A life at sea proved good preparation for life in the tourism industry for this New Brunswick operator.
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There are no better storytellers than sea-faring folk. The mix of adventure, hard work and sea air just brings out the narrator in them.
Shediac Bay Cruises, NB, is true to these traditions. As one of the members of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)’s Signature Experiences Collection® (SEC), this New Brunswick operator brings visitors into the heart of lobster and Acadian culture.
Denise Cormier, co-owner of Shediac Bay Cruises with her husband Ron, comes ashore in the latest CTC News SEC case studies to explain how they convey those authentic experiences to their guests—as well as giving them a meal to remember.
What inspired you to get into the tourism business? And when did you start?
It was mostly my husband’s idea. He had worked for the previous owner [Eric LeBlanc] as captain of the boat. It interested him as the business talks so much about the lobster fishing industry, and he was a lobster fisherman for almost 30 years. So it was a good fit to share those stories and promote the lobster fishing industry through tourism. We’re now into our fourth summer running the show.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing your enterprise today?
Publicity: getting information out to all the tourists can be difficult. There are still many people who don’t know our product. The economic conditions right now aren’t helping, either.
Tell us more about “Lobster Tales,” the experience you have that is featured in the Collection.
We take visitors out on a 53-ft boat [the Ambassador] into Shediac Bay and put down two lobster traps. After that, we anchor the boat for about 30 minutes and give a presentation on the lobster industry. My husband can really tell this story, with all his experience, especially conveying how important it is to the Maritimes. We cover how the lobster gets into the trap, how to tell the difference between males and females and how to tell which lobsters are left- or right-handed.
From there, we explain how to cook and eat a lobster. You eat everything; some people think you can only eat the tail and the big claws. The whole trip lasts two and half hours. It’s great fun and educational as well. If there are kids on board, we get them to help with the traps and take pictures of guests with the live lobsters. It all ends with a huge lobster meal, with potato salad and fresh coleslaw.
How are you promoting your membership?
We have the SEC logo on our website as well as on the flyers that we distribute across New Brunswick in hotels, motels and any other suitable venues. We also promote it at the tourism shows we go to, such as Bienvenue Quebec and the Atlantic Canada Showcase.
Are you getting visitors from any new international markets or greater numbers from existing ones?
Most of our visitors come to us via bus tours or as FITs [fully independent travellers]. In terms of numbers, we’re seeing about the same as last year so far. However, the industry is flat across the province. Maybe lots of people have gone to the US this year. On top of that, we’re now also competing with Cuba and the Dominican Republic, places like that. People aren’t using all their vacation time in the summer. Instead they’re saving for some for winter and escaping to sunshine in those destinations. It’s hard for a lot of the industry here to compete with the prices these hotels are offering.
Has your media exposure changed domestically or internationally as a result of being a SEC member?
Tourism New Brunswick already recognizes us as being attractive to tourists, so promotes us well. This year, we have had more articles in publications in France and Germany, but the market we’d like to get into is Asia. The problem is that visitors from there just don’t seem to stop for long. They get out of the bus for an hour—and then they’re gone again.
One year in, what do you think of the SEC program so far?
We need to give it more time, because not much changes in a year. The program is all about marketing and results from that could take at least two years to come through. SEC is another avenue for us to get publicity. It doesn’t cost us money either, which as a small business is really good.
What’s been your biggest lesson this year as a tourism operator?
We always have to work hard to get people to come—all the time. We’re lucky in a way in that we’ve had this good publicity. You also have to welcome clients, to make them feel at home. That may be basic tourism stuff, but if you don’t do those things, you’ll miss out.
What are some of the challenges facing Canada’s tourism industry?
In New Brunswick, the big one is the length of the tourism season. It’s too short. We also have some concerns over changes to the law on Employment Insurance. At the moment, we have students and adults working for us. But will the changes mean that in the future we can only hire students for part-time work, as the adults will all be in other jobs, not in tourism?
What might a big opportunity for Canada’s tourism industry look like?
We should take the chance to promote more within Canada. Even our province needs to promote more within the province. We need to try to keep people in Canada for their vacations.