Meet the Mavericks from 2017 is a series that reveals the world-changing work and invaluable insights behind the revolutionaries who took away a trophy at last year’s PURE Awards.
We caught up with Churchill Wild, whose founder, Mike Reimer, won PURE’s Experiential Travel Award in 2017. True entrepreneurs and adventurers at their core, find out how Mike and his team are moving travellers with their earth-shattering experiences – from walking safaris through polar bear–inhabited regions of northern Manitoba to snorkelling with wild beluga whales.
“Our safaris allow travellers to experience a natural, geographical and cultural reality that so few people in the world have the opportunity to immerse themselves in”
Tell us about your winning project – how does it Change Worlds?
Our safaris allow travellers to experience a natural, geographical and cultural reality that so few people in the world have the opportunity to immerse themselves in. This further opens their eyes and their minds to the diversity and vastness of our planet, bringing them closer to it and increasing their resolve to care for it. Following the footsteps of explorers into the wild lands of the Canadian indigenous and the habitat of polar bears is soul-altering.
What did winning a PURE Award mean to Churchill Wild?
It was a tremendous honour to be recognised by the prestigious PURE community for Churchill Wild’s teamwork that Mike and Jeanne have led and inspired. Who could understand luxury experiential travel better? That recognition is very validating, and we are very appreciative.
What does transformation mean to Churchill Wild? How do you know when a guest is transformed?
We see our guests transformed when they see or experience something they thought they would never thought possible. That means experiences that are very difficult to put into words – such as the sense of other-worldliness they feel while watching a female polar bear nurse her cubs on the tidal flats of Hudson Bay; of swimming with beluga whales in the wild; of glamping in the Barren Lands; or of staying at a luxury wilderness eco-lodge in the middle of the tundra. We see the wonder and amazement that crosses their face as the experience moves over them.
“We see the wonder and amazement that crosses their face as the experience moves over them”
Does the high-end travel industry have a responsibility to protect our planet? What’s your advice on this – where should brands begin?
Everyone has a responsibility to protect our planet, but travel providers should feel even more compelled to preserve the areas in which they operate so that these areas can be enjoyed by generations to come. Implementing sustainable operations procedures and communicating the reasons why and benefits of these strategies to staff, guests and other stakeholders is an excellent place to start.
How can high-end travel brands protect and empower local communities? Why is this important?
Hiring locally; providing training opportunities; using local vendors and artisans; being aware of and involved in solving community challenges; and highlighting the attractions in local communities to guests who’re passing through them – these are all important in sustaining the town and infrastructure that make our safaris logistically possible.
In today’s information age, it’s harder than ever for brands to grab their audience’s attention. How should brands tell their story in a way that resonates?
First of all, make sure everything about your product and how you communicate it is aligned with your values and your focus on sustainability. How are you offering an amazing experience while also being a responsible steward of the earth? And talk about what makes you unique. What can you do that no one else does? What will guests see at your location/on your trips that they won’t see anywhere else? What is your legacy?
“How are you offering an amazing experience while also being a responsible steward of the earth?”
To what extent does the design of a hotel or retreat impact guests’ experiences? What are the other important factors to consider in building or renovating a property?
Guests must, upon arrival, immediately feel a “sense of place” – that intense feeling you get when you’re immersed in a unique wilderness environment and are made aware of your place in the world, relative to its vastness. Everything about the lodge should tell the story of the builder’s vision and introduce the visitor’s transition from their own environment to the one they have just arrived at. The design of a lodge, hotel or resort should give guests maximum opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the area. The building and property must be in harmony with their surroundings; make use of local building materials on-site such as stone & timber; and be unobtrusive, aesthetically pleasant, relatively compact and extremely efficient – it should be the perfect balance between functionality and beauty. You also want to incorporate both public spaces – you need places where guests can connect with like-minded travellers and quieter areas for those who want to retreat. We take great care to provide exceptional creature comforts in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Who is your experiential travel hero and why? (This could be someone famous or completely unknown!)
Mike – our founder’s – inspirational travel hero has always been Ernest Shackleton because of the story of his wilderness adventures at the South Pole over a century ago. As wilderness pioneers, they battled and overcame incredible odds in an extremely hostile environment. Perhaps not unlike eco-lodge operators, though: although we don’t have the ever-present threat of death by disaster!
Want to join the maverickhood? Applications open in June – why not check out the PURE Awards categories so you’re ready to tell us how you’re Changing Worlds in 2018?