We booked a guided tour through K’awat’si Tours for their Nakwato Rapids & Cultural tour back on May 5th from our home in Chicago IL, which was to occur on May 28th , for a large sum of money. We requested pickup at our hotel and were promptly charged the entirety of the sum for the tour but received no further communication. Fast forward to May 27th, we arrived in Port Hardy – a very cute town which we will absolutely return to. We had arranged a two-night stay at Kwa’lilas Hotel to bracket our tour. Upon arrival, we left a courtesy message with the tour company to confirm our arrival and pickup time at 5:30 the following morning. We received no call back but assumed all was ok. Turns out it was anything but.
We arrived early the next day in the lobby of our hotel and were assisted by a young man named David who was concerned about our scheduled pickup. At his suggestion, we decided to head to Governor’s Dock ourselves and wait for the folks from the company to arrive. In the meantime, David said he would attempt to make contact with an individual from the tour company and ensure that our experience would actually happen. We sat at the dock anxiously until around 6:30 am with no sign of anyone from K’awat’si Tours and decided to return to the hotel upon hearing that David had managed to get ahold of someone.
Eddie Walkus appeared in the lobby to briefly explain his role in the situation – he told us that he had previously skippered the boat and seemed to know the right people that he could reach out to who would be able to resolve the situation. We waited while he made several phone calls and tried to right what K’awat’si Tours had managed to do so wrong. Later, we came to realize via TripAdvisor that this was not the first time a “no show” had occurred with this specific tour. Eddie apologized profusely and worked to refund the trip, the hotel night and a $25 gift card towards the cost of gas as he clearly understood that we had not received what we had bargained for. We had after all specifically traveled up the island from Parksville, BC for this event and were about to leave empty handed and with significantly less money in our pockets. We made the decision to leave and head back to Parksville, as our plans had been shot. However, is that the end of the story?
Of course it isn’t.
Before we could leave town, we receive a text from Eddie asking if we would like to come out with him on his boat as he had some work to do and maybe we would enjoy tagging along so we could not deem the entire trip a waste. We hurriedly agreed and set off to meet him at the dock. After he had met his work commitment, Eddie asked if we would like to see a couple of other things on the way back. Again, we agreed and he showed us things that were above and beyond anything we had ever expected. He spent four hours of his own time chugging up and down the waters around Northern Vancouver Island and mainland Vancouver until he could show us a variety of beautiful wildlife. This included several porpoises, seals and humpback whales. Eddie even went as far as to take us to the island where his Native ancestors had lived until they were forced out many years ago. Along the way he told us much about the history of the land and its peoples as well as personal anecdotes which made the day even more real and special. We never once felt rushed and Eddie was willing to answer any questions we had. He was an open and intriguing book with a kind heart.
Eddie provided the name of the tour manager, but stated he was out in Manitoba and unable to respond. So why tell the story? Well, our long planned and expensive trip was saved by a man who clearly did not have to act. However, Eddie stepped up and went above and beyond the call. He demonstrated a core set of values that any employer would have been proud of; customer orientation, quality and discipline to name a few. He looked for a way to make the situation better; a win-win.
It is our understanding that he is not an employee of the tour company this year, but maybe he should be. Excuses aside, this “no show” error was all on K’awat’si Tours – nobody else. Eddie represented his community and its values in a way that exceeded our expectations. We posted an honest review for the original tour but did not want Eddie’s commitment kindness to be lost somewhere along the way.
Credit goes to where it is due; Eddie Walkus. While true, we had received a refund of the tour and the hotel, it was absolutely the minimum that should have been done as we had not gotten what we’d purchased. Yes, Eddie produced a highly valuable experience, but that was all on Eddie.
Despite this unplanned experience, my daughter and I agreed that we will return to Port Hardy on the strength of Eddie and how he presented himself. He is a people person who cares for the reputation of his community. He understood that making that extra effort while not required would be the difference between success and failure. With people like this representing your community, it is clear to us that there is great potential for future success on the backs of people like Eddie Walkus. We recognize his desire to make things work regardless and that doing the right thing is the right thing to do.
As we say back home in Australia, “Eddie, good on ya, mate!”
* Editor’s Note – Scott Roberts emailed the Gazette the company’s side of the story, which you can read below.
“It should be noted that ALL out of pocket expenses expected by Mr. Alexander to be reimbursed to cover auto fuel and meals during his trip to Port Hardy have been completed. He is aware that a cheque was mailed to his home this week. This is in addition to reimbursement of his hotel room and original tour purchase for two persons, made before he left Port Hardy. As indicated in the TripAdvisor review response, we were also pleased that Eddie from k’awat’si Tours was able to provide an unscheduled Scenic Boat & Wildlife tour at no cost to Mr Alexander. We’re proud of the part that our businesses play in attracting tourism interest and visitation to the north island. Despite this incident, which I feel that we adequately took ownership of, we will continue to do all possible to ensure guests receive the exceptional hospitality and experiences they expect when visiting the Port Hardy area. North Island Gazette readers need to be aware of the efforts we took to mitigate the inconvenience of an unfortunate situation that we immediately took ownership of.”