Re-inventing a geotourism destination in Nova Scotia, Canada

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
Geotourism Challenge 2009: Power of Place - Sustaining the Future of Destinations competition.

Trout Point embodies sense of place and creates a destination experience for visitors in a way that supports and promotes the unrecognized natural, social, and cultural riches of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve. By not promoting coastal tourism (the mantra of official tourism policies) and being en "eco-lodge" in a northern, developed country, Trout Point challenges some common preconceptions about what a geotourism destination is or can be. Trout Point currently consists of: 8-room Great Lodge including restaurant, 8 stone fireplaces, teaching kitchen, and public areas, 3-room bed & breakfast, 2 cottages, 100 acres of Acadian Forest & river ...

About You

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Contact Information

Title

Dr.

First name

Charles

Last name

Leary

Your job title

Managing Director

Name of your organization

Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia

Organization type

private company

Annual budget/currency

CDN $400,000

Mailing address

P.O. Box 456, kemptville, NS B0W 1Y0

Telephone number

902-761-2142

Postal/Zip Code

Country

Canada

Alternative email address

Alternative email address

Your idea

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This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.

Street Address

189 Trout Point Road

City

Kemptville

State/Province

Nova Scotia

Postal/Zip Code

B0W1Y0

Country

Canada

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

1998

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Nature, Culinary or agritourism.

Name Your Project

Re-inventing a geotourism destination in Nova Scotia, Canada

Describe Your Idea

Trout Point embodies sense of place and creates a destination experience for visitors in a way that supports and promotes the unrecognized natural, social, and cultural riches of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve. By not promoting coastal tourism (the mantra of official tourism policies) and being en "eco-lodge" in a northern, developed country, Trout Point challenges some common preconceptions about what a geotourism destination is or can be. Trout Point currently consists of: 8-room Great Lodge including restaurant, 8 stone fireplaces, teaching kitchen, and public areas, 3-room bed & breakfast, 2 cottages, 100 acres of Acadian Forest & river ...

Innovation

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What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

To re-create a wilderness destination in a once-celebrated region of Nova Scotia now facing a tourism crisis and general economic hardship using an integrated, geotourism approach.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

Trout Point embodies sense of place and creates a destination experience for visitors in a way that supports and promotes the unrecognized natural, social, and cultural riches of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve. By not promoting coastal tourism (the mantra of official tourism policies) and being en "eco-lodge" in a northern, developed country, Trout Point challenges some common preconceptions about what a geotourism destination is or can be. Trout Point currently consists of: 8-room Great Lodge including restaurant, 8 stone fireplaces, teaching kitchen, and public areas, 3-room bed & breakfast, 2 cottages, 100 acres of Acadian Forest & river frontage; facilities include: canoes, kayaks, wood-fired hot tub, nature guides, boardwalks, on-site trails, adjacent hiking trails, mountain bikes, small spa, fire pit, GPS units for self-guided excursions, cooking classes & culinary vacations, on-site organic vegetable, herb, and flower gardens fed by gray water system.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

Over the past 10 years, Trout Point has innovated by re-vitalizing backwoods & nature tourism, culinary tourism, and Acadian French cultural tourism in Nova Scotia. Once a major nature tourism destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, by the 1990s, Yarmouth County and surrounding areas had fallen on hard times, offering conventional motel & hotel experiences disconnected from the region's inherent resources. In a small way, Trout Point reversed this trend starting in 2000 by once again promoting the idea that something beyond beaches and seafaring culture might be of interest to travelers. While a regional tourism crisis developed for local accommodations in the mid to late 2000s, Trout Point has prospered based on geotourism principles (on the crisis see http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0708/p07s01-woam.html and http://www.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/?p=567) These include: low-cost marketing using the Internet as a primary vehicle and restricting the use of print/paper resources; encouraging local memory of the area's “great camp” and Acadian-cultural heritage; constantly striving to enhance & expand eco-friendly practices, and publicizing & formalizing these extensively; making Trout Point one with the local place, promoting the concept of destination rather than gateway; fully engaging with local tourism partners and encouraging guest use of tourism infrastructure located within .1 to 50 km from the Lodge; pioneering a perspective on the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Biosphere as having geotourism potential.

Impact

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Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Facing early skepticism that a destination property in the backwoods of economically-challenged Yarmouth County could survive, Trout Point now enters its 10th season of operation, with 2008 the most successful to date. Regionally and internationally, previously the Yarmouth area was not known as a destination, but rather as the southern “gateway” for foreign tourists arriving via ferry. This was despite the rich heritage of nature tourism from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s, a history of “power of place” mostly forgotten by the opening of the 21st century. Nova Scotians themselves viewed the area as remote, undeveloped, and uninteresting, and in our experience, few had heard of the Tobeatic, despite the fact that is is the largest protected area in all of Atlantic Canada. Now, the Lodge serves as a springboard for guests to learn about the Acadian Forest ecosystem and always has naturalists on staff to provide meaningful interpretive experiences that emphasize place.

Trout Point has: (1) implemented energy monitoring, recycling, composting, and on-site gardening programs that expand each season; (2) more than tripled revenues since first opening, allowing us to expand our impact on the local economy, create new employment, invest in new practices such as converting 90% of lighting to energy-efficient bulbs, all paper to 100% recycled, all cleaning products to natural, new employee apprenticeship & training programs, and the expansion of marketing reach; (3) gone from hiring 2 local employees per season in 2000 to hiring over 15 (mostly local) in 2009; (4) has increased its primary season from mid June to early October as recently as 2004 to mid May to the end of October in 2009, with some facilities now open year round; (5) and has successfully diversified its visitation from 90% U.S.-origin in 2000-2004 to the current state where local guests represent the single most important geographic category & overall Canadian/international numbers are up.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Trout Point hires its core staff and guides from the local area and provides them with on-the-job training, courses, and travel experiences. The Lodge makes purchases to every extent possible from local vendors/farmers and promotes local tourism experiences. In 2007, the Lodge joined the Total Market Readiness program of the new Yarmouth & Acadian Shores tourism region, and has always provided donations and discounts on meeting space to groups like the Ecology Action Centre or the Sierra Club. Trout Point has worked closely with the Department of Natural Resources, hosting meetings on Tobeatic usage and leads efforts to promote the area as an eco-tourism destination (while government & industry focus the majority of tourism resources on the seacoast). Trout Point also keeps alive the local traditions of wilderness camps and guides, and promotes the importance of local Acadian cultural heritage both through interpretive materials, cooking classes, and the promotion of Acadian events.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Trout Point demands that guests settle into close contact with the local environment, with its activities centered around the enjoyment of the outdoors, giving variety to the myriad of Nova Scotia vacation experiences that focus on the seacoast. Like a kind of kids camp for adults, many guests take the first kayak outing of their lives, enjoy swimming the dark, peat-stained waters of the Tusket River, or learn about the life cycle of the Acadian Forest, but then also enjoy soaking in the wood-fired hot tub by the river and exchanging stories around the fire pit after dinner each evening. Trout Point surveys all guests after their stay, including querying them on overall satisfaction and how important eco-friendliness is to their vacation experience. Local staff encourage visits to local beaches, museums, historic sites, and activities such as whale watching.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Staff naturalists provide guests with the natural history of the Tobeatic Wilderness and the Acadian Forest Ecosystem. Location, identification, & reporting of species at risk is encouraged. Reading materials in each guest room provide a description of the area, including not just the forest as a natural phenomenon but also the indigenous, Acadian French, and later English settlements impact on the use of the backwoods. Cooking classes provide an ingredients-based history of Acadian-Cajun culture and inculcate an understanding of local fisheries, sustainable seafoods, and current environmental questions. Both Trout Point and the Tobeatic are still little known, even among Nova Scotians, and the Lodge encourages greater knowledge of just what such a unique protected area can mean for the province. By emphasizing how Trout Point is re-invigorating a once-lost local tourism tradition of backwoods camps and guides, the Lodge also encourages local involvement and pride.

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

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How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

Trout Point is a small private enterprise. Financing came from (a) investors who exchanged equity and use of the Lodge for cash; (b) sale of vacation home lots with protective covenants limiting the commercial or non-aesthetic use and development of the property; (c) the hard work of the three partners; and (d) constant re-investment in infrastructure. Trout Point has now reached the level where it is buying back some of the lots previously sold to create more nature areas and experiences. Trout Point now employs about 10-14 on a seasonal basis, with 2 year-round caretakers.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

The Lodge is sustainable, with major limiting factors being the seasonality of local tourism & the attendant problems with employee retention. The Lodge would be more successful both financially and as a positive local force if it could operate at a higher level year-round. To accomplish this requires becoming a true, 3- to 4- season destination. In becoming a seasonal destination property, Trout Point has already drawn on local history and unappreciated resources like the rivers & forest, but now it must create attractions that function beyond summer & fall. New year-round initiatives for 2009 include an indoor spa area with treatments using local seaweed resources, horse stable, accessibility of canoes & kayaks, & enrollment of 2 local staff in the cook apprenticeship program for all-season dining.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Current management holds lessons for anyone seeking to create a tourism destination based on sustainable principles, including the analysis, synthesis, and communication of existing local environmental, cultural, aesthetic, & heritage resources. We have also built, owned, and managed a small eco-lodge in Costa Rica, where the tourism environment differs substantially from Nova Scotia (see www.cerrocoyote.com). Lessons learned after ten years of managing Trout Point, and compared with experiences in Louisiana and Costa Rica, include: 1. Overcoming a local perception that the Yarmouth area has little to offer tourists; this includes encouraging memory of the lengthy history of the area being a major "eco-tourism" destination in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 2. Overcoming federal and provincial tourism strategies that only emphasize Nova Scotia's coastal experiences while ignoring the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the concept of a more integrated type of natural/cultural tourism embodied in the Biosphere Reserve concept. 3. Encouraging the recognition of the importance of Acadian French (in addition to English or Scottish) cultural heritage for geotourism, which as former Louisiana residents had immediate currency for us in the late 1990s.The formation of the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Region in 2008 has started to face this challenge, but more can be done. 4. Lack of cooperation among tourism operators, which forms a stark contrast to Costa Rica. Few are truly willing to cooperate with referrals, commissions, mutual promotion, etc. 5. Overcoming the view prevalent in the sustainable tourism industry that appealing upmarket somehow contradicts the goals of geo- or eco-tourism. We are not of the view that upscale must mean that en enterprise cannot also innovate in the area of geo-tourism and hope that Trout Point proves this point. Given our size, we can have much greater impact on the local society and economy following this path.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Our hope is that Trout Point will develop practices and strategies of management translatable to other tourism enterprises in other situations. From a sheer effort at financial survival particularly with the loss of local ferry services in the last 5 years, the Lodge has had to develop itself into a destination property, rather than one receiving guests for 1 night on their way elsewhere. The goals of Trout Point as a destination coincide wholeheartedly with the promotion and sustainable use of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere, and only through stewardship of this destination and its local society will the Lodge prosper. Our geo-tourism management approach has been enhanced through experiences in Costa Rica and Spain, where we have developed very small-scale accommodations that also speak of place, and our future project is the creation of a destination property and agri-tourism enterprise in the troglodyte area of Benalua, Granada Province, Spain.

The Story

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Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

One of a trio of entrepreneurial partners, I grew up in Oregon, California, and Colorado before attending college and graduate school in Ohio and Upstate New York. In 1990, along with Vaughn Perret & Daniel Abel, I started Chicory Farm in Mount Hermon, Louisiana. The farm practiced diversified agriculture, including dairying, cheesemaking, mushroom cultivation, wild foods harvesting, and certified organic vegetable production. The farm won research grants in sustainable agriculture from the U.S.D.A. and in 1996 won the 1st annual Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Administration in a ceremony presided over by Senator Ted Kennedy. In 1998, Vaughn Perret and I moved to Nova Scotia, where we founded a seaside cheese dairy and in 2000 opened Trout Point Lodge. While the dairy closed in 2002, Trout Point thrived and became a leader in eco-friendly tourism, winning a 5 Green Key rating from the Hotel Association of Canada and the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award in 2007.

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

My partners and I had departed from traditional career paths as lawyers and professors to become organic farmers, cheesemakers, sustainable agriculture investigators, and finally restaurateurs in Louisiana during the 1990s. In 1996, two of us visited Nova Scotia, following the Acadian-Cajun French cultural connection. As farmers, we had always emphasized small-scale, integrated, sustainable solutions to quality food production. The New Orleans restaurant we opened brought us in greater contact with the public, where we found a fascination with learning about food & ingredients. In the Yarmouth area of Nova Scotia, we found a land rich with natural beauty, diverse cultures, a wealth of local food possibilities, and an intriguing history. We decided to follow our instincts to create a tourism destination, even though tourism and accommodations was not a field we had previously experienced.

As we investigated the region's history, we discovered that a well-developed tradition of nature camps, lodges, and guides had existed starting in the 19th century (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tent_Dwellers), which had all but petered out by the 1950s, when the wave of roadside motels and seaside cottages took over. Checking in to accommodations in Yarmouth was like stepping into a time machine, taking you back to 1970. Our sojourns at the "El Rancho Motel" in 1996 & 97 were emblematic of this state of affairs.

However, scattered here and there physical remnants of the previous tourism tradition survived, which very much appealed to geotourism values. Most of the old camps and lodges had burned or literally deteriorated, one became a retirement home, others were in private hands. We tried to buy one of the latter--700 acres including frontage on numerous lakes, a farmhouse, Great Lodge, and cabins. The deal fell through, and the owner had started to clear-cut several areas of the property, so we moved on to the idea of building something anew.

After months of searching for a backwoods parcel that would not be affected by neighboring timber holdings and the threat of clear cuts--a goal not so easily attainable in southern Nova Scotia (see what happened to a nearby monastery: http://www.nben.ca/environews/alerts/alert_archives/98/nova.htm)--we happened upon 200 acres at the confluence of 2 rivers, perfect for a wilderness lodge. Just 3 days after the purchase, the provincial legislature declared the Tobeatic as a protected area, ensuring that the lands across the river and to our north would never be open to commercial development or cutting. In 2001, the United Nations declared the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve, with the Tobeatic at its heart (http://www.snbra.ca/reserves.htm).

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Trout Point operates in a way that integrates as much as possible with the local environment & society, particularly as defined by the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve. The Lodge lies at the confluence of the Tusket & Napier Rivers, immediately adjacent to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, which itself adjoins Kejimkujik National Park, forming the largest protected area in Atlantic Canada. Locals call it the "empty quarter." Trout Point's offerings include: 1. The Lodge counts as the only accommodation/destination giving travelers immediate access to the Tobeatic via hiking trails, canoe, kayak, and guided excursions with staff naturalists. 2. Trout Point has offered the Nova Scotia Seafood Cooking School since 2000, teaching participants about local, sustainable seafood and cooking techniques, including Cajun & Acadian styles. 3. The accommodations blend seamlessly with the local Acadian Forest environment, built from Atlantic Canadian white spruce logs & Nova Scotia granite, with wildwood furniture handcrafted from branches and saplings cut from the property. 4. Trout Point is a true nature retreat, with no cell phone reception, no TVs in the rooms, and an emphasis on eco-friendly practices like river swimming, wood-fired hot tub, no air-conditioning, energy-saver lighting, bulk amenities, recycling, on-site gardens, composting, and the like.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Trout Point provides a model for how even small enterprises can define, create, or shape a destination, even one that is unknown, under appreciated, or forgotten. Trout Point always encourages regional tourism development and seeks out partnerships with local businesses and organizations; enhancement of this type of cooperation would benefit not only the Lodge, but also the region as a whole. Greater political leadership in recognizing that the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere has not only the potential, but also the mandate to develop tourism is a sustainable way in the forests as well as the beaches & coastal towns would be a major victory. One example of spreading the innovation: In 2004, Random House published The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook, which engages readers in Acadian history and has chapters describing the Tobeatic ecosystem, teaches about cooking with wild foraged foods, and home smoking of seafood--techniques tied to the environment and culture of southern Nova Scotia.

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267 weeks ago Rajneesh Srivestava said: God bless you Dearest One It's my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which I intend to establish in your country, ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 9.people first—but it's your environment Employees & guest/clients must have priority within any sustainable tourism enterprise, though ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 8.take established sustainable tourism practices as givens, not innovations—don't think about them too much, they are now standard ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 1.Use a core-periphery approach to problems, purchasing, hiring, and promotion—be informed. One fundamental assumption of any small ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 6. seek out innovators in the local community and form alliances with those willing to take a chance on something less than customary; ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 5. make a virtue out of those inputs—for you and your guest/clients. Remember to celebrate your geo-touristic uniqueness and create ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 4.Be an antidote to the commerical world; reduce to every degree possible cookie-cutter inputs, and instead utilize local resources, ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
268 weeks ago Charles Leary said: 3 in marketing, seek a “hook”—something to make your project special or unique and work hard at perfecting and promoting it & making it ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
269 weeks ago Charles Leary said: In looking at our track record over the past 10 years, we came up with the following list of 10 ways in which the Trout Point project ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
269 weeks ago Charles Leary said: We want to thank the judges very much for their comments and confidence. With regards to the question about social impact: The most ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >