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Announcing the 2017 Explore Canada Awards of Excellence Winners


October 4, 2017 Destination Canada celebrated the best in travel and tourism storytelling this week with the presentation of the annual Explore Canada Awards of Excellence.

After reviewing over 285 high-quality entries from 12 countries, three finalists were selected in each category, and with the help of our panel of expert judges, we are pleased to announce the winners of the following categories:

Culture, Attractions, Festivals and Events
Brandon Presser, Out Magazine (USA)
“150 Things We Love About Canada”
See excerpts from Presser’s piece on Newfoundland, Fogo Island Inn, and Northwest Territories
Judge Dave Pierce, Emmy Award-winning music director for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, had high praise for the elements of Presser’s storytelling that emphasized Canada’s rich cultural heritage and welcoming spirit: “As a proud Canadian producer of entertainment, I found the approach uniquely centered on all things Canadian and a wonderful approach to tie our 150th celebration of the past into a forward looking piece.  The storytelling moves the reader through an important piece showing how Canadians have a supportive and open culture that is celebrated across our nation, and one that we welcome the world to partake.” For Brandon Presser, researching and writing the piece was a labour of love in crafting a chronicle of remarkable people and places. The stylish photo essay noted the talents of some of Canada’s most beloved celebrities and recommended road trip itineraries.

Culinary Canada
Catherine Marshall, Qantas Magazine (Australia)
Island of Plenty
Judge Véronique Rivest, sommelier, wine writer and owner of SOIF Bar à Vin, was drawn in by this beautifully written and engaging piece: “The author’s descriptions of Prince Edward Island’s landscapes, people and food are so vivid and colourful, they seem to spring to life. Even though it is written in the first person, it is never about the author; she writes in a way that is entirely about the people, the places and the produce she describes, and reels you into her story, really making you want to go and take part.” Catherine Marshall fashioned her story by seeking out local farmers and fishers who shared their time-honoured traditions of growing, gathering and bringing in the catch of the day. She writes eloquently about country inns, a legal moonshine distillery and PEI’s devotion to potatoes, which find their way into recipes for breads, cakes and fudge.

Vibrant Cities
Max Anderson, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Heart of the Prairie
Judge Chris Adamkowski, Head of Industry: Government, Airlines and Tourism at Google, was moved by Max Anderson’s narrative about the grandiose architecture of Winnipeg, Manitoba – a city that never achieved its grand ambitions – but now displays a new-found optimism as a thriving heartland metropolis. “The historical facts shared in [Anderson’s] piece painted a tragedy-esque picture of a city that never realized the potential it was built for. The following narrative of the modern day vibrancy that exists in Winnipeg juxtaposed the tragedy in a way that felt heroic; like an underdog that became a champion. I found myself repeating pieces of this article to colleagues of mine for many days after reading it.” For Max Anderson, Winnipeg is like a girl who’s never been asked to dance: “Yet here she was – thoughtful, intelligent, cool, wickedly funny and filled with the most amazing stories. I think I wrote a love letter.”  

Adventure at all Levels
James Sturz, The Wall Street Journal (USA)
Snorkeling with Salmon on Vancouver Island: A Beginner’s Guide
Judge David Labistour, CEO, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), was enchanted by the unique perspective of the writer, a native New Yorker, raised on lox and bagels, who was inspired to participate in a primal force of nature by swimming in a torrent of spawning salmon.  “The article… went beyond the traditional outdoor adventure story framework. It was, for me, different and fresh… It was a great piece of storytelling writing that drew me in while burying a ton of interesting facts in the narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I want to go and snorkel with the salmon.” Sturz, who has always been drawn to unusual underwater experiences, admits that swimming with Vancouver Island’s salmon has touched him in a visceral way, closing a circle of life on a healing journey he began just after the passing of his father.

Natural Wonders
Viktor Apfelbacher, Markus Augé, Christian Cools, Mechtild Lehning, André Schäfer and Anna Steuber, Florianfilm (Germany)
Canada’s National Parks – Season 1
Judge David Miller, President and CEO, World Wildlife Foundation Canada, was impressed by the program’s compelling narratives and superb cinematography: “This series is a beautiful and evocative homage to Canada’s National Parks. It manages to show the geographic and natural diversity of our country, and inspires the viewer to learn more about our magnificent parks – and then to visit them.” In the making of this five-part TV series, the crew travelled across Canada for three months. Their unbridled enthusiasm for the project reflected their firm belief that Canada’s National Parks should be high on everyone’s bucket list. The program, which aired on ARTE in Germany and France, was so popular it has been commissioned for a second season.

Best Media Itinerary
Tourism Tofino
Endless Summer Invitational
Judge Nathan Lump, Editor in Chief, Travel + Leisure, and Editorial Director, Time Inc. Luxury & Lifestyle Group, lauded Tourism Tofino’s unique approach to the group media trip: “balancing the efficiency of putting together a joint program with the efficacy of ensuring the journalists have different stories to tell. Tourism Tofino’s professionally presented and sensitively designed program mixed custom elements for each participant with common ones they would share, ensuring each journalist had a different angle to explore on the ‘endless summer’ theme.”  Tourism Tofino’s media team noted the importance of giving each journalist an individual itinerary and the flexibility to pursue custom story angles and bring a personalized vision to life – often the difference between telling an average story and a great one. 

Most Innovative PR Campaign
Ottawa 2017
Ottawa 2017 Celebrations
Judge Amy Farley, Senior Editor, Fast Company, admired Ottawa 2017 for bringing together a broad and diverse range of events to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday under a single umbrella: “Ottawa has created a campaign that seems to be reverberating within the city and beyond. I like that the campaign includes everything from an app and social media outreach to traditional billboard ads, along with simple, but resonant promotions, such as having people dance in fountains throughout the city.” The Ottawa 2017 team noted that the campaign devised an effective digital strategy, engaging audiences by being spontaneous and authentic on social media platforms. The organization also developed an ongoing program, Ottawa Welcomes the World, which reaches out to foreign embassies to mark their national celebrations and share in cultural events that strengthen the ties between nations.

Destination Canada’s coveted Explore Canada Awards of Excellence celebrate stellar content creation from the travel media and tourism industry. The awards are announced annually at GoMedia Canada, Destination Canada’s premier travel media event.

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