CTC News

Signature Experiences Collection® case study 2: why membership is a boon for Canadian tourism businesses.

A passion for grizzly bears and nature proves inspiring for attracting high-yield international visitors to Ecotours-BC.

14 November 2011

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)’s Signature Experiences Collection® (SEC) membership list is now 115 strong—but there’s still room for more. The Collection is the ace in the hole for ensuring that Canada leads international travellers’ to-do lists. The top-notch tourism experiences that form the Collection are just what these big-spending travellers like to do when abroad, according to CTC’s research.

However, don’t just take CTC’s word for it! To find out what the SEC means for the Canadian tourism industry, the best voice is industry’s own. Here, Gary and Peggy Zorn, owners of Ecotours-BC, explain to CTC News why their business applied to join and what opportunities they see in 2012 and beyond.

Ecotours-BC is located in the heart of the Cariboo Mountains. Here, travellers get to see and experience nature in the raw, especially grizzly bears, which are a passion for Gary. He takes visitors up the Mitchell River to get close to the bears and other wildlife.

When did you decide to get into the business of tourism?
(Gary Zorn) Over 32 years ago.

What inspired you?
(GZ) We have always been outdoor people—we did eco-tourism before there was such a thing with that name! Nature and wildlife is everything to us. We were originally in the hunting industry, but got out of that and into fly-fishing and eco-tourism. I developed a way to bring our clientele around the bears without getting the bears stressed. Our area is very well suited for what we do: we have a very deep fjord lake (Quesnel Lake, the deepest fjord lake on earth) and a high sockeye salmon run. We have learnt more by studying the bears at every age, so it’s taken many years to put our program together to deal with these huge omnivores.

Have you worked with the CTC before? If so, how did that go?
(GZ) Yes, as part of a program with Thomas Cook. And we have gone to Rendez-vous Canada for many years, where we have developed relationships with international travel-trade reps.

When did you first hear of the Signature Experiences Collection®?
(GZ) At Rendez-vous Canada in Québec City from Roman Dushatsky. I came home, and then one of our neighbours said, “Gary, this is right up your alley.”

What motivated you to apply?
(GZ) We look at CTC as being the grandfather of Canada travel marketing. It’s a great opportunity to raise our profile and that of our region, the Cariboo, in the international marketplace. If you’re [CTC] offering it, then it’s gotta be good!

Was the application process straightforward?
(Peggy Zorn) Yes. However, what I noticed most of all was that there wasn’t enough space in the description part to really do it justice. Overall, I thought it was good and gave a good overview of our business. Being able to insert video clips and images was very useful.

What kind of travellers does your business attract?
(PZ) Primarily international. We get people from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, as well as some from Australia and New Zealand.

What immediate benefits do you see for your business now that you are part of the Collection?
(PZ) The designation alone will be huge. We’ve heard there will be operators only using SEC members as it will save them a lot of homework.

Are you promoting your membership? If so, how?
(PZ) We have a note on our e-mails and a press release coming out soon. We are also working on a marketing plan centred around the SEC that will give it prominence on our new website and social-media channels.

Is your provincial marketing organization joining in to help?
(PZ) Our regional office, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association (CCCTA), was ecstatic to learn we had made the cut. This will be huge for the Cariboo region. We don’t have iconic destinations like Whistler, so being involved with the Signature Experiences Collection® will be immense for us and the CCCTA.

Are there specific international markets that you can see your business resonating in through the Signature Experiences Collection®?
(PZ) People who come here are devoted nature buffs. We had a lady here this fall from Team America, an Italian tour operator based in the US,who was amazed with what she saw and experienced. One market we need to grow is our own Canadian one, particularly from the east. And there are still a lot of people in the US who have the means to take two or more trips per year.I think we’ll start to see a lot more medium- to high-level budget clients.

How will you go about making the most of those opportunities?
(PZ) We’re in the process of building a new website, where we will feature the SEC. We’re also getting into Facebook and Twitter. We’ll market to previous clients, who will bring their friends and more people back. And then there are the tour operators; we haven’t done as much business with some of them in the past as we would have liked,but now that we’re going to be known as one of the top experiences in Canada that will most likelychange.

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