Adventure Canada was one of the finalists in the Sense of Place category of the 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards hosted at ITB Berlin in March 2017.
“This family-owned travel company specializes in land-based and small-ship cultural adventures in Canada’s Arctic, west, and east coasts, elevating appreciation of local heritage not only among travelers but also within the visited indigenous communities themselves. Partnering with small communities and hiring locally allows passengers to travel with renowned Inuit artists, Canadian authors, musicians, and scientists who share their personal heritage, history, and stories of Canada’s most remote art, culture, archeological sites, landscapes, and wildlife.” National Geographic
For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s National Geographic World Legacy Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Cedar Swan, CEO of Adventure Canada.
ANULA: Why did you enter this award?
CEDAR: Adventure Canada’s aim, first and foremost, is to connect people to each other and to our country’s incredible remote regions via immersive, transformative travel experiences. In entering the World Legacy Awards, we hoped to improve our ability to do just that—the prestigious National Geographic brand allows us to not only promote Adventure Canada, but also to raise awareness about the regions to which we travel and the work that is being done there. We believe in showcasing meaningful experiences that put Inuit and their culture to the fore, and feel this contributes to our role as providers of Sense of Place.
ANULA: What positive impacts have your efforts to be a sustainable tourism business had on the communities and the regions where you operate?
CEDAR: Through our work we have helped to create a trained, articulate, experienced, and supported network of people in the regions we travel. We help local people develop the soft skills that can apply to any region, and any industry.
ANULA: How do you engage with the local community to ensure they have a positive opinion of your business working in the area they live?
CEDAR: We build longstanding relationships with our community partners, with an aim to look forward at the bigger picture. We employ people from the regions to which we travel, and encourage them to share their culture and invaluable knowledge with us and our clients. As a result, we are able to deliver programs that are superbly designed by those with the knowledge to do so, and contribute to the widespread propagation and appreciation of traditional knowledge and skills. We include local people in our planning processes, giving them a voice about which aspects of their society should be shared. During our program delivery, local communities have a forum to share directly with our guests, giving a voice to successes, challenges, experiences, and more.
ANULA: How to you communicate to guests about your responsible tourism practices?
CEDAR: This responsibility is inseparable from who we are as Adventure Canada. Our values in this regard are communicated everywhere—in our written materials and on our website, but also in each and every interaction we have with our guests—from the pre-booking process through each expedition and afterwards through the AC community at large. We employ only those we know to share these values, and can reliably deliver them to our clients through instruction and example.
ANULA: How do you make sure your staff care about your efforts and support them?
CEDAR: We hire only like-minded individuals to work with us aboard our ships. Personal values are of utmost importance to us during the hiring process, and onboard staff are vetted by Inuit staff members to ensure that they will be able to work with us responsibly, ethically, and knowledgeably. We recognize that we have much to learn from our staff, and encourage all manner of lively debate and discussion aboard the ship — engaging everyone involved, staff and passenger alike. We provide a supportive environment for questions and curiosity, and work to educate in advance.
ANULA: What’s the best lesson you have learned over the years of developing a successful sustainable tourism business?
CEDAR: Our policies are only as effective as the depth of our belief in them—which is why we hire based on values as much as on skill. We can’t work in this way alone, which is why our process is a collaborative one. In our 30 years of operation we have consistently maintained that delivering quality programs is vastly more important than delivering a large quantity of programs, and that commitment has remained at the heart of all that we do.
This article is part of the interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, with whom we explore the best practices in sustainable tourism communications and stakeholder’ engagement.