Understanding Connections Between People & Places

Understanding Connections Between People & Places

St. John's, Canada
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

CapeRace Cultural Adventures is a boutique tour operator specializing in experienced-based
travel, located on Canada’s easterly most island of Newfoundland. CapeRace offers meaningful, outdoorsy, soft-adventure travel packages that bring Newfoundland’s rich history, performing arts and pristine wilderness together to create an "Eco-Culture Experience™". This experience occurs at the intersection of the Island’s unique cultural heritage, amazing wildlife and scenic wonders, appealing to the mind and soul of the curious traveler. The traveler is given a key that fits the locks of three newly restored historic homes situated in spectacular coastal locations, together with a car and ...

About You
Contact Information
Title

Mr.

First name

Ken

Last name

Sooley

Your job title

Business Owner

Name of your organization

CapeRace Cultural Adventures Inc.

Organization type

Business

Annual budget/currency

NA

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

11 Hipditch Hill

City

St. John's

State/Province

Newfoundland

Postal/Zip Code

A1A 1A5

Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists .

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

2004

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Living culture, Destination aesthetics, Adventure, General tourism.

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Innovation
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.

Create a sustainable enterprise that delivers authentic travel experiences while contributing to the long term protection of Newfoundlands living cultures, heritage places and environmental context.

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.

CapeRace Cultural Adventures is a boutique tour operator specializing in experienced-based
travel, located on Canada’s easterly most island of Newfoundland. CapeRace offers meaningful, outdoorsy, soft-adventure travel packages that bring Newfoundland’s rich history, performing arts and pristine wilderness together to create an "Eco-Culture Experience™". This experience occurs at the intersection of the Island’s unique cultural heritage, amazing wildlife and scenic wonders, appealing to the mind and soul of the curious traveler. The traveler is given a key that fits the locks of three newly restored historic homes situated in spectacular coastal locations, together with a car and commercial-grade travel guide written specifically for the CapeRace trip. Sense of place, the “geographical character” of our destinations, is highlighted through the encouragement of traveler participation in the local community—a participation on one’s own terms and own time, located in an authentic, sustainable setting. Travellers stay at restored indigenous homes on an exclusive–use basis, using the self-directing guidebook to explore unique and out-of-the-way nature sites, pubs, music venues, and heritage attractions. Our goal is to promote and preserve the natural and living cultural heritage of the Island, celebrating “what is” and not trying to create what we think “should be”.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

Our goal is to inspire activities that allow the traveler to become part of the communities they visit, while preserving and promoting the natural and cultural heritage of the Island. It is our belief that responsible travel ultimately produces the best travel experience-- that memorable life-changing travel experiences occur without the intervention of a tour operator or the deployment of intrusive traditional travel products. Based on this critical premise we have designed an approach to self-guided travel that combines a commercial-grade guidebook written specifically for the visitor’s tour with the restoration of at-risk historic coastal homes. Travellers become integrated into three different communities and celebrate the Island's biodiversity as the guidebook covertly introduces them to persons who have a story to tell, music to play, or a personality representative of the local culture. Because we print a new guidebook for each individual trip, we can move people and places in and out of the guide, creating a less concentrated traveller’s footprint while spreading economic benefits wider. As new people and places are discovered, we move them into the guide allowing our customers first opportunity to have the "Eco-Culture Experience™.” And because CapeRace restores and manages the historic homes, the stay experience remains consistent with the local community.

Impact
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?

Revenues have doubled year over year for the last two years indicating more customers are spending money in the local communities we operate in. Local payroll increases indicate additional economic benefit to the remote communities. Seven homes representing vernacular traditions have been renovated, four of which we consider to have been at imminent risk. Newfoundland's cultural expression, captured through our restored coastal homes and custom guidebook, enable travelers to experience Newfoundland more intimately. Careful restorations and deliberate décor decisions create three different and unique atmospheres during the tour. (Windows locally hand-made, clapboard painted local colours, local rough-sawn lumber) Each home represents a different take on Newfoundland lifestyle. The St. John’s home represents the new of Newfoundland—a historic home with modern décor and new amenities that deliver a nautical coastal living atmosphere. In the outports, technology is removed, the traveler experiences the house as it would have been in simpler times--no dishwashers, cable TV or Internet. In Heart’s Delight the traveler experiences a 1930’s fisherman’s home, complete with original furnishings, vintage appliances, and original floor cloths. Historic homes represent collected memories for those still living. Restoring these homes helps sustain these memories which are all part of the precious intangible cultural heritage we promote, preserve and hope our customers will experience. We have been profiled in over twelve national and international publications, and have received awards, award nominations, and industry recognition for our approach to authenticity, sustainability, and value.

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?

The Traveller’s Diary recommends unique personalities and destinations: pubs, shops and hikes. We direct travellers to places where a local person has been noted as someone of interest, hoping the traveller will seek out that person. For example, we send visitors to the historic barber shop in St. John's to view very old photographs of the city that cover the walls--our hidden agenda is to have them meet the barber who has worked there for years, knowing he could recount the city's history better than old photographs could ever. We hope the traveller will purchase a haircut. These types of recommendations are mixed throughout the guidebook, and this content increases and changes every year. It is our expectation that the traveller will deliver back to the community by purchasing art, services, meals or by providing some sort of personal recognition. We see these cultural exchanges as being mutually beneficial, especially in the remote areas where business can be slow.

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

As described above, the function of the Travellers Diary is to draw the visitor into three local communities-- we send them to the local bingo night, not because we think they will like bingo, but because the odds are good they’ll meet the person sitting beside them, and may get invited to a party. We encourage visitors to attend the church service, rather than to just visit the church. We encourage visitors to shop at the local general store for supplies with the expectation they'll have a better chance at an interesting cultural exchange. It is our belief that the curious traveller enjoys local immersion regardless of activity, and often in remote communities where the social schedule is communicated via word of mouth it is difficult to know when or where these activities take place. The guidebook assists in bridging this gap. In addition, we use our local staff to obtain invites to private parties that may be taking place in the town, or to provide information on local events.

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.

Our staff enjoys meeting the new increasing stream of visitors to the town over the past several years. Our guest services provider in Heart’s Delight--while her job mainly encompasses housekeeping--- enjoys cooking for guests and will often drop over homemade local cuisine. (We do not ask her to do this) One of the greatest attractions in Newfoundland is the high level of personal hospitality. The traveller's unusual reaction to what is an everyday event for the local residents creates recognition of the value of their cultural heritage. Similarly, the local community has been living in these communities for a long time where the dramatic scenery is an every day experience. Enthusiastic compliments about the fresh air and dramatic scenery, and maybe the lack of it at the traveller's home reinforces the value of the area in which the locals live. It is the on-going authentic, heart-felt personal exchanges that we hope to influence that create the mutually beneficial understanding.

Sustainability
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.

CapeRace was originally supported by private financing. We have submitted applications for repayable public financial assistance in order to support a significant expansion next year. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency provides support for individuals seeking to invest in many areas of Atlantic Canada. We currently employ seven part-time/full-time persons, and have persons within the local communities contributing on a volunteer basis.

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

Yes. For FY 2009 it is expected that CapeRace operations will be self-supported by tour revenue. Market research indicates a clear and significant market trend towards meaningful authentic travel, and our approach delivers on this increased demand while preserving the platform within it operates.

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

Main barriers include increasing capital costs as home values increase. Property ownership is critical to the overall sustainability of the enterprise. Government regulations, while necessary, require reform and are increasingly becoming a burden on all small tourism operations. The increase in liability claims has driven insurance premiums to a point that simple remote boat tours and historic hikes are not viable activities we can support.

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.

CapeRace plans to expand current tour capacity through the acquisition and restoration of additional at-risk historic homes. This year we will have doubled our tour capacity with the completion of our sixth home, and plan to expand to nine within the next two years. We have also tendered for a position that would provide oversight to the development of the travel guide, to ensure we maintain our progressive approach to providing authentic cultural experiences. It is our vision to create a much more personalized guidebook for each visitor, one that not only lists current events for the time period the gust is traveling, , but that also takes into account the traveller's specific profile, including lifestyle preferences, family needs and energy level. In addition, we have plans to integrate this with current Web 2.0 technology, embracing new media for behind the scenes support for business operations, product development, and customer satisfaction.

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

We returned to Newfoundland after an eighteen year absence to visit our abandoned, dilapidated family homestead with a view to undertaking renovations for a summer cottage. Instead, we rediscovered the vibrant local culture, amazing seascapes and pristine wilderness of the province. A the end of our short visit we observed that Newfoundland could easily compete with any world-wide destination if the proper accommodation existed, and the right approach enacted. Furthermore, most of the island was undiscovered with much of the important history and cultural accomplishments unknown outside the island, leaving a vast pristine area rich with opportunity to explore. We felt that a viable business could be created that would both encourage the restoration of many at-risk coastal homes as well as contribute to economic revitalization. Inherent in this opportunity lay many cultural and environmental threats that often accompany a new tourist destination. Our challenge was to create a sustainable business that did not in any way destroy the “sense of place” that the small communities enjoy and which we valued. It came as a surprise that information technology could hold the answer to developing authentic, sustainable tourism business models. The rather static, traditional travel guide provided to our travelers in our first season evolved into a commercial-grade travel guide written specifically for the CapeRace tour. The guide self-directs the traveller not only to the popular sights in the vicinity of the three homes, but also to unique and out of the way pubs, nature sites, shops and hikes that are not well known to the average traveller. In seasons one and two minor changes were made to content, mostly aesthetics in the way of photographs and layout, with a few changes to our dining recommendations. As we moved into our third season we realized that customers were not only taking recommendations from our guidebook but providing recommendations back to us. This opened a world of possibilities as we found that we could control the visitors’ local travel destinations without compromising the self-guided tour. We also realized we could protect the character of the locale. New publishing software has provided us with the capability to now affordably and professionally demand-print the travel guide, resulting in several major impacts: (1) it allows the travel guide to be updated in near-real time, to the point that we are able to print a new book for each customer. As CapeRace and our customers meet more interesting people, and visit more unique places, we evolve the guidebook to ensure the next traveller’s experience maintains originality, spontaneity, and authenticity. (2) More importantly, the guide allows us to adhere to sustainable travel practices ensuring that the travelers’ collective seasonal footprint on the specific destination is minimized, and the distribution of economic benefits are more widespread. With less concentrated intrusions we are protecting the platform upon which the travel experience occurs, minimizing the tourism based “cultural and ecological erosion”. Newfoundland & Labrador, being largely undiscovered and unexplored, allows the Traveller's Diary to change often throughout the season as new people and new experiences are uncovered.

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

Ken is a former information technology executive of seventeen years and has held various business development positions with large and small organizations. In 2004 Ken created CapeRace Cultural Adventures with the intent to test-market a new concept in experiential travel and continues to manage the company today. On the personal side, Ken is an avid adventure traveller, having spent many days wandering the streets of India and the developing countries of Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. In his earlier years Ken worked with in the cruise ship industry and held various travelling positions within the outdoor amusement business.

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

The Traveller’s Diary directs folks to areas of the island we believe are the most interesting and of the highest cultural and scenic value, but the traveler chooses when, what and where they want to see and do on any given day. The custom guidebook increases the traveler’s odds of having greater interaction with the local community, resulting from their autonomous choices, the weather, chance, and effort. Most of the unique and interesting travel experiences our customers have reported to have had appear quite mundane in print. Eg. a plumbing problem in one of the remote coastal homes sparked an eight page hand-written thank you letter from one guest. The traveller’s efforts to fix the problem drew them into the local community, resulting in a hilarious afternoon of story-telling by the lobster fisherman cum plumber. Our guests experiences observing whales, birds, icebergs, historic architecture and taking great hikes are simply the base experiences we expect all visitors to have. Exploration of the true culture through self-developed relationships and chance meetings is where the real value-- and magic--occurs on a CapeRace trip. Our statistics demonstrate that the Traveller’s Diary and the ownership of coastal homes on the circuit dramatically increase the odds of a unique cultural exchange occurring.

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

We believe that partnerships need to be maintained on many levels, ranging from the local communities in which we operate through to global bodies active world-wide. We align our goals and objectives with the provincial tourism association known as Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador, with the provincial government of Newfoundland & Labrador at the regional level, the Canadian Tourism Commission at the national level, and with National Geographic at the international level. Developing ties with these groups affords CapeRace the opportunity to synchronize its business development efforts, aiding the sustainability aspects of the business model and increasing our reach into research and development investments that we could not normally afford to undertake ourselves.

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