Sunday, October 14

Fairs of all sizes contribute to the tourism economy


(Originally published in TOURISM)

Fairs and exhibitions across the country are not only contributing to featuring local communities’ sense of pride and identity; they are also nurturing the tourism economy.

When we think of summer fairs, the first ones that come to mind are the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto, the 10-day Stampede in Calgary, the Capital Ex in Edmonton and the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver. These fairs "are proving to be meccas to small business,” notes the Business Edge’s Monte Stewart in a recent article: “The self-billed Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, which generated $49.37 million in revenues for its non‑profit board last year, often involves major corporate partners, especially oil and gas firms. This year's Canadian National Exhibition is expected to attract about 1.45 million visitors for its 18‑day run.”

But even small fairs are big business. TOURISM talked to Glen Duck, executive director of the Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions (SAASE). “The fairs that are run in small communities are traditionally an integral part of these communities,” he says. “Most of the fairs have been running for at least 100 years.”

He mentions as an example one of the newest of his member agricultural societies, the Carlton Trail Ag Society which holds the Bruno Cherry Festival each year. “The community of Bruno, which has a population of about 500, attracts 2,500 people to the cherry festival annually. The fairs create gathering places; they bring a lot of visitors.”

Some communities will host a rodeo and other different types of events. SAASE, which has 62 member organizations across Saskatchewan, conducted an economic impact study a few years ago to evaluate the benefits stemming from all the province’s fairs. It found there are 101 million dollars spent at fair events annually, and 192 million in spending at events organized at all the other facilities the agricultural societies run over the course of the year.

There is also a significant impact in terms of jobs, according to Duck: “The fair industry within Saskatchewan involves 400 full‑time/part‑time positions and 800 seasonal/casual workers. “But of real importance is the over 200,000 hours of volunteer time that is donated by members in the communities, who help put on the fair and the event. That is a tremendous economic impact in itself,” he points out.

“When people come to fairs, they eat in local restaurants, stay in local hotels, buy fuel and groceries locally. They are camping in the community; there are cattle and livestock sales, and people are sending money in the communities around those events.”

When we consider these economic impacts, if fairs didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.

American holiday trend an opportunity for Canada?

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In a recent article published on Travelmole.com, David Wilkening asked if the traditional once-a-year two-week vacation (which used to be the American standard) wasn’t gradually being replaced by three- and four-day getaways.

Citing a recent study by Orbitz (the online travel company), Wilkening highlights an increase in numbers of Americans taking a week or less of holiday time. At the same time, one‑third of respondents said they took five or fewer days of vacation in the past year. “One in four of those surveyed said they felt their bosses did not encourage them to take vacations, and one in three said they stayed connected with their office via phone or computer while on holiday,” Wilkening noted.

"Our sense is that people are busier than ever with their lives, their family activities and their kids," said Jeanenne Diefendorf of Orbitz. "So they find it difficult to take an extended vacation and easier to balance if they're only gone a couple of days."

According to Ernst Flach, the CTC's US leisure marketing manager, this is consistent with what previous studies have shown, and it may bring new opportunities for Canada: "Canada has an advantage when compared to other international destinations because of our proximity to the US and our accessibility in general to Americans. They can get here more quickly to make the most of the shorter holiday breaks they take."

"Furthermore, Flach continues, "we know that Americans who come here really enjoy themselves, so there is opportunity to get them to come again, try different experiences, and tell their friends. All this is true to our high‑yield strategy."

A 2005 survey a survey of 2,000 workers conducted for Expedia.com found US workers would fail to take advantage of roughly 421 million vacation days allotted to them that year; it found approximately one‑third of American workers said they didn’t use all their vacation days. “Compared to European and Canadian workers," the survey found, "US employees use the fewest vacation days each year (12 on average) and are most likely to work more than 40 hours each week."

Ski campaign in Australia yields huge increase in bookings

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The collaborative approach spearheaded by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) in the Australian ski market is heading towards what could be described as its greatest finish ever, according to early indications. This is the kind of news every marketer likes to hear; Donna Brinkhaus, managing director at CTC‑Australia, believes the campaign’s structure involving wholesalers, Canadian ski resorts, airlines and partners has made all the difference in the world, leading to strong advance bookings: “By having everybody go with one cohesive message to the consumer in an integrated approach, we have been able to achieve a sustained presence in newspapers, online, on TV and on billboards as part as a comprehensive deployment of tactics acting in synchronicity.

Brinkhaus explains that Western Canadian ski resort operators know Australia is of great benefit to them, as Australia is the second largest overseas market delivering skiers to their resorts (UK‑based skiers are #1). “Eight Western Canadian ski resorts came on board this year, along with three top Australian ski wholesalers and the provinces of BC and Alberta. Together with the CTC money we were able to generate a $450,000 dollar campaign.”

This made it possible for Brinkhaus’ team to acquire presence in major newspapers for six weeks in three key cities that deliver visitors to Canada (Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne). “We delivered a complete campaign with the operators getting behind it with additional individual initiatives such as direct mail campaigns, flyers and retail components. Every single medium you can think of is being used during this campaign and the ski operators are telling us their business is up phenomenally.”

With early bookings, there are signs for a very strong upcoming season, Brinkhaus continues. “There are a couple of reasons for this. Our campaign has been effective in the market. Also, Air Canada has a brand new non‑stop service between Sydney and Vancouver starting December 14, and that is a big factor; it is huge news here that for the very first time consumers can fly non stop between Sydney and Vancouver. As well, the dollar is playing a large part (the Australian dollar is strong right now with about a 10‑cent difference between our dollars).”

Brinkhaus says this smart approach, combined with knowing how to reach the consumer, what to tell them, and the ability to keep Canada visible in front of consumers for a period of about three months, "makes us incredibly successful in the market. Competition is very stiff with Japan and Colorado right now. They are 'eating our lunch' and they have been for a while. This campaign is new and exciting; it tends to grab the eye of the consumer!” Brinkhaus believes that good news from the Australian ski market will keep coming as a result of this latest effort, for some time yet.

Visit www.ski.canada.travel/au for more on how the CTC is luring Australian skiers to Canada.

UK market registers more last-minute bookings than usual

(Originally published in TOURISM)

More clients from the UK are calling Canadian operators at the last minute for trips in August, and a quick survey by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) of UK-based operators selling Canada is confirming there much activity in that market, according to CTC-UK’s managing director Maggie Davison.

“I think the summer is really shaping up very well," says Davison. "We are actually showing a lot of last minute bookings in the period four to six weeks prior to departure. I believe much of it has to do with the UK weather, which has been absolutely atrocious so far this summer; we have had nothing but rain. The newspapers are splattered here with people booking at last minute and going away to get some sunshine and a change of scenery. We are certainly reaping our share of the benefit from that.”

Davison says customers are waiting until closer to their departure date before booking. “Now, even with long haul customers, we are seeing bookings four to six weeks out, which is quite strange for long haul destinations because people tend to book further out,” she notes.

In an informal survey of operators, the CTC‑UK noticed a definite increase in bookings year over year, with a trend showing Western Canada doing very well, Davison says. “Everyone seems to be on the Rockies. We talked to the airlines; Air Canada and other airlines are reporting record loads, certainly on scheduled flights, and our charter airlines are doing well. We have plenty of lift going to Canada this year. The price is right. We are tracking about 4% up year over year (2006 to 2007) so far. 'Buoyant' is how I would describe the market at the moment.”

Davison is confirming that the message is getting out: “People are starting to see Canada under a new light. It would be nice to see how the age groupings are evolving (and whether we are attracting more of that younger customer segment). We will find out over time. One thing is certain: when we talk to people now, we don’t always get the same responses we used to,” she says. "The perception that Canada is cold and meant for people 55 and over is no longer the norm," she notes. “The younger people have started to talk about Canada as a place to go. It is coming up on the popularity list. That is where we want to be.”

Live chat enhances customer’s web experience

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A tool developed by a Calgary firm takes tourism industry websites to a new level of on-line customer interaction. The Live Chat System created by Strategic Direct Marketing Group (SDMG) allows visitors to websites like those of Tourism Saskatchewan and Coast Hotels & Resorts to “ring a doorbell” and instantly get in touch with an agent.

Explains managing partner Scott Martin: “When visitors arrive at the web site, they have the option to click on a button that might say “click here for live chat” and a chat window opens up. An agent comes online, introduces him/her self and asks how they can be of assistance. A live chat application allows agents to express some of the more experiential aspects of products and destinations that are harder to convey otherwise. Someone looking at a hotel package may seek additional information; through Live Chat, an agent can dynamically show them that page. This becomes then ‘guided selling’”.

The agents can actually see what page visitors are on, says Martin: “They see how many times they have visited, the last conversation they have had at the site with any other agents; and if they can’t find what they are looking for, the agent is able to take control of their browser and take them there. They can push a link or even a PDF file. They can follow you around and see what you are looking at.”

For Coast Hotels and Resorts, the use of Live Chat has helped increase sales in the form of online reservations, and by introducing high margin products that typically require some interaction (better rooms, SPA packages, meeting/event products). It has lowered call center costs over time because one agent can talk to five people or more on the site at the same time. And it give a competitive advantage by providing a “white glove concierge” type service that differentiates the company from its competitors.

Sherry Baumgardner is director of marketing at Coast Hotels & Resorts: “It is really closing the customer service gap because if you are calling someone on the phone you can ask any question you want, but when you are going online you are really limited to whatever happens to be there. That creates a gap. The Live Chat’s co‑browse feature ensures the agent is on the same page as the customer," she says. "It is adding that presence and is actually helping close more sales. It is giving the customers the reassurances they need to make the booking. If they have any lingering questions, this solves it for them and gives them that personal contact.”

Research seems to confirm the effectiveness of this type of program:

* 62% of customers seeking help online prefer a live chat program (highest of all support channels) according to Modalis Research.
* 57% of customers say the speed of a retailer’s response affects their decision to make purchases, according to Jupiter Media Matrix.
* There is a 22% increase in revenue, 18% increase in retention, and a 20% increase in satisfaction on sites that use CRM/Chat, according to the Aberdeen Group
* Customers are 22% more likely to make a purchase and there is a 6% increase in order‑value by customers who use chat, according to Land’s End.

Some chat systems are already available free of charge to web developers through Open Source channels, recognizes Martin: “These systems will be perfect for the small operators who exist throughout Canada. The difference between those and ours is the technology we use – the way we set it up for the call centres – so it is more “call centre managed” with an administrative console that manages multiple agents. And we pay close attention to strategic deployment in terms of how the customer information acquired is used. It is that much richer," he says. "And in chat, everything is pre‑scripted. Agents are able to take the prepared answers and bring them over to the chat window; 80% of the dialogue used is already prepared.”

Given the current human resource challenges in the tourism industry, anything that can help staff become more familiar with the product is likely to bring some welcome relief.

Changing consumer habits warrant better-targeted marketing

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Le Québec maritime was founded in 1997 by five tourism associations seeking to promote their regions to markets outside Quebec. Christian Ouellet, a research officer with the organization, says he noticed an important consumer shift since 2002 in how consumers find out about products:

“Consumers are less and less likely to access tourism products through travel agents and are becoming more autonomous when planning their trip. This is mainly because of the increasing role played by the internet.” Ouellet refers to a 2005 study conducted among visitors to the region which found that two‑thirds of those surveyed had made use of the internet to plan their trip.

“The internet is becoming a very important planning tool," he points out. "This means it is also becoming an important marketing tool, which compels Québec Maritime to change its practices. More and more, we use the web to lure consumers; for instance, this year we worked in partnership with Tourisme Québec and the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SEPAC) to stream 20‑second short videos introducing the Québec maritime experience on outdoor activity and weather websites. The intent was to get the web users’ attention and to lead them to our marketing campaign sites where products and tourism offerings were featured in greater detail.”

Depending on their profile, surfers were directed to different web channels. ‘Contemplative’ visitors were directed to one channel. Those surfers targeted as ‘outdoor enthusiasts’ were directed to another. This approach,” Ouellet says, “fosters a market segmentation which allows us to get to know our clients better. It is also harmonized with our exit survey reaching 1,500 tourists from outside Quebec (English Canada, the United States and Europe).”

With this intelligence in hand, Ouellet goes on, “we are able to flesh out a general portrait of our visitors. It allows us to not only establish our visitors’ point of origin, but to target regions, cities, neighbourhoods and streets. With the help of available statistics (like those of Statistics Canada), we can get to know the profile of people who live there, what their specific family income is, whether or not they have children, are part of the workforce, or are retired. All of these factors influence the way we commercialize our product.”

By gaining greater knowledge of visitors’ profile, it becomes easier to speak with them in terms they can relate to. Ouellet says his team has witnessed a growth in marketing tactic performance as a result. It also yielded valuable intelligence, like an observed increased concern for the environment: “We need to offer a quality experiences that respect the client as well as the environment.”

The other emerging aspect which matters is authenticity, Ouellet finds. “Along with beautiful landscapes, considerations around nature, local hospitality and culture also matter.” More specifically, he highlights consumers’ curiosity around what is commonly referred to as “free” culture (as opposed to museum or artisans shop visits).

The memorability of the travel experience often stems from people finding themselves suddenly on shared, yet unfamiliar ground, thereby creating opportunities for exchange. That is often the essence of the journey, and it is the element we all too often tend to put aside.

CITM Plus: a CTC‑driven value‑added opportunity in the Chinese market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Continuing its strategy of increasing Canada awareness in China, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has invited Canadian operators with an interest in this emerging market to take part in a value-added opportunity that is bundled with participation at CITM 2007 (China International Travel Mart 2007) scheduled to take place in Kunming from November 1-4.

“Without approved destination status (ADS), we have limited opportunities to promote Canada in China,” says Derek Galpin, the CTC’s managing director in China. “We continue to promote Canada through extensive agent training, FAM tours for trade and media every month, and we also have a significant presence at the major trade shows," he continues. "We try to complement trade shows with more targeted business‑to‑business events such as Showcase Canada to provide opportunities for our partners to build strong personal and business relationships with the travel trade.”

CITM alternates between Shanghai and Kunming, Galpin explains. “After the show in Kunming this November we have added a week of business‑to‑business meetings in Shanghai and Beijing, where participating partners can meet with new travel agencies. These agencies are based in large affluent cities in Southern and Northern China which have a strong interest in selling Canada, and this fits with our tactical initiatives for 2007 and beyond to expand and develop new market centres.”

Galpin notes that his office has invested considerable energy on Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou over the last two years, and it is now time look at other big cities and regions in cooperation with key Canadian partners.

CITM Plus takes the delegation to Shanghai on November 4. On November 5, the CTC and DMOs will conduct a full day of training for 100 operational staff from Shanghai agents, while other partners will be free to do sales calls in Shanghai. In the evening, there will be a reception with teambuilding activity for new agents and Canadian partners. On November 6, the CTC events will feature pre‑scheduled appointments with the new Chinese agents from Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, Fuzhou and Chongqing and a farewell evening dinner. “The evening events are designed to reinforce friendship and strengthen relationships in a social as well as a business environment, and this is essential when doing business in China,” says Galpin.

On November 7, the schedule is repeated when the delegation travels to Beijing, and November 8 will feature a full training day for operational staff from agencies in Beijing. This will be followed the same evening by a reception and team building activities for new agents from the Northern cities of Qingdao, Jinan, Xi’An, Changchun, Zhengzhou, Harbin, Shenyang and Dalian. These agents will then attend the business‑to‑business session with Canadian partners on November 9, followed by a farewell dinner.

Galpin is confident that those Canadian partners and DMOs who take part in these marketing activities will reap substantial benefits from their investment, because perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, Chinese culture invests immense value in relationship‑building. And as we all know, there is no industry that values relationships more than tourism.

More Asian women are travelling

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The CanWest News Service reports Asian women are travelling more than ever before, citing a recent survey which found – out of every 10 Asian Pacific travellers – four are women. That figure used to be one in ten in the mid-1970s.

The news agency notes that in the past 12 months, 54% of Chinese women surveyed had undertaken an international trip for personal reasons, compared to 47% of men, according to the MasterCard survey, Women Travellers of Asia Pacific.

The most active female travellers originate from wealthier places like Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul, and tend to have higher education levels and higher disposable incomes. Don Birch, president of Abacus International, an Asia‑Pacific travel service firm based in Singapore, is quoted as saying these women are represented across demographic segments: “From the young to businesswomen to energetic grandmothers, they're travelling more often – and further – solo, in pairs with their female companions or as members of women‑only interest groups," he said.

KANATA 2007 introduces new era in CTC’s Japanese market efforts

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It will come as no surprise that the number of Japanese visitors to Canada and some of other long-haul destinations is no longer what it used to be – Japan numbers have been declining since 1996. As a result, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has decided to adopt an aggressive approach to reach deep into the travel preferences of Japanese consumers. The approach is based on harnessing the concerted efforts of the CTC’s partners in Canada and Japan, according to acting marketing manager of the Asia/Pacific marketing team in Vancouver Kyoko Manabe.

“To revitalize the Japanese market, we have grouped together with our Vancouver‑based team," says Simon Pitt, Managing Director of the CTC office in Japan. "We have come up with an energetic strategy and KANATA 2007 will be a very important event to demonstrate Canada’s new approach and partnerships." KANATA is an annual event organized by the CTC, where Canadian companies meet with Japanese professionals from travel industries in order to promote their products. Since its launch in 1990, KANATA has grown and gained a stable reputation among travel professionals. In 2007, it will be held from October 15 to 19 in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, and will feature the new brand Canada.

Says Pitt: “KANATA 2007 will feature enhanced experiential products from Canada which reflect a modified approach. We will expand our target market segments by shifting from conventional demographics and adopting more of an interest‑based segmentation rooted, for instance, in a grouping identified as ‘local flavour seekers.’ These are people who want to come to Canada and experience it as Canadians do.”

They may want to stay at a local family’s home, or take cooking classes for example. Pitt admits these consumers may not constitute a huge volume in the general sense, “but it is substantial in terms of influencing knowledge about Canada in Japan,” he points out.

To support those efforts from a communications perspective, the Kanata Media Event will plant seeds on the media side, through proposed story ideas in five regions where new experiential products will generate a longing for media representatives to travel to Canada.

“KANATA will feature tea blending by BC’s Salt Spring Tea Company, ranch‑style Alberta beef and Canadian beer, Niagara wines and Quebec cuisine, PEI quilt displays and berry water testing, as well as performances by Ontario First Nations artists,” Pitt says.

One hundred key Japanese media representatives are expected to attend the event at the trendy Honey’s Garden in Roppongi (Tokyo), where a Canada House will be “erected” for the occasion. “This spot is a hot destination known for luring sophisticated socialites,” notes Pitt. “It is located in an area named the ‘Art Triangle’ because of the number of contemporary museums nearby.”

A gift package has already been mailed with Canada Day greetings and tips to 100 qualified media representatives and received overwhelming responses. KANATA Media Event guests will receive a passport as part of their invitation letter, which will be stamped as they come in. The garden space will be lit up with candles and colourful projections featuring CTC graphics. A special press kit will be issued for the occasion.

Kyoko Manabe stresses that the concerted efforts around KANATA 2007 (including those of the Canadian partners) bode well for the future of the Japanese market. She invites Canadian sellers to join all the partners, to shed new light on Canada’s tourism offering in Japan.

Visit www.kanata2007.com to find out more.

Canada‑Japan Conference held in Niagara Falls

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The 11th edition of the Canada-Japan Tourism Conference (CJTC) was held at the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel in Niagara Falls from September 5 to 7, 2007. According to Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) chair Charles Lapointe, the conference played a crucial role in fostering business ties with trading partners who currently account for 14% of Canada’s tourism revenue from the region.

“Events like this keep Canada on the minds of Japanese decision makers,” said Lapointe. “Increasing our market share in Japan is going to require that we work harder and more closely than ever before with our Japanese partners at all levels.”

Ontario and Niagara Falls submitted a very comprehensive proposal to lure the event, according to CTC representatives, who also noted the support of partners like the Niagara region, Sheraton on the Falls, Niagara Falls Tourism and the Niagara Parks Commission.

Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership president and CEO Robin Garrett was thrilled to have Ontario host this year’s conference: "Japan is the #1 Asia‑Pacific market for Ontario. If you put that into perspective over all markets, it is second only to the UK. So it is a very, very important market for us.”

Themed Ahead of the Curve, this industry gathering was "an unparalleled opportunity to bring together leaders from both the Canadian and Japanese tourism industries," noted Lapointe. Since 1993, the event has strengthened tourism trade relations, sparked the innovation of new products, lowered trade barriers and provided an important forum for discussion and knowledge sharing.

British Airport Authority and WorldPoints team up with CTC

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has entered into a partnership with the British Airport Authority (BAA) in a two stage campaign offering holiday prizes and retail vouchers to some 100,000 active members of the BAA WorldPoints premier retail loyalty scheme. The aim is to inspire members to visit Canada.

A competition to win a trip to Quebec with Frontier Holidays, Fairmont Hotels and BAA Heathrow is currently featured in the BAA e‑newsletter “eEmporium”. This holiday prize is also featured on www.baa.com/worldpoints, which typically receives 120,000 hits per month.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to promote Canada as a holiday destination and capture the data of members of the BAA World points scheme,” states Sarita Atkins, promotions and incentives manager at the CTC's UK office. “These typically cash‑rich, time‑poor, affluent executives fly seven times a year from BAA airports. This promotion gives us a chance to reach them and inspire them to visit Canada.”

In the autumn the campaign enters its second phase with a booking offer to Canada with Frontier Holidays. If BAA WorldPoints members book a holiday or opt into the holiday prize competition, they will receive a voucher applicable to any of the retailers at London Heathrow Airport. This offer is all the more attractive when one considers that BAA WorldPoints members spend 75% more on airport shopping and services than non‑members, collectively spending around $45 million a year. Their average spend per visit is over $125, with an average transaction value of $95.

Accommodation industry profits to reach new heights – Conference Board

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Strong travel spending by Canadians and healthy price increases will enable Canada’s hoteliers to post their second consecutive year of record profits in 2007, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s Industrial Outlook: Canada’s Accommodation Industry – Summer 2007.

“After three years of improvement, accommodation profits are expected to rise slightly to $982 million in 2007,” said Michael Burt, senior economist. “However, with labour shortages and the resulting increases in wage costs limiting profits, the industry can expect weaker profits next year."

The study suggests an ongoing decline in foreign spending on accommodation is also limiting the profit outlook. "Although visitors from countries other than US rose in 2006, the declining number of US visitors caused real foreign spending on accommodations to fall. This trend is expected to continue,” the Board’s outlook notes, “due to the surging Canadian dollar and the ongoing implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).”

However in the longer term, it is predicted that strong growth in domestic travel spending will continue to support the industry. "Once the WHTI is fully implemented, foreign spending will also start to recover,” the report adds, noting also that the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 are expected to provide a boost to the industry’s performance.”

A new generation of Japanese travellers go it alone

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Younger Japanese consumers are embracing the freedom and experiences that come with independent travel, according to a new Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) study looking at how to restore Canada's performance in the Japanese Travel Market.

Japanese travel interests are broadening, which provides Canada with new selling opportunities. Unfortunately, Canada's share of these travellers is falling, despite the fact the Japanese are travelling outside their country in record numbers. "There's a whole new generation of Japanese travellers out there who want to get in on the action," says Neil McInnis, executive director of research for the CTC. "Instead of just seeing the sights from behind the window glass of a tour bus, they want to experience the Canadian outdoors and lifestyles for themselves."

The new consumer and trade research also maps out the critical factors that have to be addressed in order to spark growth in this market. Based heavily on research and feedback from the overseas travel trade, the CTC is currently drawing plans to put Canada back on Japan's radar. The CTC will maintain its strong group tour focus but will be adding a new younger market segment called "local flavour seekers" who want to experience first‑hand the way local people live.

"The CTC is cutting a new path in Japan that's going to expose these consumers to a whole new range of products, and provide tour wholesalers with increased service and more powerful selling tools," says Andrew Clark, vice‑president of sales for the CTC, who is overseeing the rejuvenation of the Japan market.

Small‑ to medium‑sized tourism businesses will find the study extremely useful in understanding the new generation of Japanese travellers and the experiences that are in demand regardless of how old they are.

The new study is available at www.canada.travel/research.

Entrepreneurship Program Teaches the Business of Farming

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For producers who spend a lot of time working at their businesses rather than on their businesses, the University of Saskatchewan is offering a program that will help them to learn how to switch hats.

The Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program (AEP) is a week-long, intensive school open to producers of all kinds who want to learn about farm management, including how to successfully manage change, capital and risk. The 2008 session will mark the 10th anniversary of the program.

Program Co-ordinator Pat Englund says the initiative addresses a wide variety of agribusiness issues and questions, including content suggested by producers.

"The content is largely based on business planning, financial planning, marketing, finance and accounting, and different farm management issues," Englund said. "There's an Aboriginal dimension, too, as well as an agribusiness simulation where participants break into groups and make decisions based on a devised situation."

This year's program will also include sessions on two very popular topics - personal financial planning and farm succession planning.

With the AEP, you never know who your classmates might be. Englund says a diverse collection of participants make up the program each year.

"It really appeals to a wide variety of people - first and foremost, producers. We've had them from all three Prairie provinces," she noted. "Last year, we saw some people from the Canadian Wheat Board, Ducks Unlimited and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. We also saw people from credit unions and banks, as well as agribusiness consultants, lenders, entrepreneurs, economic development professionals, venture capitalists and manufacturers."

The AEP features four instructors from the professorial staff at the University of Saskatchewan. Two professors from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and two from the Edwards School of Business will each teach portions of the program.

The 2008 AEP session has room for approximately 40 participants. It runs from January 20 to 26 in Saskatoon. More information will soon be posted on the program's website at http://agribusiness.usask.ca/.

Tuition for the program is $1,250 for producers and $1,500 for non-producers. However, producers interested in attending can apply for sponsorship funding through a program offered by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan (ACS), formally the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development.

"There's an application form on our website, at http://www.agcouncil.ca/," said Bev Magill, a project officer with ACS. "We like to pick a variety of folks with different experiences, coming from different backgrounds, producing different crops, or maybe they're doing something different on their farm altogether."

The ACS sponsorship is $1,000 and can be used toward tuition, travel, accommodations or any other expenses that producers taking the AEP may incur.

If you are interested in applying for sponsorship, Magill says completed applications must reach her office by January 14, 2008. Those who are already receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) to take the program will not be eligible for ACS sponsorship.

For more information, contact:
Pat Englund, Program Co-ordinator
Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
Phone: (306) 665-1678

Bev Magill, Project Officer
Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 975-8928
E-mail: magillb@agcouncil.ca
Website: http://www.agcouncil.ca/

Future Looks Bright, According To Bioventure Challenge

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

"The young people are our future." It's an often stated, but undisputable, axiom - and it's why a new initiative administered by the Industry Liaison Office (ILO) at the University of Saskatchewan has proven to be so heartening for the province.

The winners of the first-ever BioVenture Business Plan Challenge are Rachel and Chris Buhler, a brother and sister team from Osler, just north of Saskatoon. Their company, Floating Gardens Ltd., will now receive a $50,000 award to help make their business proposal a reality.

"The Buhlers are trying to take advantage of a very interesting synergy between fish farming and hydroponic growing of vegetables," stated Doug Gill, Managing Director of the ILO. "They've done a lot of work to identify what the markets are and what the challenges are. I think that the team is a very worthy winner."

The BioVenture Challenge is a joint initiative of the U of S ILO and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food to help promote, develop and accelerate the bio-economy within Saskatchewan. It encourages young people to use their talents to build companies in Saskatchewan and, ultimately, to stay in Saskatchewan. It's a strategy to enhance the province's economic base, but also to help demonstrate that young people don't have to leave the province to find good business opportunities.

Gill says this year's field proved the tremendous amount of entrepreneurial talent we have in Saskatchewan.

"All five of the finalists displayed the ability to be creative and innovative with regards to their business proposals. The entrepreneurs involved in writing these proposals showed a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn and develop an extensive network of contacts and support systems," he noted.

"I think this challenge is very encouraging for the future of the province."

By all measures, Gill says the first BioVenture Challenge was a resounding success. "We received a really great response. There were probably in the order of 10 applicants for this award, and that, in itself, shows that there is an audience out there," he noted.

"There are young entrepreneurs who are interested in pursuing their business dreams in Saskatchewan.

The quality of the five finalists demonstrates that. I think they are all winners in this initiative,

especially when you look at the training, knowledge and experience that they received in preparing their business plans, writing their proposals and making their presentations to the judging panel. It was a great learning experience for them."

The BioVenture Challenge was funded under the Strategic Research Program agreement between SAF and the U of S. Given the level of enthusiasm for the inaugural BioVenture Challenge, Gill is optimistic that the competition will continue in the future.

More information can also be found on the ILO website at www.usask.ca/research/ilo.

For more information, contact:
Doug Gill, Managing Director
Industry Liaison Office, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-7335
E-mail: doug.gill@usask.ca

Factors to Consider When Marketing Cattle

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Ancient “Wonder Berry” Taking Root in Saskatchewan

An ancient and exotic cure-all plant is being rediscovered across North America, and the Saskatchewan company Northern Vigor Berries is at the heart of its resurgence.

Seabuckthorn bushes, which some Saskatchewan producers have been using as shelterbelt plants for years, also yield bark, leaves and fruit that are packed full of things that are good for us: omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9 are found in the seeds, and the fruit is rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2 and Niacinamide.

Betty Forbes, President and CEO of Northern Vigor Berries, grows and markets seabuckthorn bushes and their products. She says the plant has some legendary admirers.

"Ghengis Khan is said to have fed seabuckthorn to troops and horses prior to battle to keep them healthy, in battle and afterwards," said Forbes. "It's been traditionally used in many forms throughout China for centuries."

Forbes, herself, is still getting acquainted with the myriad of uses for seabuckthorn bushes and berries.

"Medicinally, it has uses as a soothing oil for cuts or burns," she said. "It's one of the fruits that has a perfect one-to-one ratio between omega-3 and omega-6. Of all the fruits, it has the highest content of Vitamin E. It is very high in Vitamin C. In fact, there's a company out of Finland that's marketing capsules just on the Vitamin C alone."

Forbes noted that the berries, leaves and even the tree bark have been studied for a wide range of potential health benefits. She says it's impossible to narrow its benefits down to just one or two specific uses.

"It's really hard to say ‘this is what it's good for,' because the list is pages and pages long."

Forbes' father and brother have a 15-acre seabuckthorn orchard, which she estimates is probably the largest in Canada at present. She stepped into the business full-time when no one else expressed a desire to market the relatively unknown plant.

"One of the problems they (her family) experienced was when promised markets for the berries fell through, so I stepped up and said we need to do something for ourselves rather than to wait for

somebody else to do it for us," she stated. "Although we get a lot of consultative help, we needed to take the reins, move forward, and develop some products in addition to just the berry line."

On top of the health benefits, seabuckthorn actually makes a pretty tasty pie, juice, or even a liqueur.

"Its taste is between an orange and a lemon," Forbes said. "It's not everybody's flavour choice, but mixed in with various other things, it's awesome. The Chinese used it as their sports drink during the Seoul Olympics."

As far as markets go, Forbes says Canada is now in the process of learning where seabuckthorn is needed, at home and around the world. Currently, foreign markets like Japan, Russia and China are the strongest, but she believes interest is growing in Canada and the United States.

According to Forbes, Saskatchewan has a distinct advantage when it comes to growing seabuckthorn bushes. The plant is very winter- and drought-tolerant, and it grows well in high pH soil. It even tolerates saline soil.

"Our climate is perfect for seabuckthorn. We've got a very good growing climate and soil. It doesn't do as well in clay soil, but in most of the countryside, it does wonderfully."

For those interested in learning more about seabuckthorn bushes and products, Forbes recommends typing "seabuckthorn" into your Internet search engine and enjoy the reading.

For more information, contact:
Betty Forbes, President and CEO
Northern Vigor Berries Inc.
Phone: (306) 955-2319
E-mail: northernvigorberries@shaw.ca
Website: http://www.northernvigorberries.com/

Keep Your Canola Cool This Fall

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A decent harvest and record production will see a lot of canola in the bin this year. However, the Canola Council of Canada is advising growers to make sure they condition their canola to storage-safe temperature and moisture levels this fall, or their hard work could all be for naught.

Canola Council agronomy specialist David Vanthuyne says the variable weather conditions during the harvest season should make growers very cautious as they store their canola.

Vanthuyne explains that conditioning involves moving air through the grain mass to prevent any spoilage that may result from moisture migration and seed respiration. He stresses that canola harvested at much above eight- to nine-per-cent moisture must be conditioned, especially if grain temperature is above 25 degrees Celsius.

"Aeration and/or ‘turning' the canola can be an effective way to avoid spoilage," Vanthuyne said. The objective is to cool the seed to below 15 degrees Celsius, and to lower its moisture content to eight per cent moisture - but "if moisture levels are above 10 to 12 per cent, growers need to consider heated air drying," he added.

Growers must regularly monitor their bins for heating or mould growth. Because farmers are using bigger and bigger bins, more heat can be generated and trapped in the bin.

Recent cooler temperatures may give growers a little more time to condition canola, but growers must not assume they are home free, "even if the stored canola is already down below 15 degrees Celsius," Vanthuyne noted. Pockets of damp seed or green dockage can still create hot spots that can quickly spoil a bin.

Even dry canola can still be at risk if it has a high temperature, especially if parts of the bin contain green material which can potentially start the spoiling process.

As a result, Vanthuyne says it is important for producers with stored canola to keep a close eye on their bins even after the seed has been conditioned. Freshly harvested canola can maintain a high respiration rate for up to six weeks before becoming dormant. Over time, the seed may become mouldy or heat-damaged, and, in severe cases, it can ignite.

So, even though the crush of harvest may be nearing the home stretch, producers with crop in the bin are

reminded to keep their eyes open for any sign of trouble in there. "Monitoring is a best practice, just like keeping malathion far away from stored canola," Vanthuyne stated.

More information and advice on the safe storage of canola can be found on the following web pages:

* http://www.canola-council.org/safestorage.aspx
* http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/crop1301
* http://www.canola-council.org/MalathionAug11.html

For more information, contact:
David Vanthuyne, Agronomist
Canadian Canola Council
Phone: (306) 946-3588