A trip ‘Out of the Northwest Passage’ offers visitors a genuine slice of Arctic life and landscapes.
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Nunavut is a part of the world where Mother Nature puts the “m” into majestic. Adventure Canada is a family business that brings visitors from all over the world into this stunning landscape and its unique communities. Here, they connect with an authentic and ancient Canada.
Not surprisingly, Adventure Canada is a member of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)’s Signature Experiences Collection® (SEC)program. Its staff treasure the Inuit who they work with, and cherish each trip with their clients as a special event.
Clayton Anderson, Adventure Canada Marketing and Business Development lead, is the man at the helm as CTC News navigates the waters of its second series of SEC case studies.
What inspired you to get into the tourism business? And when did you start?
We’ve been around for 25 years now. It all started as a couple of guys taking camping and hiking trips into the mid Arctic. It grew from there: in the ‘90s we moved to the ships we use today, which are a more mobile platform to getting around.
There aren’t many big travel providers in Nunavut and we were among the first to do it. We’ve gotten noticed from inbound providers such as Jonview. When we went to World Travel Market in London, UK, there was a QR code on the map for Nunavut, and that took people straight to our website, which was great.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing Adventure Canada today?
For us, the biggest one is the length of the season. In the Arctic, we can only get going once the ice has melted sufficiently. Once it starts to close in again, then we head for the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. So that means we operate from late July to early October.
Being in the Arctic, you must be able to see the changing climate up close.
Over the past 20 years, our season has gotten longer. Ten years ago, there’s no way we could get have got through the Northwest Passage. But the way the ice has retreated means we can get through…and so can our competitors. It’s hard to tell in 20 years, but our Inuit partners say the ice pack is definitely retreating, and more than usual.
Tell us more about ‘Out of the Northwest Passage,’ the experience you have that is featured in the Collection.
We charter a ship that can hold up to 120 passengers. We fly our clients in on a 737-800 and then they come to the ship by Zodiacs [23-ft rubber inflatable boats that were originally designed by Jacques Cousteau]. We sail west towards the Northwest Territories, making plenty of stops to allow our guests to see the abundant wildlife and scenery, as well as to go hiking. We have established relationships with a number of local communities: this is definitely not a “gawk at the locals” trip. We join them for community barbecues, sit with resident artists and even play soccer games against them.
There is also a lecture series on board with 20 lecturers. We’ve had people such as Farley Mowat and Margaret Atwood join us as lecturers. When on land, our travellers get to choose their own adventure. They can go on a trip with a botanist, or go out to paint with an artist or visit an archaeological site—there are tons of options. We spend to four to eight hours a day on shore.
What’s changed for your business as a result of being a member?
We attended Rendez-vous Canada this past May, and we told people that we were a member, some thought that it was prestigious. But others did not know what it was. For us, SEC membership is a label of approval.
Are you getting visitors from any new international markets or greater numbers from existing ones?
To be honest, it’s hard to tell. I don’t think people are coming as a direct result of us being members. We have had a lot more Australians coming here, but that is probably due to their huge dollar and strong economy.
Has your media exposure changed domestically or internationally as a result of being a SEC member?
We’ve been aggressive in trying to get more exposure: we attended both Canada Media Marketplace and Go Media Canada Marketplace. But we have always had a lot of media interest from journalists as this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and quite expensive. We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds, so just haven’t taken full advantage of that aspect of SEC membership yet.
Have you considered exploring business relationships or cross-promotions with other SEC members?
We work regularly with our industry peers, but haven’t sourced any partnerships directly through SEC.
What’s been your biggest lesson this year as a tourism operator?
Historical trends don’t necessarily predict future outcomes. For example, our Northwest Passage trip did not sell out until the last minute this year. But we didn’t do any marketing around it, so we know better for next time. Last year it was full by Christmas.
If you were to point to a big opportunity for Canada’s tourism industry, what might that look like?
The biggest market for growth for us is Australia. We’ve just started to get noticed by mainstream travellers down there. It’s been good, but may not be around forever. Canadians and Australians have a lot in common on lots of levels, probably more so than Canadians and Americans, in terms of quality, outlook and pace of life.