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Authenticity Helps Where Marketing Dollars Fall Short in Tourism


Rural destinations’s greatest tourism asset may well be the authenticity of experience they provide visitors, according to the founder of Saskatchewan-based “boutique” travel company Great Excursions, Claude-Jean Harel: “Now more than ever is the time to bring this character forward in our efforts to harness the industry’s potential, especially in international markets"

Harnessing the exotic character of the communities and places where our events and festivals are staged is certainly part of the approach Harel advocates. Through Great Excursions’ participation at international tourism marketplaces over the years, Harel has become all the more aware of how elements of authenticity in tourism offerings can literally lift products above the crowd.

“In 2005, Saskatchewan welcomed Canada’s largest tourism trade show, Rendez-vous Canada. For the first time, many of the buyers from Germany and other countries whom we’d met over the years got to experience local hospitality first-hand. Late this fall, at Canada’s West Marketplace in Whistler, BC, I was reminded by some of my colleagues from Europe of how much of an impression that prairie friendliness had made on them. We just need to further develop products that capitalize on that local flavour now.”

Trained as an applied anthropologist at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Leicester in the UK, Harel left a promising career in broadcasting to build a tourism company that would make a difference through its social, economic and environmental responsibility policies.

What has made all the difference for Great Excursions is the way Internet has revolutionized tourism trade activities by allowing smaller tour operators to stake a claim on narrower, yet more lucrative market segments.

Highlighting the personal encounters with the host community and helping preserve the special places visited on the trips are all things that matter. While studies have shown that consumers are still not willing to pay more for so-called “green” tourism products, they increasingly favour trips that factor in these considerations into the offering.

Harel is banking on the lasting validity of responsible tourism practices in the years to come. The fact that virtually every hotel company in the United States now has an environmental specialist gives him reason to believe his instincts are pointing him in the right direction.


 Tourism marketing
 Travel industry
 Saskatchewan tourism
 Authenticity in tourism
 Responsible travel

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