There’s a fantastic effort in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador called Atlantic Canada Trails. This government-backed program advocates for the use of destination trails and offers a variety of supports to the trail managers and small businesses working hard to connect to this trail tourism opportunity.

The affiliated agency – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency – sends trail and tourism professionals as well as small business operators on “Best Practice Missions.”

I first interacted with the ACT and ACOA in 2011, when I hosted a mission along the Great Allegheny Passage. Then I was invited to Nova Scotia to offer a keynote on trail tourism in 2013. In Oct. 2014, I served as local host and coordinator for the second time, as the group traced trails from D.C. into Pennsylvania. We shared four days of learning and international exchange. Highlights included:

 

  • A bike ride on C&O Canal Towpath and a tour of a restored Lock House that’s been repurposed as lodging
  • A visit to Antietam National Battlefield and discussion around the crossover between outdoor recreation and heritage travel
  • Touring Harpers Ferry and discussing the benefits of having more than one major trail (Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal Towpath)
  • Having a multi-state, multi-province Skype conversation with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and an outfitter along the Virginia Creeper Trail.
  • Visiting Berkeley Springs, WV, and assessing the town’s destination appeal
  • A bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage and examining trail-to-town connections
  • Touring an iconic state park (Ohiopyle) and iconic heritage site (Fallingwater) and engaging a panel of locals around the topics of trip packaging and experiential tourism

It was such an honor to plan this trip focused on best practices in hospitality, experiential tourism, and efforts to connect communities to nearby trails. Here’s my related blog post: http://cycleforward.org/atlantic-canada-best-practices-mission/.