Tours and the Tourism Industry: Danielle Timmons and Carol Alderdice

Tours and the Tourism Industry: Danielle Timmons and Carol Alderdice

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Sophie Yang: [00:00:00] Welcome to the  55+ Travelers: Arriving and Thriving   audio conference brought to you by Sensory  Friendly Solutions. I'm your host, Sophie Yang.   In this episode, you will also hear the voices  of co-host Christopher Basmadjian, my fellow   occupational therapy student, as well as Sensory  Friendly Solutions founder and CEO Christel   Seeberger This is a special episode because we  interviewed two expert guests, Danielle Timmons,   vice president of cruise operations and shore  excursions at Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence,   and Carol Alderdice, president and CEO of the  Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.   Danielle will start us off by showing you  the strategies she has implemented to manage   successful cruise operations. Can you tell our  listeners a little bit about yourself, Danielle? Danielle Timmons: [00:00:52] Sure. Thank you,  Sophie. So I'm Danielle Timmons. I'm the vice   president of Cruise Operations at Aquila Tours.  We are a tour operator in St. John, New Brunswick.  

And we do tours for all of the cruise ships that  visit St. John. So we take people on tour in   southern New Brunswick everywhere from Hopewell  Rocks, in and around St. John, St. Martins,   and St. Andrews. So that is the main part of what  we do. In addition to that, about 15 years ago,   the cruise lines approached us because they liked  how we did things and how we trained our team   and how we operated our tours. So they invited  us to start training some of the other cruise   destinations. So we've been doing that for about  15 years. We train tour guides, tour operators and  

destinations all over the world, primarily in the  Caribbean. But we do work all over the world. Sophie Yang: [00:01:42]   So, can you tell us a little bit more about your  role at Aquila Tours and what you do yourself? Danielle Timmons: [00:01:50] Absolutely. So  I work primarily in normal times on the shore   excursion side of the business. So I oversee the  shore excursion side of things. So I'm one of our   four cruise managers and our cruise managers run  the day when we have a ship in port. So making   sure that all of the tours operate on time and  all the right people get onto the right buses   and everything is kind of handled from start  to finish of the day and also working with our   cruise line clients. So that would be the cruise  line companies to make sure that they're getting   the types of experiences they want for their  guests and all that stuff. In these times,  

because we don't have any cruise ships coming to  Canada this year, I'm working exclusively on the   other side of our business, the training side of  our business. So we're doing training virtually   all over the world. So we're helping other  destinations prepare for their resumption   of cruise, because cruise has started in various  parts of the world. And so those destinations are  

trying to get ready. So I'm working on that  side of the business this year primarily. Sophie Yang: [00:02:58] So you mentioned  that you did a bit of training. Can you   tell us a little bit more details or give us  examples of what kind of training it is? Danielle Timmons: [00:03:06] Absolutely. So the  training, for instance, that I did this week  

is called Service Excellence Covid Edition. And so  what that is, is for all of the front line teams,   so that could be a restaurant server or a taxi  driver, a tour guide, somebody at a hotel desk,   all of the front lines who have to deliver  the same level of excellent service that   they've always done. But they're having to do  with Covid protocols. So how to communicate   better behind a mask and from a distance and  around sanitisation and contact tracing and   all that stuff that our front lines are still  expected to give great service. And sometimes   they have to give you a better service and  they have to make sure they're doing it   better and differently by  following all the protocols.   So that's an example of one of the types of  training that we were doing just this week. Sophie Yang: [00:03:54] I was wondering  if you have any training really targeted   towards service for adults ages 55 and  over as they have different sensory needs,   and obviously customer service is  very important in this line of work.

Danielle Timmons: [00:04:09] We don't  have anything that's specifically targeted   to older adults, but I think that a lot of  the training that we do would be helpful   to people whose guests are older adults. So, for  example, we train in a lot of cruise destinations   and many cruisers are, I think, one of the biggest  demographics of cruiser's are mature adults,   people over 55. So, for instance, in our  Covid training Service Excellence training,   we teach people about when you're speaking with  a mask on, it's really important to speak slower,   to speak clearly, to enunciate your words really  well and to speak a little louder. I'm sure all of   us have been in a restaurant lately or something  where you cannot hear the person who's speaking   because they're speaking too quietly or there's  too much background noise. So even though it's  

technically not geared specifically to older  demographic, it applies very, very well because   with a mask on, you really do need to change  the way that you communicate a little bit. Sophie Yang: [00:05:14]   Can you tell us if you have some work done to  attract customers that are over 55 years old? Danielle Timmons: [00:05:23] Good question, we  don't actually have any control over who our   customers are. So we sell our tours to the cruise  line. So each cruise line chooses what tours they   want to buy in every port from which operator. So  we find out the day before how many people we have   on which tours. But it just so happens that in  Canada, our cruise season is primarily busiest   in September and October. So we have two thirds of  our season takes place in September and October.  

And most, I would say our age range  demographic in those two months is   60 to 80 is primarily who we're seeing. So  we don't specifically target them ourselves.   But those are the folks who are buying those  cruises to this location at that time of year. Sophie Yang: [00:06:19] It's very  interesting to know. Thank you for sharing.   I was wondering since. Now we're experiencing  an increasing average age worldwide, and I'm   sure you've seen a lot of changes during  covid, but prior to Covid, have you noticed   an increasing trend of people going on to  cruise ships in the older adults age range? Danielle Timmons: [00:06:47] I don't know,  so we haven't had crews here since 2019   because we've had a federal ban on cruise  since 2020. So I'm not sure. I think one   of the trends that we're seeing in cruise right  now, if you break cruiser's into kind of three   customer types, there's people who cruise a  lot, there's people who are thinking about it,   and then there's people who've never cruised.  And given all the circumstances of the pandemic,  

the people in that first category  of people who cruise regularly, they   are keen and interested in selling it cruises  right through to 2024. But the other groups,   everybody else is a little more hesitant to  travel at the moment. So I don't actually   know the answer to that question because  I don't have access to that demographic. Sophie Yang: [00:07:35] Ok. But well, if you  think about once everything's back to normal,   once a cruise starts, like operation starts  going back to normal, do you anticipate, like   there will be an increase perhaps in  this demographic for cruise ships? Danielle Timmons: [00:07:57] I think so. I  know that right now, 2022 cruise season is  

looking really busy. It's looking like we're  going to be capacity-wise back to normal,   quote unquote, “normal”, and that that is our  demographic. And we're finding that sometimes   the demographic is trending a little bit younger.  So people we might see more people in their 50s   than previously. We might have seen more in our  60s. But it's also very dependent on the cruise   line with some cruise lines. The average age  is fifty five coming to Canada and then with  

others, the average age might be 70 coming to  Canada. So it does kind of differ by brand. Sophie Yang: [00:08:37] So you mentioned before  that there was some sensory issues that we could   see with older adults, for instance, like  with distraction, the background noises, or   as adults are getting changes in their  vision, their hearing and mobility.   Do you have any examples of sensory  friendly solutions that you have   implemented or seen implemented in the  cruise industry for the older adult? Danielle Timmons: [00:09:03] Absolutely. I would  say the two most common issues that we're talking   about would be hearing and mobility that I see  for sure. A lot of older adults have hearing   issues. Some of them choose to wear hearing aids,  some of them do not, even if they need them.  

And so even if you're not wearing a mask,  we still find that is very helpful for our   tour guides to speak slowly, clearly, to  enunciate and to speak a little bit louder   than they normally would in their regular  speaking voices. And that really helps with   people who might have a little bit of  hearing loss. We also make sure that we have   good working microphones in all of our tour  vehicles so that everybody can hear clearly and   we talk to our guides about the best way to hold  the microphone so that you're not getting that...   sometimes if you hold the microphone too  close to your mouth, it can be muffled.  

Our walking tour guides we started in the  last few years, our walking tour guides   used to just try really hard to project their  voice to the group. And now they actually wear,   it's like a little portable amplifier. So it's  just a little portable amplifier that they kind   of hang around their neck and they have a little  headset plugged into it. And so when they talk,  

the sound of their voice is kind of  projected outwards towards the group. Danielle Timmons: [00:10:23] And that makes a real  difference, especially in walking tours, because   you've got the city noise of cars going by and  traffic. So that's made a really big difference.   One of the other examples that we try to do a  lot is if somebody asks a question, our guides   are trained to repeat the question back clearly  and loudly so that everyone hears the question.   And then when they respond to the question,  everybody has heard the question and the answer.   We also try a little bit to make sure that we're  simplifying our language just a little bit.   If you have a hearing loss, you have trouble  if people speak with an accent or too quickly,   that kind of thing. So that can be  a little challenging for guests. So  

trying to make sure that we're not speaking too  quickly or that we're not using a lot of words   when we could say it a little simpler, that  kind of thing. And then if we think about the   mobility side of things, there's a lot  of different, it's a wide spectrum.   You have people who have, we get a lot of people  in the fall, especially with certain cruise lines,   who have a mobility device. So they have a cane or  a walker or a wheelchair or something like that. Danielle Timmons: [00:11:43] And so one of the  biggest things I think we do is we build in the   time so that we are not rushing, because sometimes  those folks, if they have some mobility issues,   they can't go fast. They can't just walk faster  or get on the bus quickly or anything like that.  

So we just make sure that we have time to  load and unload the bus or to make our way   around the stops at a reasonable pace because  we recognize that our demographic are not 18,   they are 60. And so that makes a big difference.  We have, for instance, like our drivers are always   at the outside foot of the bus so that they can  give a hand to offer if somebody needs help.   That first step up into a motor coach can be a  big one. We also have, we make them, one of our   pier side staff members. He's wonderful. He  actually makes these beautiful wooden steps   because sometimes the first step of a bus can  be 18 inches off the ground. And that's really,   really hard. So that step is about, I'm going  to say, ten inches off the ground. So that kind  

of breaks it up into two steps for them so that  they can make their way up the bus a little bit. Danielle Timmons: [00:12:53] One of the other  things that's really important to everybody,   but especially to an older demographic,  is the availability of bathrooms.   So this is something that we make sure that  guests know where the bathrooms are and how.   So if you're getting on the bus, we do a little  housekeeping introduction at the beginning,   covering off kind of a bit of an overview of  the day and we'll let them know how many stops   there are so that they know where the bathrooms  are. And they can kind of plan ahead for that  

because it's really important to make sure  that we're anticipating the needs of our guests   and making sure that they're comfortable. And  bathrooms are one of those. They seem like a   small thing, but they're a very, very important  thing. Not just for older guests, but for all   guests. One of the other things that is more  common with older demographic as well is   sometimes they need to be able to have access  to water or food. They might be diabetic,   they might need to take medication. And so letting  them know where there might be stops, where they   can purchase food is very important, because I'm  always surprised at how some people don't plan,   where they'll get on a tour and be diabetic and  say, I haven't eaten breakfast. And so. Yeah,  

or something like that, where you just think, wow,  maybe you should have brought a granola bar. Danielle Timmons: [00:14:15] But anyway, so we  try to make sure that they're aware of where they   are going to be able to stop and maybe be able to  access some of that stuff. So bathrooms, food and   water are very, very important. And one of the  other things, I think that's really applicable,   it's not necessarily a sensory issue. Maybe it is.  Older folks need more face time with people. So   I think the younger generations are more used  to finding everything out on their phones.  

And the older generations are used to talking  to a person and getting that information from   them verbally. It's kind of their preferred way  of communicating, and that's kind of how they've   kind of grown up. So we understand that in our  processes of what we're doing, like if we're at   our booth where we're kind of giving  them information about the tour,   sometimes younger folks just want to take  the brochure and walk away and talk about   it themselves. But older folks sometimes  want to talk to you and ask you questions,   even though the brochure tells them where  it's going to go. They would prefer to   actually talk to us and ask us where it's  going to go and let us tell them about it. Sophie Yang: [00:15:23] That was some  very valuable insight. You talked to us  

a lot about different considerations.  I think that's really great to know.   I was wondering, do you know if there are  any barriers to providing that really good   experience to your customers, as you mentioned,  like all these possibilities? I'm sure there may   be some difficulties you experienced to  providing that good customer service. Danielle Timmons: [00:15:47] One of the things  that I think is a barrier in a lot of places is   for mobility. So if you've got somebody, even if  they're in a wheelchair, if they're not confined   to a wheelchair, but maybe they're in a wheelchair  that their companion is pushing, not everywhere is   friendly to that. So there are places where  even though in Canada, we're pretty good in   terms that we have ramps and elevators and we have  a lot of that stuff kind of covered. But it's not  

perfect. Accessibility to vehicles that can take,  like, have a motorized wheelchair lift. Those are   very few and far between. We're very fortunate  here in St. John to have a company called   Handi-Bus. They're part of the city of St. John.  And so we charter them on almost every cruise ship  

day so that we have a tour available for guests  who are confined to a wheelchair. And we're often   told that on their cruise, that is the only, in  some cases we've heard from people “this is the   only time I've been able to get off the ship”  or “this is the only tour I've ever been able   to take on the ship”, because most of the time  the tour vehicles don't have wheelchair lifts. Danielle Timmons: [00:16:52] So we love being  able to do that. For our guests, it feels really,   really nice to be able to give somebody a tour  when they haven't been able to take one for their   entire cruise. Or I mean, I heard I remember in  2019 I talked to a guest who had been cruising for   years and it was one of the first times they'd  ever been able to take one of the ship tours   in a port. So I mean, that's amazing. So I think  generally accessibility is a bit of an issue   in terms of getting around. We're also a bit of  a hilly city. So sometimes that can be a bit of  

an issue. We basically, because we're at the  port, is at the water level and in St. John,   kind of everything is up from there. So if  you're exploring on your own and you have a   hard time with hills or with walking, that can be  a bit of an issue because most things are up. Sophie Yang: [00:17:44] So it's obviously  important to know, like the needs of your   customers and in order to provide that good  customer service, what are some methods that   you have put in place to really get the input and  feedback from your customers so that you know,   what kind of accommodations to make and what kind  of options that you're able to provide to them? Danielle Timmons: [00:18:05] That's a great  question. So one of the things that we do,   so on a busy cruise ship day, we would take on  average about a thousand to fifteen hundred people   on tour in that one day. So it's quite a large  number of people. And so we have a we call it a  

tour packet. And so our guide at the end of  the day has to complete a small evaluation.   And so they're evaluating: how is the tour, how  is the bus, how are the sites, to let us know if   there's something that we need to address. We have  a section of that that's called the wow's and the   ows. So they let us know what was amazing and what  maybe needs to be addressed. And so that would be  

a place where we would be able to find out  if there was anything like that. So if,   for instance, we had a new tour a few years  ago and we included a stop that we had never   included before on any of our tours. And so as  soon as we started running that tour and getting   that feedback from our tour guides, they were  letting us know that the amount of time we had   planned for that tour stop was not enough, that  the guests, it was taking them longer because   we tested it with us walking. But I think we  walked too fast. So the guests were, it was just   taking them longer. They couldn't do what they  needed to do in the time that we had provided. Danielle Timmons: [00:19:21] So that would be an  example of kind of getting that information so   that we can then adjust and say, OK, we plan  25 minutes for the stuff we need to do 40 to   allow people to move at their regular pace.  So that's probably the biggest way that we   really build it to try to get as much feedback as  possible from our tour guides, because I'm the one   that's in the terminal. As cruise managers, we’re  in the terminal kind of directing everything like  

an orchestra director. We're kind of. But it's the  tour guides who are out there on the front lines   who are getting that feedback and saying, like,  for instance, at one of our tour stops, there's   a really high curb that people keep tripping  over. And so we were able to work with the city.   And so they painted it bright, bright yellow with,  I think, a red stripe or something, so that our   guides, our guests would be able to see it because  they kept tripping over it, because they're   looking out at the sights and they don't notice  they're not watching their feet. So something like   that where we get the feedback that, OK, every  time the tour guides coming back, they're saying   somebody tripped over that curb again. So then  we were able to work with them to try to put in   like a visual reminder for our guests so that they  would trip less. They still trip, but less so.

Sophie Yang: [00:20:32] Thinking back to  all the services that you're able to offer   to your customers, can you really think of  one key thing that you're satisfied with   to provide positive customer service, especially  for older adults in the cruise industry? Danielle Timmons: [00:20:50] Hmm. One key thing,  I think it all comes down in the end to our guide   training. To our tour guides, because  they, sometimes, they are the only   person that a guest might actually speak to.  And so we do training and we do refresher   training every single year. So even if  you've been a guide with us for 20 years,  

you get to go through a refresher every year  because it's a good reminder of all of the   dos and don'ts and the best practices and the  ways that we can deliver that excellent service   because it's consistency when you want to deliver  good service, consistency is really, really key.   So if you're going to take a thousand people on  tour, you want a thousand people to have a good   experience. Not always possible, but if you have  kind of consistent processes and consistent ways   of doing things, then you can make sure that  everyone is getting a great experience. Even   though this guide might personalize their tours a  little and be a little different than this guide,   you're still getting that amazing  service because our practices are,   we're kind of training them every year  on what some of these best practices are.   And we also hire people with natural customer  service, that's really important because some   people don't. Not that they don't need to  be taught customer service, but some people   come by a friendly attitude and a  willingness to help very, very naturally.  

So we do obviously, we train on customer service,  but we also work hard to make sure that those are   the types of people that we bring on to our team  because it doesn't come naturally to everyone. Sophie Yang: [00:22:32] And how do you find these  natural tour guides into your tour operations? Danielle Timmons: [00:22:39] Excellent question.  Way back in the day, because we've been a company   for thirty nine years. So in the beginning we  used to do kind of a standard process for hiring   tour guides, resume that kind of stuff. We stopped  that completely. Resumes do not say anything about   what kind of a tour guide someone is going to  be. So now what we do is we meet with somebody to  

explain what the job is, because I think there's  always a little bit of, people don't always   understand what what what kind of a job it can be  and that it can be difficult because people think,   oh, I'm just going to get on a bus and I'm going  to talk about St. John and how great it is. And   if you have to learn history and you  have to learn presentation skills.   So we explain to them a little bit about the  job and then we ask them to do what we call   an audition. So we asked them to come back two  weeks later and take us on a 10 minute tour. So   they have to research some information. They can  take us anywhere they want if they want to meet   at the city market or at the three sisters land.  And they just have to take us on a little bit of a  

tour. And it's worth ten interviews that process,  because you'll see if people are prepared,   what their presentation skills are like, how  they are with people, if they really care about   the job. You can tell a lot by that audition  process. So that's really been invaluable.   We've been doing that now for probably the  last 15 years. And it's been really great. Sophie Yang: [00:24:02] Thinking back to  everything that you're providing in terms   of services. Can you name one change that  you would like to make in the future with  

something that you hope to see in  tour, cruise trips operations. Danielle Timmons: [00:24:19] I think one of  the things that is an opportunity that I wasn't   expecting out of Covid, but it's becoming  more obvious is we haven't done a lot of   incorporating technology into our tour experiences  because typically the older generation don't,   in the past, didn't all have a cell phone, the  technology piece wasn't there. But because of   Covid and everybody being in lock down, the  adoption and willingness to use technology has   skyrocketed in every single demographic.  And so people are much more tech savvy.   They're willing to use it. They're looking  to use it. So I think that one of the things   we're looking at for 2022 is what kind of  technologies would benefit a tour experience   and our experiences and how can we incorporate  that in a way that really adds to the experience,   whereas before it didn't feel like it was  something we really needed to do. Now I feel  

like it's something that we definitely need to  look at because everyone's looking for it now. Christel Seeberger: [00:25:19] A couple  of questions that just just came up to me   in the course of what you were sharing and  what I wanted to know. Have you observed   anything around this? And do you see in sort  of what changes need to be made or what changes   could or should be made? And I think about when I  used to work uptown in St.John and would park in   the parking lot in front of the cruise ships and  that the guests would come off Danielle. And I was   often seeing just sort of that family travel and  that also that multigenerational family travel. So  

here today we're talking about mature travelers.  But I would see, I would say a little bit more and   more. I don't have the numbers, but traveling with  their family, traveling with their children and   their grandchildren. Right? And that's something  I don't know. Have you observed that? And what   you know, what changes would that bring,  that multigenerational travel to cruising? Danielle Timmons: [00:26:25] Absolutely. There  has, that's really been growing in recent years.   And I think by the time we see cruise back in St.  John, we're going to see a lot more of it because  

people have become used to interacting in bubbles.  And those bubbles are usually multigenerational   because it's parents and grandparents. So  I think that's a trend that we're going to   see has taken a very large spike. So we do see a  lot of that. Parents and grandparents. Sometimes   we see grandparents and grandkids. They've left  the parents, the middle generation, us at home.   So we see a lot of that. I think one of the  lessons about having any children on tour that we  

learned when Disney started calling. Disney coming  to St. John was a really, really great experience   because they are experts in customer service  and they are experts in how to deliver customer   service to kids, but that's so the whole family  will enjoy. So there that was really, really   great. We love having Disney here. They have  very high standards and very high expectations,   but that just makes everybody better. And so  one of the things that we learned as an example   from working with Disney is, for instance, if you  are talking to a kid or a child, you kind of come   down to their level. So instead of kind of being  twice as tall of them and looking down and talking   down to them, you kind of take a knee and talk  to them at their level as an example. Another  

thing that I think about from Disney is if the  kids are happy, everybody's happy on the tour. Danielle Timmons: [00:27:56] So we have things  like a scavenger hunt, handouts and different   things that we have that we hand out for the  kids so that they're not bored on the bus.   Or we'll have a special activity like at Martello  Tower, where they have a special little scavenger   hunt that they do, and then they can collect some  little things and get a certificate at the end. So   trying to build in stuff that everybody can enjoy,  because if you can, if you take them on a tour   where it's all just kind of targeted at adults  and adult language and and all the activities, the   kids are going to be bored, which is then going to  drive the parents crazy and then nobody's happy.   So trying to make sure that you're making those  experiences kind of fun for the whole family.  

And it's really great to see that. I love seeing  the multigenerational stuff. And we see a ton   of and we did this on our own family reunion  two years ago. There were 23 of us and we all   got t-shirts. So we all had this kind of family  reunion t-shirts and we all had our names on the   back and we see lots of that. They come on  the cruise ship and you'll see twenty people   get on to a bus, all with matching t-shirts.  And it's really fun when people do those big  

family reunions. And so we try to sit them  together on the bus and make sure that they can   all be together and enjoy their time.  But yeah, I love seeing those. Christel Seeberger: [00:29:13] Something like  you're making us all want to travel with our   family, you know, across generations. I know I  was also thinking I'm going to go back actually  

to the conversation at the very beginning, and I  specifically wanted to ask about this. You talked   about sort of the two biggest, I think, changes or  things to pay attention to with mature travelers.   One was hearing right. And the other one  was mobility. And I also wanted to know,   were there any other changes or any other sort  of like an identified barrier to overcome or an   accommodation to make or something just just  to think about vision. Right. And I you know,   I think of myself with my computer glasses,  my reading glasses and my distance glasses   and keeping track of all of the glasses.  Right? And just right. And traveling,   being able to see and vision is. Yeah. Do you  have any, any, any thoughts to share on that?

Danielle Timmons: [00:30:24] I think so. So one of  the things we try to do is make sure that we have   clear signage and sometimes simplified language  and bigger fonts. So whether it's a brochure   or it's directional to let people know they  have to head out that door or whatever it is,   trying to have fewer words so that the font can  be a little bigger, trying to have it be very,   very simple and very clear. And on our brochure,  the same thing. We're not going to try to squeeze   too much on there. And the font is tiny because  they just can't read it. So trying to have   decent size fonts, very clear language, sometimes  bullet points can be helpful for stuff like that   if people don't want to read the entire paragraph.  And then visually, too, we try to make sure that  

there's a curb at the port and they do a  really good job of having it fenced off   to make sure that because people don't always  see it, even with a painted curb. So trying to   make sure that it's fenced off in a way that  people aren't going to trip over that curb   and they've got great kind of big arrows because  people get overwhelmed in a new place. When you   come into a new place, even no matter what age  you are, it can be overwhelming when there's   signs everywhere and you're trying to figure out  where you're going. So as much as you can kind of  

simplify that for folks to kind of create a clear  path so that it's a little bit easier for them.   I think that would be probably  what are my advice on that. Christel Seeberger: [00:31:57] Excellent  tips. I thought of a little bit more if   you have a little bit more time for us. I  was wondering just again, because you know,  

you talk about St. John, New Brunswick and the  excursions and the, you know, Aquila tours here,   you know, this being your living lab, but also,  you know, before or we started recording. You were   talking about how right now you're training folks  around the world. Right? It's not not just here.  

And I'm wondering, have you observed any just  any differences. Right. Anything that could be a   barrier or a solution? Just differences around the  world. Maybe it's cultural. Just with regards to   mature travelers, just your observations about  that with a global perspective, does anything   come to mind that you talked a little bit about  accessibility being a barrier in different places,   you know, solutions that you've developed here.  But so I'll just sort of two sides of that. Any   global barriers elsewhere or solutions that  you've been able maybe to bring home here? Danielle Timmons: [00:33:13] Absolutely. Great  question. Accessibility is more of a problem in a   lot of parts of the world. Canada is a first world  country and not all cruise destinations are. So   accessibility, we have laws around disabilities  and kind of accommodations for that here. So I  

would say accessibility, generally speaking, is  more of an issue. Culturally and in some places,   like the biggest cruising destination in the  world is the Caribbean, generally speaking. And   culturally, some of those areas are more physical  in terms of getting close to people and touching   people than we are. North Americans tend to have  a very large sense of personal space. And so a lot   of times North Americans do not want you to come  in to think of the hula hoop if you've got a hula   hoop around you. A lot of times North Americans  do not like you to come into that hula hoop unless   you are asked. And so sometimes the work we do  in other countries is just letting them know that   because sometimes they might be very used to just  touching their shoulder or touching their arm or,   you know what I mean, like put their hand. They're  back to guide them somewhere, that kind of thing,  

and so letting them know that you can't shouldn't  always touch someone without their permission.   That can be really kind of one of the big  cultural differences that I can think of. Danielle Timmons: [00:34:31] And then I think  one of the other barriers to travel that we find   is, as I said earlier, with older folks having  sometimes hearing loss, it can be difficult to   understand accents. And so even though most of the  tours are in English, in most places where you go,   especially in the Caribbean, the tours are  in English. But English may be that person's   second or third or fourth language. And so they  have an accent. And so sometimes that can be   more difficult for the passenger to understand. So  working with them to make sure again that they're  

kind of slowing down a little bit, speaking  clearly to make sure that they can be understood,   because it is more challenging to understand  accents. And I think it's a lot of our guests   are from the US and many of them only speak one  language. And so if you speak two or three or four   like in Canada, a lot of us speak to at least  two, I think you have a bit of a better ear for   language. And it's not the same if you only speak  one and if you're only used to hearing one around   you all the time. So just letting them know that  they need to sometimes slow down a little bit,   speak clearly just to be understood. I would say  that would be one of the cultural differences.

Christel Seeberger: [00:35:40] The  other thing I was really curious about   just, you know, we're talking about mature  travelers, but what have you observed?   What are their favorite types of excursions?  Right. Or just their favorite things to do.   Do you, I'm assuming that there is a bit of a  difference, right, in more mature travelers,   adults over 55 generally. Yeah. If you could speak  to that, I'd be just really interested in that. Danielle Timmons: [00:36:15] Absolutely. So we  have about 40 different excursions that we offer.  

And so every cruise line decides which ones they  think are the best for their demographic. So if   it's a particular cruise line that, say, most of  their demographic that are going to come to us   in the fall are going to be over 70, they're  not likely going to buy our zip line tour. As an   example. If you have a demographic where they've  got younger travelers, then they're going to buy   our hike paddle tours and our zip line tour. So  it really depends on the demographic. But we offer  

literally everything from general sightseeing  tours around St. John. We do St. Martin's,   we go to the beautiful caves. We go to  Hopewell Rocks to walk on the ocean floor.   We go whale watching. We have two whale watching.  We have one on a catamaran boat and we have one   where they wear the survival suits and the  Zodiac for the more adventurous. We have   hiking tours and biking tours, kayaking tours. So  we try to offer something for everybody because  

on that cruise ship, even though there might be  three thousand people, and even if most of them   are over 55, they've got a lot of different  abilities and interests. So trying to offer   a little something for absolutely everyone, but  you will see stuff that will surprise you. Danielle Timmons: [00:37:29] I remember  we had somebody in her 90s a few years ago   who went ziplining, which I thought was amazing.  I was blown away because I've done that zip line   and I was terrified. I did it anyway, but I was  terrified. And so, you just can never predict   what you're going to see with what people are  interested in. But I think one of the trends,  

20 years ago, people were more content to sit  on a bus and look out the window and just learn   about things. And now, even if it's not an  adventurous or an active tour, people still   want to get engaged with it. So if we take them to  the New Brunswick Museum, we're going to make sure   that they get to touch the baleen from the whale  or something like that so that they can really get   hands-on. No matter what age you are, people love  to be hands-on with things. They love to touch   things and see things. And really, instead of just  learning about it or seeing it from the window of  

the bus. So I would say that's an overall  trend. Experiential travel, they call it. Christel Seeberger: [00:38:33] Well, that actually  leads me to another question because, well, you   just mentioned that you went you went ziplining,  but you also mentioned earlier, Danielle,   literally like testing out an excursion and then  learning from feedback. But I you know, I'd like   to know what you think about just or the  importance of or what you learn from testing   out. Right. And excursion yourself like what  are the things you’re in particular looking for?   You've covered some of them. But anything else  that is really part of that discovery for you? Danielle Timmons: [00:39:10] Excellent. One of our  new tours that I can think about testing out a few   years ago was, we have a tour called the Fundy Fun  Race. And so I guess it's kind of a self directed  

scavenger hunt. So they get an orientation and  then they get a book and they have to follow   it through the city and go to different places.  And they have to try a periwinkle at the market   and they have to sample dulce and they have to  take a picture at a certain location and find   the moose and do all this fun stuff. So while  they're kind of running throughout St. Johns,  

they're actually learning some of our history  and getting to see a bunch of different stuff.   And they can do it on their own. So they can  kind of go out with their family group. So   you'll have a couple go out and do it or you'll  have a family of 10 go up and do it. And so   before we did that tour, because there's a lot  of components mixed into it, we tested it. And so  

we made sure that in our test group, we had some  of us as like our regular kind of Aquila team. Danielle Timmons: [00:40:03] We had some of our  tour guides. We made sure that some of our tour   guides were a little older, some of them maybe  a little younger. Then we had some folks who  

were not involved in cruise whatsoever just to  get their outside perspective, because the tour   guides, if you're an experienced tour guide, you  have a very different perspective than a tourist   as an example. So we kind of tried to get a broad  range of people to test that tour. We went out,   we did that. We all did the Fundy Fun Race. And  then we sat down and had a big debrief meeting   with everybody to say, OK, what  worked well, what did you love?   What was an obstacle? Was there anything  confusing? Did anything not work out? To   kind of really be able to tweak it so that by the  time we ran the tour, everything was kind of all   worked out. So and now it's a super popular tour  because people just love it. I love being able,   it's kind of like an amazing race and a scavenger  hunt all in one. And so, yeah, it's really fun.

Christel Seeberger: [00:40:58] Anything else  that you can think of that would be of value   to share about travel for older adults.  And what makes the difference? Danielle Timmons: [00:41:12]   Absolutely. So I think one of the things I said  near the beginning is anticipating their needs and   trying to create a great experience. Number one.  That's kind of the goal for absolutely everything.  

I think having patience and building in the time  to go at their pace, very important. There's no,   nobody's going to be happy if they're being  rushed. So that's a really important one.   Sometimes in our very helpful nature, we like  to help people, especially East Coasters and   Maritimers, we just love to be helpful. And so we  train our guides to ask if the person needs help  

and don't assume and start helping them. So  somebody, sometimes to be helpful, somebody   might just think, oh, I'm just going to grab their  arm and I'm going to help them because they look   like they need help. Some people don't like that.  They would prefer that you ask if they need help   and then they do or they don't. So I think asking  for help, asking if the person needs help instead   of assuming they need help would be a big thing.  And then I think one of the other things, too,  

about an older demographic is they are less,  they can be less casual than we're used to. Danielle Timmons: [00:42:18] So, for instance,  I when I'm addressing if I have to do an   announcement on the bus, if I'm stepping on  the bus for some reason, if I have to do an   announcement or inside the terminal to a group of  people, I don't call them “hey, guys”, I will say,   “ladies and gentlemen”, because I think they're  just more used to a little bit more of that formal   way of speaking. If I am talking to somebody  and they show me their ticket, I will address   them as Mr. or Mrs. Smith as opposed to  Diana or whatever. So I think that kind of,   Ritz Carlton does have, they have a really good  saying about that that says something like,   we are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies  and gentlemen. And I love it because it's   a little bit more formal, but I think  it just gives people that special   feeling of good service. And so I really  love that idea, especially working with   a mature audience, because I think they really  respond to that because it's how they would have   been treated and how they would have treated their  mature, their folks when they were young, too.

Sophie Yang: [00:43:23] That was a wonderful  conversation, Danielle, based on what we had just   discussed, you can see that providing customer  service that matches with their needs is key.   Our second guest, Carol Alderdice, president and  CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New   Brunswick will delve a little deeper into this  topic by telling us all the ways and changes   we can do to improve customer service. Carol,  could you introduce yourself to our listeners? Carol Alderdice: [00:43:50] Hi. And I'm very  happy to be here with you today. Yes, I am   Carol Alderdice and I'm president and CEO of the  Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. Sophie Yang: [00:44:00] So for our listeners,   can you tell us a little bit about  TIANB and its member organizations? Carol Alderdice: [00:44:06] Yes, TIANB. This is  a non-profit organization and we're governed by  

a board of directors that represent both  official languages in New Brunswick and   all regions of New Brunswick as well. And we  have eight board members at this time. And   our mission is to be there for our members and  to advocate for them to make sure the policies   don't affect the policy changes, I should  say. So we make sure that the policy changes   don't affect our industry. And when it does,  that's when we advocate for our industry.   We also are continuously trying to find  ways to help our industry and our members   with the cost of doing business, which is very  expensive. So we have many preferred partners   that offer discounts and services to our members  and we also offer all of our training at a   discount for our members as well. So we are  we as we say, we're there for our members.

Christopher Basmadjian: [00:45:13] And in terms of  demographic, do you know what kind of demographic   is the primary source of that, of the tourism?  Is it like young adults as older adults? Carol Alderdice: [00:45:25] Well,  actually, we have a lot of families   that especially from Quebec, a lot of families  that travel to New Brunswick. We have a lot of   seniors that also travel to New Brunswick and a  lot of seniors travel in the fall because they   want to see the colors and and all of that  stuff. So we have our demographics is pretty   well families and more recently, young adults,  because the tourism kind of changed over the last   not last year, but the last two or three  years before that, where people wanted to get   experiences and they wanted to have experiential  kind of experiences and wanted to live with the   locals and things like that. So we ended  up getting a younger generation as well.

Sophie Yang: [00:46:19]   Of course, a Covid changed a lot of things with  travel, and now that it's slowly getting better,   what do you anticipate travel will look  like for older adults post-Covid? Carol Alderdice: [00:46:32] Well, I  think that's a really good question,   because I don't think anybody knows what  tourism is going to look like moving forward,   because people have gone through a lot  emotionally, you know, in every way you can think   about. Just think about all these families that  have been separated for 15, 16 months. I mean,   not being able to hug your grandchildren  for these grandparents, I can't imagine   how terrible that was. I think tourism is going  to be very different because people are going to   be very conscious of their environment. And but  I do still believe that especially older adults   will still be looking for places that are more,  that they're more comfortable in visiting.

Christel Seeberger: [00:47:25] Do you have,  so tell us a little bit about just the as a   tourism industry association, what are all the  types of organizations that you represent? Carol Alderdice: [00:47:37] Oh, goodness,  there are lots. We have members that have the   obviously in the accommodation sector. We have  members in the adventure and recreation. We have   campgrounds, we have attractions, festivals and  events, food and beverage, obviously restaurants.   We have outfitters for fish  and hunt. We have the parks,  

municipal and provincial, and we have tourism  services for, for instance, tour operators. And   in transportation, obviously we have the  airports. And so, we have a wide range of   members in our association. We have educational  as well, we have the NBCC and Oulton College.   And we have you know, so we have like I  said, we have a wide range of members.

Christel Seeberger: [00:48:37] Ok, so, Carol, so  you talk I just want to again. So the audience   has a bit of an understanding of all the different  types of of operators that you represent here in   the province. That's really helpful. In terms, and  we talked about the importance of training. Right.   Tell us from the perspective of the operator,  why having, so, is it formal training? Is it   informal training? Like what helps them for  tourism operators increase their capacity to   invite different types of guests? What are the  things you've seen be successful so that they,   you know, I'm going to say include more  people. But that could be just different ages,   right? Not necessarily  different abilities. Yeah. Carol Alderdice: [00:49:26] Well, obviously  there's some training that is mandatory.  

Right. It's like food safety if you're in  a restaurant or a responsible beverage is   becoming mandatory starting September 1st. But to  me, the most important training that any customer   facing person can take from the front desk, to  whoever, is the customer service training. They   need to know how, what customer service  is. They need to be able to understand   that what happens if something terrible  happens? How do they handle that?   And what do they do when something wonderful  happens, you know, and always having a smile   on their face? And, you know, it's easy to say  the customer is always right. And in most cases,  

the customer is always right. But you need to  be able to handle a situation where the customer   may not be right or they may be abusive. So  to me, that's the most important training   that any customer facing business from tourism to  to retail stores to any of those customer facing   businesses absolutely need to to get customer  service training. And I know I walk into stores   sometimes and I think if the owners knew what was  going on, they would be pretty upset because you   can't find anybody to help you and they kind of  make you feel like you're in the way. And that's,  

you know, a lot of people don't understand that  without the customer, they don't have a job.   And it's really important. So that customer  service aspect is very, very important. Sophie Yang: [00:51:22] Yes, I agree with giving  customers that positive experience, right? Carol Alderdice: [00:51:27] Well you want  them to come back. Right. You want the  

word of mouth to happen and you want them  to say, oh, my God, you've got to go to   wherever because it was the best experience  ever. And so that's what you want as a   business owner. And that's really important. This  new called New Brunswick Service Excellence. And   they're going to be workshops that are going  to be provided with different modules and the,   being a professional, the first impressions.  How important our first impressions, the power   of positive attitude and being self aware of what  you're expressing, being a professional is always,   always very important and effective communication.  I mean, a lot of there's so much communication  

that are not set in words, just in your look  or in your posture or in the way that you carry   yourself. And that's so important to understand  that. And also encouraging customer feedback   like that, even if the feedback is not good, at  least you know what to do to fix it. And they   will appreciate that. And that is really, really,  really important to have those skills and to learn   how you can affect a customer's visit. It is  just so important to understand how you can   affect someone walking into your place on either  fantastic good positive to oh my God, I never   want to be here. I never want to come back here.  And that's the training that we offer that is so  

important for tourism and for any, as I said, any  customer facing business that's so important. Christel Seeberger: [00:53:34] Why  do you think that that word of mouth.   Right. Resonates with travelers.  Right. Why do you think?

Carol Alderdice: [00:53:41] Because, you know,  the difference between advertising and word of   mouth is that they tend to believe somebody that  they know went through an experience versus the,   you know, the beautiful things and pictures  and stuff like that. Word of mouth has become   very, very important in the last four or five  years. People go to TripAdvisor now or any of   those consumer feedback sites to find out where  they should go. And the minute that they decide  

I want to go here, they go on online  and they try to find out all of the   feedback about that particular operator or  that particular place they want to go to.   So if there's bad ratings, they're obviously  not going to be going to visit that customer   or that operator. So that's why it's so important  to make sure that people are happy with their stay   and they're happy with their experience so that  they can share it and get other people to want   to really want to go there because their  friends had such a great experience.

Christel Seeberger: [00:54:52] Your comments  really tie into one of what one of our other   guests who shared just the importance, you know,  someone with a with a disability or someone with   just a low vision, just saying, you know, we often  say what's wrong with an experience, but also the   importance of of telling tourism operators what's  right. What went well. Can you speak a little   bit to the, how that helps tourism operators.  Right. That just those both types of feedback.   I'd really like to learn your perspective a  little bit more about the importance of that. Carol Alderdice: [00:55:29] Yeah, I  think it's a very good point because   we're humans and we tend to  complain before we compliment. And   so I think it's really important is just  as important for people to say thank you   and show their appreciation and why they  appreciated it as much as if they've had a   bad experience at a place where they would say  I'd never go there again. But just the positive  

experience. And for that to share that with  an operator will make them continue to want   to offer this type of experience and want to make  them continue to keep up with the training that   they need to make sure that the experiences  are to that top level for the customer. Christel Seeberger: [00:56:22] What do you  think? What are some of the ways perhaps you've   seen some ways, some creative ways that tourism  operators have done this that can invite that,   I'm going to say some of that positive  feedback from their guests to sort of   let people know what they're doing is right. Are  there any I know I'm putting you on the spot here,  

Carol, but are there any examples that come  to mind or anything that you can imagine,   again, letting people know what's right? Christopher Basmadjian: [00:56:49]  Well, what comes to mind for me is,   you know, you go to somewhere and sometimes  they give you a survey or they give you   they give you like an they ask for your email  to send you notifications or say: would you mind   giving us feedback on your stay here, especially  when you go to a hotel or something, or they say,   OK, please write us a review. We want to know  your feedback, right? And I don't know, Carol,   if you're going to mention the same things or  something that was similar along those lines. Carol Alderdice: [00:57:13] Yeah, a lot of our  operators, when I was with the Department of   Tourism, Heritage and Culture, I worked there  for 14 years before I took on this position.   A lot of the operators were very much wanting to  get their customers to provide feedback. And we   provided them, we gave them training on how to  get feedback from their operators through with   TripAdvisor, because that's what the top customer  feedback site was, TripAdvisor at that time.  

And we had them put together some little cards  that they can give out to their customers to get   customer feedback. So it doesn't take much just  kind of a reminder to do that. And believe me,   if they had a good experience,they will do  that and they will also do it if they have a   bad experience. So, but I think if just those  little reminders to the customers, they will   definitely provide the feedback that will help  you improve, even if it's good feedback. Just  

it's the being able to improve on the experience  that your customers have is always a plus.   And like I said, it doesn't take a lot. Just,  I mean, my own experiences, they'll be somebody   at a hotel or at an experience that will  just make you feel like a million dollars.  

And every time you see that person, they're so  happy to see you and it's genuine. And, you know,   just like I say, it doesn't take much. It just,  when you're on vacation, you want to feel good   and you want to feel important, you want them to  treat you like you think you need to be treated.   You want the red carpet rolled out. And although  they'll do that for everybody, but it makes   you feel special because they're doing it for  you. So like I said, it doesn't need to take,  

it doesn't take much just to be able to make your  customer feel like that they're number one. Christopher Basmadjian: [00:59:24] Yeah, it's as  you said, it doesn't take much, it;s those small,   little, tiny changes that when you add them up  together, they create this amazing experience   or could be bad experience depending on how they  felt it. But it doesn't take much. As you said,   it's other small little changes that add up to  be to make a big difference in someone's trip.

Carol Alderdice: [00:59:42] Yeah, like in a hotel,  you check in to a hotel and you get to your room   and it's a little card from the manager welcoming  you. I mean, how long does that take? Right.   Sometimes there's cookies or something else, but  you don't need a lot. It's just an acknowledgement   that they're very happy that you've  selected their place to spend your vacation.   So I just think that, like I said, the  little things like that mean a lot.

Christopher Basmadjian: [01:00:07]  I was just thinking about, like,   you go inside somewhere and someone greets you at  the door and says, hi, can I help you? You know,   having someone there and say, oh, there's someone  there for my needs and I'm not just being ignored,   I have to find my way. But having someone there  just for me, it feels like I'm being rewarded Carol Alderdice: [01:00:26] They want you there. Christopher Basmadjian: [01:00:27] They want us  there. They want to help you. And you think it's   special because you go in, they automatically  come to you and say hi. Hi, my name is X, Y,   Z, help may I help you. You know, and even  though they do that for everyone, it still   contributes to that good experience and it shows  that you're wanted here. And you’re valued

Carol Alderdice: [01:00:45] Yeah. Christel Seeberger: [01:00:47]You  know, that's a bit of a theme,   Carol, that's come up again at some  of our conversations. So for so far,   how we make welcome older adults is also how we  make welcome, you know, all of our guests. Right.  

Really, we you know, we think about helping one  segment of the population, right, of travelers.   And we know older adults travel a lot. But that  really it's often appreciated by travelers of   any age or like we said. Yeah. Multi generation  travelers. Yeah. Traveling together right. Carol Alderdice: [01:01:33] And I am from  the old school and I love chivalry. Is that   what you call it? And especially with older  adults, you know, you see an older adult,   you go and open that door for them. If  they've got walkers, you know, you try  

to help them as much as you can. If they've got  luggage, I mean, just little things like that.   I mean, that's good for anybody. But I think  older adults appreciate it a lot more because   of the generations. And that's why, you know,  customer service is not for everybody. That's   why you have different people. You know, like  an accountant is not a customer service person.  

An accountant sits at a desk. Well, you know what  I mean. You need a note going, smiling face when   you're in the customer service world, especially  in tourism. So you need to make sure that the   people, here's a perfect example. I'm going to  give you an example that you're going to love.   One of our operators had a young, you know, a  student at the front desk and an older adult   working behind the scenes and trying to take  care of social media and things like that.   And they quickly realized that the young person  knows social media like there's no tomorrow.  

And the older adult was perfect on the front  desk and they made that switch. And that's   what I mean. Everybody is not suited for  every position. And you need to make sure   that the people that you have first facing  your customers are people that want to be   there and want to be and want to help  this. I mean, it makes a big difference. Christopher Basmadjian: [01:03:26] Thank you to  both of our guests, Carol Alderdice, president   and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association  of New Brunswick, as well as Danielle Timmons,   vice president of cruise operations at  Aquila Tours. And thank you, listeners.   We hope you're enjoying and learning from our 55+  Travelers: Arriving and Thriving audio conference   brought to you by Sensory Friendly Solutions.  We certainly a

2021-11-12 21:23

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