Perry Gotell is the owner and operator of Tranquility Cove Adventures and has a real passion for experiential tourism, so much so, after nearly 30 years of being a professional bonafide lobster and rock crab fisherman Perry decided to change professions completely. Leaving the early mornings behind, dedicating his days to new experiential tourism products, entertaining guests from all over the world.
Perry started Tranquility Cove Adventures in early 2008 and after a few rough years of unchartered territory, things started to really take off. He learned very fast about his new best friends like the internet, social media, business partners, tourism associations and more. Things really started coming together then, getting recognized as a Canadian Signature Collection Member by the Canadian Tourism Commission, also getting picked in 2015 as one of the top 20 experiential things to do in Canada, again by the CTC. Tranquility Cove Adventures has also been picked as one of the Five Lesser Known Treasures to Visit in all of Canada for 2016 by AFAR TRAVEL. Winning the “Operator of the Year” award in 2011, from the Tourism Ass. of PEI was a highlight. TripAdvisor presented Tranquility Cove Adventures with the Certificate of Excellence Award, “all 5 Star Reviews” every year since 2010.
Perry also holds his Professional Tour Guide Certification, World Host Training and a Certificate of Achievement from Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism. He currently is the chair for the new tourism group Destination Georgetown Peninsula LTD. and has co-chaired the STEP program for Georgetown through 2015. Perry also sit on Boards with the Georgetown Harbour Authority and The Port Of Georgetown working hard at getting cruise ships to visit Eastern PEI. Over the last 5 years Tranquility Cove Adventures has been featured in over 10 made for TV shows, his latest are The Rick Mercer Report, VICE TV with Matty Matheson, TSN’s Morning Drive, Score Golf on the Golf Channel, Pitchin In with Chef Lynn Crawford, Globe Trekkers U.K., and National Geographic. Tranquility Cove Adventures is constantly expanding in new exciting product development and trying different revenue generators new to the area for 2016.
How do the experiences you offer at Tranquility Cove Adventures give guests a unique perspective on the history, environment or culture of Prince Edward Island?
The Experiences offered with Tranquility Cove Adventures go deep into the history of our culture using the lost art of “STORY TELLING”. Being a third generation lobster fishermen, we use stories that have been passed down from my Dad, Kimball Gotell and my Gramps, Joe Gotell, both lobster fishers all their lives. I have always enjoyed these stories as a kid. I never would of thought the stories would be such a unique part of our adventures today, these stories go hand in hand with our Experiential products in such a big way that we are always looking and listening to our older family members for new exciting stories.
We also try our best to incorporate all 6 inner senses, (yes six) which we all have in us. Now when you take the Experience itself, add the stories, awaken the senses, then bring in the unique beauty of an eastern PEI coastline, your building something awesome. The culture of coming from a small fishing community, following my Grandfather’s and Dad’s footsteps as a man of the sea, pulls the whole thing together in a GRAND way. The work we do flows so naturally, I sometimes wonder why our guests of all ages get so hyped, then I take a deep breath, slow my thoughts down and look around and go “Wow”, I could be the luckiest man alive doing this amazing passion I have called a “job”.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
Like any inception idea, evolution is inevitable and mostly for the better, as is the case here. Although Tranquility Cove Adventures does offer many different adventures we will review the Giant Bar Clam Dig with Beach Cookout as it was our starting experiential product and is also in the Destination Canada’s (formerly known as Canadian Tourism Commission) “Signature Collection”.
In 2008 the Giant Bar Clam Dig was a four hour adventure on Boughton Island, which is located 8 km off the coast of my home port of Georgetown on the Eastern end of Prince Edward Island. We would take our 45 foot lobstering boat out to the Island and shuttle ashore with our 18 foot skiff for a well geared up clam dig. With wetsuits, masks, snorkels, water socks and of course the clamming rakes, we get the new clam digger in chest deep waters to search out the illusive bar clam, some weighing as much as 2 pounds. Letting our new diggers loose on the massive sand bar to dig their own lunch is a blast! Once enough clams were dug we hit the beach for an ‘ole fashioned clam cook-out, steamed up in sea water, just like when I was a kid. We tidy up after a few hours and then head west, stopping for a brief time to wet the fishing line for mackerel, then back to port.
That was our first year, since then we have recognized the importance of all ares covered in your first question, the story, the beauty, the culture and history also including value added items with no increase to our adventure rates giving the customer an all around better experience. Now, lets take a look at the same adventure, with today’s value added items, keeping in mind no increase in cost to the guest. The trip is still four hours: The adventure begins as we depart the Georgetown Harbour… we round up to the first of three buoys, the first being a lobster trap with lots inside, second a rock crab pot and third a mussel sock, this is where the crew gives a very in depth descriptions of each fishery, letting our guests handle and probe each species and ask any questions on these fisheries.
Then we are off to Panmure Island Lighthouse where we get as close as possible for the perfect photo of our guests with the oldest wooden lighthouse on PEI in the background. We are just getting going now, over to Boughton Island for the Giant Bar Clam Dig. Boughton is the Island where my Grandfather was raised and my Dad Kimball was born and raised, I also lived there for the first 3 years of my life, 3 months each year during the lobster fishing season only, then returning to Georgetown to reside for the rest of the year.
The clam dig and beach cook-out remains the same but now our guests beach comb the shores and look for any of the 60 Bald Eagles residing on Boughton. The children love the tidal pools that are teeming with sea life and searching out ancient sea glass scattered on the beaches is a favourite pass time for our guests. We then shuttle back to the big boat and head back to port, dropping by the local sea herd for a peek at close to 45 Harbour Seals. The vessel is well stocked with fresh fruit, hot coffee, cold soft drinks and high energy bars all at no cost to our guests. We have sou’westers for the lobster photos and binoculars for all . Now which trip do you think you take? The start up model or the evolved value added Adventure? Over the years we have developed an adventure that we believe is second to none!
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
This may have been a relevant question a few years back but todays well traveled, well informed savvy travellers don’t miss much. I find our guest always comment on the work behind the scenes. Examples of this are the comments on: the boat from washroom to deck being spotless, the well mannered, well dressed and experience of our crew. The preparation of a four hour multi location adventure, choreographed to the minute, with no snags does get noticed. So I would say although there may well be lots of work done behind the scenes, todays travellers do notice and a good measuring stick of this is TripAdvisor. Since our conception TCA has received all perfect 5 star rating from our guests, many reviews are on the work behind the scenes, winning Tranquility Cove Adventures the TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence every year since being recognized by our guests.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
Our goal is for the guest to walk away with the realization that what we do is real, not plastic or mocked up, they are really living, experiencing, walking out, if only for 4 hours, the life in a day of a Prince Edward Islander that was born and raised by the ocean. What they leave with is a new skill set, clam digging and good memories.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
The travel trend that really excites me is the one I’m blessed to be in. Pure, hands on Experiential Tourism, where the teacher and the student both become the recipients of something special.
What sets Tranquility Cove Adventures apart from other adventure activity options?
Tranquility Cove Adventures is set apart from the rest with a constant ability to build new exciting experiential products that not only meet the industry standards but raise the bar in as many areas as possible, giving the guest the best Experience possible. From the Giant Bar Clam Dig with Beach Cook-Out to Deep Sea Fishing with PEI’s only Onboard Fish BBQ to the Star fish Hunts. TCA continues to diversify, also on the list of offerings is our Private Charters, 2 or 4 hours and our recognized Unique Island Weddings. New for the 2016 season is the introduction of the Discover Georgetown Heritage Walking Tour aimed at the Motor Coach Industry. Taking guests through our small Historic community showing them that “Down East Hospitality”.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Plan your vacation, book ahead. Reservations are required here as on most top ranked adventures. Walk-ons make up less than 5% of our business. Read our full website and if you still have questions feel free to ask. Our peak season is July – August although we do operate from late May until early September. With small groups of 12 or less these adventures fill up fast.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
When we decided to expand TCA we looked at things a little differently. We work hard at not copying whats out there in the experiential market, we look for what is not in the market “period”! Then try to build on that, some new adventure idea comes to us in some very unorthodox ways, such as the Star Fish Hunt. Started in 2015 it became an instant hit for families with children between the ages of 4 and 12. Here’s how it came about…In 2013 we started an oyster lease along the beach in front of our home on the Brudenell River, hoping to start and grow an oyster lease which we could incorporate into a tourism experiential product. As we started to seed oysters, thousands of them, the oysters on the lease started attracting star fish which latched themselves around the seed oysters eating them, killing off our oyster stock at an alarming rate.
One evening my wife Patsy and I were sitting on our docks looking at the star fish eating our prize oysters and tried come up with a plan to slow or even better stop this behaviour. We were deciding if we should hire a student to hand pick the star fish when an amazing idea came to us, we could offer a Star Fish Hunt to guests, giving them an authentic experience in searching for and collecting PEI Star Fish. Having on hand plenty of dried star fish inventory for them to trade off their live stars for air dried stars seemed to be a great idea. We started the Star Fish Hunt in 2015 and it was an instant success for families with small children. So there is no one strategy to grow your business unless you call being “VERY OPEN” a strategy.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
The one personal habit that has helped Tranquility Cove Adventures succeed is the personal attention given to our guests by the crew members and myself. We make a conscious effort to meet and talk with each person, making this adventures a gathering of friends. This does not come without good training and spending quality time with the staff, building a team spirit of pride, unity and trust in the work carried out daily.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
One instance where not a guest but all guests aboard (we mostly go with 12) were moved to an emotional reaction was on an early morning clam dig in mid August. We were 3 km off the coast heading out to Boughton Island….. you know that perfect day where the warmth of an early morning sun and a slightly warm sou’eastern breeze make you feel alive. While being aware of this beauty comes natural to me, I try not to take this for granted. The porpoises were breaking off the bow and there was a pair of loons swimming off in the distance. Being aware of all these elements coming together I shut down the engine for a few minutes. The crew and I went to the sunny side of the boat and most guests followed us to see what we were doing, we pointed out the porpoises breaking and the loons. On the starboard side with people lined up on each side of us, I raised my hands to the sky and asked all to do likewise, saying close your eyes and
feel the warmth of the sun, now feel the warmth of the light breeze, now be thankful. Where this came from I don’t know but the reaction was priceless. Tears were coming down most people’s faces, it was a very special few minutes where people were “aware”. A few minutes later we started up the engine again and were on our way, we may have left that location on the sea, but the memory never left us. After the Adventure was over, the departing guests all commented on that few minutes of being aware as being very special that day, it still is for me today. This is an example of Tranquility Cove Adventures incorporating all 6 senses into an adventure.The more senses you include, the stronger the connection with your guests to the crew and the experience!