With a theme like “Ecotourism: Tread softly, write with impact” I knew that I had to be a part of this symposium! As one of the BCATW’s newest members I was really excited to be meeting a group of people who do what I do! I’ve met a few through social media and I was excited to  meet them in person!

The conference had about 50 people in it and I was excited to pick up my first official media pass and my name badge for the day. I didn’t know what to expect, was it everything they said it would be?

NOPE.

It was WAY BETTER! Here’s the top ten things I LOVED about #BCATW2015

1. Opening Industry Panel: “Opportunities for Ecotourism in Writing” – We were lucky to have three passionate speakers join the panel to open up the conference to discuss opportunities for Ecotourism. These Speakers were:

a. Janet Clouston – Executive Director of Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center. Her passion for the area showed from the second she started talking to when she ended with a beautiful video and yelled, “Turn it up!”

b. Josh Bloomfield of Cycle City Tours – Josh started his presentation with “why” and shared his passion for showing off our city and running a business with the goal of being a carbon neutral company. My favourite part about hearing him speak was learning about how people wanted to buy plastic water bottles, and instead their staff decided to educate tourists on the quality of our water and started to sell reusable water bottles at cost! I hope their passion for carbon offsetting and commitment to the environment catches like fire! Cycle City tours also donated an awesome tour… Thank you!

c. Peter Loppe of Lotus Land – Wilderness Adventures for Softies  – Peter entertained us in ways that I just can’t repeat… although I’m sure some of his comments won’t be forgot by our BCATW president  anytime soon! But when he wasn’t making us laugh Peter shared his passion for kayaking and tips and tricks about everything from making great trips to great partnerships!

The panel was presented with several questions including trends and challenges, how boards and businesses like working with writers, and how to create great relationships. The big suggestions were:

1. Have a special angle for your story. Make your story stand out!
2. Be clear and authentic. Don’t make up a story!
3. Create a Win / Win relationship for both partners.
4. Stay true to your commitments!

2. Keynote SpeakerJack Christie –  Jack Christie is a Vancouver legend when it comes to experiencing the outdoors. If I could sit with anyone and pick their brain about great family adventures in Vancouver it out be Jack. He’s written over 18 adventure guides, including “52 day trips from Vancouver”, and scripted over 500 episodes of “The rec report” for Shaw TV. He was an outdoors columnist with the Georgia Straight, and created, hosted and syndicated “Beyond the Backyard” a weekly outdoor series on the CBC. He’s won several awards for his work and from the level of energy he has on stage, something tells me he’s not slowing down any day soon!

Jack discussed some of the upcoming trends in Eco Tourism, noting that the popularity of Eco-Tourism Trips is on the rise. (For example 48% of people polled in a recent survey said they’d like to go to Costa Rica if they could choose an Eco tour)

Jack then went on to discuss some of the amazing places and things to do right here in the Western Canada:

Takaya Tours  – Jack was very passionate about this tour and strongly suggested that we check it out! It’s a company that is run by the late Chief Dan George’s children. On this tour you can take a 25 foot traditional style ocean-going canoe and experience the culture, tradition and history of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. The tour guides take you through Indian Arm while the guides share legends, songs, and stories that help you learn about the culture and have an experience like no other.

I think this would be a phenomenal way to experience the coast and the culture.

I think this would be a phenomenal way to experience the coast and the culture.

LandSea Tours If you’re looking for a great adventure and want to leave all the work to someone else, Jack recommended connecting with LandSea Adventures. They offer a variety of adventures through Vancouver and beyond. Land, Air, and Sea adventures at your fingertips!

ZipTrek Eco Tours –After our tree top experience with ZipTrek Eco Tours I’ve been hooked as a fan and an advocate for this company. Their commitment to sustainability and sharing their passion to protect and enjoy the rainforest was something that made then stand out to Jack too! He was excited to share how the company was founded and about how they built their whole experience without harming a single tree.

He also shared their exciting news about how they are opening the biggest zipline in Canada and the US. At 2 km this new line will get them into the book of world records! If you’re in Whistler and looking for a fabulous experience check out ZipTrek. (Proud to say they are one of Adventure Awaits’ Sponsors!)

Whistler Tree Top Tour Entrance

Time to head off into and start our Tree Trek Tour! I love the slogan “Eco-Exhilaration”

Great Blue Heron – This is something new that I’ve never heard of and an adventure I can’t wait to take the kids on! The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve Society runs programs and services on a 325 acre wetlands located on the un-dyked floodplain of the Vedder River.

Jack said now is the best time of year to go as the leaves on the trees haven’t filled in and it’s easier to see the birds nesting at this time of the year. Second to the birds are the amazing Rotary Volunteers who financially support and volunteer at the park to keep this experience open to the public. Chilliwack, here we come!

Sea to Sky Trail Video – Jack finished off his presentation with a video about the Sea to Sky Trail. An awesome extenstion of the Trans Canada Trail that runs from Squamish to Pemberton. It’s an accessible trail, for all types users with varying types of mobility! Check it out:

3. Waterton Lakes – Jack introduced me to Waterton Lakes… and after seeing a few phenomenal photos I feel like a bad Canadian for not knowing this place exists! And the fact that I’ve never been there? Well you can be sure that heading to this destination just made it to the top of my to-do list! I had planned to go to Banff this summer but I think I’ll be heading south instead!

Waterton Lakes National Park is a national park located in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada, and borders Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. Not only a magnificent portrait featuring some of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes, but this park is shared with our neighbours to the south and features an international border that you can meander back and forth between!

Being a National Park most of the land is protected and the only commercial space is right in the town. There you will find hotels like the Prince Albert Hotel, which boasts an amazing view, and activities like the Waterton Cruise. http://www.watertoncruise.com/ Even David Letterman said on his show this place was “Stunning.” Fingers crossed we can find our way there soon!

I can't believe I've never heard of this place! It's my number one destination now!

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this place! It’s my number one destination now!

4. Travelteerism –Throughout the symposium there were sponsor highlights and Travelteerism was one of them. This unique company combines unique travel experiences and volunteer opportunities together for groups. Whether you’re looking for a luxury travel experience in Africa or prefer something more down to earth in Mexico, their motto, “See the world and serve it too” shows travellers how they can have a really authentic experience that leaves them with more than pictures to show. I can’t wait to learn more about this company… travel AND volunteering? RIGHT up my alley!

5. Adventure Awaits Blog Sponsors – It was awesome to reconnect with some of my blog sponsors as they gave away prizes to our group! A big shout out to Grouse Mountain, ZipTrek Eco Tours, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Sea to Sky Gondola for contributing awesome prizes!

6. David Smith – David is a world renowned photographer who has traveled to over 110 countries photographing inspiring people and places. He said he has the “world’s greatest job” and is very lucky… (Although he admitted that luck is just a combination of when opportunity meets preparedness.) which I totally believe in. He offered us a workshop on taking great photos with a “look but don’t touch” mentality. He had a huge respect for the people and things he was photographing and it was important for him to share his methods of communication and preservation with us.

Some top tips that David taught us:
– Make friends with your camera
– Get OFF auto
– Capture local people and colour
– Don’t forget your memory cards!
– Take photos that talk back
– Research your destination before you head out.
– Use the exposure value button!

And so much more! Be sure to check out his website to see his amazing collection of photos as well as take some of his workshops!

7. Photo Contest – As many of you know I really wanted to win the photo contest because of the awesome prize being offered by Tigh-Na-Mara Resort.  Unfortunately I was up against professional photographers who’s skills and environments were stiff competition. I wanted to share the top two winners with you:

Shark and Awe - Recreational Diving with sharks in the Bahamas - Jeff Britnell

Shark and Awe – Recreational Diving with sharks in the Bahamas – Jeff Britnell

Kayaking near Desolation Sound on the Sunshine Coast.

Kayaking near Desolation Sound on the Sunshine Coast.

8. Carbon Neutral Focus: There was a major focus on working with companies who are carbon neutral. The authenticity of this challenge was also discussed at length as topics like green washing were brought to light. For someone as passionate about the environment as myself it was so inspiring to be in a room of like-minded individuals. I also loved hearing about amazing companies that were stepping up and not only being green, but embodying it in every way. Two companies that really stood out to me were:

a. Eagle Wing Tours –  They run Whale Watching tours out of Victoria, BC where they have built Canada’s first carbon neutral whale watching company. They are also a members of One Percent For The Planet. As they say, “Environmental Stewardship is a core value at Eagle Wing” Check out their website and you’ll see their commitment to conservation! One lucky conference attendee walked away with a Eagle Wing Tour Prize! What a generous prize!

b. WildSpring Guest Habitat  – This eco-friendly resort has a 0 carbon footprint. I absolutely loved learning about how they built this amazing place building around the landscapes and only having to take down TWO trees! They’ve received accolades and awards for their resort, including the Sustainable Tourism Leadership award at the 2014 Governor’s Conference. We were hoping to do a road trip down to Oregon this summer and this place just became our number one destination. WildSpring was a very generous sponsor donating a night in a cabin! (Too bad we didn’t win) Thank you for the awesome prize!

One of the conference attendees won a night in one of these amazing cabins! Thank you so much WildSpring for the amazing donation!

One of the conference attendees won a night in one of these amazing cabins! Thank you so much WildSpring for the amazing donation!

9. Closing Panel – The symposium closed with an editorial panel that focused on answering the question, “How do you get your story published?” We were fortunate to have three very talented editors come and share their experience and expertise with us. They were:

a. Allex Cox of Northwest Travel Magazine
b. Kirsten Rodenhizer of Westworld Alberta
c. Jett Britnell of Matador Network 

Each of them shared their advice on how to get your story published, and here’s the biggest lessons they shared:

a. Don’t send them anything with a spelling or grammar error… DELETE
b. Have a good subject line that uses the word “Pitch” or “Query” in it. 5-6 words MAX.
c. Give Editors LOTS of lead time. Up to a year is sometimes expected.
d. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know who you’re pitching to.
e. Prove your credibility. Present who you are, what you do and where you’ve been published.
f. Know your audience and ensure there’s a good fit.
g. Tell your unique angle for the story and location you’re writing about.
h. Include URL’s for images.
i. Be concise. Period.
We were very lucky to have these expert panel members share their advice with us. Thank you for taking the time out of your Saturday to join us!
10. Prizes – The prizes were OUT OF CONTROL… more prizes then I’ve ever seen at any conference ever! Most people (except me) walked away with at least one prize, if not two, or three, or more! A huge thank you to the committee member who took on prize collection and a special thanks to everyone that donated! I loved learning about each one of these organizations and I can’t wait to start checking them all out! Thank you:

Thank you volunteers!

a. Eat Vancouver
b. Dockside Restaurant
c. Lotus Land – Wilderness Adventures for Softies
d. Kiwi Cove Lodge
e. The Robert Bateman Centre
f. Tourism New Westminster
g. BC Ferries
h. Beaty Biodiversity Museum
i. Deep Cove Stage Society
j. Bill Reid Gallery
k. Tourism White Rock
l. EdgeCeptional Catering
m. Vancouver Aquarium
n. Royal BC Museum
o. Scandinave Spa – Whistler
p. Science World
q. Destinos Enterprises
r. Bestway Tours & Safaris
s. The Comedy Mix
t. The Butchart Gardens
u. BC Parks
v. Sewell’s Marina

And as featured above:

a. Cycle City Tours
b. Deep Cove Canoe and Kyack
c. ZipTrek Eco Tours
d.  Grouse Mountain
e. Capilano Suspension Bridge
f. Sea to Sky Gondola
g. Tigh-Na-Mara Resort
h. Eagle Wing Tours
i. WildSpring Guest Habitat

 

And the biggest prize:
The Mothership Adventures – a 6 day Kayaking tour valued at $3600!!!

Thank you to the organizing committee for putting on such a fabulous event. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and feeling inspired for all the great things to come! 363 days until the next symposium!

Thank you volunteers!