Innovation in tourism

You know what I have never understood? It seems like New Brunswick has a phobia against innovation. Sure, in the 1990s we led the way on telecare and other initiatives, but since then what?

For example, PEI is finally catching on to an important tourism trend:

Tourism officials in P.E.I. plan to promote the island’s south shore area to fans of geocaching. The adventure tourism activity uses global positioning system devices to find out-of-the-way locales. It’s “treasure hunting with the latest technology,” says a news release.

Now, I have said to anyone that will listen to me about tourism, that geocaching is a major new trend in adventure-based tourism. New Brunswick has lots of wilderness so why not use the tourism industry to promote NB for geocaching? Maybe we are already but I haven’t seen anything to indicate we are.

Maybe in 2012, somebody in Fredericton will say, hey, what about geocaching?

We gotta get out front of the curve, folks. We are a small province and we need to be innovative.

I said NB should be in India looking for biz opportunities three years ago – are we yet?

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0 Responses to Innovation in tourism

  1. Anonymous says:

    July 2006
    Tourists Failing to Flock to Island

    By Katie Smith
    July 8th, 2006
    The Guardian

    Tourism on Prince Edward Island is in the midst of a downturn, says the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island.

    Don Cudmore said the number of tourists is at a low for the month of July this year, compared to last year.

    “We’d certainly like to see it busier, there’s no question about that.”

    Tourism is one of the Island’s main industries and a lot of seasonal operators rely on the summer months to make their businesses successful. Some have mentioned it has been considerably quieter in terms of people and inquiries this year, Cudmore said.

    “Last year wasn’t a great year, so I would suggest that things aren’t going that well.”

    Events and festivals are great for tourism, but they only last a few days, Cudmore explained.

    “The Festival of Lights is a great activity, a wonderful activity. It brought lots of people and did spread them out into the rural areas as well, but it’s really only three days. I mean, three days does not make a season.”

    WHO has the phobia?,Take a con to dinner,haha
    Want to know NB tourists figures?

  2. Geeks on Ice says:

    You can only do the same thing so many times. How has Disney lasted for so long? It’s because they keep reinventing themselves.

    People in this region are terrified of innovation because our culture doesn’t reward risk.

    I was involved in a group promoting innovation in Southeast NB. We brought in a group that worked with companies like Google, KFC, Valvoline, IBM and Nike. We litteraly had to beg people to attend the day long session on generating ideas and qualifying the risk for the investment so that you can see ROI. We even brought in Govt and Banks that invited business to apply for money relating to innovation.

    In the end, most people said the content was good, but who was this “American” telling us how to run our business… Needless to say, I was very disapointed and I know very few have used the knowledge they gained that day to create new products or services.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’d very much love to see the figures for NB, I doubt they are anywhere near PEI’s. Keep in mind some tourist studies just ‘count cars’ coming through the border, which isn’t much help as many are just passing through.

    Keddy’s in Fredericton didn’t even bother reopening, and Sheraton’s is undergoing a ‘facelift’ so that it doesn’t sound so ‘upscale’. The ferry is cancelling the run, so I think New Brunswick has FAR bigger problems than PEI. To the poster above, if the final sentences made some sense people would understand the point.

    Unfortunately, the world has become a much scarier place, so international travel has seen a downturn. PEI’s biggest customer, Japan, is not as wealthy as it once was, and of course cultures change, you can’t expect them to be in love with Anne forever.

    But for tourism you can again look at Moncton as it is the ‘disney’ of New Brunswick, and much of that expansion money came from the provincial government. Amusement is big business, but its risky business, no doubt that group had a say in getting a better trans canada.

    As for the above post, I’m always a bit skeptical about stories like that. Groups like that are always trying to get companies to grow faster than they naturally would, and having bankers there just makes it worse. The people are quite right to be skeptical about americans coming in who have no knowledge of canada’s environment.

    The reality is typically simple: stop lecturing people on what they should be doing and ASK them what they need. Do they even WANT to grow? Most of their first gripes will be about the horrible service they receive from Canada’s banks, they shouldn’t have even been there. Banks are notorious for pushing high debt on new companies just for short term gain.

    There are almost no programs tailor made for companies, a company in NB has different needs than one in Ontario, and the big five are national banks with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Credit unions are far better places to go, but of course they have limited funds (which can also be good). That’s another reason to vote liberal as they are including credit unions in their financial plans unlike the tories who have shut them out.

    I see this time and time again, people who are IN business are treated as if they have no idea what they are doing, and nobody even asks their input.

    Here’s a thought, Micro optics gets 5 million just because, try asking a small company how much money they’d need to grow by X amount, then cut them a cheque. Many small companies can do wonders with even ten grand.

    Of course like I said, I don’t know all the info from the above. I know that if some company that represented NIKE came in I’d be skeptical too (“first, move your production to indonesian sweathouses”), or KFC (“first, ignore health code regulations at your farms”). I’d be even more skeptical when the banks got involved: “you need capital, LOTS of capital, don’t worry, you’ll find customers once you’ve updated your production lines, and its all at only 20% plus the deed of your house”)

    Like I’ve said, all you have to do is go to government committee transcripts and you can read from the people involved exactly what their needs are and why they need it. I was reading through the public input committee at the Dept. of Fisheries and its very interesting reading. You can get specific accounts of requirements of the people involved. It would be nice to see this stuff in media, but that ain’t gonna happen, but at least don’t fall for the line that businesses in NB need to be told what to do to expand, many would love to but their needs fall on deaf ears.

    You see it time and again with government “well, we can’t do that for you, but we can…” and then offer some service that is completely useless.

    That’s not to say every business person out there is a genius, but look at cities in Ontario, there are companies that go bankrupt even though they are surrounded by half a million people, to survive in NB you have to be doing something right.

    Just to add something constructive, how about the names of some companies in southeast NB. We’ve got plenty of people here with economic development skills, we invite them to state what it is they need, then offer some recommendations or help out any way possible. It would cost them nothing, and could be worth something. It would only take ten minutes of typing. I’m assuming southeast means Sackville area?

  4. Geeks on Ice says:

    Anon, I got half way through your post and had to reply to clarify some assumptions you made.

    Firstly, the workshop was on idea generation and qualifying the idea so that you can get a ROI. It has nothing to do with being Canadian or American, just like learning physics the principles are the same no matter where you are located in the world. As a Canadian, I am aware of the market conditions and take that into consideration when I qualify my innovative idea. In fact, I have successfully used the methodology and it has worked!

    Secondly, the proof is in the pudding ( Are you saying that we can’t benefit from knowledge that companies like Google have acquired? Last time I checked, Google was giving Microsoft a run for their money because of their innovative ideas. We should be open to new ideas and frontiers.

    Thirdly, credit unions were there and all parties were quite willing to invest. But you do touch on an interesting point…Angel investment.

    There are “Angels” out there that are willing to provide capital, but currently there is no mechanism in place to match the Angels with businesses. I think this is an area where the provincial goverment could provide infrastructure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You don’t understand anon?

    Its simple,he makes his amature points,then argues against them.
    The American got it right.But he should have a way to make sure his audience has an IQ above 85

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ignoring the idiots, that’s a good clarification two posts up. There still needs to be more though clarification. Are we talking about a group coming in and talking about creativity? Or talking about ROI? Or using ‘creativity’ to increase ROI?

    Specifically, if you were there, what WAS the method. Unlike some posters seem to suggest, the idea of a blog is to generate these ideas, not simply badmouth people who make comments.

    I seriously doubt that you are suggesting Google owes its success to this group, or that 3M does. In the business world ‘consulting’ fads are like diets in society, they come and go. I’ve been to many of them, even run many of them.

    I am still suspicious that business owners would say “who are these guys to come in and tell us what to do” if, as you suggest, nobody was telling them what to do. So we need more facts on exactly what these groups were saying to them.

    That’s not to suggest that the above isn’t true. However, it opens a window. If, as mentioned, you have some people in an area who are only benefitting by knowing their local MLA or councillors and getting contracts and simply haven’t the brains to succeed, then this, or some website, would be a perfect venue to showcase their local market plan so that somebody in another area can utilize the available tools and run with it. If those locals then soon face them in the marketplace, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves.

    I suspect there’s more to it than that, so like I said, it would be nice to hear the WHY that these businesses did not take advantage of any of these tools, and the simple thing to do is ask them. A lot of people like numbers and ideas but don’t want to get into dealing with actual people, that’s why I say post some companies here. Let’s find out why they aren’t growing and exporting. Let’s find out what their needs are if they have different needs that are addressed.

    But I’ve seen ‘creativity’ seminars that essentially say “you should franchise” as though that were the answer to every business model.

    I’ve also seen ‘outsiders’ come in and use their ‘creativity’ to small businesses whose client base is local and could easily expand by expanding their product/service line but who are told that they should be looking at international markets (hence my point about ‘lecturing’).

    If this is a method, then it SHOULDN”T be restricted to a small group. So what is it? Let’s spread the word and create the opportunity if these people are pinheads, then certainly not everybody is.

    As for angel investing, that’s an interesting idea I’ve seen around, but there is a method-its called incorporation. They’re called shares. Got a business and need capital-incorporate and make shares public, simple as that.

    I’m suspicious about the numbers of actual angel investors, in the US there are reportedly only 225,000 in a population of 300 million, or .1 %, as an equivalent,thats would be 22,500 in all of Canada. However, if they are out there, then like venture capital, there are easy enough ways for them to invest, I don’t see how that is different in NB than anywhere. YOu buy equity in the company in exchange for a return.

    I think far more attention should simply be paid to the issue the blogger here frequently mentions, and thats that NB invests almost nothing in economic development, and even less in building the structures for economic development. As I’ve said, in an era where the population is aging and the highest returns go to big pharma, the idea of not having a medical school in the province is simply insane. Not only is the province losing potential practitioners, but it makes it harder to attract doctors and specialists, who would rather be near research, not simply checking BP all day long.

    Not to mention clinical trials, basic research, royalty possibilities, and federal investments all have zero place to go, and like we’ve seen, the R&D heavily favours Nova Scotia on the east.

    That’s a separate topic, however, I’d like to hear more about this creativity conference and what was said. If it IS a method, then keeping it restricted is the worst thing you can do to the province. Let’s talk about it, hell, build a flash website for it so that companies all over NB can see it. I’m further assuming that if it is Sackville, then most of the companies are tied to the University. I can understand if you don’t want to ‘name names’, so if you can even provide a geographical hint or an organizational name we can do the rest.

  7. Geeks on Ice says:

    Actually the audience was comprised of several local entrepreneurs that I would typically think of as progressive. That’s why I was surprised with the feedback. but I digress…

  8. Geeks on Ice says:

    It would be ‘creating’ to increase ROI.

    I am usually very skeptical of “consultants” that suggest their best practices, however the method used by the Solution People is valid. We took a year to qualify their method.

    It’s hard to really explain how it works since our session lasted an entire day, but it essentially stimulates parts of your brain to generate creative thoughts. Then it walks you through a qualifying checklist to make sure it meets your ROI criteria. They also use a patented tool called the Knowbrainer.

    Real Examples of how it worked:

    SP uses pictures and key words to stimulate ideas that generate new products. KFC used a picture of a tornado to come up with the idea of the KFC Twister product.

    Valvoline used a picture of a elderly couple for the idea of a motor oil for older vehicules.

    The session was advertised by all the economic councils in SE NB, which includes Sackville. We took a year to qualify which speaker could provide the most impact for our region and they were it.

    “As for angel investing, that’s an interesting idea I’ve seen around, but there is a method-its called incorporation. They’re called shares. Got a business and need capital-incorporate and make shares public, simple as that.”

    You are technically right, but incorporation costs are expensive for any startup making less then $75k/year. Where we seem to be falling down economically is giving startups a solid foundation to get their first clients, after the entrepreneur has received loans and has put up their home as security. That is why Angel investors are important, even if it’s just a handfull. I beleive PropelSJ is making progress on this issue.

    I will try to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge and do encourage healthy debate.

  9. Anonymous says:

    To be honest, I’m not particularly surprised as looking at the website closer it almost seems to be more of a motivational tool than anything else. Let’s look at the “method”

    (1) Investigate Needs, (2) Create Ideas, (3) Evaluate Solutions, and
    (4) Activate Plans.

    That is certainly backed up by the little story of the salesman in the airport, whose main contribution seems to be to act as sort of a therapist, so that once people say their needs out loud, they seem to know which to try. The ‘analyst’ remains suspiciously silent during the whole affair, although we don’t know the details.

    The ‘method’ described above, is simply the process that just about everybody goes through in business (or life) as a matter of course. Perhaps a business leader is afraid of taking undue risks, but thats a different issue.

    Unless more details are forthcoming, I’m not surprised at the lack of interest, especially in looking at their website. I find it suspicious that if their product is as ubiquitous as they state, that they only have three standout examples of successes. Other vague statements about how much money was made as a result of the method are thrown out, but again, I’m reminded of a pyramid scheme.

    My point would be, many businesses are not looking for ‘solutions’, they are looking for capital or market access. Take a look at something like food. Virtually every study in the country points to a major problem in that distribution in the country is done by two companies, one for imports. Go to a grocery store and the foods are extremely limited, in some cases to one company-that owned by the grocery store.

    This effectively kills innovation in food preparation. In order to get access, small producers must take HUGE risks to be able to afford the cost of getting onto shelves-which are often national.

    For a small producer that simply locks them out of the game. Interestingly, a major study shows that canadians overpay by 40% for their food because of these monopolies, and George Westons and Frank Sobeys bank accounts back that up. Also interestingly, canada’s monopoly act has little to say about the matter and it gets zero media coverage.

    So for a small producer, there is very little ‘wiggle room’. Taking off your shoes or going to a castle for brainstorming does little for you. It might do LOTS for a corporation that has huge resources and is simply stuck on a little problem like should their sandwich include barbecue sauce or mayonnaise, but for small businesses, bubkus.

    Again, that’s not having all the info, but getting more and more from their website. I’m not sure what the ‘problem’ was though, whether people didn’t want to take off their shoes, or as I said, didn’t have a ‘specific problem’ that required the ‘creativity seminar’. I’d be very interested in simply asking one of those attendees what they thought and what they thought the seminar could do for them.

    Apart from that I woulnd’t want to tout this guys idea, in fact, I’d rather a New Brunswick simply made something similar and started their own ‘innovation company’. Like a pyramid scheme, the profits go to the guys who get in first and sell innovation to others.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Good points above. Although I am not arguing against Angel Investing, if there are people with money, you don’t then need to incorporate but can simply offer a loan in exchange for security or as in a partnership. Incorporation isn’t that expensive, although somewhat more onerous in NB, you can simply incorporate outside Canada if you like. It’s a bit of a pain, but not that much.

    However, the more tools out there, obviously the happier I’ll be.

    I’m not sure how many companies are actually looking for new product lines, which seems to be the examples so far. I am not a politician so I’m speaking plainly, no disrespect intended, but I seriously doubt Valvoline needed a picture of an elderly couple to develop an oil for older cars, in fact before Valvoline had such a product Canadian Tire had one ten years ago.

    But thats an endless game, but the method does seem geared toward problem solving, and not every business is needing those types of solutions. In fact, I’ve heard that KFC is reevaluating ‘the twister’ as sales have been quite sluggish. In other words, with such ideas you play the odds-just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean it will be successful. Small companies generally have a product, and no resources to expand their line.

    However, something should be said just for problem solving, as I know many are reluctant to even engage in the practise, and here is a ‘game’ for a hundred bucks that would make it fun, therefore it serves a purpose (although not one that other tools might just as effectively serve).

    Having had experience in ‘workshopping’ I would suggest that because of the feedback you got, it was far from successful. Those who put on the shows have a tendency to blame those involved. Perhaps a better suggestion would be to simply purchase their game and software and make it available to companies to use. That way the ‘telling us what to do’ issue doesnt’ come up and perhaps they would be more open. Again, I don’t know any more details, but the ‘out of towner’ syndrome is very much evident in more than just business. It’s a question of pride, and if you think of it, pride can make people do all sorts of crazy ass things.

  11. Geeks on Ice says:

    There is validity in what you are saying, however as a organizer and attendee I can truthfully say that it has worked for me and my colleagues. Anyone who has ever met me knows that I am not easily impressed.

    What frustrates me is an unwillingness to open one’s mind to new methods. Sure, it might not work 100% of the time, but at least you try.

    Oil for older vehicules might have been around previously, but it provided Valvoline with a new niche market that generates tons of new revenue. And yes, it did take them to see a picture to come up with the concept. Restaurants continuously revamp their menus and i’m sure KFC will use the method for the “next” idea.

    Here’s the reality, learn from your competitor and make your product better through innovation. Never become complacent…

  12. David Campbell says:

    Three cheers for Geeks!

  13. Geeks on Ice says:

    Those are 3 cheers more than I got at the Road Hockey Rumble taping… Which BTW selected Moncton as one of their cities to film because of an “innovative” concept called Geeks on Ice…

    Sorry, for the shameless plug!


  14. Lee says:

    I will try again to leave a comment.

    Remember Stompin Tom’s 800-565-7421. That was innovation.

    David you have a great blog. You speak common sense. That is rare these days.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Without having more information that’s the trouble. YOU may have been impressed but clearly others were not, and you have no idea what other people are thinking. It’s a dangerous road to assume that everybody should think the same way and that relatively tiny businesses should be adopting methods that multinational corporations are using. A ‘change’ in menu can put a small business OUT of business but KFC simply chugs along.

    If Valvoline didn’t have the brains to see what competitors are doing, they need far more help than a brainstorming meeting.

    Here’s a simple illustration of the problems inherent in NB:

    “SACKVILLE – Funding of $62,650 for three new emerging innovative research projects at Mount Allison University was announced today by Premier Bernard Lord.

    Emerging projects headed by Dr. Irena Kaczmarska (advance imaging in food and agriculture industries); Dr. Felix Baerlocher (high performance liquid chromatography) and Dr. Glen Briand (inert atmosphere apparatus for the preparation of electronic materials precursors) received funding for their respective research projects.”

    So here we have three ’emerging technologies’, what that means is three potential research companies. The province is ponying up what amounts to $20 grand apiece, barely enough to hire one employee or buy one piece of equipment. And like we’ve seen NB provides almost no cash for economic development relative to other sectors. Whether the companies just don’t exist we don’t know, there is a fund, but we don’t know how many apply to it. Many companies are too busy just keeping afloat.

    But compare these three companies with Research in Motion. That company has recieved over 40 million from the feds, 20 million from the province, and basically is just handed all the land it wants by the municipality.

    So 20 grand isn’t exactly a ‘step up’. Especially in research because if you can’t get it to market quick enough, there are people elsewhere in the world who will.

    Now, the question could be, what are these three profs doing that they need ‘solutions’ for. They clearly HAVE the solutions, or a good part of them, but the province basically doesn’t even give them enough to hire a competent person to help bring the idea to fruition. And believe me, these are competitive areas. There are people at Western University who are studying fish even though they are nowhere near water.

    That’s just ONE example. Again, go to the public accounts and you can look at the grants to see the piddling amounts that most companies get for research and innovation.

    And once again, the tories completely miss the boat. You can go read the info at the “Business NB” site for funding. Check this out:

    “The NBIF has completed nine private sector investments to date, primarily in the value added natural resources, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and knowledge industries.”

    9?? NINE?? Are you kidding me? That’s NOTHING. Only one of those is even vaguely representative of the new economy and that is ‘knowledge industries’ and of course y ou have funding meted out by bureaucrats who know little to nothing about knowledge industries.

    Life Sciences? Where the heck in NB are there even life sciences? Advanced Manufacturing? Get real, the only people able to apply to that are Irving companies.

    And natural resources? Again, thats the dumbest idea ever.

    However, take a look at the biggest industries in the world-they are in culture and communication and the province doesn’t even acknowledge that they exist! Hell, they’d do more for job creation by setting up a New Brunswick television station than all those nine put together.

  16. Geeks on Ice says:

    I know because of a lovely tool called a feedback form. Aprox 50% specifically mentioned that they did not like an American telling them how to be innovative even if the content had merit. Which is frustrating as the organizer trying to enable our local entrepreneurs.

    As for Valvoline, it was also a new blend of motor oil which is why it was innovative. The question is was it marketing rebranding or science behind it… Who cares, it made them millions!

    I am curious, you seem to posses a wealth of knowledge. What is your background?

  17. Geeks on Ice says:

    Dam you Lee, I have that song stuck in my head now!

  18. David Campbell says:

    Sheesh, I have that potato song in my head. Thanks, Lee.

  19. Lee says:

    What can I say. Innovation. Just think of the tourism numbers is NB could develop the same kind of song.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ok, that’s good information. We can then take it to mean the business people are idiots. Of course the ‘feedback’ I’m assuming means it comes afterwards, which could mean that the presentation was a little over the top. If an american, heck if a Frederictonian or Ontarian were to come across in a certain way, I can well imagine somebody saying something derogatory. However, human nature being what it is, you count discount its influence over the long term. Often people say one thing and do another.

    Keep in mind I’m playing the devil’s advocate because we are only getting one side of the story here, which isn’t always objective.

    I’m almost tempted to spring for the hundred bucks to check out those cards. I like the idea of a ‘method’, but I like the idea more that it could provide a platform for more debate on that. Part of the problem is that unlike other areas, many New Brunswick companies have few to no shareholders which concentrates power very heavily at the top. Those underneath have little input in the decision making process.

    If funding were more public, then these things could be looked at openly and owners would be more inclined to listen to employees as it would have a bearing on gettnig funding.

    Nice comment on the ‘wealth of information’ but I just now how to use the internet. Interesting to see the comment on Stompin Tom, since he’s from Saint John and a Doctor from St.Thomas. In fact we’re looking at Stompin for a little innovation of our own:)