Increased international exposure and more bookings are just two of the benefits of SEC membership for this Newfoundland family-operated business.
Previous SEC case studies:
Time flies when you’re having tourism fun. It’s been a year since the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) launched its groundbreaking Signature Experiences Collection® program. It now has 160-plus members under its belt and is going from strength to strength internationally.
To capture what being part of the Collection means to Canadian tourism business, and the benefits it brings, CTC News is running a second series of case studies featuring some of the early entrants to the program.
Popping the fizz on the first case study, Captain Barry Rogers of Iceberg Quest, which runs boat tours off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, gives the run-down on what membership has meant for his business and what icebergs lie ahead for the tourism industry.
Iceberg Quest is very much a family-run operation, with deep roots in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew has garnered an excellent reputation for its expertise, hospitality and local knowledge and love of the ocean.
What inspired you to get into the tourism business? And when did you start?
I recognized a growing need and opportunity for the development of the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. I saw this trend and knew from my own personal travels that Newfoundland was relatively unspoilt and should be marketed as a world-class, bucket-list destination. I started building the infrastructure for Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours in 1999.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your enterprise today?
We have some troubled labour markets in terms of finding the right people for a seasonal operation like Iceberg Quest. The growing oil and gas sector is a big challenge for all of us as the promise of fast, big bucks attracts many of our seasonal workers to areas outside the province.
Tell us more about the experience you have that is featured in the Collection.
We offer a narrated tour from two distinct locations in Newfoundland. Each tour explores our coastlines, its history, the ocean, and provincial milestones such as the cod fishery and how the cod moratorium, introduced 20 years ago, has impacted the lifestyles of Newfoundlanders. Our most notable draw cards on the Iceberg Quest tours are the majestic Greenland icebergs in Iceberg Alley, migrating humpback whales and our various species of sea birds in the area.
How are you promoting your SEC membership?
We are promoting it on our website, through social media, in our branding, in our brochures and at the travel-trade and consumer shows that we attend during off-season. We have steadily increased our marketing efforts each year and it’s paid off. As a SEC member, our business is placed in a higher category and people realize that as a member you have a higher level of tourism experience.
Early days yet as the program’s only a year old, but what’s changed for your business as a result of being a member?
We are definitely more recognizable. We have worked hard to raise the bar for our company, and being a member of SEC coincided with this work that was already underway. It has definitely given us more status recognition within the Canadian tourism industry.
Are you getting visitors from any new international markets or are you seeing greater numbers from existing ones?
Although it’s only been a year, we’re definitely noticing more interest at the shows we attend in different parts of Canada. Worldwide it’s growing, too. People have sought us out at the shows, having already heard of us, and booked right there and then. As we move into the future, this recognition and consumer impact will indefinitely improve.
Has your media exposure changed domestically or internationally?
We’ve had a lot more international media exposure. We’re now being contacted by people from Japan and other parts of the Asian market, while the German market seems to be taking hold again. Whether it’s a gradual evolution or a combination of events, interest has been sparked.
Do you have any new tourism products in the pipeline?
We have recently opened a new restaurant called Canvas Cove Café in Twillingate on the Iceberg Quest Premises. The Canvas Cove Café features a selection of sophisticated café-style soups, sandwiches and salads prepared fresh by Chef Nick, who moved to Twillingate to oversee the food preparation.
Have you considered exploring business relationships or cross-promotions with other SEC members?
We’re big on partnerships and relationships. We promoted them when it wasn’t cool to do so! You could call us the “partnership gurus" of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Spirit of Newfoundland, the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar and other local businesses are in partnership with us. We’ve been developing and nurturing these partnerships for quite some time and from a business standpoint, being a SEC member raises our company profile. As for other SEC members, we are constantly on the lookout to partner with complimenting businesses from around the province.
What’s been your biggest learning this year as a tourism operator?
We realize that tourism is in a constant state of change. Every year presents its own opportunities and challenges. We have, however, developed a structure that enables us to change mid-stride. For instance, we have a plan B if the icebergs are slow to arrive and further backup plans to account for the unpredictable tourism environment. As a tourism operator these strategies must be firmly set in place in order to continue growing and representing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
What are some of the challenges facing Canada’s tourism industry?
The strong Canadian dollar: is this an advantage or disadvantage? We need more economical flights from Europe. Now that Newfoundland and Labrador is a world-class tourism destination, operators and players in the tourism industry need to make their products destination-oriented and more appealing. It’s all about packaging and economics.