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Adventure Canada is Registered as a Corporation, but it very much operates like the family business that it is. The company was started by Matthew and Bill Swan and their good friend David Freeze in 1988. The next generation of Matthew’s family – Cedar, Alana and Matthew James are actively involved in day to day operations and Alana’s daughter Leah is already an experienced sailor who is as happy on the water as her Aunts and Uncles. David and Bill still do trips with us and some of our Guides have remained on staff with since that first season. For many years now there has always been a family member or trusted key personnel on every major departure. We encourage our staff to invite their family on trips when possible. In Port Credit our entire office staff of 14 works like a family team - a good tip when looking to select a tour operator – go on the trips the owners are on!
In the field of Learning Adventure Travel, there are a number of good Tour Operators. If you are thinking about travelling to an area that Adventure Canada does not operate, we will gladly pass along recommendations as to who does quality trips to those destinations. By design, Adventure Canada does not try to operate trips everywhere. We do not think it is possible to do that and do it well. We are known for our polar programs, North and South and we have for many years operated some very specific trips – Celtic programs along the fringe of western Europe, Galapagos and the Upper Amazon, Russia, the US Southwest, New Zealand. We are very well known for our programs in Canada, especially the coastlines – Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and especially Arctic Canada and Greenland. When we do add a new destination, like our new trans-Siberian train and Mongolian Naadam Festival program, we thoroughly research it first.
To experience a special place like the Arctic, you want to visit in the company of Inuit who are good cultural ambassadors with excellent cross-cultural interpretation skills. We depend on our Inuit culturalists and appreciate their unique perspective and hard work on every trip. We conduct training programs for both our Inuit and non-Inuit staff to enhance this level of interpretation and understanding. When we circumnavigate Newfoundland, the majority of the onboard expedition staff are Newfoundlanders, same in Ecuador, same in New Zealand, same in Scotland.
Many years ago Adventure Canada made the decision not to become an “industrial tour operator”. We resisted the temptation to add departure after departure even when looked like we might be in a position to do so. Guiding at it’s best is a very demanding occupation, days are long, the staff are on the go morning till night. It is a great challenge to sustain the type of energy required trip after trip. The industry norm is to hire expedition staff (typically 8 to 12 people) for a half season, or even an entire season….which in Antarctica could be 90 to 100 days long. Again by design, Adventure Canada usually changes the majority, if not the entire expedition staff on each sailing, even when we travel on back to back trips in the arctic. This keeps the staff fresh and makes it possible for us to maintain the 70 to 80 people we work with in the field each year. The trip becomes a special event for the staff as much as it does for passengers. The typical Adventure Canada staff size on a 118 passenger vessel like Sea Adventurer would be 15 to 17 staff.
In the travel industry, good customer loyalty is both a silver lining and a good test of the quality of the product the tour operator is presenting. To have repeat levels on departures approaching 10% is consider very good in the travel business. Adventure Canada benefits from a very loyal following of past travellers. Our usual repeat and referral level is often at double the industry standard. Often it is well above that, such as our last Voyage around the Scottish Isles where 44 out of 106 travellers were repeat customers, or our circumnavigation of New Zealand where a remarkable 43 out of 48 passengers had travelled with us before. Now in our 23rd year, we are seeing second generation travellers coming from the same family and increasingly grandparents bring children or grandchildren along with them. We are very appreciative of this level of support. We can supply ample names of past travellers who will provide feedback on Adventure Canada trips.
Adventure Canada is a travel company dominated by History and English majors. We like scientists and we think we travel with some of the best biologists, naturalists, geologists, oceanographers, ornithologists and environmentalists. However one of the things that sets Adventure Canada apart would be our interest in the artistic perspective. We quite regularly travel with painters, sculptors, folklorists, culturalists, filmmakers, curators, photographers and we always travel with authors and musicians. We think the artistic interpretation lends a unique element to our major departures. And we love the cross-over specialists…the archeologists and historians who can sing and the zodiac drivers that write poetry! Our recent Greenland Labrador and Newfoundland trip was a case in point. We had five professional musicians, two authors, but also a painter and two culturalists who could sing and a photographer who plays the spoons and the flute, plus a passenger who brought her fiddle. Needless to say we have some fine evenings on board around the piano and some great community visits where we have music and dancing from both the hosts and the visitors.
For Freelance travel writers on assignment, e-mail Jillian Dickens