Thursday, October 1

2009 Great Excursions & Bluewater Adventures Roadshow

Join us for a vivid illustration of the changes in what today's consumers demand in the way of travel experiences: trips that are more immersive, transformational and that make a difference in the local communities where they take place. Welcome to the future of travel!

The presentations will feature free, live, audio-visual travelogues introducing some of Canada’s most authentic journeys… and a few exotic new offerings to warmer winter destinations.


Tuesday October 13, 7:00-9:00 PM
Hilton Garden Inn
90-22nd Street East


Wednesday October 14, 7:00-9:00 PM
Best Western Seven Oaks Inn
777 Albert Street

The two presenters will be:

Randy Burke
Owner and Director of Bluewater Adventures

Since 1974, Bluewater has pioneered quality wilderness and wildlife eco-adventures. The tours raise the profile of wildlife cruising in British Columbia and Alaska and Bluewater continues to build on its eco-initiatives. At age 27, Randy bought Bluewater from Dan Culver and started on his journey with the company. A Skipper by nature, Randy has taken thousands of guests on memorable adventures along the BC and Alaska Coastline. He has sailed around the Pacific on Tall ships and had some amazing experiences worldwide. When he is not in the office or skippering trips, Randy enjoys spending time with his wife Cathy and his daughters Anna and Heather.

If you are looking for something more off the beaten path and are up for an adventure, Bluewater offers the trip of a lifetime! Aboard each trip is a Resource Guide with qualifications in biology, education, zoology, anthropology or ornithology. Our guides are not only experts in their field, but truly enjoy communicating their enthusiasm to others. Down below in the salon, our wonderful cooks serve gourmet meals and beautiful buffets.

Claude-Jean Harel, MA MAHI
Founder and Manager of Great Excursions

An applied anthropologist by training, Claude-Jean crafts "behind the scenes" vacations using a variety of techniques. He brings to the travel industry 25 years of broadcast media experience in the fields of culture, heritage and science, generating national and international attention for the distinctive qualities of the North American Plains region. Claude-Jean not only presents tourism products as “reportages” intended to be lived by guests, he is also a regular contributor to CBC Radio and Television programs. When not leading a tour, he delivers tourism workshops for private and public sector tourism organizations across Canada, as well as in Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska and Alaska.

Claude-Jean's work has won numerous awards including: the Canadian Ethnic Journalists' and Writers' Club award. He is a former Commonwealth Relations Trust bursar. His work was nominated for a UNESCO Award; and in 2004, he was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Archaeology and Heritage with Distinction at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Claude-Jean's company recently joined the CAA Saskatchewan group of companies, and Great Excursions’ future has never looked brighter since.

It'll be an opportunity for discovery and great fun!

Coffee, tea and cookies will be served.

Friday, September 18

Watching over Haida Gwaii: First Nations ‘Watchmen’ guard precious sites, culture in misty, mysterious far-north BC.

Haida Gwaii Watchmen act as hosts and educators. Look for the original figures in tall hats, perched atop totem poles.

by Margo Pfeiff

Weathered faces of ravens, eagles and bears stare from toppling totem poles in the mossy, misty rainforest. The vibe is mysterious on tiny Tanu Island in Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) of British Columbia. And it becomes even more so with the stories of spirits and ancestors told by our guide, Cody Wilson. A Haida Gwaii Watchman, she is one of five posted at the most frequently visited First Nations village and cultural sites in the islands’ south from May to September.

After a rainy tour, Wilson invites us into her warm and cozy cabin near the shore to dry out. She brews hot tea, feeds us cookies and cheerfully answers questions—anything we want to know about Haida culture, past and present. It’s a rare chance to learn from locals about the goings-on in one of British Columbia’s most intriguing corners.

Artifacts began disappearing in the early 1900s from village sites—abandoned after the Haida population was devastated by disease in the late 19th century. In the 1970s, locals began volunteering their summers to camp out at the sites to protect them. They still do, at sites such as Hotspring Island and Ninstints, a UNESCO World Heritage Site within Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, established in 1988.

These days visiting zodiacs, kayaks and cruise boats must radio in to the Watchmen for permission to come ashore. Watchmen might be elders or young folks, but they all act as hosts and educators.

When you visit, keep an eye open for three fellows in tall hats perched atop totem poles—these figures are the original Haida Gwaii Watchmen. Today’s watchmen are protectors, regulating the flow of visitors—strictly limited to 12 per site at a time to minimize damage and maximize the experience of this spiritual place.

Courtesy of the Canadian Toursim Commission

Why sweat? Why not? Learn about Canadian Aboriginal culture the traditional way—in a sweat lodge

These are sacred, often life-changing, rituals. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to join, take it. A Winnipeg, MB downtown lodge invites outsiders into its steamy circle.

It’s as dark and close as the womb in here, hotter than a sauna. I’m hunkered down in a sweat lodge with half a dozen other people at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House in downtown Winnipeg, MB. Beneath chanting and drumming, I hear traffic buzzing around one of Winnipeg’s historic intersections, Higgins and Main. With every cupful of water the sweat conductor dashes onto fire-heated “grandfather” stones in the central pit, the lodge—made of tarps and blankets piled thick on a willow frame—gets steamier and more surreal. I follow the drumbeat with my rattle, considering life in general and the heat in particular.

This isn’t something just any tourist can buy a ticket to attend; sweat ceremonies are sacred, often life-changing rituals, deeply respected by those who do it. But some Canadian tribes and native organizations now offer sweats to outsiders—as educational experiences about traditional beliefs.

Sweats at Thunderbird House can be arranged through Winnipeg-based Heartland Travel or Ô Tours. Elsewhere in Manitoba, Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures’ Bloodvein River multi-day paddling journey includes a sweat and feast at an Ojibwa village.

In British Columbia, you can sweat at Talking Rock Resort and Quaaout Lodge on Little Shuswap Lake, a one-hour drive east of Kamloops; Talking Totem Tours’ multi-day journeys along the Sunshine Coast include a sweat.

In Morley, AB, a sweat is part of the Stoney tribe’s four-day Cultural Camp at Nakoda Lodge & Conference Centre. Thirty minutes east of Edmonton, Elk Island Retreat has sweats, too. And just west of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, some Eagle’s Nest Indian Village cultural packages come with building a sweat lodge and participating in a sweat.

Sweats aren’t for the claustrophobic or the frivolous. But if you’re genuinely interested, along with a good, sweaty glow you’ll get some bona fide insight into the complex cultures and belief systems of North American native peoples.

Thursday, September 17

Canada’s top five car-free islands—well, mostly

Even though this is outside of our normal range of topics, I thought this piece by Canadian Tourism Commission Staff would be of interest to our landlocked readers ;-)

Here goes....

"When it comes to creating physical—and psychological—distance from your worries, it’s hard to beat an island and a ferry. We’d argue that it’s even better when you leave your car on the mainland. After all, the best way to appreciate island life is on foot or bicycle. Here, a few of Canada’s tranquil gems:

1. Gambier Island, British Columbia: Surrounded by the Coast Mountain Range, Gambier feels like another world, but it’s easy to get to from Vancouver. Walk on the ferry bound for Langdale in Horseshoe Bay, then transfer to the water taxi. Make it a weekend at the Sea Cottage or Gabriels on Gambier.

2. Île-au-Canot, Quebec: In the fall, Québécois sportsmen catch the Croisières Lachance zodiac to this 52.5-ha (130-ac) island in the St. Lawrence River, for traditional goose and wild-turkey hunting. Make it a weekend in the Main Chalet.

3. Toronto Islands, Ontario: Catch a ferry from Bay Street to this, the largest urban car-free community in North America [10]. Rent a canoe or bike and explore the kilometres of paved trails and sandy beaches. Make it a weekend by booking into one of the several B&Bs on the islands.

4. Lasqueti Island, British Columbia: Leave your vehicle at French Creek just north of Parksville on Vancouver Island, and hop the 60-passenger Lasqueti Ferry to a quiet, rural community that retains an authentic counterculture vibe. Make it a weekend at the eco-friendly Squitty Bay Oceanfront B&B or off-grid Lambert Lake Inn.

5. McNabs Island, Nova Scotia: This almost-uninhabited 395-ha (976-ac) island played a strategic role during the defense of Halifax in World War II, and is today part of a rugged and wild provincial park. Several private companies run water taxis from the mainland. Make it a weekend by reserving one of a limited number of wilderness campsites."

Wilderness Guide School in British Columbia

This is a pick of our Wilderness Guide School participants before they left for the bush yesterday. You will notice that a couple of them are leading pack horses. Don't they look like a fine bunch of adventurers!

Tuesday, April 14

New earth-friendly bike n'barge in Quebec riffs on Dutch tradition

Latitude 45 Nord lures ‘zoomers’ from May to October with ‘comfort deluxe’ from the seat of a hybrid bike and off-the-beaten-path charm of rural Quebec hamlets.

We just came across a cool, new slow-travel option based out of Valleyfield, QC that borrows a page from Holland’s bike-and-barge songbook—but improves on the formula.

It’s called Latitude 45 Nord, and it’s getting big buzz with zoomers—which is to say, boomers who aren’t quite yet ready to permanently install themselves in the recliner with a bowl of saturated-fat-whatever and a set of Blu-ray Rolling Stones concerts.

Latitude combines river and canal cruising with guided bicycle touring through the small towns around Montréal and along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries, the Ottawa and Richelieu rivers. Pedal between 35 and 65 km (22 and 40 mi) a day on comfy hybrid bikes, pass tiny très authentique rural villages along the way, then return to your ship, the Latitude Amsterdam, for a dinner of regionally-sourced artisanal food and wine, followed by a deep slumber in your cabin.

Repeat the next day, unless you need what competitive cyclists like to call a “recovery day,” in which case you can chill out on deck while the boat changes position to rendezvous with the rest of the group, which BTW is never larger than 16 people.

“We wanted to replicate the gourmet experience that you get with the ‘comfort deluxe’ barges in Holland in a place that is just as authentic, but very close to the Eastern Seaboard,” says Ronald Houde, the company’s president. “Most of our ports of call are smaller towns all-too-often forgotten on major tourist-driven circuits.”

courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission

Heritage workshop for francophones in Edmonton

Great Excursions’ Claude-Jean Harel will deliver a heritage workshop in Edmonton on Saturday April 18, 2009.

The session titled “Miser Sur Son Patrimoine” (tapping into one’s heritage) is intended for Alberta cultural tourism and heritage stakeholders seeking to develop stewardship initiatives that have the potential to contribute to the cultural industries, including tourism.

The all-day session in French will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Egge’s Barn, Fort Edmonton Park (Fox Drive & Whitemud Drive) in Edmonton).

Participants may register online.

Some financial assistance is available for distant participants.

For more information, call:

Isabelle Laurin, directrice des communications
Phone. : (780) 466-1680, extension 222
Cell. : (780) 904-5700

Friday, February 20

Terroir, Identity and Seduction Symposium

Saskatoon Inn – February 20 to 22, 2009

The conference aims to officially launch a collective reflection on terroir products through workshops and networking. These activities will point the way to introducing and developing collective projects related to the terroir. These projects will allow us to redefine and promote the revitalization of our rural communities as well as our entire community's sense of identity.

A wealth of conference experts in terroir development from around the world will discuss subjects such as:

Rural development initiatives

Food and culture

Marketing terroir products

Tourism and regional development

Dietetics and local products

Pow wows are on the rise as native people rediscover their roots, and Winnipeg, MB’s Manito Ahbee—A Festival for All Nations—is at the centre of it

Pow wows are on the rise as native people rediscover their roots, and Winnipeg, MB’s Manito Ahbee—A Festival for All Nations—is at the centre of it all.

This gathering is one of the biggest, drawing over 800 dancers around the continent. Anyone can join in—just note a few dos and don’ts.

It is Manito Ahbee—“where the Creator Sits,” a sacred, secret site in southern Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park. It’s also the name of the annual continental event of Turtle Island, the Aboriginal name of North America, a 10-day meeting of native minds and hearts held in late October in Winnipeg, MB, that culminates in an explosion of wildly colourful regalia, whirling dance and pounding drums—the International Competition Pow Wow.

Pow wows are sweeping North America as native people have, in recent decades, rediscovered their history and culture. And this is one of the biggest, drawing some 800 dancers from around the continent. Manito Ahbee’s even pulling in mainstream, non-Aboriginal visitors, fascinated by the dancers’ skills and energy.

The Pow Wow’s the butter on the bannock of Métis celebration, conferences, traditional crafts marketplace, and Métis and native music at venues around downtown Winnipeg, as well as at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.

These aren’t your grandfather’s soulful chants, though; First Nations music has evolved into an audio kaleidoscope of genres from the hip hop of KrayKree to Ed Peekeekoot’s country styling.

Even so, the Pow Wow is totally traditional, and there are rules. You don’t, as I did, lie on the floor to get a good photo angle (I was admonished gently). You don’t call dancers’ clothing “costumes”—costumes mean Halloween, and these outfits are imbued with serious symbolism.

You do get swept away by the passion of the competition dances that last well into the evening. And when they call out “intertribal dance,” you get to join in—even if you’re like me, a white gal, wearing a decidedly non-festive sweatshirt and sneakers.

Source: Canadian Tourism Commission

A streetcar named desirable

Environmentally friendly trams return to Vancouver in 2010

Was it 2009, or 1959? For a moment there it was hard to tell, as we watched an excavator erase what remained of a once-bustling Vancouver streetcar line. A half-century back, the same scene was unspooling all over the city, as diesel buses replaced an extensive network of trams, tracks and overhead wires in the name of, ah, progress.

But this present-day deconstruction project, near the entrance to Granville Island, will have a happier ending. Turns out the City of Vancouver is working with Canadian tram-builder Bombardier to bring streetcars back to the city—well, at least a tiny piece of it—for the 60 days of the 2010 Winter Games. The company supplies cool "low-floor" electrified trains to Euro-cities such as Milan and Marseille and, come next year, will run a couple of the new trams on a rebuilt 1.8-km (1.12-m) line between Granville Island and the new Canada Line Olympic Village SkyTrain rapid-transit line station.

Which is where the digger comes in. Until recently, the right-of-way in question was a decrepit and crumbling Canadian Pacific Railway branch line; in recent years, the Downtown Historic Railway ran a restored streetcar over the tracks for summer visitors. Vancouver is kicking in $8.5 million to rebuild it for Bombardier's Uber-Trams, then will hand it back to the historians after the athletes head home.

The line has been a whisper of what once was—and come next year, with newly up-to-snuff railbed, track and stations, it will prove itself a glimpse of what, inevitably, the city will be again.

Source: Canadian Tourism Commission

Canadians give travel advice to US President Barack Obama. Catch it on video!

Canadians give travel advice to US President Barack Obama. Catch it on video!

President Obama marked his first international visit to Canada Feb. 19. The CTC and Ottawa Tourism were onsite with video cameras in Ottawa, ON last weekend asking people for personalized welcome messages for the president- what he should experience in Ottawa and what he needs to know about Canada.

Source: Canadian Tourism Commission

Wednesday, February 11

Become a Canada explorer

Here is an interesting new tactic by the Canadian Tourism Commission to entice international tour operators to sell more Canada...

Become a Canada explorer

Welcome to Canada! Did you know that more people are visiting us than ever before? In fact, it's high on their list of must-see places. That's why we've developed a program for you to become an official Canada Explorer! It will only take about 15 minutes, and the more you know about Canada, the better you can sell this popular vacation destination.

Let's get started. Watch a video then start your guided tour and then take the qualifying quiz. You'll be an official Canada Explorer in no time!

Tourisme Montréal takes a chance with bloggers

Roberto Rocha writes in The Gazette that Marketing Magazine reported that Tourisme Montréal wants to hire a "small army of bloggers, videocasters and networkers to promote tourism in the city."

Specifically, they're looking for five people who will use social media to play up Montreal's main attractions for visitors: food, shopping, nightlife, culture, and the gay scene, according to Rocha.

Each "brand ambassador" will be asked to go out regularly in their field and make regular videos and blog posts. They will also be asked to interact with visitors on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Yahoo Answers.

The most startling job requirement, Rocha goes on, "is carrying a cell phone to take calls from potential tourists.

This will be a a 10-month part-time job from March to December. Rocha says they are looking for people who are "curious, outgoing, have large network in their assigned area, the ability to talk in front of a camera, and can work on deadlines."

"They're saying little else about the campaign until it launches officially. But you can tell already this is a pretty gutsy move from the tourism body, which is trying to save money in anticipation of a soft tourism season," Rocha concludes.

Wednesday, February 4

Endangered sites see boom in 'tourism of doom'

French agency AFP reports that tracking endangered wildlife in politically troubled, impoverished Zimbabwe might not seem the ideal holiday spot but it's in hot demand in the travel industry's latest niche market -- "tourism of doom".

The term was coined by sector specialists for the growing number of travellers flocking to far-flung corners of the planet to see endangered natural wonders before they disappear.

Ken Shapiro, the editor of TravelAge West, a magazine for travel agents, said the destinations can be melting glaciers, shrinking tropical rain forests or other places these travellers believe will be destroyed in a generation due to climate change, overbuilding or other threats to the environment.

"People are travelling to places because they really are convinced that it is going to change and they want to see it before that change happens," he told AFP, saying the trend was first spotted about two years ago.

"We see that a lot now, it has actually become much more mainstream."

Shapiro said travel agents report that clients are increasingly requesting trips to see the melting glaciers of the Antarctic, the threatened coral of Australia's Great Barrier Reef or Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro before it loses its ice cap.

Ross Kennedy, the president of Africa Albida Tourism which took part in the five-day FITUR travel fair that wrapped up on Sunday in Madrid, says the trend towards environmental awareness in travel is boosting business.

"The changing environment that the world is facing does have some relevancy and some people think: 'We have to get this done'," he said.

This logic is partly responsible for a rise in the number of foreign visitors to Africa Albida's safari lodges in Zimbabwe, where the firm operates properties near Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. The site is well suited as a starting point for safaris along the Zambezi River on Zimbabwe's northern border to see endangered wildlife.

Despite concerns over political unrest, staggering inflation, shortages and a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the company posted a four percent rise in visitors in 2008, Kennedy said.

The US market -- Africa Albida Tourism's main source of overseas guests -- accounted for 4,035 room stays at its properties last year, a nearly three-fold increase over 2004, he added.

The popularity of visits to the melting glaciers in the Antarctic has also soared so much that cruises must now be reserved well in advance, Shapiro said.

According to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, slightly more than 46,000 tourists visited the continent during the 2007-08 tourist season -- more than double the number five seasons ago.

About a third came from the United States while the second largest contingent -- one in six visitors -- travelled from Britain, according to data posted on the body's website.

Juan Kratzmaier, a Barcelona-based Argentinian who has accompanied tourists on more than 30 visits to the southernmost continent, said cruise ship operators have increased the number of their trips to Antarctica in response to the demand."

Antarctica blows your mind with its vastness, its isolation, its pureness and its unique wildlife of countless penguins, seals, birds and whales," the 38-year-old said.

The safaris and Antarctic cruises are not for everyone, however, with price tags that can up to thousands of dollars per person."

Tourism of doom" is even bringing travellers to remote corners like the town of Churchill in northern Canada, the so-called "Polar Bear Capital of the World", in significant numbers for the first time ever, said Shapiro.

Scores of tour operators have sprung up in recent years in the town to guide visitors on trips to view polar bears -- now considered endangered because of shrinking sea ice -- in the wild from the safety of specially modified buses known as "tundra buggies".

"The only reason why Churchill is on the tourist map is because of polar bears," said Shapiro.

WestJet, Air France and KLM Announce Signing of Memorandum of Understanding

Some very good news for travellers today. WestJet, Air France and KLM today announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a new commercial relationship between the three airlines.

"This memorandum of understanding allows the airlines to begin working on building a code-sharing agreement in late 2009 or early 2010. Prior to this, the carriers will contemplate additional opportunities including an interline agreement, namely acceptance of each other's e-tickets, and through check-in of baggage and passengers, technology permitting. Possibilities for future frequent flyer program cooperation will be explored as well.

A code-sharing agreement would involve the Canadian gateways of Calgary, Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver where guests of the three airlines would connect with each other's networks.

This memorandum of understanding is another step in WestJet's strategy to increase connectivity, bringing additional travellers to its network as well as offering more access for its guests to new destinations."

Friday, January 16

Responsible tour operators and hotels against Heathrow expansion

When I was asked to participate in a member online survey yesterday about the Heathrow expansion project, I had a hunch this might be the outcome.

MEDIA RELEASE: 15 January 2009

Responsible tour operators and hotels against Heathrow expansion

A survey of over 900 of members - made up of tour operators and accommodations from around the world - has found that 75% are against plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

The green light given by the British Government has been met with disapproval from's member organisations, as well as by the MD of this leading ethical travel company, Justin Francis:

"Whilst most of the members that we work with are dependent on aviation to generate business the majority of them are against the third runway. It's a myth that everyone in the tourism industry backs an expansion. We should be focussing on flying less, and improving the benefits of existing international tourism to local communities and conservation, not on flying more"

Here’s what some members of have said…

“This is typical of the 'Business as Usual' attitude of the government in the middle of a climate and energy (not to mention economic) crisis. They'd be thinking of redecorating the banqueting suite on the Titanic, AFTER someone had shouted 'Iceberg Ahoy'.... .”

“We are all doing enough already to destroy our wonderful planet without making conscious decisions to cause more damage!"

“Effective measures must be taken to combat climate change, and approving an expansion of aircraft capacity sends the wrong message and will have an impact far into the future.”

“Whilst there may be economic benefits which would emanate from the construction, operation and increased traffic resulting from a third runway I am concerned at the impact on not only the environment in the "green" sense but particularly about the infrastructure, both road and rail."

"I'm strongly against the idea of UK airport expansion, and would favour a rapid cessation of all internal flights with a correlating expansion of rail capacity."

Notes to editors

About is the world's leading online ethical travel company, selling over 3,000 holidays from over 270 specialist operators and 550 accommodations. All the holidays meet specific responsible tourism guidelines and aim to create better places for people to live and to visit. Launched in 2001 with backing from Dame Anita Roddick, the website is for travellers who want more real and authentic holidays that also benefit the environment and local people. The organisation - based in Brighton, England - also campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.

Krissy Pentland
07717 348 368