Tuesday, August 31

Farm Progress Show's sucess is result of collective effort

Today's Leader-Post article comes as excellent news! Our Regina-based destination management company worked with a Swiss tour operator to develop a 2-week agricultural tour in Alberta and Saskatchewan (starting in Saskatoon) for a small group of Swiss producers. We ended the trip at the Farm Progress Show.

We hosted a farewell BBQ for them before they flew back to Switzerland. The tour was organized in collaboration with the Swiss equivalent of the Western Producer. Participants were in awe of the sized of farms and equipment in this part of the world.

Sunday, August 29

Revamped Virtual Museum of Canada exhibit on the 1912 Regina Tornado

The Virtual Museum of Canada recently revamped the old 1912 Regina Tornado exhibit that I co-curated with the Regina Plains Museum's Jaymie Koroluk a few years ago. Because of lack of resources at the time -- and possibly also because of the low awareness among tourism stakeholders of the relevance of that story as a differentiating factor in the city's journey -- we were never able to capitalize fully on how our recovery from the tragedy continues to influence who we are and how we evolved as a city.

This is a national story of hope, various facets of which were chronicled in the material record, the fabric of the City, as well as among organizations and individuals everywhere which responded with generosity to what was an unparalleled crisis at the time.

2012 will be a year to celebrate the power of the human spirit, to show that when there is a will to make a difference, no challenge is to great, no obstacle too high.

2012 could be the year that we show again that when there is a will among all those who can make a difference to positively influence a desired outcome, and to move forward to make an even greater leap that benefits all people, all industries and communities, that momentum becomes unstoppable.

Tuesday, August 24

Upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Regina Tornado in 2012

I have had a few discussions lately with local heritage tourism stakeholders about developing a meetings & conventions strategy around the theme of the 1912 Regina Tornado that would aim at attracting national and international organizations that could be tempted to host one of their meetings in Regina in 2012. There are market-ready product and customizable solutions available today for meeting planners if they decided to bring their meeting to Regina.

Great Excursions owns a number of these products, and ownership is shared in other product with business improvement districts, cultural organizations & museums at local and national levels. As Regina’s longest established destination management company with internationally-recognized expertise on that particular aspect of Regina’s heritage, we would certainly be ideally suited to work collaboratively with our tourism partners and local hospitality businesses which are asking us to consider working with them regularly. We have already started to approach potential partner associations and organizations about this. I believe there is an opportunity here to harness a virtually untapped potential. Time is of the essence.

In a different but slightly related vein, Joanne Browne of Regina shared her thoughts about Regina's heritage and what it represents to her and her family recently. She gave me permission to reproduce an excerpt below:

"Claude-Jean, you won't remember me, but I certainly remember you, and I love getting your updates on adventures.

My name is Joanne Brown and I'm a member of the Regina Archaeology Society. I was at the presentation you gave on Regina (as a CPR) "town," and how the layout of the city helped with the clean-up after the 1912 tornado. I was also very impressed with your maps of existing buildings at the time, and the details, including the make up of facades on various buildings in Regina.

In the very early 1930's, my grandfather bought the property at 1766 Osler Street, a livery stable at the time, built circa 1904. All rural folk coming into Regina for "supplies" parked their horses, buggies, wagons, and what-ever across the street. Although it was one of the oldest buildings in the city, it was never deemed a historic property; it was just a barn. My grandfather turned the building into an auction room. My father bought his father out in 1951. A few years ago, the building was demolished to make way for the new STC depot. Fitting in a way. It started out as a transportation hub, and it has returned to one. At the time the building was razed, I was working for RPS. It was all fenced in, but I went there and begged a worker for a number of bricks. I told him my story, and he complied.

When my father was a young boy, he met another young boy across the back alley of their father's businesses. The Broadway Theatre was on Broad Street, Brown's Auction Rooms on Osler. Murray Bercovich was two years younger than my father (and it just so happened he was in the same kindergarten class with my mother (at Strathcona School). I have their class photo. In that photograph Murray was dressed to the nines, showing off his fine toy sailboat. My mother is depicted in a drab dress (probably her best), holding on to a rag doll.

Many years later he hosted a party to expose this photograph to their many mutual friends. My mother was both horrified and delighted. He had it enlarged and placed on an easel inside the entry to his home.

My father and Murray Bercovich became the best of friends.

Murray's father was a legend in this city. He was nick-named Scotty, and the writing on his tombstone states: Scotty was a Showman. It's one of the "stops" on one of the tours of the "Old Regina Cemetery."

One more tidbit about Regina history before I give you the gist of this correspondence. In the mid 1940's my paternal grandparents bought the house, still standing, on 1800 block Halifax Street (I think the # is 1876). It's the house immediately south of the martial arts studio.

This house has a huge history. It was built in 1929, by the owners of Army and Navy Department Store, to accommodate Jewish men from central Europe recruited to work for them. The house was built as a boarding house. My grandmother turned it into a "rooming house." Upstairs and basement residents did their own cooking (on hot plates). There was only one electrical outlet in each upstairs room, and only one of those rooms had an actual closet.

It had two kitchens, one of them kosher. I was conceived in this house and it was my home until my parents were able to build a home of their own in 1954. My parents and three of us "little Brown girls" lived in one room, the best room, being the front parlor. Many other relatives lived there as well, and there were boarders, some who stayed for years, others who were fleeting. My grandmother lived in the house until the late 1960's, and me and my older sister visited often.

I still dream about that house.

By chance I got to re-visit that house about eight years ago. Very little had changed. I was able to answer questions of the current owner. She had some vague knowledge of the history of the house, and was delighted to meet me and learn more. Yes, some tacky reno's had been done since the 1960's, but all of the original light fixtures were still in place, as were the French doors into the parlour, and crystal door knobs were still in place.

I know this house has been renovated again, and I hope the new owner has respected the integrity of it.

There was a grand bannister leading upstairs, that me and my older sister used to shimmy down on. It was still there when I last visited, polished to a gleam (from our little bums).

Sometime between two to five years after my grandmother sold the house, someone (a woman) was murdered there.

Now for the gist.........
A recent acquaintance asked me if I knew if anything was being planned for the anniversary of the 1912 tornado? I didn't know, but it made me immediately think of you and all the work you had done. That is why I am writing. Is anything being planned? The graves of the young Blenkinsop couple who died so tragically that day, are on list of monuments to stop on one tour at the Old Regina Cemetery.

Thank you for this Joanne"

Monday, August 23

Be part of the Yukon Quest race in Whitehorse!

This season, the Yukon Quest starts in Whitehorse on February 5, 2011. Here is your chance to be part of it at the mushers' banquet, on the starting line and on the trail as well. Learn to drive you own dog team. Experience the exhiliration, the wild joy of being a musher yourself.

Every other year the Yukon Quest starts in Whitehorse. Guests will have the opportunity to take part in the start banquet on Feb 3, the Meet the Mushers evening on Feb 2, 2011 as well as to participate as a volunteer at the start line of the race.

The itinerary for this tour will be similar to the 8-day Husky adventure...
– with the Quest extras thrown in. This special tour is for those who want a taste of the Yukon Quest excitement – Yukon Style!

More details on our Facebook event page.

Thursday, August 19

Calling Charity Challenge enthusiasts abroad!

It's late August, there is a chill in the air at night and inevitably, there is a realization that fall and winter are just a few weeks and months away. Now... We find that Canada's US, Australian, UK and New Zealand visitor are particularly fond of dog sledding. Our multi-day Yukon mushing expeditions over 5, 8 11 or 15 days are truly immersive journeys into a mode of travel which brings the best out of the ancestral relationship between dogs and humans.

One clever way for the MC&IT sector to put our Canada dog mushing traditions to develop charity challenges. For instance, our partner Different Travel in the United Kingdom has come up with an innovative formula which uses our Yukon sledding product as a basic ingredient. The company offers challenges around the world. The Yukon sledding charity challenge is it's first in Canada.

So if you live in the UK, please support this project. If you live elsewhere, we are certainly open to dialogue and discussions on how we possibility could collaborate to tailor our adventure journeys to your needs.

Raising funds for your organization? Mexico has lots to offer

Raising funds for charity organizations is always a challenge. That many Saskatchewan residents volunteer their time to raise money for community and support programs in a number of areas is is almost legendary. Some of the best known initiatiaves include the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life, or the Arthritis Society's Joints in Motion programs which features more of a travel-related element.

Recently, Great Excursions partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to create Journey for Life, a trip to Mexico in February 2011 specially designed to meet the needs of people living with cancer and their caregivers -- a portion of the revenues from which will help fund the Cancer Society's programs.

Large projects like these requiring significant air capacity to be profitable and leave you vulnerable to the impact of airline schedule changes. This is where smaller, more niche types of initiatives -- let's say in the adventure travel sector -- might lend themselves to more diversified offerings for all tastes.

Living in Saskatchewan brings its own set added considerations. Our harsh winter climate instills in many residents a longing to get away during winter months. Baja California becomes then a particularly attractive destinations for those who might be willing to consider an active holiday that aims to raise funds for charity organizations. Any of the trips Great Excursions feature on its Adventures in Mexico product page would be suitable as a resource. This is food for thought for a future post.

Wednesday, August 18

Lake Diefenbaker Ranch gets rave reviews

Our ranch hosts at Lake Diefenbaker certainly impressed one of our clients from Ontario who came to Saskatchewan last month to visit friends and relatives. Visiting friends and relatives is a key motivator for out-of-province visitors to Saskatchewan. After contacting us about which trip would suit her needs best, we booked her on a 4-day ranch adventure in one of Saskatchewan's most evocative regions. In a quick note upon her return, Eileen writes:

"Had a wonderful vacation... it exceeded my expectations!
Will be retuning next summer because I enjoyed it so much. Thank you, CJ, for your assistance with my adventure.

The funny thing about Saskatchewan is that unless people have been here before, it's hard to convey what it's like. But once they are here, they know they want to come back.

Tuesday, August 17

2011 Departures for our Canada and Alaska Sailing Cruises

A quick note to let you know that we recently published our 2011 departures for our Canada and Alaska natural history sailing cruises. Again we will feature Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Southeast Alaska (with both our 68-foot motorsailer sailboat and our 65-foot motor yacht. Northern Vancouver Island is back in 2011, as are the Gulf Islands, the Inside Passage and the Great Bear Rainforest in Northern British Columbia.

River boat cruises offer convenient solution for older group travellers

Do you have friends or relatives who are planning a special commemoration: a reunion or an anniversary seniors' tour that is at once very special, but also well suited to older travellers? How about a multi-day river cruise on the St. Lawrence Seaway?

Multi-day river cruises used to be quite the journey along the Mississippi River and others in North America. Our very own North and South Saskatchewan Rivers and waterways where at one time challenging yet evocative routes for sternwheelers until the early 20th century. But the number of vessels that once sailed these great rivers in calm waters has declined in recent years -- victims of the economic climate and changing customer preferences. Some operations continue in the US, but they often put up passengers at hotels and casinos along the way instead of allowing travellers to sleep in cabins, which makes for a much richer experience for travellers.

One of the advantages of true multi-day river cruises is that passengers unpack when they board the vessel in the same room that they will keep for teh whole holiday, which makes it much more convenient. Also, one gets more of a sense of journey when one lives aboard the vessel. A different kind of chemistry is created among passengers. there is more of that sense of living the experience together....which keeps people young at heart.

We are lucky enough in Canada to still be able to offer this kind of trip for groups on itineraries that feature cities like Kingston, Montreal, Québec City and Ottawa, the 1000 Islands, and numerous attractions. Visit these links to see all departures for the rest of 2010 and 2011. Let us know what you think!

Monday, August 16

On taking meeting participants outside of their comfort zone

A weekend ranch getaway to one of my favourite places and a column featuring this great resource in our local daily this morning prompts me take another look at the role comfort zones play in meetings, retreats and conventions development. Meeting planners are always looking for new team-building activities. This means they seek affordable activities that do not take too long, unless the objective of the meeting itself is to take participants outside of their comfort zone over a weekend, for instance.

We have had some great successes in working over the years with organizations like the University of Regina's women hockey team. The aboriginal cultural immersion weekend we crafted for them a few years ago stands out.

Last fall, U of R Cougars coach Sarah Howald approached us once more to design another similar activity using different resources. We came up this time with a Natural horsemanship weekend out of town again on one of our ranches in a beautiful prairie valley setting half-way between Regina and Saskatoon.

Sarah subsequently forwarded these comments:

"Our team retreat at the ranch through Great Excursions was perfect for our group of young players. It allowed us to get to know each other better, but more importantly, we each learned more about ourselves. We learned skills in assertiveness, confidence, and communication that we continued to come back to all season long. Chris and Lyle are great hosts and great teachers!"

It is featured this morning in a Ron Petrie article in the Leader-Post.

This is not for everyone, in the sense that participants have to enjoy exploring non-urban environments and to love animals, but the teachings are very much real. They tie into the place where they are delivered, and the rewards, beyond the fresh outlook on life and workplaces, extend to renewed appreciation for the skills of other team players. Teambuilding is after all about learning or relearning how to harness all team players' potential.

When time is limited, shortcuts are taken to focus more directly on key objectives. Often, there is only time for a quick visit as an opportunity to get a better sense of the setting where a larger meeting is hosted. This was the case when one of our national clients hosted its annual conference in Regina last summer. The ranch portion of our program included a an demonstration of the foundations of natural horsemanship. Fresh, locally baked snacks and refreshments were offered and a hads-on introduction to grasslands plants and their significance for livestock grazing was included. This is after a cattle ranch.

The role we play as a destination management company is one of director, or event/tour producer. We develop a theme with our client and we illustrate it with the resources at our disposal, we flesh out the program with clear, per-determined objectives in mind. We have proven methods to do this. Working with us ensures the clients get the best possible value, it saves time for all involved because we are experts and we can likely do more, while protecting the client's investment. This brings an added sense of security should unpredictable circumstances arise.

We will handle a range of needs including:

-Activities, workshops, team duilding and Corporate Retreats

-Meetings, Events, Conventions and Conferences in Canada

-Pre- and Post Conference Tours in Canada

-Regina - Saskatoon - Moose Jaw - Saskatchewan Charter Services

-Tourism Innovation and Interpretation Planning Workshops

Friday, August 13

Historical re-enactments are delicate balancing acts

Historical re-enactments in Canada are regularly a source of controversy, particularly when they involve key events in the country's journey that weigh heavily on identity and the interpretation of outcomes. Re-enactments of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham are a regular bone of contention in the Quebec media. They were cancelled last year for the 250th anniversary of the fall of Québec to the British.

The "non-siege" of Battleford is somehow another key moment in the history of the Northwest Territories where Parks Canada finds itself a stakeholder both as a steward of Canadian heritage and as a major tourism player. Rather fortuitously, the Bob Weber article published in the Globe and Mail and in other Canadian dailies today raises awareness about a tourism resource and a destination that is little known to Canadians in general. Fort Battleford is certainly worth visiting, regardless of one's take on how the re-enactment is marketed.

Organisers of Québec City's 400th anniversary celebrations in 2008 had figured out clever way to approach re-enactments. They actually produced two. On one day, the British would win one battle, on another day the French would win. It's all about balance and equity.

One of the reasons perhaps why Batoche was never been the site of a re-enactment could be that Riel's team ultimately lost the war. But the Métis did win battles as well.

A challenge remains in the need to refrain from engaging into acts of cultural appropriation, or the use of elements of heritage that belong to one entity, for the benefit of another which is not the legitimate owner of that heritage. And, the legitimate owner must be willing to engage in projects in which they own such resources in order for all parties to conduct their projects equitably.

That is a fundamental issue in the development aboriginal tourism products today. Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon and other aboriginally-run interpretive centres are certainly leaders there. Our national parks system is navigating a challenging path and does an excellent job of it overall.

Fort Battleford remains an under-utilized resource that meeting planners should consider using more frequently. How about hosting conflict-resolution-themed meetings there, involving both aboriginal and non-aboriginal facilitators to explore opposing perspectives? This is just one idea.
International meetings and conventions industry players are easily lured to higher profile destinations than Saskatchewan. If tourism stakeholders in Saskatchewan wish to grow their market share of medium and long-haul travellers who come to Canada, they could do worse than to consider the distinctive resources at their disposal.

In the end, the "non-siege" and its media coverage is likely to bring increased awareness of Saskatchewan as a surprisingly rich and diversified tourism destination, and that's a good thing for all of us!

Thursday, August 12

2010 CFL Hall of Fame Luncheon held in Regina

A hard-to-beat moment when former Saskatchewan Roughrider Don Narcisse was officially welcomed to the honoured list of CFL Hall of Famers by another Saskatchewan football great George Reed.

It was great seeing the 2010 CFL Hall of Fame Luncheon being held in Regina today before Saskatchewan's convincing win over the BC Lions at Mosaic Stadium. Anytime a national organization like the CFL stages special events like these across the country, much goodwill ensues. This is especially true of Saskatchewan, as this is arguably Canada's most warmly football-crazy city. Hall of Fame representatives recognized this inspiring normality in Regina today. It was a chance to host many of Canada's football greats, a chance to shine as a meetings destination with understated charm and appeal.

Tuesday, August 10

Quebec motorcoach tour operator features Regina and Gravelbourg

Spotted last week in Regina... One of Groupe Voyages Québec's motorcoaches. This is one of relatively few out-of-province tour operators which publishes Saskatchewan products consistently. These are escorted tours with a francophone tour director. The highlight for many travellers is a Gravelbourg stop featuring a meal and the opportunity to meet local community members. There are 4 departures this year, with one more coming up later this month.

An example of Saskatchewan leisure travel product featured in travel trade brochures

Canada & Alaska specialist German tour operator Kanada Reise Laden's reality is is not unlike that many international tours operators specializing in Canada. His traditional client base in Europe is lured by emerging destinations in other parts of the world. There is however an increased interest for Western Canada among his clients. Like other tour operators, the company publishes a very nice brochure featuring Saskatchewan, so that it will be ready when international demand warrants more departures.

I find especially telling that both Saskatchewan and Alberta are bundled into one itinerary in this instance.

Moving from "stop-along-the-way" status to "destination" status

Our client/partner René Kempf of Canada & Alaska specialist German tour operator Kanada Reise Laden stopped by this summer just in time for the for the Spain-Germany World Cup match.

Rural tourism resources are valuable to city-based meeting planners

Meeting planners will attempt to convey to their clients how their host destination stands out, especially if they are from out of province or abroad. The likelyhood of the meeting ever being hosted in that city again depends on how evocative their first experience is. Pre- and port-conventions tours help do that. How far is your agricultural operation from the nearest city? Are you currently working with you destination marketing organization to make meetings stakeholders aware of your potential contribution to the success of an upcoming meeting in a city near you?

This Great Excursions photo album features a special day program developed for a national meeting (and international observers) held in Regina last summer. It aimed to interpret the dynamics of the grasslands ecosystem as well as to interpret the principles behind natural horsemanship, an increasingly popular approach to esquestrian training.

Thursday, August 5

Unwinding after a day of sailing in Gwaii Haanas

Haida Gwaii Sailing Journey July 2010

If there is was ever a need to illustrate how people and places interact to create space, nothing comes closer than to board a small-vessel sailing holiday to Gwaii Haanas. To the Haida Nation: thank you for welcoming us as honoured guests as you do. To our travel companions and fellow seekers of meaningful travel experiences: thank you for sharing your generosity of time, thoughts, positive energies and genuine friendship with us. To our most amazing partners -- true tourism pioneers , knowledge keepers and relationship nurturers: may we we keep breaking new ground in shaping Canada's tourism industry of the future for the benefit of our host communities, Canadians and our international guests to discover. Thank you all for being who you are and for making the consumer, career and cultural choices that you make.