This small Yukon business hopes to draw even more visitors to see the aurora borealis through membership in CTC’s innovative program.
The aurora borealis is a big feather in Canada’s cap, a definite magnet for travellers from the world over. Northern Tales Travel Services Inc. in Whitehorse, YT, specializes in taking clients out to see this spectacular and mystical natural wonder.
Its Yukon Aurora Tours is a proud member of the Canadian Tourism Commission(CTC)’s Signature Experiences Collection®(SEC). The list of members stands at 115, but is sure to swell once the latest applications have been sorted. Curiosity about CTC’s program continues apace as it keeps Canada on the front foot in the international tourism marketplace.
Canada’s tourism voice is adding to the chorus of approval for the Collection. Here, Torsten Eder, president of Northern Tales, explains to CTC News why his company is proud to be part of the Signature Experiences Collection®and marketing Canada as a country worldwide.
When did you decide to get into the tourism business?
After school, I did an apprenticeship at a five-star Mövenpick hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. Once I had finished, I went to university for four years to study business administration with an emphasis on tourism. After that, I applied for landed immigrant status in Canada, which took nine months to process. I originally wanted to go to Vancouver [BC], but I was offered a job instead in Whitehorse in summer 2001. I was laid off after 9/11, when my boss thought tourism was finished forever, but by then I had met my former business partner in Nature Tours of Yukon. I bought a 50% share of the company in spring 2002, then bought his remaining shares in summer 2003 when he wanted to scale back his work time. It was then only a summer business, and 2004 was my first winter. We only had about 20 guests! I sold Nature Tours in 2007 and founded Northern Tales that same year. Now we have more than 2,000 visitors each year, so it has progressed nicely.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business today?
There are several. The economic situation right now is difficult, as it’s making people panic. Air access is also a factor for Yukon. For example, Air Canada no longer offers easy access within a day for travellers from Japan to Yellowknife. Instead, they’ve switched that connecting service to Whitehorse. That means we’re getting a lot more business this winter from that market, but this could easily change again next year. It makes it a chance—but also a risk. You can’t plan on having those visitors.
Have you worked with the CTC before?
I’m in contact with CTC staff at every Rendez-vous Canada and also once or twice during the year. I’ve also been to Mexico a couple of times to meet with Jorge Morfín [CTC managing director, Mexico], and have been contacted for pictures and story ideas for marketing materials.
When did you first hear of the Signature Experiences Collection®? And what motivated you to apply?
I first heard at RVC earlier this year when Lesley Anderson [CTC manager, Brand Experiences] introduced it. She suggested we should apply and so did our local tourism organization, Tourism Yukon. We have a high quality and pretty unique program so hoped we would qualify.
Did you find the application process straightforward?
Yes. The text was well explained and I did not have any questions going through it.
Tell us more about the experience that is featured in the Collection…
For Yukon Aurora Tours, we pride ourselves on having small groups, with an average number of seven or eight at a time. This makes us highly flexible for client requests. Our viewing site for the Northern Lights is authentic, a mix of wall tent and cabin. The canvas walls allow light to shine through, making it beautiful inside, while the floor and roof are insulated for warmth. There are wolf and black-bear fur on the walls, while the door handle is a horn from a big-horned sheep. We’ve got a big campfire outside and an unobstructed view north, with no trees blocking the view.
What kind of travellers does your business attract?
We get a wide variety of clients from around the world, mostly aged between 25 and 50. They come from all over—North America, Singapore, the UK, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and Asia—and on a real mix of budgets, not just high-end.
What immediate benefits do you see for your business now that you are part of the Collection?
It’s a badge of honour for us to be part of it. We haven’t started marketing it yet, but will soon be promoting our membership on Facebook, Twitter and in our correspondence with the travel trade. It’ll strengthen our voice within the Canadian tourism industry, too.
Are there specific international markets that you can see your business resonating in through the Signature Experiences Collection®?
I hope CTC will extend our exposure through its activities in emerging markets like Mexico and Brazil. That would be great. We’re strong in Asia now, but it will help that CTC is using our product to market Canada as a whole.
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Heartland International Travel & Tours
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Northern Edge Algonquin
Tranquility Cove Adventures