Getting ready for our 2019 season

Posted on March 18, 2019 |

There is no offseason

The nicest thing has happened. We don’t really have an off-season anymore.

In the photos above, you see our guide Nora Comerford-Seto with Santa on our last tour of 2018 at the Fairmont Banff Springs on December 21. The photo beside it is a private tour we did for ATB in Canmore on January 6. Hallelujah! It was great to only have three weeks as our offseason.

Quiet activities

Overall, November to April are quieter than May through October when we are in full swing. That’s important for me as a business owner and serial entrepreneur. I also have a writing and publishing company and a spice box importing company and am currently working on a new South Indian cookbook. I need some balancing time to pursue these other passions and to take care of myself.

I used this precious quiet time this winter to visit my Mom in New Brunswick and dear friends in Maine and British Columbia. Lunching or having coffees with friends is a luxury for me so I try to see someone each week at this time. I read books. They are still food or business related but I soak them up like a sponge and love curling up in a chair with tea sipping both it and the books when I can.

I also try to get out of my house and hang out in nature with my son and husband. This is truly rejuvenating and to have a complete retreat, I journeyed to Tennessee in January for 12 days of yoga and meditation at the Isha Institute of Inner-sciences.

Getting organized

One of the great things about being part of our team at Alberta Food Tours is that we all bring different strengths to our roles. Our operations manager, Callandra Caufield, is superb at planning (and juggling!). She is our main liaison with our guide team and with our vendor business partners.

We sat down in early January to schedule our team training for Calgary, Canmore and Banff guides (Edmonton will be in late spring as the tours there don’t start until May). We also booked days to visit our vendor partners around the province. That’s a lot of balls to juggle but Callandra is awesome at it. She even booked us free meeting space at the gorgeous Central Library in Calgary.

We reviewed our human potential needs for the year and hired two new guides in Calgary to bring us up to 18 in the province (so far). We rewrote our Team Manual and reviewed it with the group along with a storytelling workshop. Because it is hard to get everyone in the province together, we are trialing a website portal where the guides can watch training videos from Be a Better Guide Academy in the comfort of their own homes.

Now, Callandra is busy mining our When I Work App to make up our April-May-June schedule across the province. She also books all the private and custom tour requests and handles payroll and oversees vendor payments with our bookkeeper. Phewf! I’m so glad she is full-time now.

Communicating

The other key person on our leadership team is our communications consultant, Alyssa Berry. This is the time of year that Alyssa makes sure we are listed everywhere we need to be. She sets the marketing strategy for the year and an editorial calendar for our blog. Overseeing posts to Facebook and Instagram and any boosts to those posts fall in her domain. We have a charitable giving plan and she handles all the requests and fulfilment of donations. She also writes and publishes our monthly newsletter and handles all media requests.

With our Inglewood Edibles: Made by Mavericks tour being designated a Canadian Signature Experience by Destination Canada, Alyssa is busy planning an event for the official season launch in Inglewood in May.

We’ve been fortunate to have photo shoots in both Inglewood and Banff recently so our web presence and marketing of those tours should look great for 2019.

Business development – travel trade meetings, visits and local happenings

One of my jobs as CEO and President of Alberta Food Tours is to constantly be in business development mode. This is tricky because I am also still chiefly in charge of team development and evaluation, tour development and scriptwriting, vendor partnerships, cheque writing and leading business development tours with potential business partners. Luckily, I love meeting new people and I’m getting better at bringing in business all the time.

I took a Sales Development course at Mount Royal University this winter. Now, I am ready to ask for business now and have some creative ideas for how to land contracts. Look out world!

Fun things

There’s always fun in every day at Alberta Food Tours. We love what we do and sometimes there’s a ridiculous amount of fun. Like when I was asked on a minus 43 degree Celsius day in January to travel to Edmonton and judge a “Stew Off” contest. How could I say NO? It was a blast and fortunately, it was INSIDE one of our sometimes partners, Situation Brewing.

There’s also the fun job of visiting partners that our guests don’t normally see. They are the behind-the-scenes folks who run the wonderful businesses that we love to showcase. We are blessed to work with the best in Calgary, Canmore, Banff and Edmonton.

Our vendors are our family and each year between December and March, we have a catch-up and plan the new season. It’s a chance to deliver some of the honey we harvest from our two beehives. Our vendors are the only people who receive this honey. Being foodies themselves, they know how hard our bees work to produce it, how truly local it is and what a symbol of our love it is.

Sweet beginnings

I could go on, but I’ll end on that sweet note. Our Eat the Castle tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs started on January 18 and will run Fridays to May when we’ll increase its frequency. The Sunday Brunch and Calgary Farmers’ Market tour started on March 3 and runs through to November.

Stay tuned for more tour startups coming the week of May 4. May the fourth be with you! That will be a very sweet beginning.

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