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Grape Escapes Tour Bus

Tourism Forging Forward: Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours

This is part of the Tourism Forging Forward: Stories of Innovation and Adaptation series. The series explores how tourism businesses have pivoted in response to COVID-19 and are moving forward to strengthen their business. For more in this series, see the inTouch blog.

Please note: Underneath the mask we are still smiling 🙂. It's the message that greets visitors to the Grape Escapes Wine Tours “Safe & Healthy” webpage, and it's the same approach that Grape Escapes applies to their in-person guest experience.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact for tourism industry in Nova Scotia, businesses like Grape Escapes have quickly pivoted, introduced new guidelines and adapted their marketing strategies – all to continue providing top-notch experiences for their customers.

The biggest change? Smaller tour sizes, with tour vans and buses operating with a maximum of 12 people on public tours and a maximum capacity of 75% capacity for private tours. This left Grape Escapes with lower capacity, which posed a challenge on busy weekends as Atlantic Bubble residents rediscovered the province on shorter day trips.

To solve their capacity issue, Grape Escapes worked with partner bus companies including Molega Tours and Picture Perfect Tours that normally focus on providing excursions for cruise ship passengers and those outside the Atlantic Bubble. These partnerships helped Grape Escapes provide more frequent tours with smaller groups and brought business for the partner companies’ vehicles and drivers.

Tour Director Susan Downey Lim thinks the focus they placed on COVID-19 safety measures in their marketing materials helped drive that increased demand. She says that was a strategy to make their tours more appealing to an Atlantic Bubble audience.

Susan shares that the smaller tour sizes and increased sanitation efforts they made were well-received by guests, noting that “guests are happy to be flexible and patient with the experience that we have been able to offer.”

While the operational changes did reduce flexibility for customization on tours, she says that response remained “mostly all good—people are happy to see us operate safely again.”

Her advice to other businesses? “Think outside the box, even though that’s easier said than done!”

Have you done something creative to adapt your business this year? Let us know at tnscommunications@novascotia.ca.