Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures flying high with two awards

Written by Matthew Liebenberg
Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures flying high with two awards SouthWest Saskatchewan Tourism  Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Cypress Hills Eco Adventure Cypress Hills & Area Attractions

While their patrons fly through the air on a zipline above a lodgepole pine forest, the business success of the three-year-old Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures also continues to soar with two major tourism awards and plans to expand to northern Saskatchewan.

The company received the Business of the Year (under 50 full-time employees) and Online Marketing awards
at the 25th annual Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence gala in Saskatoon on April 10.
Two years ago the company, which has only been in operation since July 2011, received the Rookie of the Year Award for their unconventional way of allowing tourists to explore the beauty of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
Jori Kirk, who is the president, CEO and founder of Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures, said this year’s awards gala was quite special.
“The Business of the Year in my mind has always been that one that I really wanted to bring home for the people who’ve worked so hard for us and the people who’ve taken a chance on our company and helped us build,” he mentioned.
“To think, it’s only been three years since we opened the doors is just mind-blowing.”
He added the recognition from the tourism industry is appreciated and the company has grown and matured since it won the Rookie of the Year Award, but winning awards has never been their purpose.
“It makes you feel good, but it’s not something you’re striving for,” he said. “It’s all about the people coming out and the people that work there and trying to make sure that everyone’s having fun and loving what they’re doing.”
The company doubled the number of visitors to more than 17,000 in 2013 and increased its revenue by nearly 160 per cent from 2012.
“People have been coming out to play at Cypress Hills with us more and more every year and one of the things we did that resulted in an increase was just adding more tours daily. We had to do that in order to stay ahead of the number of people that wanted to come out,” he said.
“In previous years, we ended up having to turn a few people away and last year we didn’t have to turn as many people away as a result of our tour capacity.”
Promotional work during the winter months and volunteer activities such as their participation in the Camp Easter Seal Drop Zone in Saskatoon help to create awareness about the company.
“People are just wanting to come out and see what we’re all about,” he said. “We come across as a fun company and the people that come out as tour guides in the summer are kind of weird and they’re kind of fun and people want to be around them. We’ve been very good at creating a culture in our company and it’s a culture that people want to buy into and the more years we operate, it just seems like the more people want to come out and see what we’re doing.”
The company uses online marketing and social media as important tools to have a dynamic online presence and to interact with clients.
“We take it very seriously, which is very weird, because we actually don’t take ourselves too seriously as a company,” he said. “It’s the best way and the best tool
for us to connect on a real level, a realistic level, with the people that want to come out to our site.”
Their clients use social media to share their experiences with family and friends after a zipline canopy tour, which helps to spread the word about the company.
“The thing about ziplining is that it’s a very story-able activity,” he explained. “It ranks up there with skydiving and bungee jumping in terms of the cool story you’re going to have, but it’s not as risky and it’s not as much work. Online is the forum that people are able to quickly and easily share the content that they’ve created. There’s nothing like it and … we actually put social media at the core of all of our marketing.”
These customer interactions on the company’s social media page resulted in the addition of other activities such as the treetop adventure park and the treetop drop.
The company will soon be entering a new phase when it expands beyond the Cypress Hills with the opening of another zipline canopy tour, Elk Ridge Eco-Adventures, at Elk Ridge Resort in northern Saskatchewan.
“I just want to say thanks to the guides and people that came out and did a part of what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We love this, it’s been so much fun, and it’s just been a real honour to try and showcase our province in a different way and with a different perspective. I’m looking forward to continuing to do that as we move forward.”
Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures was not the only award winner from southwest Saskatchewan at the Tourism Saskatchewan awards gala. Harvest Eatery & Fresh Market in Shaunavon won the Rookie of the Year award. This farm-to-table operation, owned by chef Garrett Thienes and his wife Kristy, specializes in gourmet comfort food that is sourced locally.
Swift Current’s Shann Gowan received the Fred Heal Tourism Ambassador Award for her promotion of high-quality arts and culture programs since 2002 through initiatives such as the Blenders Concert Series, StirCrazy Blues Festival, Long Day’s Night Music Festival and Windscape Kite Festival. During 2013, she produced over 30 events with more than 13,562 attendees that resulted in an economic benefit of more than $1.7 million to Swift Current.
Gowan was pleased with the recognition — not for herself, but for the southwest and the people she works with to bring the fun to the area.
“I was very honoured to receive the Tourism Saskatchewan Ambassador award. It is nice that Swift Current events are being noticed throughout the province,” explained Gowan. “Our festivals and events receive great support from provincial and federal funders as well as amazing support from everyone in Swift Current. The City of Swift Current offers fantastic support in many ways as our partner. The Swift Current business community has also been amazing. They sponsor generously, they provide goods and services to help, and they get excited about our events and share them with their staff and patrons. Also the people of Swift Current have been extremely supportive by volunteering, buying tickets and attending the events.
“I have a fantastic staff of summer students and regular volunteers as well as a supportive hard-working family. I couldn’t do it without them. All this terrific support has allowed me to do what I love. I get to bring in music that makes me excited. I get to work on a kite festival that has grown into an international festival attracting people from around the world. I have the best job in the world.”
Gowan added it was also a huge honour to have the SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival nominated in the Top 3 for the Event of the Year category.  The Swift Current festival lost to the Grey Cup party, but Gowan noted it was amazing to be in the Top 3 with the Junos and the Grey Cup.
“There was definitely an impressive showing from many great tourism companies in the southwest.
Yahoo Southwest Saskatchewan,” Gowan noted.
(With files from Ryan Dahlman)


via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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