Alison Gardner Alternative Tourism Specialist Rides to the Rescue!
In virtually every survey of the hottest business ventures of the early 21st century, tourism has been identified as a leading contender. However, there is also a prediction that an increasing number of travelers will be detouring around the obvious relaxation destinations and activities in search of vacation opportunities with an interactive, educational flavor. As futurists have been predicting for several years, “alternative” tourism, namely ecological, educational, cultural and volunteer vacationing, is both infiltrating and overtaking mainstream tourism in many regions of the world, offering stimulating travel through an entirely different set of vacation eyeglasses.
From major international players to small-scale grassroots operators, there will be many strategic paths to enter the alternative tourism market for the first time, to re-position or expand existing vacation business interests, and to flourish if it is done right. Success depends upon a clear identification of clienteles to be targeted and a firm grasp of how best to meet their needs and special interests.
As a longtime small business journalist, travel journalist and magazine editor (Canadian Maturity, Home Business Report, Transitions Abroad), Alison Gardner has directed her professional efforts over the past decade to understanding and serving the two most formidable tourism clienteles on earth—men and women 50 years old and better, and women travelers over 35. Since 1990 in particular, she has witnessed an incredible growth in ecological, educational, cultural and volunteer vacation interests, largely driven by these two audiences.
In 2000 Alison unveiled a definitive 575-page guidebook on alternative vacationing around the world, Travel Unlimited: Uncommon Adventures for the Mature Traveler, a research tool that has proved to be of great value to older vacationers and to travel agents and planners. Spending a great deal of time in the field both researching and advising, she takes every opportunity to speak with and listen to tour operators and accommodation providers of every size, personally observing what works and what does not.
For four years, Alison has also been an active Associate of the Rural Futures consulting team, www.ruralfutures.ca/ourassociates.htm, whose theater of contracting services is focused on Western Canada. Her latest contracts have been associated with the development of historic mining tourism and Indigenous cultural experiences.
In 2006, Alison served as a consulting panelist on the National Geographic’s Destination Stewardship Survey providing experiential feedback on the tourism health of UNESCO World Heritage destinations. In 2007 she was a consulting panelist on the tourism health of strategic islands around the world, in 2008 for historic places rated as tourism destinations, and in 2009 as a panelist for a re-assessment of iconic places survey.
Exploring cathedral-size glow-worm caves with the President of Naturally New Zealand Holidays. Trish Abrahamson
Alison is always delighted to share with tourism professionals wherever she goes, the many success stories and innovative ideas she has gleaned on her travels from Australia to Alaska, from Madagascar to Costa Rica, from the Amazon to the Arctic Circle. Combining a deep appreciation of the proven interests and travel styles of women and older adults with a passion for communicating the marketing message, Alison’s special consulting services are outlined below.
Review of website design, content, spelling and punctuation (no tourism website should be showcased without this step being taken, and revisited as often as changes are made to a site – mistakes definitely become part of the message!).
Review of existing print promotional materials and informational packages.
Review of promotional DVDs and videos and consultation on development of new visual materials.
Development of fresh marketing materials in print and on the Web.
Consultation on tour programming and appropriate pacing for an older clientele and for women travelers.
Creation of knock-out mission or vision statements which will keep operator partners and employees on track, and attract a loyal travel clientele.
Guide and tour leader training in communication and service to older clients and to women, especially those traveling on their own.
Retooling and modifying conventional tourism services to attract an alternative tourism audience-no, it is not necessary to turn your business upside down to become attractive to a whole new alternative travel clientele.
The Clients Speak …..“Alison provided a wealth of information and advice to many of the small, entrepreneurial ecotourism operators she met while on her exploratory trip to Hawaii. While traveling with her, I was very impressed with her subject knowledge, and her willingness to share her ideas and suggest ways to improve product content. She certainly has the best understanding of the mature market of anyone I have met.”
Annette Kaohelaulii, Annette’s Adventures, Hawaii
“Although I pride myself on being a master of my craft, that is, cultural travel and unusual adventure travel from the top to the bottom of India, when it came to structuring a journalist fam trip to attract the best quality international travel writers, I have learnt almost all I know from consulting with Alison Gardner. With just a few interactions, I have had to downgrade what I knew before our discussions from ‘knowing enough’ to arrange such a trip to ‘now knowing something’ about this challenging and complex subject. I have welcomed her active participation in the planning process.”
Inder Jit Singh, Managing Director, TigerPaw India Adventures, India
“A five-hour business lunch date gave us a stimulating taste of what Alison has to offer small-scale ecotourism operators wanting to better understand and market their products to the mature traveler. Her insights shared during this consultation certainly got us thinking about how we may adapt our soft adventure tours in Tonga to this audience as well as to women travelers of all ages.”
Sharon and Doug Spence, Friendly Islands Kayak Company, Kingdom of Tonga
Flying high over Cappadocia, Turkey.
Half-day and full-day workshops on marketing to the mature traveler.
Half-day and full-day workshops on writing for the mature traveler.
Presentations to trade show and annual general meetings on the rapidly expanding market for alternative travel (ecological, educational, cultural, and volunteer vacations).
Consultation services to policy makers and strategic planners in government and industry on generating small-scale, low impact tourism to create grassroots employment and build pride in skills at the community level.
Review of existing tourism materials, websites, and audio/visual tools.
Strategies for attracting visitors to areas where geography and climate may not be saleable attractions – this is the magic of alternative tourism!
The Clients Speak …..“I believe that every community, business and organization pursuing tourism development requires a well-traveled, knowledgeable person from the outside to periodically provide assessments of their present position or status. Alison Gardner was invited to our community to be that objective eye. We were amazed by the wealth of knowledge that she shared with us, and her visit will have long-reaching effects for the enhancement of our local tourism industry.”
Ray Proulx, Economic Development Officer, Tumbler Ridge, B.C.
“Alison Gardner is a joy to work with. I hired her to edit my book and was impressed with her eagle-eye ability to spot typos of all varieties and give meaningful feedback in gentle yet constructive ways. She was easy to communicate with, highly responsive, quick in turn-around time, extremely professional, and helpful above and beyond the call. All of this at an affordable rate. What more could one ask?”
Debra Greene, Author of Endless Energy: The Essential Guide to Energy Health.
“On several occasions over the past three years, I have called upon Alison’s ‘Perfect Words’ for developing and revising brochure materials, and adding color and flow to itinerary descriptions. I have also found her input invaluable for creating presentation packages with a strong introduction and just the right tone during joint negotiations with tour operators and international agencies. Alison seems to be able to read my mind and put on paper just what I would have liked to say if I could have found the right words!”
Monique Rodriguez, Co-owner, Cortez Travel/Cortez Expeditions
Specialists in Madagascar Travel and UNESCO World Heritage
Horseback camping at 6,000 feet in BC’s rugged Chilcotin Mountains.
Food for Thought: Labels are Important!
In a recent Copy Editor newsletter survey designed to direct editors searching for politically correct words for their publications, 803 American men and women ages 50 to 75 were asked for preferred labeling of their age group. Seniors, Older Adults, and Older Americans were the top three choices with 32%, 20%, and 15% respectively. Identified among the most objectionable labels were The Elderly (38%), Golden Agers (20%), and Retirees (6%). How are you, your tour leaders and guides addressing this critical audience in print, on the Web, and in person?
More Food for Thought: What Travelers Fear Most
In a recent Harris poll, outdoor enthusiasts shared their “fear inducers” when they hit the road, trail or skies. You may well identify with some of these yourself. Each one listed is followed by the percentage of respondents who want to keep such close encounters to a minimum in their memorable itineraries:
Being alone in the forest 41%
Plane travel 35%
This list brings to mind a wonderful anonymous quote: “With fear you can go around the world and experience nothing; without fear you can go around the corner and experience the whole world.”
Exploring common interests with Bedouin women in Oman.
Let’s unmask your tourism consulting challenges, whether modest or mammoth!
Travel with a Challenge Consulting
P.O. Box 27014, Victoria, B.C. CANADA V9B 5T2
Tel: (250) 478-5993