Alex Ross, CEO and Adventure Guru of Fresh Adventures

B.C.-based Fresh Adventures talks travel agents, commissions and how to sell Canada

TORONTO — Most Canadians are gravitating towards home-province vacations this summer, in light of the recommendations from many provinces against inbound travel, even within Canada.

However some provinces are beginning to open their doors, hoping to salvage some of the summer season for their tourism industry partners.


B.C. is looking at moving into Phase 3 of its reopening next week, and that could potentially mean opening up borders to travellers from other provinces.

We talked to Alex Ross, CEO and Adventure Guru of Fresh Adventures (https://www.freshadventures.com/), about marketing Canada to Canadians, the company’s tours and more. The B.C. company works with travel agents and offers “transparent, simple and generous commissions”, says Ross.

Q. Tell us about Fresh Adventures.

Ross: “After working for several tour companies in Western Canada I realized that so many companies are over-promising in their marketing and not going the extra mile to create a truly amazing experience for their guests. Time and time again I led tours with customers who expected to be immersed more in what Canada is all about, and I really felt guilty and powerless for being part of something that was coming up short of what Canada has to offer.

“I created Fresh Adventures to provide just that – something fresh for the travel industry. An enthusiastic company that is every bit as passionate about exploring as our guests are. We work so hard to pack a little something extra in every tour and I can tell it’s working because our guests always rave about the unexpected experiences on our tours.

“We’ve spent years tweaking our itineraries to create the ultimate adventures. In the summer we take guests on relaxing but adventurous guided camping tours in the Rockies, the Coast Mountains and Vancouver island. This is the perfect way to maximize your outside time and experience all the amazing hikes and attractions of each area we visit. You’d be amazed how easy and comfortable we make camping! We regularly have guests as old as 75 enjoy our camping tours.

“We also offer guided hiking and walking tours in B.C. and Alberta with hotel and lodge stays. Explore by day and pamper yourself with a hot tub, fine food and Canadian wines by night. If you really want to dive into the wild, we offer guided backpacking tours in the Rockies and the Coast Mountains, taking our guests deep into the backcountry on a well planned backpacking experience where they can learn tons and disconnect from the bustling world. During the winter we make it possible for skiers and snowboarders to experience the best skiing in Canada with guided tours around the Powder Highway and the Canadian Rockies.

“We work with receptive tour operators, international tour operators, wholesalers and travel agents of all shapes and sizes. Our ultra-fast reply times and flexible booking options make it a snap for partners to work with us. The transparent, simple and generous commissions help too!”

Q. How is Fresh Adventures holding up during COVID-19? Are you back in business and operating tours yet?

Ross: “COVID-19 is posing a challenge and we are staying positive and finding ways to grow through the challenge. We are making private / custom tours more accessible for domestic travellers and families that want to limit their public exposure. Although a lot of our bookings are international, we are looking to increase our domestic market, which already account for a decent chunk of our guests. We get lots of guests from Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and even Nova Scotia on our tours.

“We are also working on increasing the amount of backpacking tours and hoping to launch a line of guided sea kayaking tours for next summer, which we expect will appeal to a more local market.

“The best thing we can do during COVID-19 is make sure we are optimizing every experience and interaction our customers have with us, which we are doing with clear communication, flexible bookings and making sure our guests are treated fairly and don’t lose their investments.

“We are back in business, though we are continually adapting to new challenges, from quarantines, group restrictions, distancing, and access to parks and public space.

The bottom line is, with our flexible bookings and really fair booking terms our guests won’t experience a loss during these tough times.”


Fresh Adventures’ Ross on tour in B.C.

Q. Many travel agents are looking for marketing advice during the coronavirus crisis. Can you tell us, how are you marketing Fresh Adventures during this time, striking the balance between keeping your company’s name out there while not being tone deaf?

Ross: “I think the ultimate message is honesty and transparency. We are doing everything in our power to keep our guests safe and to protect their investments, so the more we can let our guests know that the better! It’s funny, we’ve always been really fair with our guests so our booking policies really haven’t changed to suit COVID-19 times. All bookings made with us have always been flexible with Lifetime Deposits and no costs to reschedule bookings as many times as our guests need.

“We have always taken safety very seriously and are continuing to adapt our safety plans to include measures for COVID. We have implemented measures to reduce the risk of transmission, including masks, sanitization, distancing and monitoring for signs of infection.  We communicate with our guests how they can monitor themselves before their tour, and to communicate with us after their tour, so if they are infected we know immediately and keep records so we can warn the provincial health authorities and any guests and staff who may have been in contact with that person.

“I think the demand is already there. Now we just need to make sure our market knows their safety is a priority and that we are doing everything we can to ensure their investments are safe. The main thing I am focusing on right now is marketing with our current customers, to ensure their experience is positive and they feel they are being treated well.”

Q. What advice do you have for Canadian travel agents looking to sell more Canada product?

Ross: “The best part about selling Canada, is that Canada is really one of the most incredible destinations on the planet! From fishing harbours and bagpipes in the East to the vast Great Lakes, to the majestic mountains, thundering rivers, rugged coastline and wildlife of the West Coast, Canada has a lifetime of exploration and every Canadian owes it to themselves to experience our home.

“Our Canadian customers are always in awe during our tours, and a lot of our repeat guests are Canadian too!

“Canada is a big place and many Canadians don’t know where to start looking, or what experiences are even available to them. If they knew they could kayak among whales, sleep in old growth trees, eat fresh from the ocean, swim in warm lakes under the stars and hike to summits overlooking the world, you don’t think they would jump at the opportunity?!

“I know there is a stigma that North Americans are less inclined to be guided, but in my experience, they just don’t realize how much more they can experience with a local who specializes in helping them discover what they never thought possible.”

Q. What can you tell us about Vancouver Island specifically? What are the best times to visit, hidden gems, must-sees, that sort of thing?

Ross: “I could go on for days about Vancouver Island. I’ve lived there on and off for a decade now and every time I leave I itch to get back.  Vancouver Island is a place that every Canadian should experience.

“Here are a few amazing places to explore in particular:

  • While most people head from Victoria along highway 19 to Tofino, I recommend taking highway 14 along the ‘Lost Coast’ or the SW coast of the Island. There are beaches galore in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park, most of which are empty of other people. China Beach and Botanical Beach are both popular areas, though you can hike to the coast from virtually any pullot between the two (just don’t get lost and make sure you are prepared).
  • Port Alberni! Yes, this is a crusty logging town in the middle of the Island and seemingly a place to drive through quickly, but know that Port Alberni has some of the most amazing lakes in B.C. within a 30 minute drive on all sides, Canada’s tallest waterfall, access to some of the best sea kayaking in Canada, caves and some amazing hikes and camping nearby.
  • Most people think Vancouver Island stretches from Victoria to Tofino, but that’s barely even the south tip. Almost no one ventures far enough to experience Strathcona Provincial Park, which is home to some of the biggest mountains on the Island (the Island has legit mountains), as well as a huge lake system with incredible paddling opportunities. Hike to Bedwell Lake, rent a canoe from Strathcona Park Lodge or go for a ride on the MV Uchuk, which steams through Nootka Sound to Friendly Cove where Captain Cook landed and made repairs.  You can grab a bite in the quaint fishing town of Gold River after.
  • Vancouver Island is a wine lover’s paradise!  There are wineries everywhere and the wines are delicious. You could fill a week long trip just going to several wineries each day and the same applies to breweries.
  • And of course there is Tofino where you can do everything iconic to the West Coast. On our guided tours you get to do all of these things, and much more!”

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