The coastal area between Musquodoboit Harbour and Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia was identified as a suitable candidate community for the ACOA Strategic Tourism Expansion Program. STEP is an innovative, comprehensive process that guides communities through a series of well-tested strategic ‘steps’ aimed at creating a sustainable strategic tourism plan that incorporates products, services and experiences.
The Strategic Tourism Expansion Program (STEP), offered by Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) – Tourism Atlantic provides communities (and entrepreneurs) with an understanding of destination development, industry trends, and experiential tourism development. It engages community leaders and other stakeholders in the design and execution of actionable, sustainable tourism development plans.
Destination Eastern and Northumberland Shores (DEANS) is a not-for-profit destination marketing organization with 16 Directors representing the Northumberland and Eastern Shore regions of Nova Scotia. DEANS represents the tourism industry in Antigonish, Guysborough, Eastern HRM and Pictou County. Through the coordination of DEANS, and the funding support of ACOA, seventeen local businesses and organizations, and two municipal units, STEP was initiated. It has been introduced to assist stakeholder communities in becoming a sustainable tourism destination by exposing local entrepreneurs and influencers to varied techniques and formulas required for sustainability. The STEP process has focused the community at large as well as the municipality, business owners, and organizations on strategic planning, building tourism capacity and experiential product development.
The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP region features hundreds of coastal islands that have been largely undisturbed for more than 10,000 years. This archipelago offers pristine white sand beaches, sheltered coves, dramatic windswept headlands and unique boreal forests, bogs and barrens, as well as a rich diversity of seabirds, songbirds and shorebirds. This grouping of uninhabited islands and associated headlands has been identified as the last remaining intact and ecologically-rich island group of its size in North America, and is being protected through a combination of provincial legislation and private land conservation efforts.”
These coastal conservation lands include:
- Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area (Wilderness Areas Protection Act – Nova Scotia
- Eastern Shore Islands Wildlife Management Area (Wildlife Act – NS Department of Natural Resources);
- Clam Harbour, Owls Head, Taylor Head and Liscomb Point provincial parks (Provincial Parks Act – NS Department of Natural Resources);
- And a collection of private islands protected by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust through their highly successful 100 Wild Islands campaign.
Source: Ariel of Borgles/ Bob Guscott
The coastal conservation lands are complimented by a variety of inland conservation properties north of Highway 7 that provide access to interior lakes and rivers with outdoor recreational and nature tourism potential.
The region already offers a number of iconic natural, outdoor, cultural and historic assets and experiences, including: surfing and swimming at Martinique Beach, swimming at Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park; beachcombing and birding at Martinique Beach Provincial Park (the longest sandy beach in Nova Scotia); the coastal trail systems of Taylor Head Provincial Park; cycling along the Musquodoboit Harbour Trailway; hiking at Gibraltar Rock; paddling on the Musquodoboit River; hiking the Liscombe River Trail; venturing the suspension bridge overlooking a waterfall at Liscombe Lodge Resort; endless opportunities for independent or guided coastal kayaking; charter scenic boat touring; Nova Scotia’s largest living history museum, the 1800s-themed Sherbrooke Village; the Fisherman’s Life Museum; a 1940’s restored village at Memory Lane Heritage Village; MacPhee House Museum, the Atlantic Salmon at the St. Mary’s River Salmon Museum and more.
2.2 Map of the STEP Project Area
Source: Eastern Shore Islands Step Report Graphic/ Nova Scotia Environment
2.3 Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP Project Goal and Opportunity
The goal of the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP initiative is to provide a proven Step-by-Step process to help guide stakeholders and communities in building and executing a successful Sustainable Tourism Community Plan.
2.3.1 An Ecologically-Driven Brand Opportunity
To capitalize on the product and experiential development ideas presented in this plan, the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area needs to be seen and appreciated in a fresh new product-supporting light. This can only come from creating new product and experiences that support the brand and are able to compete with other tourism products and experiences currently found in Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada, in Canada, in North American and overseas.
The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area must identify its Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that is, what sets the area “apart as a travel destination”. Destination Canada has five USPs:
1. Vibrant cities on the edge of nature
2. Personal journeys by land water and air
3. Active adventure among awe-inspiring natural wonders
4. Award-winning Canadian local cuisine
5. Connecting with Canadians
(Source: http://en.destinationcanada.com/resources-industry/canada%E2%80%99s-tourism-brand#uniqueSellingPoints March 16, 2016)
Nova Scotia positions itself as “The spirit of the perfect road trip”, as per the 2015 Tourism Brand Guidelines, and states, “an effective positioning is one that occupies a place in the mind of our potential traveller, that is not offered by competitive destinations”.
The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area needs to find ways to align with Canada’s USPs and Tourism Nova Scotia’s Positioning, and evolve with them. In addition, the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area should seek to identify its own Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Positioning, and use it to guide product development and marketing efforts.
Recognizing the value of the unique geography, ecology, and natural attributes of the destination area (including cultural attributes that can be substantiated as part of an overall tourism sell) will help to identify the destination area’s USP, or positioning.It points primarily to the phenomenon of the scores of uninhabited islands massing the destination area’s shoreline and forming a dynamic archipelago, the likes of which are rare in Canada or North America. Added to the uniqueness of the coast is the fact that scenic viewing of the islands and coastline are both outstanding and accessible.
In Canadian and North American touristic terminology, the ideas of positioning the destination area as an archipelago or as ‘wild islands’, is unusual. It is generally unfamiliar tourism language. This poses at once both a brand, marketing and communications complexity as well as a brand, marketing and communications opportunity worth exploring. By example, when Gros Morne National Park earned its UNESCO standing and began bragging about its ‘Tablelands’, there was a troubling unfamiliarity to the terminology and many questions about what the Tablelands meant to a touristic value or experience.
Today, Gros Morne’s reputation is staked on the Tablelands as a place representing half a billion years in the making – the result of a brilliant coming together of two ancient continents — the Earth’s inner soul: the mantle – exposed to you the way few have seen it. The power of the Tablelands message overcame the unfamiliarity of language and of the threat of science entering the tourism fray. Another nearby example is the Bay of Fundy. For decades, the place has been marketed as home to the world’s highest tides. When science intervened, however, new ideas and descriptors came into play. Consumers were introduced to a Bay of Fundy narrative that positions it in scientific terms as a ‘marine wonder of the world’ where people can ‘walk on the ocean floor’.
So similarly, the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area needs to take on and not shy away from this challenge of changing the predictability of tourism language….to not shy away from allowing the science and unfamiliar terminology to take the helm of the touristic message and product development direction. If the destination area is legitimately predicated on being a rare archipelago or as a series of ‘wild islands’, then the world needs to know. A best practice in destination branding emerges in the form of Western Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Analysis concerning this best practice and how it relates to the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area can be found in this plan’s Appendix E.
2.3.2 Thematic and Brand Directions
The following phrases represent a mere sampling of thematic / brand directions which deserve to be considered (in addition to other concepts provided through public consultations) by the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP Working Group in collaboration with their partners in the development of the destination area’s Brand Positioning or Unique Selling Proposition (USP):
- Canada’s Wild Islands
- Atlantic Canada Archipelago
- Nova Scotia Archipelago
- Canadian Archipelago
- Canada’s Wild Archipelago
- The Wild Island Coast
- Nova Scotia’s Wild Islands
- The Sanctuary Islands
- Eastern Shore Archipelago
NOTE: The STEP working Group is committed to ensuring that these and other positioning, thematic and brand concepts, together with imagery and artistic renderings be subjected to a fully separate comprehensive independent consumer research initiative (not merely melded into other research initiatives) as part of the effort to arrive at a competitive brand conclusion for the destination area. Information gathered from this work will also be critical to develop an array of products and experiences for entrepreneurs to consider building.
Building on the resulting brand conclusion, the destination will be supported by a comprehensive brand and communication package, which enhances the destination and its extraordinary values.
2.4 Tools of Tourism Product/Experiential Development
There are several key tools of tourism product and experiential development that the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP initiative will recognize and practice.
2.4.1 The Tourism Market Readiness Continuum
In-demand products and experiences to be developed for Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke will be the result of strong research, spending quality time in the ‘laboratory’ for product and experience building and ultimately the creation of a brand, which rewards the destination area with total ownership.
Source: iImagine/Harvey Sawler
2.4.2 The Travel Demand Generator Model
Research drives the Product, which drives the Brand, which drives the Marketing which, Drives Demand.
Source: iImagine/Harvey Sawler
2.4.3 Product Development Types
The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP Working Group strategy will pursue both essential streams of product/experiential development – the Tangible and the Intangible.
Source: iImagine/Harvey Sawler
2.4.4 Design Excellence
Every physical element involving the business plan has been predicated on the philosophy of engaging skilled accredited design professionals in such areas as graphic design, spatial design, signage, etc.
The 12 Essentials of Leading Travel Experiences
Source: iImagine/Harvey Sawler
2.4.5 The 12 Essentials of Successful Travel Products
The 12 Essentials experiential development model will be instrumental in helping to build new tourism products and experiences for the destination area. The 12 Essentials include:
- Well-Themed – the destination area’s theme and brand will guide the product development direction linked to the 100 Wild Islands initiative and Tourism Nova Scotia’s strategic segments as described in section 2.5 Understanding the Travel Customer.
- The Essence of the destination – the destination area will strongly evoke the finest natural and cultural attributes of Nova Scotia.
- Authentic – the most authentic experiences will rise to the top of the destination area’s promotional inventory.
- Accessible – the destination area’s experience will be more accessible to more customers.
- The Emotional Trigger – the destination area will offer experiences which captivate and capture the customer.
- Sense of Place – the destination area’s culture and history will drive consumer interest.
- Educational – the destination area will set new standards in Nova Scotia for educational tourism products and experiences.
- Entertaining – the destination area will evoke joy and laughter through the cultural and nature experiences.
- Enriching/Accomplishment – nature and outdoor experiences will drive the destination area’s personally enriching products and experiences.
- Hands-on – visitors to the destination area will directly experience nature and cultural products and experiences.
- Value-Added – the destination area will become known for providing value-added products and experiences to visitors.
- Exceed Expectations – the STEP Working Group will challenge destination area operators and communities to exceed the competitive norm in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.
2.4.6 Total Brand Ownership
The plan will pursue total brand ownership for the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area. Total Brand Ownership is a concept based upon exclusivity or a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). As illustrated in the following model, ownership, exclusivity and establishing of one or more USP’s (essentially these mean the same thing) derive from uniquely strategic partnerships, uniquely strategic positioning, uniquely strong products and experiences and a unique sense of place. The reverse can be considered as ‘me-too’ propositions that have little or no value; these are brand propositions, which can be easily adopted by competitors or pretenders (the more generic the concept, the lesser the value). Once established, ownership, exclusivity and the USP are intended to overwhelm competitors by attracting customers to the most dynamic, exclusive and appealing choices for travel experiences. One of STEP facilitator iImagine’s mantras if – ‘if you can’t own the brand, you don’t want it’.
2.5 Understanding the travel customer
Prior to mid-2015, Tourism Nova Scotia primarily segmented it’s target market based on results from the 2010 Nova Scotia Visitor Exit Survey: (https://tourismns.ca/sites/default/files/2010_nova_scotia_visitor_exit_survey_final_report-revised_june_22-2015.pdf).
By analyzing the results of this survey, Tourism Nova Scotia was able to gain new insights on visitors to Nova Scotia. A series of Market Profile Bulletins were created which segmented the market based on either their demographics or activities. Initially using this segmentation approach, ‘The Outdoor Enthusiast’ was identified by the STEP Working Group as a key target market for the Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke destination area. More details can be found in Appendix C: Tourism Nova Scotia Visitor Statistics on the Outdoor Enthusiast and at: http://tourismns.ca/sites/default/files/page_documents/outdoor_enthusiasts.pdf.
In the second half of 2015, Tourism Nova Scotia evolved organizationally and in terms of its target market tactics. While the activity-based segmentation is useful in describing Nova Scotia’s target markets, Tourism Nova Scotia wanted to go further, to define target markets based on the motivations that drive travel decisions. Employing Destination Canada’s Explorer Quotient (EQ) segmentation tool has highlighted this evolution: (http://en.destinationcanada.com/resources-industry/explorer-quotient). Tourism Nova Scotia is currently focusing on three EQ types: Authentic Experiencers, Cultural Explorers and Free Spirits. According to the Research, Planning and Support division of Tourism Nova Scotia, the Explorer Quotient “replace the activities-based segments that were developed from 2010 Visitor Exit Survey (Cultural Enthusiasts, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Culinary Enthusiasts), however, the Explorer Quotient segments align very well with the activities-based segments, and most development work that has been completed against the activities-based segments will transition well to the Explorer Quotient segmentation model… all three segments have a great appreciation for natural landscapes and coastal sightseeing, and enjoy activities that allow them to engage in nature observation. Authentic Experiencers are less likely to be attracted to more rugged or active activities, while Cultural Explorers and Free Spirits would enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities. Free Spirits are more likely than the other two segments to be attracted to more extreme outdoor adventure activities.”
The three EQ types now aligned with Tourism Nova Scotia are detailed as:
Authentic Experiencers (Marketing priority for Tourism Nova Scotia)
- More learned, understated travelers – they appreciate travel
- Prefer to do their own thing at a destination
- Have a keen interest in historical travel
- Actively seek the most authentic cultural experiences
- Have lower interest in more active, adventurous experiences
- Love trips that: teach them about history; take them away from the crowds of tourists; aren’t a whirlwind tour of the “must-sees”
Cultural Explorers (Marketing priority for Tourism Nova Scotia)
- Avid travelers who value learning and discovery
- Don’t want to feel like a tourist, want to “blend in”
- Prefer a free and spontaneous approach to seeing the sights
- Love to share their experiences – it is part of the fun of travel
- Love trips that: take them “off the beaten track”; allow them to connect with the locals and fellow travelers
- Are fun but teach them something as well
Free Spirits (Development priority for Tourism Nova Scotia. Will become a marketing priority in the mid-term)
- Free spirits are the traveler’s traveler
- Enjoy authentic local experiences – look for the highlights
- Travel is a time to escape their lives back home
- Love luxury and high-end experiences
- Love to share
- Love trips that: offer fun, exciting experiences with some learning on the side; make them feel pampered through luxuries; allow them to see all the main attractions
The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP initiative is focused on alignment with the primary attributes which guide tourism planning and development through ACOA (defined as Primary Travel Motivators) and identifying, developing and enhancing tourism product and experiences which will align with Tourism Nova Scotia’s priority EQ types. An analysis of the current and potential alignment is illustrated in the following table:
- 2.1 Introduction
- 2.2 Map of the STEP Project Area
- 2.3 Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP Project Goal and Opportunity
- 2.4 Tools of Tourism Product/Experiential Development
- 2.5 Understanding the travel customer
- 3.1 The 2015-16 STEP Initiative
- 3.2 Moving the STEP Initiative Forward
- 4.1 The Four Strategic Priorities
- 4.2 Strategic Priorities and Outcomes
- 5.1 Appendix A – The Musquodoboit Harbour-Sherbrooke STEP Working Group
- 5.2 Appendix B – SWOT Analysis
- 5.3 Appendix C – Tourism Nova Scotia Visitor Statistics
- 5.4 Appendix D – Timeline of STEP Working Group Activities
- 5.5 Appendix E – Community Consultation #1 Inputs
- 5.6 Appendix F – Wild Atlantic Way Positioning/Brand Best Practice
- 5.7 Appendix G – The Tourism Nova Scotia Toolbox
- 5.8 Appendix H – Brand Creative Brief
- 5.9 Appendix I – Reference Documents Reviewed