Tourism and Social Media – Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island - Lighthouse

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel around Prince Edward Island (PEI) and was extremely impressed by how the various tourism groups, attractions and cities made such great use of social media, especially Twitter. As a traveler and social media consultant, what they were doing impressed me on many levels.

Most of the social media teams I virtually came across realized the importance of using social media as marketing tool, from the initial info-gathering months before my departure, to the post-trip compliments from various people, tourism boards and attractions.

In June, when I made the decision to go to PEI for the first time, I tweeted at Tourism PEI and within a span of 10 days, I was introduced to events on the Island, various tourist outfits and other groups that I could communicate with – all that from one tweet asking their tourism board for some suggestions.

Initial Tweet to @GentleIsland

When I reached out again a month out from my trip, I posted the following tweet and that opened the floodgates to many conversations for the coming weeks.

 Month away tweet

By way of tagging various others in tweets, I was introduced to @PEIPotatoes, @PEIFlavours, @OutdoorEx, @IslandFroYo, @Joeysfishing, locals with suggestions of their favourite places and further conversations with @GentleIsland.  Through those conversations, I was able to narrow down my choices, plan activities better and get some feedback and suggestions from others.

Before Twitter, the planning process would have taken longer and I would not have been able to access people outside of my immediate circle by word-of-mouth.  Now by using social media for something like tourism, where word-of-mouth is so important, you are able to widen your circle of experts to the networks of people who might only follow one similar profile, like that of @GentleIsland.

When I was just days away from my visit, I decided that Twitter was a good way to check in with places I wanted to visit to see if they would be open and could make other recommendations.  This led to a great Twitter conversation and relationship with @PEIBrew, that would continue throughout my travels on the Island.

 @PEIBrew and @CharlottetownPE

Once I was on the Island and enjoying the suggestions of @PEIBrew, the tweets and tags inspired @CharlottetownPE to join the conversation, which continued right until I was back in Toronto.

 @GahanBeer and @PEIBrew and Pumpkin Ale

It was these conversations during my trip around PEI that really made me feel like I was welcome and part of the Island family, even if just for a moment.  This may sound crazy but as someone travelling alone, I felt that I was travelling with others,  because @GentleIsland, @CharlottetownPE, @PEIBrew and @GahanBeer were interested in what I had to say and what I was doing.

It’s amazing what a difference it can make in your travels, knowing that someone is interested and cares about you having the best time that you can.  Not just a love-them-and-leave-them, out of sight and out of mind.  These social media teams really tried to make you feel at home, even if that’s not what their main goal was.

 Thanks PEI Tweet

Twitter is one of the best tools for customer service, when used the right way.  Much positive power can come from using Twitter, especially for small businesses.  But so much negative can also come from not using it properly or ignoring those that are trying to reach you through it. I will say that I did develop negative feelings towards the companies, many larger ones, that ignored my tweets when I tried to reach out to them.

PEI seemed to recognize the importance of social media, especially Twitter, to engage with potential customers and visitors in real time.  And by doing so and tagging others in the tweets, that opens the door to small and large business es working together towards the same goal: Putting PEI on everyone’s radar as a great place to visit.

This experience with social media (Twitter) and PEI tourism has really opened my eyes to what potential there is when I visit other cities and countries.   Do others do it just as well or maybe better?  Would love to see others try.


Canadians, we are so Apologetic and Giving.

I was out with some international friends the other night.  We were: Two Brits doing a short working holidays in Canada, a Canadian and a Brit who live in Beijing and 3 Torontonians.  An interesting group with various life and travel experience.

Our Canadian friend who lives in Beijing start talking about how different people are here compared to China and how things have changed in Canada over the passed few years.  It was interesting what he brought up.

The most obvious and the one we all realize, the use of SORRY!  Do you ever stop to think about how many times you say sorry in a day?  Us Canadians use that as our go to response for just about everything.  My friend’s very recent example and experience was a funny one.  He was at the bottom of a staircase about to go up and a few people were at the top about to come down.  Now this should really happen with nothing more than a smile at each other (that is, at minimum, the reaction in Canada), but he said that he started up and they started down and he could already hear their ‘sorry’ before they were even near each other.  Nobody actually did anything that warranted a ‘sorry’. But that’s our go to for putting anyone out in the slightest.

As I heard the other day, ‘you step on some one’s foot in a bar and everyone around will say sorry’.  Why the heck do we do this?  It’s far better than ignoring or being rude, but how and when did we become the ‘Sorry’ Nation?

He also noticed that people in lines, give others so much space.  When we are at a Tim Hortons (Timmy’s) or the like we leave all kinds of room between us and the person ordering, similar to what we do when someone is using the ATM.  Why and when did this start happening?  What we don’t want people to hear us ordering our X-Large double double and sprinkle donut?  This does drive me crazy also, and I will happily close the gap when I’m up next.  As my friend point out, you do something like in China and 6 people will find a way to bud in front of you.

While on the topic of Timmy’s, my other Torontonian friend and I mentioned about how people are buying strangers their coffees.  Well, this stopped the conversation for all the internationals at the table.  They just didn’t get this.  Was this some Urban Myth we spoke of.  No, it’s true.

We explained to our friends that people will go through the drive thru and leave money to pay for the person behind them.  Usually just a few bucks for the strangers coffee.  We have a strong drive thru culture here that is not in many other countries.  And really there is no reason for these acts of kindness.  People just want to ‘pay it forward‘.

The Brits said that there was no way anyone would do this in the UK.  And my friends living in China agreed.  Now, the drive thru culture in Canada makes it possible to do this without any interaction or any uncomfortable situation. I’m sure that people do this in restaurant also. Why do we do it?  We just want to make someone happy.  We are definitely a giving bunch.  But, I’m sure that we would find a way to throw a ‘sorry’ in there some how.

What stories do you have about ‘sorry’ or giving that you can share with us? Would love to hear how you ‘pay it forward’.

Before Midnight – 18 years and 3 movies later

Back in 1994 I enjoyed a summer living in the UK during university.  I was working and traveling around.  Much of it by train.  Train travel has a certain romance to it.  I’m sure I’m not the only one that has romanticized meeting a someone while watching the countryside go by, falling into deep conversations about the most interesting topics and then having that moment when you have to make the decision to continue on your trip or take a chance and get off the train with them.  Well, that did happen.  Only it happened in a movie that following year.  That movie was ‘Before Sunrise‘ with Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Celine). Here’s the trailer to remind you.

This movie was so unique.  It was completely based on intense dialogue between only two characters, in one day of their life.  The backdrop of the beautiful city of Vienna that they walked through played the interesting 3rd character.  ‘Before Sunrise’ for me was perfect timing to remind me of what I, and many of my traveling friends, had felt or dreamed while traveling that previous summer.

Then smartly, nine years later, director Richard Linklater, brought Ethan and Julie back together.  They wrote the a movie that was real time, nine years later in these 2 characters lives.  Each of them had moved on with their lives, but never forgot that moment in time ‘Before Sunrise’. As Jesse and Celine’s paths cross again in Paris, we get to enjoy the intense dialogue between these two in ‘Before Sunset‘.  Over the nine years their lives had definitely changed, but love is love.

Then again, nine years later, Richard, Ethan and Julie came together to give us the next stage in these two people’s lives with the new movie ‘Before Midnight‘. This time set in a small town in Greece, we welcome a few more minor characters as these two people’s lives have now grown together.  Children, careers, lives and intense love all play a big part in this third installment.  Just like the previous two movies, Jesse and Celine give us real dialogue as they walk/travel through gorgeous scenery, which is still playing that important third character of the movie.

I’m not sure what it is about these movies, as my life has not taken anything close to the same path as Jesse and Celine.  Maybe it’s because we are similar ages in each.  Possibly my love of travel.  Or how I romanticize travel and what that first movie represented to me. But I really enjoy these three movies, as I don’t find that I can be as drawn into certain movies, nor find such dialogue intense movies, like these.  I know that many will not feel as I do, but there is just something about having these movies as a constant during my adulthood growing up years (yes we continue to grow up as an adult). These characters have come back into my life every nine years and have offered me an interesting view on life (maybe not mine), while making me stop to remember that very first movie and that time in my life.


Memorable videos of 2012

2012 has been another great year of viral videos.  I’ve put together a blog of some of my favourites of this year (and maybe one or two from a few years ago).  Grab a drink and sit back and enjoy.  Please share your favourites with us!



And a favourite from 2010, but I only just saw it for the first time in 2012.

Please share some of your favourites with us!

Happy New Year and all the best in 2013!

How do you select your wine?

Recently I noticed that many of the wines I get excited about and that I tend to choose and buy are based more on a memory or experience that I associate with the wine than any other reason.  What about you?  Do you have a fond memory of a wine you enjoyed that special someone or at a great party or for just about any other reason?

My choices are definitely associated with wines I’ve come across while traveling locally and internationally.  But it’s more than just the travel that has made these wines special to me.  It’s the entire experience that surrounded my introduction to that wine.  I know I should probably want and enjoy a wine because it has more of oak taste or hints of berries or the influence of the soils, but for me it can be as simple as a memory that goes with the wine.  Now I’m not saying I’m going to drink a crappy wine just because the memory was awesome, but for me that has rarely happened.

Let me share some of my memories and wines that go with them.

Most recently my sister and I were at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show in Toronto and we were walking around hitting the wine regions that we normally enjoy.  Then as we headed down one of the aisles we were pleasantly surprised to see the winery Between the Lines from Niagara, Ontario.  We almost ran over to their booth to see if they had the wines that we had tried and enjoyed while on a wine tour in Niagara a few years ago.  This winery was the last of our tour that day and it was one of the best.  Their Cabernet Franc and their unique Lemberger really stuck with my sister and I.  These wines were great, but it’s that memory of spending the day with my sister, just the two of us doing something we enjoy together, that our father introduced us to.

Another great memory that has brought me to, what I feel are, some great wines was a recently trip to the southern hemisphere.  Specifically to New Zealand.  Now I’m already a lover of new world wines from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but it was this trip that gave me a very unique experience and introduction to great wines and wineries.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and in some videos that I got the opportunity to meet with some winemakers one on one for a wine series I was working on.  It was those meetings with wonderful people, the atmosphere, the day, the trip and so much more.  Those wines I learned about and tasted have really stayed with me.

When I walk into the LCBO and see bottles of the Trinity Hill Syrah on display in the front of the store, I pick up a feel bottles to enjoy and share with friends.  I apologize to those friends if I bore them with my stories about the wine, the winery and memories of the trip, but to see the label, read the name and taste the wine bring me back to a wonderful place.

Or as I sit at a restaurant in Toronto and see on the menu Mapmaker from Staete Landt Vineyards I immediately order a glass so that I can be transported back to that gorgeous day in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where I met the most lovely team at the Vineyard.  They made the experience so memorable, that just a sip sends me right back.  And I remember that they told me that many of their wines can be found in restaurants in Canada and less of them in the LCBO.   So it was my lucky day to find it on this side of the world.

There are many more memories, but I would love to hear how you choose some of your wines.  Is it based on a memory, a varietal, or something far more fancy?

Guest Blog – Vancouver and Victoria thru the eyes of a 10 year old.

Please welcome my guest blogger, my 10 year old niece.  She enjoyed a trip to BC for the first time earlier this summer.  This is Vancouver and Victoria through her eyes.  Enjoy!

I went to Vancouver for the first time!  My dad took me and my aunt and cousin came with us. My first full day was July 1st and we went to Steveston.



For lunch my dad and aunt had salmon, but of course it was a salmon fest! After lunch we went to the Gulf of Georgia cannery, it was cool. My cousin and I each made a Ukrainian Easter egg.  It was a lot of work but worth it.



July 2nd, we went to Stanley Park. First we went to the Vancouver Aquarium. We saw the dolphin and beluga show.




Then we went to an aboriginal village. Finally we went to see some totem poles.  Here are some of my favourites.


July 3rd, after breakfast we did a tree top canopy walk and it was a lot of fun. Next stop was Granville Island. We also went to the Museum of Anthropology.


July 4th,  we had to get up early because we were going to get on the ferry to Vancouver island! The ride was cool because I have only ever being on the ferry to Centerville. Then we were off to see some friends.  After our visit we had some yummy fish and chips at Fish on 5th. After lunch we went to the Salish Sea Aquarium.  It had a touch tank.  Then we stood in the Sidney Opera House . We stayed at the UVIC Student Residence.  Oh by the way in Vancouver we stayed at UBC Residence.

July 5th,  first we did a tour of parliament in Victoria. After our tour we went to fisherman’s wharf where we watched some kids feeding the harbour seal.




Then we were off to miniature world at the Empress. My cousin, aunt and I went to Butchart gardens. I got to take pictures because my dad did not come in, it was beautiful. Finally back to the ferry and back to Vancouver. When we got to our hotel my cousin and I got to go swimming.



July 6th, my dad and I had to get up early because we were going home. We got to fly in a new plane but there were NO TVs it was terrible but we had this very nice lady beside us so it was not that bad. And that is all I have to say about my trip to Vancouver!!!!!!!!

What an Olympic experience!

Today was the last full day of my incredible London 2012 Olympic experience. And boy was it a full day! Along with all the other wonderful events I’ve been too this week, the big goal all along was to get to events at Olympic Park, the centre of it all.

Once I knew I was going to the Olympics, I worked all my connections and social media savvy to find tickets to events at the park. I ended up pretty successful with 3, almost, back to back events. The day started with a some great women’s basketball games in the Basketball Arena. France vs. Russia (France won) and the Czech Republic vs. Angola (first time in the Olympics) where the Czech Republic won fairly easily. The games and atmosphere were great. Plus the temporary venue was perfect. And we had awesome 8th row seats!


Following that it was off to the world’s largest McDonald’s for my second McD’s of the day. Check out this line up. But only took about 15 minutes.


After a well balanced meal, getting caught in the rain, running into my friend’s sister (Canadians can find each other any where) it was time for some Water Polo. Now I knew nothing about this sport, but it’s all part of the experience and it too was incredible. Some really energetic fans. But how the heck do these girls play this sport. It seems so tiring.


First it was the big water polo national of Hungary vs. Russia, then Australia vs. China which went into double overtime and a shoot out (Oz won). That meant a hustle over to the Aquatic Centre for the Women’s 3m Springboard Diving final. With flag and flag head band in hand, and on head, I made it over to the one place I had really been wishing to see, the Aquatic Centre. What an incredible venue. I could just imagine the crowds cheering on Michael Phelps or Ryan Cochrane.

20120805-181743.jpg 20120805-181824.jpg


Sadly our Canadians didn’t win a medal, but the diving was incredible. To see the Chinese divers live, was amazing.

After having some trouble saying goodbye to the Olympic Park, it was time for me to leave and end my Olympic journey. But not before noticing again, just how well organized this entire event is. Congratulations London, you have done an incredible job!


But who do I cheer for?

As I wrap up day two of watching the games live, I must say it’s been quite a day. First off the big things: our first Gold, an awesome silver and a wonderful bronze for Canada on super Saturday. Glad to know of the 25 Golds given out today that one went to Canada. Fantastic. Go Canada Go!

But what have I been up to today you may ask? Today was my Beach Volleyball day, all right in the heart of London at the Horse Guards Parade near the palace. So amazing to be sitting watching this very modern sport surrounding by all this history, greatness and plus some modern architecture.


We were lucky enough to catch a men’s and women’s match. In the men’s, Germany played Latvia and in the women’s it was Brazil vs. the Czech Republic. Since neither my home or birth country were playing, the question comes up who do I cheer for? One or the other or everyone? The top seed or the underdog? Or the one everyone else is cheering for? I didn’t know. Most of the time I go underdog. But today, it ended up that I cheered for the higher seeded team of Germany for the men and the underdog of the Czech Republic for the women. Couldn’t really tell you how I came to that decision, but I’m sure many of us couldn’t explain what we do when we don’t have a team affiliation.

Here is team Latvia.


Team Czech Republic


Germany won and the Czech republic won, so I guess I chose well.

But what a great atmosphere and energy. The music, the fans, the volunteers. Incredible. I can’t say enough about how well organized these games are. Tomorrow will be the big test as I head to Olympic Park for my 3 event day.

Again no idea who to cheer for. But it looks like at my last event of my Olympic Experience I will be able to wave our flag and be a crazy Canuck as I watch the women’s 3m springboard diving final where we have 2 awesome Canadians who qualified. I’m so pumped. Go Canada Go!


But my question is to you, who do you cheer for when you don’t really know who’s playing?

A dream realized…Olympics

I never thought that the day would come that I would get a real chance to attend the Olympic Games. I had dreamed it for as long as I could remember. Actually, I think I can remember exactly when it became my dream. It was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when Alex Baumann won his gold medals. From that moment on I wanted go and compete for Canada in swimming. That dream never materialized, but then the next dream of competing for Canada as a rower crept in my head when I took up competitive rowing. Sadly that was not to be either.

Then Vancouver 2010 happened and I will always kick myself for not going to those games. So when the opportunity came up to attend the London 2012 games, I couldn’t pass it up, no matter what the cost.

So this past Tuesday I began my journey to London for the games. The bad weather tried to me down, but I finally arrived on Wednesday and it’s been go go go since then (all fun). From picking up my tickets to trying to catch up with friends who’s schedules are also filled with watching events, its been a whirl wind.


Today I got to attend my first event. And what better to start with than Rowing. It was incredible. From the shuttle bus to the volunteers to the incredible organization of it all, it has all been done right over here. And the rowing itself was great. Sadly it was not a big day for Canada but I did get to see the men’s pair race and I could almost reach out and touch them.


My next few days are filled with so much more, that I will share with you as it happens. I just can’t wait and also have trouble believing this is all really happening. Pinch me, it is! Go Canada Go!


I will say one last thing, I do miss the CTV coverage of the Games. Can’t say that the BBC style is for me. But still great to watch it in real time.

Check out “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

Just saw the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, and now I’m definitely dreaming of sushi.  What I can say up front is DO NOT go to this documentary on an empty stomach, as you will leave with your mouth salivating even more than mine was on a full stomach.

The story of this incredible 85 year old sushi master is one to marvel at and enjoy.  From being on his own as a very young child to having a small sushi restaurant that receives 3 Michelin Stars on a regular basis.  He expects everyone that comes to work with him to put in a minimum of 10 years of learning as they start at the bottom and work their way, not to the top, but to being recognized as someone with potential to be good and maybe one day, great.

Jiro’s philosophies are definitely ones to listen to and learn from.  Even though his life has mostly been about sushi, his lessons apply to all of us and we can grow as people and in our careers by looking at the man behind the sushi, not just the man making it.

This documentary will make you want to book a trip to Tokyo and stop in to enjoy a meal at Jiro’s sushi bar.  But, reservations are expected and only accepted a month before you want to eat there.  Plus, meals start at 30,000 yen and there are no drinks and no appetizers.

It’s definitely on my list for my next trip to Tokyo.  But in the mean time, the movie is playing at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto and probably somewhere near you at a specialty theatre.