Anna Pierce began her career with Niagara Helicopters at its inception in 1985 as a ticket sales associate. In 1987 she graduated with Distinction from Brock University with a BA in Business Psychology. She immediately accepted a full time position with Niagara Helicopters as Marketing and Operations Assistant. In 1997, Ms Pierce was promoted to the position of Marketing Director. She joined the Board of Directors for Niagara Falls Tourism in 2002. After serving as Chair of the organization in 2005, she accepted the position of Executive Director in 2006.Under her leadership the organization rallied from an extensive debt to a significant surplus in two short years. Having accomplished what she set out to do for the organization, Ms. Pierce returned to her roots at Niagara Helicopters in 2009 accepting a position as Vice President. In 2011 the company was purchased by Helicopter Transport Services of Canada – one of the largest helicopter operators in Canada. Ms. Pierce was then promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the operation. Ms. Pierce has extensive knowledge in International Sales and Marketing having attended Travel Trade Shows and Trade Missions in the UK (including Scotland and Ireland), France, Germany, Spain, Japan, China, Korea, Mexico, and the United States since 1988. In the over 20 years of working in the Tourism Industry, Ms. Pierce has amassed a long list of contacts at all levels of Government as well as Tour Operators around the world.

Niagara Helicopters Limited has over 50 years of service
Niagara Helicopters Limited has over 50 years of service

How do the experiences you offer at Niagara Helicopters give guests a unique perspective on the history, environment or culture of your region?

This is an easy one! – Niagara Helicopters gives a bird’s eye view of the Falls and the Upper and Lower Niagara River. It is the only way to view the entire “Horseshoe” shape of the Falls as well as the path the glaciers took to carve out the gorge between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It is also one of the only ways to experience the enormity of the volume of water going over the Falls. A passenger can literally see one Great Lake spilling into another over a relatively small expanse of rocks. It is the “Ah Ha” moment that our passengers describe. They see it from the air and they “get it”.

But the Signature Experience doesn’t end there. Instead of landing back at base, we land our guests in Niagara’s Second most famous Wonder – our Wine Region. Niagara’s fruit belt is due to a micro-climate that has developed due to our proximity to both Great Lakes. The climate offers the absolute best growing conditions for fruits like peaches, cherries, and most importantly – GRAPES. The tour allows our passengers to fly along miles of vines before landing at one of our famous farm-to-table vineyard restaurants for a tour and wine tasting and a full meal.

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?

The experience has evolved from a one-off incentive tour to a full-fledged group and independent traveller experience. We have nurtured partnerships with some of the best wineries in the area – some small, some large but all are an experience. We have also expanded our seasons so that passengers can even experience the wineries in winter during the famous Ice Wine Harvest.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

One detail that we are very proud to say goes unnoticed is our attention to safety for our passengers. We take excellent care of our clients and it takes quite a bit of work from our engineering department to our ground crew and everyone within our gates, safety is our number one concern but our passengers never know just how much it takes to ensure that safety. We like it that way. We would rather have them concentrate on the lovely scenery.

Seeing the Falls from above gives you a perspective like no other. On a clear day you will see the outline of Toronto to the North and the shores of Lake Erie to the South.
Seeing the Falls from above gives you a perspective like no other. On a clear day you will see the outline of Toronto to the North and the shores of Lake Erie to the South.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?

One thing most people don’t truly understand is that helicopter charges are based on time. The longer you are in the air, the higher the operating costs. This is why it is so important to us that we give our clients an all-scenic flight from take-off to landing. Many of our clients say they would love to spend more time in the aircraft – and we offer this service as well but regardless of how much time you spend in the air – the highlights are covered – the Falls and her surrounding gorgeous region.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

One of the trends we are noticing quite a bit is grandparents travelling with their grandkids. Our tour is on many “bucket lists” but it just adds that special icing on the cake when two generations or even three are able to enjoy the experience together.

What sets Niagara Helicopters apart from other scenic flight options around the falls?

Niagara Helicopters is very different because there are no other operators in such close proximity to one of the World’s Most Famous Natural Wonders. Our location allows us to offer those all-scenic flights from start to finish with no down time. In fact, we have many clients who come down and say they have to fly again just to see it all again because they were so busy taking pictures they didn’t get to truly take it all in. By the way – those pictures are amazing – even from a Smartphone. I’ve tried it!

What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

My tip would be take your camera, your smartphone, your ipad and your GoPro and SHOOT! Keep shooting those images. They will inspire you in the future. You will feel so small when you are able to compare the people on the ground to the water flow.

From the sensation of lift-off, to the excitement of soaring above the turbulent rapids and cascading waterfalls, your Niagara Helicopters ride is a unique and spectacular experience.
From the sensation of lift-off, to the excitement of soaring above the turbulent rapids and cascading waterfalls, your Niagara Helicopters ride is a unique and spectacular experience.

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

We strongly believe in travel trade shows and meeting our clients face to face. That personal touch is always far better than anything they see on social media or in an advertisement. Of course, we do use these mediums but people like to do business with people. In our industry it is important to build trust and to ensure the client knows you are there and accessible to them if they need you. Customer service is key and there is no better way to show your support for your clients than to meet them face to face.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

I have a habit of laughing – a lot. In fact, many people have commented that they can hear my laughter throughout a room. I can’t help it. I have the best job in tourism and I am very grateful and joyful for it. That joy is infectious. How can I not be joyful when I see tens of thousands of people smiling every time they disembark from our helicopter! Cheesy. I know. I’m a bit cheesy. That kind of humour makes me laugh too. LOL

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

Just one? LOL

Here is my favorite – a 98 year old lovely lady was visiting with her family and told them all she wanted to go up in a helicopter and try it out. She was in a wheelchair and her family thought there would be no way she could make her way up to the helicopter let alone fly in it. She was insistent so they decided to call us before they came so they could “let her down easy”. They were shocked to find out we not only had a wheelchair ramp, we would have no problems getting their mother up for the flight. They had their doubts but came in anyway. We did exactly as promised and their mom got to ride in the front seat with the pilot with her two “kids” in the back –they were both in their 70’s! The pilot was so charmed by her and her spunky attitude he took her on an extended tour over her home so she could see it from the air. Her family took several pictures of her with tears streaming from her eyes as she flew over the Falls and then her home. They wrote us a note when they got home to thank us. They said it was all she talked about for weeks. That is pure joy.

Twitter: @NiagaraHeli

TravelDew is a community based platform for leaders in experiential travel from around the world. Through our interviews we honor the variety of this industry while simultaneously creating the opportunity to learn from one anther.