If chatter around the tables is any indication, tourism operators are gearing up for a busy season. From additional whale watching excursion times, to B&Bs being already 90 per cent booked for July and August, to the development of new rental cabins, to new Walking with the Wolf tours in Sointula, coupled with a low Canadian dollar, excitement about this year is building.
That was the mood as North Island operators and local politicians gathered at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill May 5 for the annual Tourism Season Launch Event. Laurel Sliskovic with the Social Scientists went over the results of last year's inaugural Visitor Experience Survey. Sliskovic explained 20 ballot boxes were placed around with people asked to give their email address to fill out an online survey once they return home. The reason for this was to allow visitors to rate their whole experience rather than filling one out part way through.
"We did have really good success with it," she said, with 444 useable surveys to from which to draw information. Sliskovic presented the survey results in a Family Feud game show format, to the delight of the audience and 'families'. One of the questions asked by the game show host was 'what accommodation was most used in the area' (hotel/motel #1; campground #2; friends and family #3; cabins and cottages #4). Another was 'What attractions they visited while they were here.' The number one answer was parks and trails, followed by beaches, local shops, and First Nations.
Sliskovic explained after the game show portion that the North Island received an overall satisfaction of 4.6 out of 5, with a lack of shopping opportunities being the biggest negative. The North Island also received a Net Promoter Score of 71 above the provincial average of 68.3. The Net Promoter Scored takes the number of people who will promote the area to others (83 per cent), less the number of people who would not be complimentary (12 per cent).
"The number of promoters that you have is really fantastic," Sliskovic said. After the Sociable Scientists presentation, there was a networking break with an opportunity to try out Destination BC's Virtual Reality Oculus Rift Experience. Oculus Rift 360-degree technology allows users to put on a headset and headphones and feel as though they have journeyed to one of BC's destinations, and are taking a hike or are out on a boat looking at sea lions.
After the opportunity to mingle and take a virtual tour, Mary Elliott, senior brand manager for Destination BC, took the stage to talk about revitalization of the BC brand. The Destination BC brand, she explained is "really meant to be representative of the whole province" and expresses what it is is about BC that makes us distinctive, memorable and different from other tourist destinations. "Nature really is the magnet" that draws people to BC, said Elliott.
BC's nature is huge, abundant, diverse, accessible and authentic. As a result of studies it has been determined that the essence of the new brand is 'Wild at Heart', capturing the sense that "wilderness changes you and impacts you in some way or form," said Elliott.
The goal of the revitalization is to have a more unified, cohesive brand that is immediately recognized. "We took a look at what our competitors were doing and we found that there was a sameness," Elliott said.
In an effort to stand out and be different the decision was made to move away from 'perfect' 'posey' photographs to ones that are more subdued, with monochromatic and earth-tone colours, and that are taken in a photojournalist style.
The goal is to weave wilderness or natural surroundings into the photographs. In addition to the switch in photographic style, Destination BC has also developed two new fonts which will be used in its marketing campaigns both in print and on line.
"The new fonts marry well with the nature aspect of the brand," said Elliott. This summer it appears that many BC residents plan to stay at home due to the low Canadian dollar, so Destination BC has launched an ad campaign on television. "We're working really hard to keep them here this year," she said.
Denise Le Gal from Tourism Vancouver Island said there is a synergy between her organization and Destination BC and that they have launched a new website findyourelement.ca which will act as a main call to action for tourists to the island. The website has tourists plot what elements for, their travel formula. Vancouver Island North Tourism Coordinator Joli White, said her office will be following Destination BC's approach.
"We are working on a building a concept that is going to run through all the marketing," White said. The concept is 'Get Lost, Find Yourself' demonstrating how experiences change people.'
"There are many different ways and levels that we can work in this messaging," she said."We're just early stage, but this is the direction that we are heading."