Category Archives: Uncategorized

The GPS (Global People Straightener)

 

By: Chris Hughes

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 “Make a legal u-turn”, “Recalculating”, “Address cannot be found”, Ahhh the GPS.  The device we all love to hate.  The GPS or global positioning system has already become the go to source for navigational assistance.  It’s coming standard in our cars, adaptable for our snowmobiles and motorcycles, and is even in our pockets at all times as a built in feature on most smart phones.  It’s used almost religiously for things like finding an arena in a small town, to buy something off Kijiji, to find an address at night down a dark country road, or just to find that little café everyone’s raving about in the city.  It’s become a necessity, just like the phone book or paper map used to be.  But is it really good for tourism?  Lets navigate our way through some of the pros and cons.

Pro:  Reduces the number of in car domestic disputes while navigating.

Con:  Increases the number of in car domestic disputes when things go wrong with the GPS.

Pro:  Creates the most efficient direct route to the motel you just booked.

Con:  It means you don’t stop to see anything along the way, as you are too afraid to deviate off the GPS course even if the kids have to pee.

Pro:  You can get to places without any previous knowledge or research about location, as you just punch the address into the GPS and it does the thinking for you.

Con:  You know absolutely nothing about the destination or places along the way as you have done no research.

Pro: You save trees as you never touch another paper map again.

Con:  What do you use when your GPS malfunctions?

Pro:  Smart phones with integrated GPS and Google maps mean you only need one device to get you there.

Con:  What if you don’t have service and you forgot your charger?

Pro:  With Bluetooth technology, motorsports enthusiasts can have turn-by-turn directions audible right inside their helmet.

Con:  Directions get in the way of the sound of your motorcycle and having someone tell you what to do is just not cool.

Pro:  You can select a voice that best suits your personality.

Con:  When you start to talk back to the voice in the same accent, you might have a problem.

As you can probably tell, I still think there is an important place for other navigational aids such as the paper map in today’s travel world.  As a route developer, we always want to encourage people to slow down, explore their surroundings or places en route to their destination.  When everyone is on ‘autopilot’, just listening for that next turn direction from their cars speaker system, we really question how much they are getting from their surroundings.   How many times have you put all your faith into your GPS, gotten to your destination and realized you have no idea where you actually are.  Scary feeling right?

Highway Signage – Still Necessary?

Some people now argue that highway signage is becoming less important as the GPS becomes more prevalent with drivers.  I say the exact opposite.  They create a sense of comfort with travellers knowing they are on the right path, and if and when the GPS malfunctions they are an important safety back up.  More importantly are the attraction signs found along the route.  As mentioned above people are doing less and less research about how to get to their destination, therefore are missing the opportunity to learn about any hidden gems or attractions along their satellite-aided path.  Highway signage, can instantly tell people that a scenic lookout, famous butter tart bakery or historic downtown district is coming up on your left.  But signs only work if drivers are paying attention to the road and not their in-dash GPS screen.

As we all know, travel is all about the journey, exploring destinations, seeking out new experiences, all that are away from home, outside of your familiar comfort zone.  The GPS is certainly making the navigational portion of travel easier and more comfortable.  Is the printed map and old-fashioned road signage dead?  We think not. 

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Northern Ontario Adventure: 2 tourism consultants, 1 week, lots of KM’s

By Stacey Hunter, BC Hughes Consulting

As tourism Project Development and Research Coordinator I sometimes get the opportunity to step away from my computer and act like a tourist. Recently while working on Ride the North motorcycle product development, my colleague and I had the fortunate opportunity of travelling through Northeastern Ontario to perform site visits on many attractions, accommodations and restaurants to determine whether they were motorcycle friendly. Our mission was to drive as far north as Kapuskasing, 11.5 hours north of our office in Owen Sound, Ontario.  To put this into perspective, and illustrate just how large Ontario really is – we could have driven to New York City in less time.

In this industry it’s very important that we experience first hand what we are promoting to others and if that means living out of a rental car for a week and surviving off greasy food then we’re always up for the challenge.

Our journey started in Little Current on Manitoulin Island, where we met with the rest of our team over a delicious white fish dinner at the Anchor Inn. This quaint town is the gateway to the North Channel and is visited by thousands of boaters every summer (so naturally we spent our night eating ice cream and swooning over boats that cost more then our homes). After seeing the famous swing bridge do its thing we bid farewell to our fellow travellers and wished them safe travels for their site visits along a slightly different route.

Bright and early the next morning we made our way to Timmins with a few site visits along the way. We were impressed at how many businesses were eager to make their location motorcycle friendly. What we weren’t delighted about was to learn that our car was sans breaks in the back left wheel.  Luckily, our rental agency was very accommodating, switching our car quickly and getting us back on the road.

We settled in for the night at Cedar Meadows Resort just outside of Timmins. This resort knows how to provide its guests with a great experience. The food was beyond delicious and every night they offer a wildlife tour that gives you the opportunity to feed moose (the only one we saw the entire trip) and elk.  Experiences like these make trips memorable.

After saying so long to Timmins we drove two more hours through trees and rocks to the most Northern point of our trip, Kapuskasing, and then on to Cochrane, home of Tim Horton and Ganuk the polar bear. Being on the list of site visits, we headed to JR’s BBQ Ranch for lunch. We were told that JR’s had “the best ribs you’ll ever have”. They were amazing (in our eyes good enough to satisfy a hungry motorcyclist), and to top it all off the service was excellent.

We eventually found ourselves at the Elk Lake Cabins.  This quaint resort was one of my favorite stops on the trip. It was set on the water and featured several cabins and plenty of RV and tent sites. An onsite pizza oven means motorcycle guests can easily park their bikes and order in for the night.  They claim to have the best pizza in the North and although it was the only pizza we ate during the trip, in my opinion, it would hold its own in any pizza competition. We enjoyed ours while watching the sunset over Elk Lake.

After our mini cabin vacation, we packed up the rental and made the breathtaking drive around Lake Temiskaming and Quebec. We headed to Duhamel-Ouest to check out one of our designated stops for lunch. La Bannik was upscale, served delicious fresh food at a reasonable rate and had one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  Since motorcycle riders are not just young to middle aged males anymore, La Bannik passed our test for the couple and boomer market.

Unfortunately our week long site assessment trip was coming to an end. After finishing up our operator visits in Mattawa and North Bay we made the long drive home and said goodbye to the North.

As a tourism consultant, this trip not only affirmed motorcycle friendly businesses- it also gave me a greater sense of what tourism in Northern Ontario really is about.  Northern Ontario is about wide open roads that span miles and miles, friendly welcoming people who are willing to chat and shy but massive creatures like moose and bear that hide within the trees and rocks that surround them.

KM’s driven, approximately 1,887.

Trip Highlights:

  • AY Jackson lookout (minus the bear encounter)
  • brushing back to back with Andre from the TV show Departures riding his motorcycle in northeastern Ontario
  • Coconut Crème pie at Rolly’s in Ramore
  • Highway 633 to Mattawa (windy and thrilling)

Stacey Hunter is a tourism researcher with BC Hughes Tourism Consulting. She has travelled to 16 countries around the world, with the goal to become enriched through experiencing local cultures.

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Filed under Best Practices, destination development, motorcycle tourism, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized

The Do’s and Don’ts of Tourism Websites

By: Kristin Freiburger, BC Hughes Tourism Consulting

Recently I finished planning my honeymoon. I thought looking for a great resort in Ontario would be an easy task, turns out it was harder than expected. My soon to be hubby and I were looking for a resort that offered a range of outdoor activities and cozy accommodations. To my dismay my search turned up very few attractive websites and information was hard to find. This unfortunately had me clicking the back button more times than not.

When booking a vacation, the majority of travellers in this day and age (85% in 2011)[i] use the trusty internet to do their research. This is something operators need to take into consideration. Most of the time a website is the first impression a potential visitor gets. If a website is too busy and photos are subpar, people question what the service will be like.

As a tourism researcher and avid traveller, I visit many tourism websites each day. I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad ones and have decided to share my tips of how you can make your website the best it can be to impress your online customers so they will book with you.

Be Transparent

It is important that businesses feature professional photos of the actual accommodations and activities they offer. Purchasing stock imagery is not good enough. I’ve talked with many travellers and all agree that resorts only showing photos of the town it is located in rather than photos of the resort are hiding something. It’s all about transparency. People want to know what to expect when they arrive, no surprises; unless it’s a bottle of wine waiting for them in their room.

Photo Quality vs. Quantity

Tourists want to get excited about their trip and want to see those epic shots. To give them these visuals, it is essential to hire a professional photographer. Many operators say think professional photos cost too much money. However, they don’t take into consideration that these professional photos could be paying for themselves after a few bookings and will in turn, attract more visitors. Remember your website is a customer’s first impression of your business.

Keep it Simple

Less is more. Keep your pages clutter-free and make information easy find.

Don’t make it a Contact Scavenger Hunt

If you want business, make it easy for your potential customers to contact you. More times than not it feels like a scavenger hunt to find the contact information on an operator website. It is important that every page of the website has both the phone number and general email address visible.

“X” marks the spot

People get very excited once everything is booked. Nothing takes this excitement away more than driving around in circles trying to find the destination. Ensure that your visitors will not get lost or have to spend extra time Googling where you are located. Have a page with a map marking your location and detailed directions coming from different locations. It is also important to include an address that will work when programed into the GPS.  Once on their way, remember that visitors will benefit from wayfinding signage directing them to your location.

Avoid the Guesswork

Many accommodations do not include rates on their webpage. Why not? This saves you and possible customers wasted time. If potential visitors have to phone for prices, they will sometime skip and look for another destination.

Summary

My goal for this post is to make your website the best it can be so individuals choose to come visit you. Just having a website is not good enough anymore. People have certain standards and expectations of what a website should offer. If you keep telling yourself you don’t have enough time to do the updates, hire a professional to take care of it for you. Your updated and professional website will pay for itself in the long run.

Kristin Freiburger is the Product Development and Communications Specialist for BC Hughes Tourism Consulting. Having travelled through Europe, Canada and other parts of North America, Kristin understands what tourists are looking for and the importance of creating unique experiences.


[i] Google/IPSOS OTX Media CT US (2011). The Traveler’s Road to Decision 2011. http://www.blizzardinternet.com/5459/thinkinsights-travel-research/

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Why is Mexico so fun? (by our junior blogger age 7)

Once we flew to Mexico, then we drove to our hotel in Cozumel. The water park was awesome there! I liked when the people who cleaned made animals out of towels. Sometimes they used our stuffed animals too! I also liked when we went on a snorkeling trip.  The boat went up and down. (PS I felt sea-sick.) I liked that when you ate if you wanted to you could sit on swings while you ate. There were pesos instead of dollars. Every day there was a kid’s activity. The kid’s activities were fun. For example there was a kid’s activity called bowling.  That’s why Mexico is so much fun!

Written by: Our Junior Blogger age 7

Tourism Interpretation by our Senior Blogger:

  • “The water park was awesome…” – Capital investing in activities for families pay off the long run.
  • “I liked when the people who cleaned made animals out of towels.” – exceed you guests customer service expectations and you will be rewarded.
  • “The kid’s activities were fun.” – Giving guests lots to do enhances and often extends their stay.
  • “I also liked when we went on a snorkeling trip…” – Off resort activities entertain guests when they’ve exhausted all there is to do on-site, and ultimately extend stays.
  • “I liked that while you ate you could sit on swings…” – Think outside the box!
  • “That is why Mexico is so much fun!” – Fun for the whole family!

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Cabin Living and Expanding the Tourism Shoulder Season


Some of our blog readers will know that I have been working for BC Hughes for five months now as a tourism and economic development researcher, and it truly has been a great experience.  I moved up here for the opportunity to gain practical experience from Bev and Chris and to finally put my years of education to work in a professional environment.

When I was first hired onto the BC Hughes team I did not realize I would be gaining experience in so much more than tourism and economic development.  It all started with a Kijiji search for a place to live in the Owen Sound area for the summer, and when I discovered an “off the grid” cabin for rent on five acres outside of town, I knew my summer was about to take a drastic turn.

So there I was, freezing cold with little electricity in May, wondering what the heck I had got myself into.  I would lay in bed, looking forward to going into work every morning simply for the fact that I could warm up in the office and enjoy a cup of coffee.

But life sure got easier… the days got longer… the solar panels produced more electricity… the showers got warmer, and I became much happier!  Each and every day was a learning experience, not only in the workplace but in day to day living as well.  I learned to live with less.  Less light.  Less heat. Less Water.  Less human interaction.  All this considered it was a truly humbling experience to learn what I could go without.

In my blogs for BC Hughes this summer, I have tried to link the world around us to the tourism industry.  I am always looking for parallels between my life and tourism, in hopes that this helps our readers think about tourism development and marketing in a different way.

Believe it or not, I think living off the grid is very similar to the tourism industry in Canada. For tourism operators, July and August are the best months of the year.  This is when visitor numbers and spending are at their highest as families go on holidays.

Living off the grid, July and August were the best months of the year because I had more electricity then I could possibly use, could shower outside (with deer running past) and enjoy the delicious vegetables from my garden for dinner every night.

July and August were so great (and much easier) that I quickly forgot about the hardships of May and June, however I am remembering them all too well now as Thanksgiving approaches.  As the days get shorter, my bed gets colder, and my lights turn off earlier, I often think about ways I could make May, June, September, and October more enjoyable living in the cabin.  I could do things like add more solar panels, or get a properly working hot shower… the list gets longer each and every day!

It almost goes without saying, but as tourism attractions and operators, it is important to continually think about ways to expand the busy (and much easier) summer season to make the shoulder season more enjoyable (and hopefully more profitable!).   Now that we are in this slower time of year, start thinking of creative ways to expand your season… and if you need some help… feel free to give us a call!

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