Crescent Falls, David Thompson Country
There is a lot of information on the importance of experiences in tourism but not a lot on how to actually develop experiences for the outdoors or as an adventure travel operator. Most of the information we’ve found is either focused at the destination level, based on Pine & Gilmore’s retail perspective or designed for cultural and heritage attractions.
Over the years we’ve come up with a few different ways to build our tours, adapting the process as we go and finding new ways that ensure a great experience for the guests and staff. We wanted something that started with purpose to build experiences that are well aligned between our guests, our destinations and us as a company. We also needed something that helped ensure that the small details were taken care of.
A little background…
Before we go into the steps we follow, here’s what we mean by experiential travel, adventure travel, authenticity and crafting experiences with purpose.
Experiential travel is a collection of memorable activities that create connections with place and people. What is memorable and how connections are made are inherently personal concepts, meaning that we need to have a clear understanding of who we are building the experience for if we are to succeed in creating something that is relevant and engaging for our guests. Experiential travel has grown and moved beyond a niche market in the last 20 years but has been around for a long time. In many ways, it is the modern art of ancient travel.
Adventure travel is a type of experiential travel that combines nature, culture and activities with a sense of adventure. It often involves some physical or mental exertion and a willingness to step outside of one’s comfort zone. We see adventure as doing things that are new and different for each of us, doing things that can be a little scary but that also make us curious to explore further.
Authenticity on the other hand happens where the operators’ purposes, the guide’s motivations, the destination’s sense of place and sustainable practices intersect. It’s the answer to whether we should be the ones hosting the experience in this location. It’s possible to create a “feeling of authenticity” using the retail approach but the difference is immediately obvious to guests when they encounter a truly authentic experience.
Crafting experience with purpose is starting with why we exist as a company, what our destination stands for and what motivates our ideal guests. We then focus on our shared values and interests to create experiences that are relevant, engaging and authentic. Once we have this in place, we can put together the details of the adventure by setting a vision for the experience that is supported by:
- activities that offer the right challenge level;
- moments that are memorable and meaningful;
- stories that give moments meaning and create local connections; and
- the physical and emotional safety to be free to enjoy the moment.
All of this leads to a guest centered itinerary that provides an authentic experience.
From the tour: An Evening on the Farm
Hot chocolate on the ice bubbles
Icefalls on the Cline River Canyon
The Experience Development Process
The goal: Memorable activities that are authentic and create connections with place and people.
The Guests and the Adventure
The Building Blocks
The first step is to define what you and your destination stands for. This will define the type of experiences that will be authentic and aligned with who you are.
Once you have a good sense of who you are it’s time to look at who you are building the experience for, whether it’s your current market or a new market that shares your values and interests. Knowing your shared purpose with your guests will then allow you to set the vision and engagement level for the adventure.
Keeping in mind our shared purpose and vision for the adventure, it’s time to select the right activities and stories to share, identify ways to create a safe environment and to look at ways to exceed the guest’s expectations to create something magical.
It’s time to go through the finer details on how the experience will be delivered, building an authentic itinerary that allows for connections to happen between the guests, people and places.
Finally we look at pricing, guide training, pilot testing and the other steps needed to bring the new experience to market.
Discussions with Alberta Parks on current challenges, like communication and permits along with opportunities for parks in the region.
The two main items this month were the revamped Travel Alberta grant program and a discussion with Alberta Parks on local challenges we often encounter.
Bringing the frozen wonderland theme to life with artisans, locals and amazing landscapes.
A short meeting to catch up during the winter season and to take a look at destination activation options for next year.
Following up on the housing discussion, looking at our target markets with Travel Alberta and crafting winter itineraries.
Capturing the beauty of the fall colours and sharing the stories of the region.
Building our summer adventure content, from rafting to nature-inspired art and hiking, with MODERNSPEAK and Roam Creative.
A look at our plans as we expand our partnerships and content development projects.
Capturing the magic of winter adventures in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region with Modernspeak and Roam Creative.