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Posts Tagged ‘geotourism’

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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Geotourism

2010 Geotourism Summit

Trout Point Lodge at the 2010 Geotourism Summit

According to the Center for Sustainable Destinations at the National Geographic Society:

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place’s character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin,—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place.

On February 1-3, Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary attended the 2010 Geotourism Summit at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. As delegates and guests of the Society and Ashoka’s Changemakers, Perret & Leary both attended a Geotourism Ambassador training, receiving certificates signed by Jonathan Tourtellot, Director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations. On February 2, Charles Leary made a brief presentation as 1 of the 10 Geotourism Challenge finalists chosen from over 600 entries from over 80 countries.

Perret & Leary hope to continue to work with the Center for Sustainable Destinations on a Geotourism Map project for southern Nova Scotia.

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Trout Point Lodge creates a destination tourism experience in a way that supports and promotes the under-appreciated natural, social, and cultural riches of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve. By not promoting solely coastal tourism –which is the mantra of official tourism policies– and being a “eco-lodge” in a northern, developed country, Trout Point challenges some common preconceptions about what an eco-destination is or can be. Trout Point currently consists of an 8-room Great Lodge including restaurant, 8 stone fireplaces, teaching/working kitchen, and public areas, 3-room villa, 2 cottages, & 100 acres of Acadian Forest  with extensive river frontage, the nearest human habitation being at least 15 km away to the south and hundreds of km to the north; facilities include: nature guides, canoes, kayaks, wood-fired hot tub, boardwalks, on-site trails, adjacent hiking trails, mountain bikes, small spa, fire pit, GPS units for self-guided excursions, cooking classes & culinary vacations, as well as  on-site organic vegetable, herb, and flower gardens fed by gray water system.

Visiting the Yarmouth area of Nova Scotia, ourselves as tourists from Louisiana in 1996, we found a land rich with natural beauty, diverse cultures, a wealth of local food possibilities, and an intriguing history.  We ourselves had come to the province following the Acadian French cultural connection with our home state.

As we investigated Yarmouth County’s history, we discovered that a well-developed tradition of nature camps, lodges, and guides had existed starting in the 19th century, which had all but petered out by the 1950s, when the wave of roadside motels and seaside cottages took over. Checking into accommodations in Yarmouth was like stepping into a time machine, taking you back to 1970. Our stays at the “El Rancho Motel” in 1996 & 97 were emblematic of this state of affairs.

But, scattered here and there physical remnants of the previous tourism tradition survived, which very much appealed to geotourism values. Most of the old camps and lodges had burned or literally deteriorated, one—tellingly– became a retirement home, others were in private hands.

After 2 years of searching for a forest parcel that would not be affected by neighbouring timber holdings and the threat of clear cuts–a goal not so easily attainable in southern Nova Scotia, we happened upon acreage at the confluence of 2 rivers, perfect for a wilderness lodge. Just 3 days after the purchase, the provincial legislature declared the Tobeatic as a protected area, ensuring that the lands across the river and to our north would never be open to commercial development or cutting.

Facing early scepticism that a destination property in the woods of economically-challenged Yarmouth County could survive, Trout Point now enters its 11th season of operation. Despite its earlier heritage, recently the Yarmouth area was not known as a destination, but rather as the southern “gateway” for foreign tourists arriving via ferry. Nova Scotians themselves viewed the area as remote, undeveloped, and uninteresting, and in our experience, few had heard of the Tobeatic, despite the fact that it’s the largest protected area in all of Atlantic Canada.

Now, the Lodge serves as a springboard for guests to learn about the Acadian Forest ecosystem and always has naturalists on staff to provide meaningful interpretive experiences that emphasize place.

Trout Point has: (1) implemented energy monitoring, recycling, composting, and on-site gardening programs that expand each season; (2) more than tripled revenues since first opening, allowing us to improve our impact on the local economy, create new employment, invest in new practices such as converting 90% of lighting to energy-efficient bulbs, all paper to 100% recycled, all cleaning products to natural, new employee apprenticeship & training programs, and the expansion of marketing reach; (3) gone from hiring 2 locals per season in 2000 to hiring over 15 (mostly local) in 2009; (4) increased its primary season from early July  to early October in 2000  to 1st of May to the end of October in 2010, with some facilities now open year round; (5) and has successfully diversified its visitation from 90% U.S.-origin in 2000-2004 to the current state where local guests represent the single most important geographic category & overall Canadian/international numbers are up.

Over the past 10 years, Trout Point has innovated by re-vitalizing backwoods & nature tourism, culinary tourism, and Acadian French cultural tourism in Nova Scotia. While a regional tourism crisis developed for local accommodations in the mid to late 2000s, Trout Point has advanced based on geotourism principles. These include: low-cost marketing using the Internet as a primary vehicle and restricting the use of print/paper resources; encouraging local memory of the area’s “great camp” and Acadian-cultural heritage; constantly striving to enhance & expand eco-friendly practices, and publicizing & formalizing these extensively; making Trout Point one with the local place, promoting the concept of destination rather than gateway; fully engaging with local tourism partners and encouraging guest use of tourism infrastructure located within .1 to 50 km range from the Lodge; pioneering a perspective on the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Southern Nova Biosphere as having geotourism potential.

Trout Point’s offerings include experiences that make guests one with the place: 1. The Lodge counts as the only accommodation/destination giving travelers immediate access to the wilderness via hiking trails, canoe, kayak, and guided excursions with staff naturalists. 2. We have offered the Nova Scotia Seafood Cooking School since 2000, teaching participants about local, sustainable seafood choices, food origins, and cooking techniques, including Acadian styles. 3. The accommodations blend seamlessly with the local Forest environment, built from Atlantic Canadian white spruce logs & Nova Scotia granite, with wildwood furniture handcrafted from branches and saplings cut from the property. 4. Trout Point is a true nature retreat, with no cell phone reception, no TVs in the rooms, and an emphasis on eco-friendly practices.

Staff naturalists provide guests with the natural history of the Tobeatic Wilderness and the Acadian Forest Ecosystem. Location, identification, & reporting of species at risk is encouraged. Reading materials in each guest room provide a description of the area, including not just the forest as a natural phenomenon but also the indigenous, Acadian French, and later English settlements impact on the use of the backwoods. Cooking classes provide an ingredients-based history of Acadian-Cajun culture and inculcate an understanding of local fisheries, sustainable seafoods, and current environmental questions. By emphasizing how Trout Point is re-invigorating a once-lost local tourism tradition of backwoods camps and guides, the Lodge also encourages local involvement and pride. We are happy to announce that in 2010 someone from the local village of Kemptville—center of the previous camp & guide tradition that had all but disappeared—will be the primary guide at Trout Point, but breaking with tradition, she is a woman.

Our hope is that Trout Point will develop practices and strategies of management translatable to other tourism enterprises in other situations. From a sheer effort at financial survival particularly with the loss transport links in the last 5 years, the Lodge has had to develop itself into a destination property, rather than one receiving guests for 1 night on their way elsewhere. The goals of Trout Point as a destination coincide wholeheartedly with the promotion and sustainable use of the Tobeatic Wilderness and the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere, and only through stewardship of this destination and its local society will the Lodge prosper. Our geo-tourism management approach has been enhanced through experiences in Costa Rica and Spain, where we have developed very small-scale accommodations that also speak of place, and our future project is the creation of a destination property and agri-tourism enterprise in the historic urban quarter of Granada, Spain.

Before I end I just wanted to briefly mention that just before Christmas, 2009, Nova Scotia’s Tourism Minister announced the end of all subsidies for the ferry service that has for well over 110 years linked southern Nova Scotia to the north eastern United States in the name of “sustainability,” for us at Trout Point and for the local community, an ironic situation that will create hardship and that poses real questions about exactly what destination tourism means and requires.

Vaughn Perret & Charles Leary at the 2010 Geotourism Summit

Vaughn Perret & Charles Leary at the 2010 Geotourism Summit. Photo copyright Charles L. Leary; All Rights Reserved.

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Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia is pleased to announce its participation as a delegate to the 2010 Geotourism Summit hosted by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The Summit will take place February 2, 2010 at the Society’s headquarters.

This past July, Trout Point Lodge was among 10 finalists in the 2009 Geotourism Challenge selected from more than 600 entries from 81 countries. It was the sole accommodation chosen. A distinguished panel of judges — Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement; Keith Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine; Erika Harms, executive director of Sustainable Development, United Nations Foundation; Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet; Ben Keene, founder of Tribewanted; and Dr. Yang Yuming, vice president of Southwest Forestry University, China —reviewed the entries and selected Trout Point Lodge for revitalizing backwoods area of Acadian Forest through place-based immersion experiences and the Nova Scotia Seafood Cooking School.

In a press release, the National Geographic Society called the finalists “ten of the most innovative, sustainable travel programs around the world.”

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place’s character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin,—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place.

Highlights of the summit include sessions on finding project funding and gaining government support as well as a presentation of the Geotourism Challenge Competition 2010. The keynote speaker is James H. Gilmore, co-author of The Experience Economy and Authenticity.

The Lodge’s Managing Directors Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary will be attending the summit as guests of the Society, and will also make a brief presentation about their innovations.

Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia is the only member of the Relais & Chateaux in the province. National Geographic Traveler put the Lodge on its inaugural Stay List, and Trout Point has also won the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award and more recently the Green Restaurant Award.

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Geotourism Summit 2010

Join Trout Point Lodge in Washington, D.C.

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