vs. challenge complete- and then some

The past six weeks have gone by more quickly than I ever expected.  The opportunity to play tourist has left me feeling more grateful and allowed me to challenge myself and get outside of the box I had begun to put myself in.

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Summary of the challenge:  From May 22-June 2, participating tourist attractions, hotels and neighborhoods in Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley and beyond took part in the 2017 Tourism Passport Challenge.  Individuals- employees and volunteers from these organizations were given the opportunity to take part by visiting each participating attraction, enjoying scavenger hunts and tailored mini-challenges at each location to earn stamps.  The main goal was to collect enough stamps to earn a Tourism Privilege Pass for the rest of the year, giving the pass holder access to special discounts and access to participating attractions.

To earn the pass, the tourism challenge participant was required to earn a minimum of fifteen attraction stamps, two neighborhood stamps and three others (attraction, neighborhood or hotel).  One could also opt to earn more stamps which enters them to win additional tourism related prizes.  Each attraction required some level of participation to earn the stamp- “take the walking tour to earn one stamp; earn a second stamp by watching the short film; visit a given exhibit and tell us _________ about it”.  Most of the challenges were relatively simple and easy to find, some required a bit more time and searching.  The more difficult or time consuming the challenge, the more stamps you had the opportunity to earn.  For example, some of the easier attractions to earn stamps at simply required one to “go find an animal in an exhibit and report back what it was; others, that were more difficult to get to (ie. Hells Gate), earned you three stamps simply for visiting since it was much further geographically than others.  Mini scavenger hunts were set up around neighborhoods to earn your neighborhood stamps (each worth two stamps);  the hunts would simply send you to local businesses around the area were you would go in and collect postcards or key-words that you would bring/report to the final destination where you would get your stamps.

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For the past few years, I would describe myself (in my personal life) as an under achiever.  So I set myself the personal goal of exceeding the minimum 20 stamps and aimed for 40.  I got 43.

The stamps that I left until last were the hotels.  Mostly because I thought they would be easiest and I figured in the event that I was unable to commit enough time to additional attractions to get my forty I would go downtown one evening and fill up the rest of my passport booklet.  As I had predicted, by Thursday night I still had five stamps left to go before I reached 40.

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The highlight of this experience happened directly before I was about to collect my last stamp at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver downtown.  It was quite fitting.  At work we are going through a facility wide customer service initiative refresher.  Every single employee is going through a group in house review with one of our project managers on the regular do’s and don’ts of customer service.  One thing that really resonated with me, and a skill I know I need work on is my body language and eye contact.  I’m making a point to try and come across more open with smiles, open body language and brief (not creepy) eye contact.   I kept thinking about it as I walked downtown collecting my final stamps.  I tried to keep my head up and shoulders back, and smiled occasionally at people when it didn’t seem weird.  Apparently the goal to come across more approachable worked since a middle-aged couple did just that one block from my last hotel.  They did not speak a lick of English- only Spanish, so I could only assume they were either from Mexico, Central or South America or another Latin-American Country.  I lied- they spoke this in English “Help, please!” They appeared exasperated and exhausted.  I wasn’t really in any rush so I nodded and smiled, initially thinking OK, they probably can speak some English.  A few minutes in I realized, they could maybe understand less than 2% of what I am saying.

I discovered quickly that they were looking for London Drugs.  This was also a huge turning point for me- did I even know where London Drugs was? I’ve been downtown a enough times to see in my head the corner it is on but I was still uncertain since I still feel a bit like a foreigner myself in certain places here. Telling them street names probably was not going to help so I ended up pulling my phone out with a map on it to better show them. It was up one block and maybe three to the left.  I asked if they were OK and they replied “ sí “.  I ended up walking with them to the block where we could actually see the corner London Drugs sat, I pointed and said “Yes?” to which they agreed and smiled, and thanked me, “gracias”.

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I’m unsure why exactly this moment was the highlight of my tourism experience, but I think it is really fitting to the overarching goal of the Tourism Challenge.  It helps give those of us in the industries that are primarily driven by customers, the tools or at least the confidence to help those who are not local by providing them directions, recommendations or assistance in any way we can. I personally feel like I can better connect with people in general thanks to this challenge.

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