Tours and the Tourism Industry: Danielle Timmons and Carol Alderdice
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