Sunday, November 28

Royal Wedding Sparks Interest in British Monarchy-themed Tourism

No matter how much one plans, sometimes, things just happen, and one has to explore their potential or risk loosing out on real opportunities.

Great Excursions, the company that I created, is a national tour operator based in Regina, Saskatchewan, a city that prides itself on highlighting the role the British Monarchy plays in how it defines itself, perhaps more than any other city in Canada. Royal weddings don't occur very often, and certainly, when a Royal Visit takes place in Regina, there is no shortage of participants who attend. I thought... What if we developed a trip for British Monarchy enthusiasts who are interested in going to England on, before or after the occasion, to commemorate the wedding?

That's what we have been working on since last week. I will keep you posted on the evolution of the project.

Monday, November 22

Same Day Return Air Transportation from Regina to the 2010 Grey Cup Available

If you have been thinking about going to the Grey Cup for the day, Great Excursions has space available on a special jet charter from Regina to Edmonton for Roughrider fans on game day.

The charter flight for Rider fans will be sold on a round trip basis from Regina to Edmonton with airfares starting from $529 return, plus GST with the following timetable:

* Regina to Edmonton: Depart 1:00 P.M., Sunday, Nov. 28 and arrive 1:15 P.M.

* Edmonton to Regina: Depart 10:30 P.M. Sunday, Nov. 28 and arrive 12:40 A.M. +1

On Grey Cup day the charter and shuttle to/from Commonwealth Stadium will allow Rider fans to take in the pre-game festival, the Grey Cup game and return home that evening.

Jet charter tickets can be booked by visiting our website or calling us toll free at 1-866-975-8687.

Sunday, November 21

Yukon Husky Adventure Wilderness Camp

There is an air of serenity about getting ready to hit the trail after an overnight stay at a wall-tent camp in the Yukon wildernesss. Dog sledding is not only about the trip itself, but also about the wisdom gained while journeying with huskies -- and our companions who may have come all the way from Australia, New Zealand, the United KIngdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland or from elsewhere in Canada.

Travellers experience a sense of getting back to the basics here, in an environment with conditions that may differ from what participants might experience where they usually live. Nature and its rythms rule here. In the winter, daylight is certainly more scarce around mid-December than in other more southerly parts of the world. The dogs... they just want to play with us, with the knowledge that they are well looked after even in the wilderness. They are well-fed, their paws are groomed, the huskies are kept healthy because they need to be kept happy if the trip is to be enjoyed by all.

So... on we the next destination for the day!

Saturday, November 20

Tourism Industry Watches Nervously As Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plans Unfold

UK and Canada tourism industry stakeholders are paying close attention since Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their upcoming wedding for sometime next year. This could be a brilliant opportunity for British tourism, no doubt. The British economy, which is challenged these days, to say the least, would welcome increased interest in the United Kingdom as a tourism destination. On the other hand, UK travellers who had been considering coming to Canada in 2011 might further delay their plans, according to La Presse's André Désiront who raises the possibility of yet another obstacle to luring UK travellers who might consider staying home next summer to watch the Royal Wedding and the pageantry that usually is associated with it.

While it is true that major sports events like the World Cup of Soccer - that people travel to attend or massively watch on the Tube - can affect consumers' travel plans in some instances, I am not convinced that a Royal Wedding alone would be enough motivation to prevent altogether British visitors from coming to Canada next summer - regardless of whether we are talking about a summer or a spring wedding. If anything, this might simply further delay the consumer decision-making process, just a little bit longer. This is something the Canadian tourism industry has had to contend with on an increasingly-regular basis in recent times, thereby making it more difficult than ever for tourism partners to develop and plan adequate inventories. It is a fact of life for us all now.

So, let's brace ourselves once more, and let's hope we get a wedding date soon. Will it be spring or summer?

Friday, November 19

Planning an RCMP Troup Anniversary Reunion in Regina?

If you, a friend or a family member are planning an RCMP troup anniversary reunion in Regina in the near future, you might find it worth your while to work with a local IATA-member receptive tour operator. A specialist company like Geat Excursions, for instance, knows all the attractions and has all the expert staff. We enjoy privileged relationships with local industry partners who can make a lot of things happen for your group, especially when challenges arise. Trip participants and organizers may gain more benefits as the result and definitely will save money in the process.

Experience tells us over and over again  that a meeting organizer's first reflex is to book a block of rooms in a hotel, and then ask all members to book their own flights. That is easy enough to do for anyone. Then they will look at event venues and other aspects. The challenge reunion organizers will run into as plans evolve is that when it comes to details like shuttle transportation between the hotel and reunion venues, or even getting a quote for a city tour on a per person basis, they will find it difficult to finalize their plans because they have broken up the leverage they initially enjoyed with their project into too many small parts that lose clout independently.

An IATA-member receptive operator offers meeting planning services than range from air tickets sales, staffing services and comprehensive travel insurance services, to registration, transportation, tours, tickets and logistical services What would happen if a participant became ill before coming on the trip or had to cancel for another reason? Would the meeting organizer be able handle emergencies, how much would an individual supplier be willing to extend goodwill if push came to shove. Obviously, all suppliers want to help up to a certain point. But in the end working, with an independent, bonded receptive company goes a long way to ensuring peace of mind for all project partners and the client.

Tuesday, November 16

Winter Dog Mushing in Canada is a Team Sport

After 5 days on the trail, a dog mushing expedition participant spends some extra time speaking to the team players "chilling" before launching into another day of exhilarating fun on the trail. This is the mushing equivalent of a the "pre-game interview" with the players and the coach.... self-administered and Yukon style!

Dog sledding is regularly described as an extreme sport, but above all, it gives a chance to those who decide this is something they want to try to learn about themselves, to understand at a different level how people relate to their environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Mushing is a holiday experience that is truly transformational, in the best possible sense. It involves travelling over great distances without mechanical means, rather, by depending on the goodwill of a team eager huskies helping you reach your destination. This means that your satisfaction about your choice of vacation depends on what you will invest in nurturing your relationship with your dog team. There is no more honest proposition than this.

Monday, November 15

Boot Camp for Calgary Stampeder Fans?

Given that we now know that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are headed to Calgary with a significant following, I was wondering if there might not have been a secret agenda to some of the activities featured recently at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller? Hoping to scare the Riders into submission this Sunday? All in good fun, no doubt!

If you are putting a group together and need assistance with your flights, coach charters and hotels, let us know.

Kayaking with Seals in Vancouver - British Columbia, Canada Commercial

While most of our Canada kayak trips may involve encounters with wildlife, our guest don't usually get to experience it this closely.

This leads me to share this review submitted this weekend by a client from the UK about one of our Clayoquot Sound kayak trips... I thought I'd share it with you for the record....

“Clayoquot sound trip was wonderful”

By Rebecca McBride, UK


I had an absolutely amazing time in Canada and the Clayoquot sound trip was wonderful. I can honestly say it is the best organised trip I have ever been on! The guides were fantastic, the food was unbelievable and yes we had a brilliant group - I had a blast!! I'm still in touch with a few of the people I met and we hope to meet up and kayak again soon!

I must thank you for all of your help in organising my trip and the other pieces of advice and knowledge you gave me.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It is incredibly difficult to come up with a 'most memorable' part of my holiday! The whole 6 days were amazing, from start to finish! Firstly the guides who took us on our adventure were amazing, their knowledge of the area was incredible and it was brilliant that they could create our route on a daily basis according to the weather and how we felt! They looked after us so well. Really, they never stopped and were such good company! We had a blast! The kayaking and scenery were fantastic. The equipment we had could not be faulted. Our food was AMAZING! The daily campfires were idyllic and the beaches we camped on were out of this world! I could write for days about my experience but basically, it was all wonderful - I will never forget it!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be sure to take clothes which are quick drying as it is difficult to dry clothes which get a bit wet! Take warm clothes for the night time and suncream for the day! Little treats are good too!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We left nothing behind us. The campfires were burnt right down. We didn't use anything that wasn't biodegradable and we took all our rubbish away. We didn't see another soul for days and took everything we needed in our kayaks - no petrol involved! Being self sufficient was part of the overall experience. The lack of home comforts, internet, phones etc was liberating!!

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

INCREDIBLE - when can I go back?

Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

***** I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on.

Sunday, November 14

Whooping Cranes - Quivira NWR, Kansas

We don't get to see whopping cranes like these very often, but we do see them at Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife area, a 2-hour drive from Regina. And when we do see them, usually through a long lens or a spotting scope in the distance among hundreds of sandhill cranes, one gets the feeling of being witness to a very special moment in time.

Husky Dog Sledding by Moonlight in Yukon Canada

The great mystery of nighttime under the Yukon full moon takes an entirely different colour when humans venture to explore it in the company of huskies.

Dog sledding at night is earily satisfying. the musher feels perhaps even more in synchronicity with his or her team of dogs. With only a headlamp to light the way in the forest, and moonlight washing the snow with soft brightness where there are no moonshadows over the open terrain, journeying by dogsled at night is unlike any other experience. It bring a level of intimacy with the animals that is very wholesome for all participants.

Wednesday, November 10

Wagon Ride Ranch Adventure in Saskatchewan, Canada - Great Excursions

One might think that going on a horse-drawn wagon ride is a pretty tame activity for adventure seekers. But those who love draft horses also like to have a little fun too when they get a chance to show their fine team of Percheron at work over rugged Great Plains terrain. This was indeed the case for a group of guest on a ranch weekend break in the beautiful Arm River valley in Saskatchewan. The two hour sunset ride was definitely a treat!

Yukon Dog Sledding Adventure Holiday - 5 to 15 days

Nothing quite describes what it is like as well as this short video filmed on the fly in the Yukon wilderness by a musher as his small group of adventurers gets a chance to open up and let the dogs take it away on Ptarmingan Flats. This is one of many opportunities dog sledding participants get to test their skills when they come on one of our 5, 8, 11 or 15 day trips in this mountainous region of the Territory. They travel along forested trails, up mountain sides, and they also get to stop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings in which they find themselves along the way. You will notice that every trip participant gets to drive their own team -- they get to develop a rapport with the 3 to 6 dogs that become theirs for the duration of the journey.

Before you sign up we tell you how to prepare. Once you are here, we make sure you are well outfitted and ready for what is -- for many who come from as far away as Australia -- the trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, November 9

Where to stay in Paris -- Suggestions for a travel trade partner from Saskatchewan

Photo: David Monniaux

One of our Saskatchewan travel trade partners asked yesterday if she knew an hotel near the Louvres where she could stay at an affordable price. I thought this might be useful info for everyone.

It has been a few years since I was in Paris now, but I do find the city always amazing to discover and re-discover…

You will find a few videos of interest about Paris and ideas discussed below in the France Stories playlist on our new web TV channel Great Excursions TV.

Depending on how much time you have and your own longing for the authentic Paris, I would suggest that you consider staying at a hotel away from the Louvres, which is a very busy area and likely overpriced… and you are more likely to experience the most aggressive driving on earth… after possibly Cairo, if you dare to cross a street in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, the Metro makes it very easy to travel around the City if you are well prepared, and it gives you more price and destination flexibility if you carry a suitcase on wheels.

Money vanishes very easily in Paris… It is a mystery…. a curse perhaps. When it comes to restaurants… go for the “Table d’hôte menu” – a multi-course meal at a fixed price. They are surprisingly affordable.

To get around when you land, I would take the RER (train) from Charles de Gaulles Airport to the Jardins du Luxembourg, right downtown… a Paris quintessential destination park with chairs that people can move around, great ice cream/sherberts “glaces” and lots of cafés to watch people. It is an eminently walkable district.

Tripadvisor reviews will confirm this…

You will be able to walk into a charcuterie to get some wonderful patés, fresh baguette and anything you want at the price Parisians pay – not tourists- that you can eat in the park or in your room. You could stay at the affordable Jardins du Luxembourg Hotel (3 stars) at around CA $206 a night right now… a bargain in Paris.

To get to the Louvres, all you have to do is take the Metro with one transfer on an average 50-minute ride

Here is a map of the Metro. You can save it as a PDF. It is laid out a bit like a map of the London Underground and easy to read. Here is a printable wallet- size version for you as well.

Here is a primer in English on the Paris Metro

…and a Primer on the RER train from the CDG airport

… at the Jardin du Luxembourg, you will be able to access both public transit systems… another plus.

Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.

Happy trails and… Bon voyage!

Haida Gwaii, Colombie-Britannique - Réflection de Claude-Jean Harel

Voici une réflexion du fondateur de Great Excursions, Claude-Jean Harel, sur l'évolution de Haida Gwaii comme destination touristique, avec les battures de Queen Charlotte City à marée basse en arrière-plan. Ce témoignage se veut le prélude à une série de reportages qui seront diffusées prochainement sur la chaîne Youtube de Great Excursions afin jeter un regard en profondeur sur l'authenticité en tourisme telle qu'elle est mise en valeurs dans ce magnifique archipel de Colombie-Britannique.

Monday, November 1

A reflexion on 20-minutes of Haida Gwaii "island time" spent on the Sandspit to Skidegate Ferry

Haida Gwaii. It takes 20 minutes to cross by ferry from Sandspit to Skidegate Landing. The interconnectedness between the people who live here, the role nature plays in lending the islands their sense of place, and the Pacific Northwest all inspire meaning to any journey to Canada's "Misty Isles". The people here speak of "island time". What is it really? Perhaps, Island time is just time spent living the rhythms that regulate life in the Queen Charlotte Islands. This simply is how it has to be. Surely, it's time well spent!