COVID19 has had a massive impact on the tourism and hospitality sector, especially on those who depended on group travel. With all of it almost completely shut-down indefinitely, there hasn’t been any opportunities to develop new tours or update old ones for travel companies However, it has not prevented me from providing trip planning assistance to private clients.
GLP Worldwide contracted me to assist them with the development of an 18 day Discover British Columbia tour which they wanted to launch in June of 2019. They had a rough itinerary prepared. Drawing my knowledge and familiarity with the province, I provided suggestions on how itinerary could be tweaked for a better flow. As well I pointed them to some remarkable accommodations, activities and sites to include, including: the Desert Cultural Centre, Spirit Ridge Resort and Nk’Mip Winery owned and operated by the Osoyoos First Nation; the Kettle Valley Steam Railway; and Songhees First Nation Cultural and Wildlife Tours (in partnership with Eagle Wing Wildlife Tours).
In 2018, Orbridge asked me to assist them with revitalizing their signature Canadian Rockies tour. One of their managers had come to realize that their product was very much like those offered by other travel companies. As with the contract with GLP Worldwide I was able to provide ideas and suggestions for very attractive activities and sites that I saw very few other companies offering.
Many of my ideas and suggestions came from first-hand experience leading tours through Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks for other travel companies. I also had worked in Kootenay National Park as a naturalist back in the mid-70s. On top of all this, I have researched and written numerous articles and a best-selling Canadian non-fiction book about these national parks and about the national park system generally. Oh, and I should mention I taught a parks and protected areas course in the Department of Geography at UVic.
Among the suggestions I passed along to them was to skip the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. It’s always overcrowded during the peak season and over-priced for the experience. Instead, I recommended taking the chairlift at Lake Louise Resort and taking in the Wildlife Centre where a local guide would lead the group on a short hike through grizzly bear habitat. Another suggestion was to skip Icefields Parkway Centre and the usual Sno-coach ride on the Athabasca Glacier. Again, this site is overcrowded and over-priced. In its place, I encouraged Orbridge to include Kootenay National Park and a short walk into the Paint Pots, a unique geo-thermal phenomenon where indigenous people gathered pigments to decorate their bodies and belongings.
Orbridge also asked me to produce a suggested commentary document which other tour directors and expedition leaders could use and adapt to their own interests. Many of their staff from the US and are not very familiar with the Canadian Rockies or the national parks.
Upon completion of the contract, Orbridge then proposed that I lead the first tours in 2019 to help tweak the tour which I was pleased to do!
Late in 2016, Road Scholar approached me to develop a new program involving hiking in and around Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island. Early in 2017, I made a scouting trip to the park to assess whether or not the Pacific Rim Traverse would make a suitable route when broken into a number of day hikes.
The Pacific Rim Traverse is an awesome hike in the Long Beach Unit of the park. There are two other units: the world-famous West Coast Trail and the paddlers’ haven the Broken Islands Group.
The Traverse stretches approximately 22 km between Wya Point and Portland Point. About 20 kms are on hard, flat sand beaches. Coastal views are epic as are some of the old growth Sitka spruce found along the hike. There’s always a chance of seeing marine wildlife such as sea lions and whales.
But the Traverse is no cake walk. There are a number of hazards to be mindful of and to plan accordingly. There are a few short boardwalk sections which are in need repair with missing or rotten planks. Some sections are twisted and when wet and slippery cause one to slip off possibly resulting in injury. Rising tides can flood beaches, cut off headlands and cause the only creek crossing to become quite deep and swift.
In developing this hiking program for Road Scholar, I not only spelled out how the Traverse could be broken up and what precautions needed to be taken with the hazards, but I also included extending the Traverse by adding in the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet.
“I wanted to write and Thank You for the exceptional guidance and insight you shared with us this afternoon. Planning travel in the middle of a pandemic is intimidating and you were able to give us timely and effective ideas as to how to plan and travel at this time.
In planning our road trip to the Canadian Rockies and back through the Gold Rush Trail areas, your help and perspective have been invaluable. Planning trips as a family or a couple can be so challenging when one of us is an adventurer and the other just wants some quiet time to kick back and relax. You were able to go through our questions and even suggest many, many new options we hadn’t even considered. Now we have a travel plan that both of us are thrilled with. We both will be able to enjoy ourselves without unnecessary compromises and negotiating. We both win!
Rick, we also appreciate your experience and detailed knowledge in the national parks, countless trail specifics and even personal knowledge of many of the accommodations along the way. Your expertise is truly endless.
We will definitely be in touch with you as we make our future travel plans. You saved me so much time planning, money on travel books and research, not to mention dollars and time lost on disappointing experiences..
Best of all, we’re no longer guessing on routes and activities, but rather we are looking forward to all that’s planned confident that everything will work beautifully for us! You are the BEST!!” – Anne Kjelligren, September 2020