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Archive for the ‘geotourism’ Category

In its 12th season of operation, Trout Point is proud to say that has a truly home-grown (and fantastic) staff, truly representative of the local area. The only employee out of a current 14 from the outside area is the new staff astronomer, who graduated from Halifax’s St. Mary’s University and is native to New Brunswick. All 13 live in Yarmouth County, most in Kemptville itself.

Why is local so important? For one, it greatly increases the beneficial impact that Trout Point can have on the local economy. For another, it enhances the Lodge’s geotourism values; employees who live and play in the local region provide a more worthwhile, experiential experience for our guests. They become our concierges. Finally, it restores a Kemptville, NS tradition of guides, lodges, and nature tourism that deserves reinvigoration.

 

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The Lodge’s new after-dinner astronomy offerings have steadily gained in popularity this summer, even drawing the attention of the Globe & Mail newspaper. Staff astronomer Mike Hiland leads guests on interpretive tours both at Trout Point and in the nearby Tobeatic Wilderness Area, at Indian Fields.

A new riverside platform gives broad views of the Milky Way and other astronomical phenomenon. Trout Point and its surrounds boast the darkest night time skies in North America–superb for seeing things made invisible by light pollution.

The most popular outing is a safari-like expedition in the Lodge’s Jeep Rubicon, along the Tobeatic’s border, to Indian Fields–something described by Globe & Mail bureau chief Oliver Moore!

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Trout Point Lodge is now a member of muchbetteradventures.com!

The Lodge is delighted to have been approved as full members of muchbetteradventures.com, a carefully selected collection of adventure providers who have a strong ongoing commitment to sustainability.

muchbetteradventures.com is a community powered adventure travel guide, specially designed to support local businesses and reward true ethical practice. You can get in direct contact with members through the site, avoid paying commissions, and check out reviews from others who have been.

They worked closely with Sustainable Travel International and The Travel Foundation to develop a careful sustainability vetting procedure, so you can be sure that if someone claims to be ‘muchbetter’, they will be just that! The long-term aim is to build the widest and fairest selection of ethical adventure travel choices that outdoor lovers have ever seen, and bring support to many important conservation and community development projects around the world.

Check out our profile here.

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Trout Point Lodge has entered the Geotourism Challenge 2010: Places on the Edge, Saving Coastal & Freshwater Destinations. You can see the entry here. The Challenge is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Ashoka’s Changemakers, and the InterAmerican Development Bank.

Trout Point was among 10 worldwide finalist in the 2009 Geotourism Challenge and a delegate to the 2010 Geotourism Summit.

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Take a look at selected clips from the series Fenetre sur la monde, broadcast on the French Escales travel network in late 2009. The narration is in French.

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Following Trout Point Lodge’s participation in the International Congress of the Relais & Chateaux Association, Cape Town, South Africa, proprietors Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary joined the owner of Hotel St. Germain for a 10-day exploration of South African hotels & lodges.

Though Nova Scotia and South Africa have remarkably distinct climates and ecosystems, the importance of nature tourism–what the National Geographic Society might call Geotourism–is vitally important in both places. Visits to Gorah Elephant Camp, Tsala Treetop Lodge, Le Quartier Francais, and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve rounded out a trip that started with stays at the Mount Nelson Hotel and One & Only Cape Town.

Overall, this diverse collection of  hotels expressed the best that South Africa has to offer: a sophisticated combination of refined elegance and meaningful contact with local nature & culture. Lions, zebras, buffalo, and elephants at Gorah became central to a larger understanding of humankind’s attempts to live with and within this larger–often not so kind–natural world over the past 2 centuries. Guides at Gorah and Bushmans Kloof proved indispensable to an enriching stay. Both Garret at Gorah and Zenovia at Bushmans served not only as interpreters of the local flora and fauna on twice-daily “game drives,” they also acted like the ultimate in concierges, offering friendly and highly personalized service throughout the day.

The exoticism of the South African “safari” experience clearly outweighed comparatively minor inconveniences that many guests in North American or Continental hotels might find objectionable if found in their local Hilton or Marriott. But, like Trout Point, these are small hotels, often not exceeding 20 guests at a time. Each provides for unique travel experiences. Predictably, the largest and most recent hotel–Cape Town’s One & Only–was also the least distinctive and enriching.

While Nova Scotia lacks “the Big 5,” and our moose and black bear hide rather than displaying themselves,  the South African lodges provided excellent examples of how to make the most out of the natural surroundings for guests. Gorah, in particular, but also Tsala and Bushmans, also demonstrated the value of providing authentic “lodge” and “safari” experiences, including references to local heritage and all the elements that feed the romantic imagination. Vacations in places like South Africa–and Nova Scotia–should transport you to another world, a place without cares, a true enriching diversion.

More to come . . .

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The first fruit from the Lodge’s 2009 efforts at edible mushroom cultivation has been born! Trout Point’s straw and sawdust mushroom patch, seeded with King Stropharia spawn last summer, is now yielding a great abundance of huge, meaty, & delicious mushrooms! Watch for these delicacies in upcoming dishes on Trout Point’s ever-changing fixed menus.

The nearby inoculated Shiitake logs are also being watched closely for signs of the first flush of mushrooms.

The mushroom cultivation effort compliment’s Trout Point’s longstanding vegetable, herb, and flower gardens, which are going strong after initial plantings done in late April.

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Since early February, Trout Point Lodge has focused efforts on bringing Nature Air to the area, engaging local, regional, provincial, and federal players to confront the current crisis caused by the absence of ferry service to the region.

Nature Air flies Twin Otter Vistaliners

At the February 3-5, 2010 Geotourism Summit at the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Trout Point Lodge owners Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary got to know fellow honouree Alex Khajavi, CEO & Chairman of Costa Rican airline Nature Air. Perret, Leary, and Khavjavi were all there as delegates and finalists in the 2009 Geotourism Challenge, “Power of Place: Sustaining the Future of Destinations.” Nature Air was one of three winners in the worldwide competition, and when Perret & Leary mentioned the collapse of the ferry service and possibility for implementing a new air tour & link between Maine and Nova Scotia, Khajavi jumped on the idea.

Costa Rica has a tourism season opposite that of Atlantic Canada, and the airline has slack demand for its Canadian-built Twin Otter Vistaliner aircraft during the summer months. Nature Air operates more than 70 flights a day in Costa Rica and Panama, and is the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.  Leary & Perret had personal experience with Nature Air, having flown between Costa Rica and Panama while operating former Trout Point sister property, the Inn at Coyote Mountain.

“We knew it would be perfect for flights between Maine and Yarmouth,” commented Perret. “Flying in a Twin Otter is an experience in and of itself, and given the scenery of Maine, the Bay of Fundy, and around Yarmouth, this kind of service would draw lots of tourists in addition to those simply filling a transportation need.”

While still in Washington, Leary & Perret contacted David Rankin, Manager of the Yarmouth Airport for assistance. In the weeks since, the 2 owners of Trout Point Lodge have also pro-actively encouraged involvement from the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture & Heritage, the Municipality of the District of Argyle, Minister Percy Paris’ office, the Southwest Shore Development Authority, and MP Greg Kerr’s office.

On Friday, they also contacted the Manager of the Hancock County – Bar Harbor Airport in Maine, and received an enthusiastic response. Bar Harbor receives 3 US Airways flights a day from Boston. Bar Harbor and Yarmouth have historic transportation links for decades. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the area, including Acadia National Park, each summer.

“Bob Book from the tourism department has been particularly helpful in pushing things forward,” said Leary. “However, in the wake of the loss of the Cat Ferry service, moving decisively on to new options to face the crisis seems to have fallen overboard.”

“We were glad to read the press release from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Friday, promising a Team Southwest Nova approach to solving the issues facing us,” said Perret, “However, we have an award-winning entrepreneur in Alex Khajavi, someone willing to come up to Nova Scotia and start a new, sustainably-oriented service of benefit to everyone, and over the past few weeks it’s been very challenging trying to bring all the necessary players together.”

Perret & Leary’s idea is for an experiential air service, eco-friendly, that will showcase the geotourism potential of the region and bring new visitation to Nova Scotia.

Flights (ideally with some sort of on-board guide to what is being flown over) from Bar Harbor up the Maine Coast around the Bay of Fundy, concluding at Yarmouth would be a popular tourist experience. From the Twin Otter, passenger views are excellent because of the unusually large windows and relatively low-altitude flight of the aircraft.

The experience would be as much about the ride as the practical aspect of transportation. The added pluses for American visitors include an international experience in Canada. These air passengers will spend vacation time in the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores area as well. Opportunities for packaging abound, and at least one local tour business operator in Yarmouth has voiced support for the idea.

The Yarmouth area would experience a disproportionate amount of benefits because passengers will  fly in without cars. Although some would rent cars, this Bar Harbor service would create demand for local hotel rooms, tours and attractions lost with the Scotia Prince and Cat ferry services.

Short-term subsidies might be required, but ultimately this service would be a viable addition to the region’s tourist offerings and transportation infrastructure.

Perret, Leary, and others hope to have a conference call with Mr. Khajavi this coming week.

www.natureair.com

www.troutpoint.com

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Trout Point Lodge has embodied eco-friendliness since it first opened its doors, including the very design of the main lodge building. A few years ago, we redoubled efforts to reduce outside inputs and harmful outputs from operations. Trout Point expanded its on-site gardens, installed bulk amenities dispensers (with BVLGARI products in them), converted all paper resources to 100% recycled content, and started using 100% natural cleaning agents, among other practices.

Such commitment resulted in recognition from the Hotel Association of Canada ECOmmodation program with a rating of 5 Green Keys, and from organizations like Eco Hotels of the World with 5 stars.

However sustainable tourism practices just begin the process of really having a meaningful impact on the environment and the reality of climate change. One story that resonates with Trout Point is that of the Aspen ski resort in Colorado. Here’s an interview with Aspen’s Auden Schendler from Fast Company magazine:

AS: The old enviro movement would ask us to put solar panels on the roof of the Little Nell. And we just did that. But that five kilowatt array is meaningless. It is absolutely a tiny amount of the hotel’s energy use. However, what we did was we tied those panels to one room in the hotel. And that room is where the most powerful and influential people stay, including, among others, George Soros. We put the energy generated by the array onto the home page of the computer in the room, and also show the energy use in that room.

FC: Then what?

AS: Okay. Now you’ve taken the old-school enviro measure that is sexy but doesn’t do anything and tied it to this tremendous lever that only you have access to. If you get lucky and that person decides that this is a crucial issue that they want to take action on, you’ve done more with that one connection than you’ve done with 20 years of trying change light bulbs [to compact fluorescents] and retrofit boilers at the ski resort. That’s just one attempt we’re trying to make at pulling the biggest possible lever.

FC: Another one being the infamous tussle with Kleenex

AS: We get a call one day from Forest Ethics, and they say, will you ban Kleenex because their forestry practices are lame, there’s no post-consumer waste at all in Kleenex, and they’re not engaging with the environmental community. I say I’ll check into it. We use $25,000 worth of Kleenex a year. For me to switch it out is not difficult, and we do (for a somewhat less bad product from another company).

We get eviscerated in the papers. One: Who are you to criticize another company, you use tons of energy and move people up and down the hill for no reason–it’s totally wasteful. Two: This is flagrant greenwashing. It was so bad that I went to my boss and said I screwed up. Two weeks later we got a phone call from the CEO of [Kleenex parent] Kimberly-Clark, a $32 billion company. They’re bigger than most countries. If you can change them, then you can change entire industries, the whole way forests are managed—that’s a big lever. They sent a team down to meet with us and we started exerting disproportionate influence on a big corporation.

FC: What was the upshot?

AS: We sat down and expressed our interests, and we said, “You guys have to get in the room with the non-profits, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.” We brokered a meeting and got Greenpeace and NRDC in the room with Kimberly-Clark.

The point is that small businesses like Trout Point–which is a lot smaller than Aspen–can have more of an impact by making something out of its practices in a way that influences those who come into contact with us: guests, employees, vendors, the press, etc.

Finally, Trout Point is all about expressing the “power of place,” which can truly only be done if the business follows green practices. That’s the foundational level of being a geotourism enterprise, but a true expression of place goes well beyond just using recycled paper products, sustainably-caught seafood, or organic gardening. The impact the Lodge can have is much greater than a single household, but just as Mr. Schendler said, it’s like putting up that 5 kw solar panel–the real world impact is negligible. What’s not negligible is how a business like Aspen or Trout Point translates and magnifies its green efforts into wider, consciousness-changing impacts on stakeholders, large & small.

In a similar way, only by embracing the meaning of the place we’re in–Nova Scotia, Yarmouth County, the Tobeatic Wilderness–can green practices really gain meaning that will encourage people to pause, think, and experience the world anew. Mr. Schendler’s arguments are about scale and leverage–and he is correct–but the leverage itself depends on geotourism values.

Geotourism means practices that enhances a place’s geographical character in its widest sense–not just its environmental well-being–including such factors as culture, aesthetics, and the makeup of its inhabitants.

More about this later . . .

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The Yarmouth Vanguard newspaper has published a story on Trout Point Lodge being a delegate to the National Geographic Society’s 2010 Geotourism Summit.

“Unique experiences and educational components are important ingredients for the successful operation of an eco-wilderness resort,” reads the caption. The article also observations from former guests:

A couple from New Jersey described a highlight of their stay as soothing their muscles in the cedar hot tub by the river with a perfect glass of red wine after a demanding mountain bike ride in the wilderness with the staff naturalist.

A couple from Florence, Italy commented on the stunning beauty and “the extraordinarily warm and friendly atmosphere that the young staff–both European and local Nova Scotian–conveyed to the guests.

The article continued to note that the Lodge’s public presentation included mentioning the Nova Scotia government’s decision to stop subsidizing the Cat ferry service in the name of “sustainability.”

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