Consultant preaches co-operation to tourism operators

The president of a major U.S. consulting firm believes tourist operators in this region need to come together to make their industry thrive.
Bill Geist, of Zeitgeist Consulting, addressed the annual fall conference of the North Western Ontario Tourism Association (NWOTA) here last Wednesday to get across the message that without communication and co-operation, camp owners and other members of the tourism industry are cutting into their potential for an expanded consumer base.
“The marketing strategies of the ’80s and ’90s don’t work today,” argued Geist, who spoke at length on the results of a study of Americans done by his Madison, Wis.-based firm about what people are looking for in their vacation experience—and what the mindset towards vacationing is these days.
“The main goal for the business owners up here has to be to effectively package what they have, and communicate that package,” he stressed. “There needs to be more group co-operation between businesses.
“You have to send a message to the consumer that says, ‘We have a product you won’t find anywhere else, and if you miss out on it, you’re cheating yourself.’”
Geist discussed the declining trend the tourism industry, in general, has faced in recent years, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and this year’s incidences of SARS and West Nile virus.
He said more focus needs to be put into getting across to consumers what the strengths of this area are.
“Up here, the pace of life is significantly slower,” said Geist. “I don’t think many people up here have any idea how the pace of life is getting out of hand in the U.S.
“People are getting to the point that they’re scared to take even a week-long vacation because they figure if they’re gone a week, the boss might figure that he doesn’t need them any more.
“That’s why the long weekend is more what people are looking at these days.”
Geist believes with the right approach, the tourism industry can reverse its downward spiral and get back on strong footing.
“This industry will always remain experience-based,” he remarked. “People want to try and have as many experiences as possible. That’s the important stuff to them, not having one more car in the garage.”