CTC News

Signature Experiences Collection® case study 4: Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.

Niche Albertan climbing and hiking business looks to bring its mountain expertise to a wider audience through CTC’s program.

05 December 2011

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)’s Signature Experiences Collection® (SEC) continues to pique the interest of the travel industry at home and abroad as its initial members start to promote their involvement. Discerning high-spending international travellers want to come home with memories to cherish—precisely what the Collection’s members provide.

There are now 115 Canadian tourism businesses strutting their stuff on the SEC membership list. However, CTC is still taking applications for more to join. The inbox may be bulging, but that’s just how we like it.

To learn about what SEC means for the Canadian tourism industry, CTC News is running a series of case studies of some current members so that others can take inspiration (and a few tips). Here, Len Youden, general manager of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, gives the skinny on why his business signed up and the international markets it is looking to target.

Now in its fourth decade, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is Canada’s leading mountain-adventure company and biggest mountain-skills instruction school. Based in Canmore, AB, visitors come for ice climbing, mountaineering, hiking, trekking and more. Its motto is that there is just one way to the top of a mountain or ski slope—you climb it.

When did you decide to get into the business of tourism? And what inspired you?
Yamnuska started 33 years ago as the adult education branch of the local YMCA. It then broke off into a for-profit organization in 1982. In its early stages, Yamnuska was dedicated to training mountain climbers, rock climbers and ice climbers. However, in the 90s, our focus shifted. We still have the core training, but we started doing trips and programs for more mainstream backcountry adventurists. We’ve got deep roots in Canadian alpinism—and we’re proud of that.

Have you worked with the CTC before? If so, how did that go?
Last year we had a full-page ad in CTC’s Travel Guide. And we’ve also been very active in CTC-sponsored FAM [familiarization] trips for journalists.

When did you first hear of the Signature Experiences Collection®?
We received a call in June this year from a representative of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, who recommended that we apply, given our experiential focus.

Were you familiar with any of the CTC’s free toolkits prior to joining the SEC? 
We’ve participated at Rendez-vous Canada (RVC) and Canada’s West Marketplace,so we’ve become well informed on target countries and traveller types through CTC’s Explorer Quotient®. We look at which countries CTC targets before we look at language, marketing and web ads.

What motivated you to apply?
To be honest, we didn’t expect to get included. Over the past 18 to 24 months we’ve looked at tourism associations as under-leveraged opportunities for us. When I applied, I thought that if we could just make CTC more familiar with us, so that the right people know who we are and what we do, it couldn’t hurt.

Was the application process straightforward?
I found it a little more involved than I would have expected. Some areas I could have written so much more, in others less. But it was not really different to any other application process.

What kind of travellers does your business attract?
Typically we attract Authentic Experiencers. Most of our activities centre around FIT [Fully Independent Travellers], though we are looking to grow our group programs to attract those looking for a more active experience. Group activities such as hiking, rock climbing and ice climbing can be amazing, especially for beginners. FIT are looking for authentic Canadian Rockies backcountry experiences. We believe that if you want to get there, you walk. The journey is so much more important than the destination.

What immediate benefits do you see for your business now that you are part of the Collection?
Industry credibility—we’ve struggled in the past to get mainstream agents to list our products because we’re such a niche business. They think all of our trips are for extreme athletes, but many of our programs are targeted to beginners or those looking for soft adventures. So we’re really pleased that we’ve been selected to be part of SEC. Our exposure should really improve.

Are you promoting your membership? If so, how?
We put out a news release on the day of CTC’s announcement that we also posted on Facebook and Twitter. We also sent copies to Tourism Calgary, Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, Banff & Lake Louise Tourism and local newspapers.

Are there specific international markets that you can see your business resonating in through the Signature Experiences Collection®?
Our primary markets outside of Canada are the UK, Australia, the US and to a smaller extent, Germany. We try to be strong there, but we’re looking to leverage SEC now in those countries too. Being a member will be front and centre in our profile for RVC next year.

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