time off among women and men. In 2007, men were more likely to feel guilty about taking time off from work (39 % versus 30 % of women). However, in 2008, women are more likely than men to feel guilty about taking time off from work (38 % women versus 28 % men), and men are more likely than women (16 % versus 11 %) to take a two-week vacation.

Biggest-ever tourism campaign entices western Canadians to stay in Alberta

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Travel Alberta has launched its biggest ever regional tourism marketing campaign. The $5.6 million multi-media program encourages Albertans and visitors from western Canada to "stay a little bit longer" in Alberta.

"This exciting and creative campaign showcases the many unique travel experiences Alberta has to offer around our province," said Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Cindy Ady. "This program, made possible by the Tourism Levy, supports an important pillar of our economy that employs more than 111,000 people in every community in Alberta."

The multi-media program kicks off with a television campaign, supported by radio, seven travel and events guides distributed widely throughout the year and innovative billboards in Calgary and Edmonton. "Our goal is to increase the length of stay and subsequent expenditures of travellers from our largest markets," said Derek Coke-Kerr, Managing Director of Travel Alberta. "This is strategic marketing at its best as tourism in Alberta and Canada now faces increasing challenges of a higher Canadian dollar, higher gas prices and more competition from other destinations trying to attract Albertans to visit," he said.

Funding for tourism comes from the four per cent Tourism Levy. The levy, which replaced the five per cent Hotel Room Tax in 2005, provides Travel Alberta with a reliable, predictable and sustainable source of funding for marketing activities. Budget 2008 includes $67.2 million for tourism marketing and development, which represents an increase of almost $10 million over the previous year.

Albertans are responsible for about half of the approximately $5 billion in tourism expenditures generated annually in the province. Travel Alberta is the industry-led, market driven and research-based tourism destination marketing organization for Alberta. Travel Alberta's mandate is to implement the Strategic Tourism Marketing Plan which sets the goal to increase annual tourism expenditures in the province to $6.5 billion by 2011.

Author: Don Boynton
Organization: Travel Alberta
E-mail: don.boynton@travelalberta.com

Friday, June 6

Aboriginal tourism: Responding to market segmentation trends

(Originally published in TOURISM)

He may not be of Aboriginal ancestry, but tourism planner Jacques Drapeau’s well-weighed comments make him the perfect ambassador for the soon-to-be-open Huron Wendat Nation Hotel-Museum, at Wendake, on the outskirts of Québec City. With its 55 rooms, this new 4-star facility on the Saint-Charles River draws both from the Huron Wendat culture, and from the relationship the Huron Wendat are keeping with the rest of the world through nature, spirituality and mythology.

“When we arrive here, we get a sense that the facility is composed of two parts: a tepee‑shaped structure houses the museum, and another connected structure – inspired by a traditional longhouse – where the accommodations, restaurant, and reception area are located. The restaurant can welcome 120 guests and will serve many dishes influenced by Aboriginal culinary traditions. There are also meeting rooms, various foyer areas for special functions and even massage facilities.”

Wood was used extensively as a building material, both inside and outside the establishment. All the facades of the museum and hotel are wood‑clad; the organic material is used decoratively and – as a clearly visible structural feature of the building – tree trunks act as pillars in many instances. There is much stonework as well, integrated with the exterior foundation and used strategically in public areas inside, as well as in floor systems in the bedrooms.

“The natural environment in which we are located permeates all aspects of the hotel experience,” notes Drapeau, whose consultancy was hired to help guide the project. “Instead of being confined to a hotel room, there is a living environment all around for guests to enjoy. Plus, the hotel is adjacent to the “Corridor des Cheminaux”, a former railway bed converted into the longest bike route in the Québec City region. On the grounds, there will be medicine‑themed and other types of gardens, hiking trails throughout the woods, and a pond filled with fish for guests to discover.”

The Huron Wendat Nation Hotel‑Museum proudly displays symbols unique to the First Nation, such as the turtle and the snake which are visible in various forms. Even the longhouse‑shaped accommodations complex meanders slightly, to mimic the snake’s movement.

Exactly who is the target market for this evocative new establishment? A clever mix of market segments, explains Jacques Drapeau: “Being a capital city, Québec is home to a good number of head offices, beside federal and provincial government institutions. We believe they will be interested by what is offered here, because we are a little off the beaten path. The advantage of holding meetings and events at Wendake is substantial when one realizes that once they are here, meeting participants are somewhat captive. Yes, people will be able to walk around Wendake, but we are some distance away from the recreational opportunities available in Québec city. Nowadays, organizations aim to rein in meeting participants, because it gets more and more expensive to hold meetings. Instead of hitting downtown at lunch, our guests will be able to go for a short walk in the forest or along the river. This is a competitive advantage that we will highlight when we approach clients in the MC&IT sector,” quips Drapeau.

Because the hotel is on the outskirts of Québec City, the market study demonstrated that in order to succeed, it had to be a higher‑end hotel. Current trends indicated that additional lure was needed, in the form of a minimum four‑star rating.

“We have already started to approach multipliers like wholesalers who are active on the European market, because there are clearly affinities there with the experiences we will offer. Latin America is an emerging market which we believe will yield positive outcomes. In the US, we believe our clients will be interested in a hotel like this for their Québec capital region events. And of particular interest will be the First Nations market. Up until now, First Nations meetings occurred mostly downtown Québec.” Because the Huron‑Wendat Nation is the local host nation, he explains, it would make sense for First Nations to gather at a hotel located on their territory.

“Yet, for our local clients, not only in the corporate sector but also for schools and seniors’ markets, the Hotel‑Museum will be an ideal excursion destination, given that the community‑owned establishment has joint museum‑hotel functions, something which is unique in Canada, and which imparts an innovative character to the operation.”

Because of its mid‑sized capacity, the weddings and family reunions sector is also an attractive one for the property, Drapeau points out. He notes that the hotel‑museum project raised a few eyebrows among its owners at various stages of development: “It is a major undertaking. That was to be expected from the Huron Nation, as it would be of Québec City citizens in general if put in a similar situation. Many questions were asked, but now that the project is completed, and the population is much more aware of the reasons why the hotel is a valid project, the focus turns more to the additional visitors it will generate for local businesses, retailers, restaurants, and other services.”

Drapeau predicts there will be unparalleled growth in the community as a result, because up until now, visitors only came to Wendake on a round‑trip from Québec city. From now on, visitors will be able to stay in Wendake.

Wanuskewin: governing for authenticity

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Wanuskewin Heritage Park, on the west bank of the South Saskatchewan River five kilometres north of Saskatoon, includes seven hundred and sixty acres, with nineteen sites that represent the Northern Plains Peoples: summer and winter camp sites, bison kill sites, tipi rings and a boulder alignment known as a medicine wheel, all found within one kilometre of each other.

Almost 20 years ago, an award‑winning and elaborate interpretive centre was designed and built to reflect the character of the site as a historical gathering and meeting place over 8000 years of First Nations history. Wanuskewin still fulfills that meeting place role, providing a rich variety of programming for tours, which can be customized to fit into workshops, retreats, and companion events for conventions.

Wanuskewin's mission is to operate – under the leadership and guidance of First Nations people – a heritage site that contributes to increasing public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the cultural legacy of the Northern Plains First Nations people. Wanuskewin's governance structure is unique, with a wide range of partnerships and founded on the idea of a cooperative relationship between Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal peoples. There are two governing boards:

Wanuskewin Indian Heritage Incorporated (WIHI) has thirteen members who are representatives of First Nations bands, districts, or cultural nations of Saskatchewan. WIHI was established to review planning for development of the Park, including cultural programming, traditional land use, and ceremonial and spiritual matters. WIHI ensures that the needs of First Nations people are met and an authentic and unique experience is provided for all visitors to the Park.

The operating board – Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority (WHPA) – has twelve directors composed of both Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal peoples and is the umbrella group for the partnerships that form Wanuskewin. The board members include representatives from WIHI, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the City of Saskatoon, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan, the Meewasin Valley Authority and the Friends of Wanuskewin.

Canada's Significant 29 Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Experiences

(Originally published in TOURISM)

provided by Aboriginal Tourism Canada in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission

Atlantic (Nfld/Labrador/PEI)
Miawpukek Annual Pow wow

Bathurst Inlet Lodge

Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada

New Brunswick
Metepenagiag Heritage Park

Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations
Aventure Mikuan II – Innu
Croisières Essipit
Bercé par l’Harricana
Cruise North Expeditions (Kuujuaq, Nunavik)
Nunavik Arctic Survival Training Centre (NASTC)

Aboriginal Experiences – Turtle Island
Great Spirit Circle Trail
Canadian Cultural Tours
Temagami Anishnabai Tipi Camp
Cree Village Ecolodge

Manito Ahbee - Festival for all Nations and Bannock Point

Wanuskewin Heritage Park Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Batoche National Historic Site of Canada

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Nakoda Lodge and Conference Centre

British Columbia
Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Linagaay
NK’MIP Resort
Quw’utsun Cultural and Conference Centre
Aboriginal Journeys
St.-Eugene Golf-Resort-Casino and the Ktunaxa Nation Interpretative Centre
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Great River Journey Inc.

Northwest Territories
Aurora Village

Monday, June 2

Michel Fournier's Super Jump is postponed

Monday, May 26

D-Day for Michel Fournier's Super Jump?

By now people on site at North Battleford should be able to see helium-filled probes in the sky on the tarmac that are tethered to the ground. These will give a good indication of the wind speed. Look for a vertical line between the probe and the point at which it is tethered. That is a sure sign that a launch attempt will be made.

Michel is being weighed on an industrial scale to help establish the right amount of ballast required on the balloon.

Much of this is a wait and see game. Michel is seen here resting outside in 2003 before undergoing the denitrogenization process.

Sunday, May 25

Some information details about the balloon used in 2002 and 2003 for Michel Fournier's Super Jump attempts

The balloon used for Michel's 2002 and 2003 attempts was actually a prototype built by Cameron Balloons in Bristol, UK.

Cameron hadn't built helium balloons until then. Michel's launch team have commented that it was built more like a hot air balloon than a helium balloon and that it had an open bottom.

A remote controlled valve was installed at the top of the balloon. This was so that once Michel had reached the desired altitude and jumped -- and once the capsuled had been detached from the gondola set off by a timed explosive device triggered by Michel before he jumps -- the valve would open, releasing all the helium and allowing the balloon to gently fall down to the ground.

Inflating the balloon proved tricky in 2002. The sleeve that you see extending left from the balloon was poorly attached to the balloon. The compressed helium contained in the truck to the right is propelled into the balloon by means of high pressure hoses which are connected to the fragile sleeves.

In 2002 the pressure proved too much for the sleeve which detached from the balloon early during the inflation process. Fortunately the quantity of helium lost was minimal. The sleeve was reattached by the launch team in a more solid manner. But the unforeseen delay eventually forced the cancellation of the attempt because of subsequent inappropriate weather conditions.

As you see the sleeve is actually held tightly around the business end the hose.

You can in the picture above that the two sleeves are fully extended away from the balloon as a result of the helium having been injected. Inflation is almost complete at this stage. Look at the spool which prevents the balloon from being released. You will notice that only the top portion of the balloon is inflated. Most of the length of the balloon lies safely on tarps on the North Battleford Airport tarmac. You can see a portion of it extending to the right of the spool above.

The 2003 attempts proved the right one in terms of weather conditions, but it also proved the inappropriateness of the balloon. In this picture, the sleeves are hanging loosely after the inflation is completed.

Launch conditions are optimal. The spool flips open and the balloon starts rising...

As the balloon starts ascending, the helium rises inside the balloon and starts pushing through the top as the sutures rip open. It is a devastating blow.

The balloon falls softly back to the ground. Michel is in tears in his capsule as he realizes that his balloon has now been rendered useless. It will later go to the dump.

Launch director Ricardo Valera comes to take a closer look at this mess.

It becomes obvious to him that the balloon sutures were a weak point.

We all count our blessings that Michel is safe and sound. If the balloon had ripped open after the gondola had started to rise in the sky, things could have gone dreadfully wrong for Michel Fournier.

Saturday, May 24

Michel Fournier's team members are early risers

It seems that for all potential launches in the past, morning proved the most promising time. I am not an expert at this, but there is always this moment when the winds die down at the end of the night, a time which lends itself to launching these giant balloons. Pictured above is the original launch crane. You see how it is holding Michel's pressurized gondola. We will talk about the actual launch process later on.

Meanwhile, in the original hangar, team members prepare for the launch.

In order for Michel's world records to be officialized, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) had sent Michel Jara and Therese Tercier (right) to act as judges in 2002. They are seen here inspecting the measurement instruments. Therese is back in Saskatchewan again this year. She told me two days ago that she hopes this is the right attempt for Michel.

As the launch appears imminent, the huge wooden crate containing the balloon is pulled out of the hangar.

André Turcat has an early morning conversation with Michel.

The mood remains jovial even as it appears the wind is rising to levels which might prevent the anticipated launch attempt.

At Michel's request I had made arrangements for area emergency personnel to be on standby.

Finding a helicopter to get to Michel quickly after the jump proved a little more challenging. Fortunately, the ever resourceful Thierry Reverchon managed to track one down at the last minute.

Michel and I posing for the occasion.

It looks like this morning will not be the one. If you look closely in the background above the truck pulling the balloon, you will see that the small tethered balloons are pulling away because of the wind.

Here we see Dr. Paul Vanuxen (left) looking on alonside Michel. he played an important part in developing the scientific contributions of Michel's project.

It looks like the gondola is heading back to the hangar this time.

Le Grand Saut team members enjoy themselves at Saskatoon's Calories restaurant in 2002

These photos were taken the night I met Michel in the spring of 2002 at Calories. I heard a group of boisterous French folks behind us at a nother table. Michel charmed us with his enthusiasm. Pretty soon, I had been recruited as a Grand Saut volunteer team member.

Pictured here beside Michel is Christian Crye (left), head of Capucine Films, the company which owns the broadcast rights to Michel Fournier's Le grand Saut and has supported Michel's efforts since he undertook to bring the Super Jump to Canada.