Immersive learning for Canadian tourism professionals


In Leland, MI, the group learns from the Amanda Holmes, Executive Director of Fishtown Preservation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the built and natural assets of this unique harbor community.

As local liaison to BC Hughes, an Ontario-based tourism development, management and marketing firm, Connect_CX served as a Traverse City-based “fixer” to help plan, coordinate and lead a weekend excursion to TC. As CX professionals, it was fascinating to see our community through the eyes of a group from another country (despite the fact that they came from only 3 hours away), and hear critiques and kudos for the experiences that we take for granted every day.

This Best Practices Mission was a pilot, conceived by Tourism Excellence North, a program supported by multiple provincial entities in Ontario:

TEN is a suite of 10 training solutions designed to strengthen the ability of tourism operations to respond to changes in the marketplace, adapt to quality visitor expectations, develop innovative experiences that raise the bar on visitor value and deliver increased returns for operations and the destination as a whole.

Over the course of six months, we worked with Chris Hughes and his staff to curate experiences for the group to both maximize learning and provide opportunities for interaction with people "on the ground" here in Traverse City - both locals and tourists alike. The trip was planned at the height of tourist season, June 16-18.

A complete journal of the trip is on the TEN website.

Our role was to solicit leaders from across multiple communities to participate in this mission. From governmental officials to Chamber executives, Visitor Center staff to non-profit consultants to small business owners, everyone was excited to share their history and insights with this exceptional group of tourism professionals. 

We based the group at Hotel Indigo in the heart of Traverse City's Warehouse District, so that they could feel grounded in one location and become comfortable exploring the region's largest city on their own time. The group traveled in a large tour bus to allow for sightseeing, and fun facts about the region as we traveled.

In between destinations, Chris Hughes and Mark VanderKlipp took time on the bus to ask questions of the group, hear and record their observations. The end result was a completely immersive experience: one where our group was able to see, hear, touch, taste, feel and learn from multiple aspects of the system that supports tourism throughout Northern Michigan.

“All the participants seemed to come away with great ideas and inspiration, along with visible determination to implement some of these initiatives and Best Practices into their own communities.”  
— Cathy Tait, Manager of Tourism Partnerships, RTO 12/Explorer’s Edge
“Each of us came back with our own message for our own community, and they’re all different, but in the end they’re all going to have the same results – they’re going to be enhancing tourism and raising the bar for Northern Ontario.” 
—Pat Peterson, Owner/Operator of Bruce Bay Cottages & Lighthouse

A TC resident for 25 years, Connect_CX partner Mark VanderKlipp led multiple tours throughout downtown Traverse City, pointing out historical and current issues relative to growth, tourism, attracting young professionals and economic development.


Participants received a gift package featuring local products as they entered their hotel rooms


The tour began on the Boardman Lake, where the group did the “Paddle for Pints” on a sunny Friday afternoon. Paddlers experience different TC brew pubs via a water trail.


A ranger from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore answered questions about the federal government's role in promoting tourism and protecting natural resources.


The Executive Director of the historic Traverse City Opera House led the group on a facility tour (including a ghost story!) and gave us insights on the challenges and opportunities for local arts organizations.


The TEN event encouraged participants to be tourists, notice the small details of customer engagement efforts and ask detailed questions of business owners.


The group ended their tour on Mackinac Island's historic Fort Mackinac, learning about the history and elements of the tourism experience.


Team discussions, natural beauty and immersive experiences made this a memorable weekend