Hearing what our customers are really saying about Prince Rupert

Lately quite a few people have been talking to me about how our visitors are left with some negative impressions.

Lately quite a few people have been talking to me about how our visitors are left with some negative impressions.

Perhaps they’ve spoken to a visitor themselves, or taken a quick look at an on-line forum, and come to this conclusion. Is this actually what our customers are saying about us?

Answering this question requires two things: first, viewing enough visitor feedback to provide a decent sample; and, second, qualifying the feedback.

What do I mean by qualifying the feedback? Well, some of it is posted for disingenuous reasons. CruiseCritic is notorious for this. That’s not to say that we can learn nothing from them, but one certainly wouldn’t want to judge Prince Rupert solely through this forum.

And it’s not as if all CruiseCritic comments are all negative. In August one reviewer commented, “The fact that NCL is not going to stop at Prince Rupert next year is a shame. The area is teaming with wildlife and wonderful friendly people. The stores in the town are all local so no phony chains one can find in the Caribbean. We did the… kayak trip and loved every minute. Lots of paddling and then a warm fire on the beach to cook hot dogs and marshmallows and tear apart crabs. What an experience. We also had a First Nation guide who told us tribal stories as we sat around the fire. NCL – keep going to Prince Rupert!”

Other forums, TripAdvisor, blogs and so on, offer insight into the broader market of independent visitors and require less reading between the lines. Here one tends to find folks who were ready to enjoy themselves and want to share their experience. “In Prince Rupert,” wrote one blogger, “everything is moving in sweet slow motion, no one is in a hurry, no one is stressed, and everything is running smoothly. The effect was refreshing. I slipped effortlessly out of my autopilot travel mode, and started to look around.”

Most bloggers see Prince Rupert in the way we present it: “Just a few kilometers from the Alaska border,” wrote one professional blogger in July, “Prince Rupert provides wild, wonderful Northern adventures—without the cruise-ship kitsch that found in ports-of-call along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Plan to spend a couple of days here, spotting breaching humpbacks on a whale-watching tour, taking a step back in time at the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site and—a highlight—touring Pike Island, home to five First Nations archeological sites, places of great significance to the Tsimshian people, who have called this area home for thousands of years. Follow this up with a visit to the excellent Museum of Northern BC and taking its Tsimshian Winter Feast Tour.”

Overall, these are people on vacation, experiencing things far outside their normal realm, and they tend to comment positively – particularly when it comes to the wilderness experiences. That was borne out by the 2007 Visitor Study. On the open-ended category, where travelers were asked to just comment, we consistently ranked very high on land- and water-based recreational activities, heritage and historical sites, and beautiful scenery. Prince Rupert “felt quite different from home.” We were perceived as a good place for adults traveling without children, for special deals and promotions, good prices for accommodation, and for “lots of different activities and things to do.”

The advent of social media makes it a little too easy to see the trees instead of the forest. There are certainly areas for improvement, and we have to listen carefully to our customers, but overall visitors are reporting positive experiences.