Giving tourists an unforgettable experience

Sharing stories at the HNL convention in Gander

Published on February 28, 2017

HNL panelists discuss providing experiences for tourists. Pictured (from left) Carol-Ann Gillard, Todd Perrin, Jill Curran, Ian Stone, Glenn Keough.

©Photo courtesy of HNL

Gander — Delegates at the Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador conference and trade show in Gander last week were all talking about the new direction in the industry—providing “experiential tourism.”

Several operators shared their success stories on a Best Practices panel.

 Jill Curran of Maxxim Vacations and Ferryland Lighthouse picnics said she hopes to provide “transformational travel experiences.”  She explains what she means.

“You leave feeling moved on a level that you didn’t know was possible.”

Curran adds she doesn’t promise that, because it could be “a classic overpromise, under deliver” but that’s what she sets out to do.

To create this effect, Curran — who plans travel itineraries through Maxxim Vacations — says she speaks to each person trying to discover “the movie in their mind” of what they’re expecting from their trip to Newfoundland, then tries to layer in suggestions of cultural events, tours and so on.

Ian Stone, a new tourism operator, who runs Taste of Gros Morne Food Tours, agreed that operators need to research customers’ expectations then exceed those expectations. Stone says his customers don’t see Newfoundland as a budget destination.

Stone’s company operates high-end culinary tours. A three-hour tour can cost up to $180 and take you to several destinations to sample fresh local food, paired with wine.  They also work with local artists and craftspeople to showcase their work.

Stone said his research showed people were willing to pay more for tours in small groups where they got to spend time with the chefs and operators, in order to feel they were “making a connection.” 

In an interview with TC Media Wayne Hollett, who operates Prints of Whales Bed and Breakfast with his wife in Sandringham, said he’s seeing more tourists every year and the season is getting longer. 

People are now starting to arrive at the end of May and they’re busy until the end of September.

“It’s a good news story.  Our challenge here is to increase our offerings so there’s a way for our guests to experience things in May and June, and September and October.”

Shar-lett Matchim, the general manager of The Inn at Happy Adventure, says in addition to their inn and restaurant, her family also offers painting classes and adventure tours — such as zodiac boat trips and kayaking. 

Matchim adds that not only are they seeing more visitors earlier and later in the season, but tourists from a wider range of places, including Europe, Thailand and China.