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LAURA WHITMAN: The case for luxury

- Belle DeMont

The big picture

Tourism contributes more than $5 billion annually to the Atlantic Canadian economy, and there are a lot of people, politicians and plans invested in seeing that number grow. Tourism features prominently as one of the Atlantic Growth Strategy’s areas of focus, with the aim of accelerating growth and fostering long-term prosperity for the region.

Why it’s relevant

New experiences, collaborative approaches, and significantly more effort are going to be required to stimulate this exponential growth; those expectations are baked into the Atlantic Growth Strategy already. But what else will it take to attract way more visitors to our part of the world? And how do we ensure they’re actually spending money when they get here?

At least one possible answer is to do what some of the best destinations in the world have been doing for decades: compete on a global scale and go all-in on delighting your customers.

“Don’t ignore the little things…small changes can impact your customer’s experience in a big way.”

- Disney Institute

What it looks like locally

In our region there are a few examples of tourism businesses that are committed to being first-in-class (see sidebar) — Trout Point Lodge in Nova Scotia is one of them. Located at the end of a three mile dirt-and-gravel road, the Lodge is in the heart of the Tobiatic Wilderness (the largest protected area in the Maritimes) and about 25 miles from the Yarmouth International Ferry Terminal. It’s owned and operated by Pamela and Patrick Wallace, who first visited the Lodge as guests a few years ago.

“I still remember driving down the dirt road, turning the corner and seeing the Lodge there amidst all the trees. It was a wow moment,” says Patrick Wallace. “It’s just not what you expect to find so far off the beaten track.”

This summer marks the Wallace’s second season as owners of the Lodge. Completely captivated by its setting and uniqueness, they relocated from Montreal to take it over — and they haven’t looked back since.

Five fabulous features 

Here’s a quick glimpse at what makes Trout Point Lodge stand out: 

  • Pristine, unspoiled wilderness surrounds the lodge in every direction. 
  • A naturalist on staff offers flora tours and bird-watching, where guests can learn about the local eco-system. 
  • An astronomer on staff guides guests’ stargazing and helps them explore the darkest skies in North America. 
  • Every dish on the menu is made from scratch and every ingredient hand-picked.
  • No cell phone coverage and no televisions in the guest rooms. 

The finer details

Trout Point Lodge is a very small, intimate resort. They only have 12 rooms/suites, but that doesn’t stop the Wallaces from thinking big and aiming for exceptionally high standards. They spend a lot of time putting themselves in their guests’ shoes, looking at things from their perspective and focusing on delivering excellence, even in the small details.

“A lot of the things we do here are small and maybe imperceptible but they have a big impact. Our competition is not from other locations close by — our guests have anywhere in the world they can choose — so if we’re not always improving, we’re falling behind.”

- Patrick Wallace

Yes, but

A criticism that sometimes plagues our region’s most exclusive offerings is resistance and frustration from locals about the disparity between the level of spending and status happening at the resort or destination, and that of the town surrounding it. When the gap is significant, it can feel inauthentic, elitist, or just plain disrespectful. In other words: when tourists are experiencing things that some locals can’t even dream of affording, is that a hit or a miss?

In a time when our social fabric is divided and delicate, the idea of intentionally excluding people from a place, space or experience is bound to feel conflicting or confusing.

But as the Wallace’s point out, what’s happening at the “front of the house” in terms of the guest experience doesn’t tell the whole story about a business and its economic impact or role in the community.

“The other side of the coin is that we’re creating quality employment opportunities and stimulating activity for local providers and producers. We work with as many local partners as we can. We source meat from a local farmer, vegetables that we don’t grow we get from our neighbour, and Nova Scotian wine and beer are very prominently featured. There’s a lot of economic activity that we’re driving in the province through these partnerships and relationships. We see it as an obligation to be a good employer, good neighbour and be part of the community.”

 -Patrick Wallace

Takeaways to ponder

There’s no debating that our region needs budget and mid-range accommodations and experiences. And when it comes to stimulating tourism growth, even affordable offerings can (and should) aim to deliver high-quality, memorable customer experiences. A quick Google of the relevance of being human-centred in designing your offering will make this opportunity clear.

At the same time, without a strong suite of luxury offerings, Atlantic Canada is missing out on a whole segment of travellers from around the world who will simply go elsewhere.

“When you have a segment of visitors that are looking for a luxury offering and their desires are pretty clear, then we feel it’s a great opportunity to service that and to provide them with a high-end experience they’ll enjoy. A lack of luxury opportunities elsewhere in the province probably dissuades some people from coming, which is a loss to everybody. We would love there to be more luxury accommodations and offerings in Nova Scotia.” -Patrick Wallace

Still want more? Read this

Who else is doing luxury right? 

Fogo Island Inn

The award-winning Inn on Newfoundland’s Fogo Island is built on the principles of sustainability and respect for nature and culture. Every one of their 29 one-of-a-kind guest rooms and suites has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the wildest and most powerful ocean on the planet. And, 100% of operating surpluses are reinvested into the community to help secure a sustainable and resilient future for Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

The Bite House

The Bite House is a 12-seat restaurant located in a century-old farmhouse on Cape Breton Island. The food is prepared with the best ingredients the area has to offer – either sourced from small independent farmers, foraged, or grown in on-site gardens. Guests are served a 9-course set menu of smaller bites and larger dishes that changes monthly. The entire 2019 season is sold out. 

Cabot Links

With two acclaimed World Top 100 courses, 72 rooms of award-winning accommodation at Cabot Links Lodge, 19 upscale Golf Villas, and exquisite dining in three on-site restaurants, Cabot Links is Canada’s first and only authentic links golf resort. It is perched on top of a mile of sandy beach in the picturesque town of Inverness and attracts golfers from around the world.


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