Destination Marketing from the Stakeholder’s Perspective
In this episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, Adam is on the road in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he is joined by Captain Henry from Coastal Expeditions. Listen to hear the Captain's unique perspective as a stakeholder working with a destination and how that partnership has been essential to helping his business stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
"If you really throw yourself into something you’re passionate about, success will follow. Most people are too afraid to do it because of the direction that society wants to point you most of the time." -Captain Henry
Meet our Host and Guest(s)
- Name: Captain Henry Brandt
- Position: Tour Operator at Coastal Expeditions
- Favorite Destination: Traveled the Country
- Dream Destination: Southeast Asia
- Name: Adam Stoker
- Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic
- Favorite Destination: Fiji
- Dream Destination: New Zealand
“Destination Marketing from the Stakeholder’s Perspective” – Show Notes and Highlights
- Coastal Expeditions is a group of naturalists, like-minded thinkers that are dedicated to the preservation of the bare islands and coastal conservation using boats, kayaks, and paddleboards as a vehicle to help people fall in love with these parts of the world.
- Destinations Coastal Expedition operate:
- Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant
- Garris Landing
- Kiawah River
- Isle of Palms
- St. Helena
- Captain Henry points out that it was very important to build relationships at the Visitor’s Bureau because they’re good partners to have.
- During COVD they’ve learned how to operate and continue to do business safely and be diligent about it.
- Have diminished boat capacity to 65% to adapt at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
- CVB is important to communicate with about what the market’s doing.
- The most beneficial thing that CVB can do is to be a real champion.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:00:01] If you really throw yourself into something that you’re very passionate about, success will follow. But most people are too afraid to do it because of kind of the direction society wants to point you most of the time. But I found great success saying ‘I’m doing, what I’m doing.’
Adam Stoker: [00:00:20] Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Adam Stoker. We’ve got another fun episode for you today. As you know, we’re on the road. We took the Destination Marketing podcast on the road. We are in beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina. We’ve got an interesting series of shows coming from this destination and to start with, we wanted to have our friend Captain Henry. He’s from Coastal Expeditions and they work right here in Beaufort. Captain Henry, welcome to the show.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:00:51] Thank you. I appreciate it.
Adam Stoker: [00:00:53] Yeah. We’re excited to have you. We’ve got some interesting questions for you today, but before we get too far into it, we have a couple of questions we ask everyone that comes on the show, and so I’ll ask you the same ones. My first question, and by the way, Beaufort, South Carolina cannot be your answer. Okay?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:01:09] Okay.
Adam Stoker: [00:01:10] That would be cheating. We’ve had some people try to cheat recently.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:01:12] Got it.
Adam Stoker: [00:01:13] If you could go anywhere in the world, Captain Henry, where would it be?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:01:18] That’s a great question. I’m kind of gunning to go to Asia. That’s on the top of my list. It’s like I’d love to go to the Pacific Islands into Japan and in that neck of the woods.
Adam Stoker: [00:01:30] You’re kind of just thinking the opposite half of the world, like the farthest from where we are attracts you a little bit.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:01:36] Yeah. It’s like my wife and I always joke that people often fantasized about tropical vacations, but honestly, we never really think about that because we feel like where we live is so close to tropical especially down here.
Adam Stoker: [00:01:47] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:01:48] It’s a very subtropical kind of area, so that’s often not on our vacation list but Asia is pretty high up there.
Adam Stoker: [00:01:54] Yeah, you guys live in a tropical paradise, so the allure of a tropical paradise might be a little bit less.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:02:00] Yeah, we’d be afraid we’d be paying to go vacation in the same way that we’re kind of used to.
Adam Stoker: [00:02:06] Well, it is a beautiful place here. I want to go back to Asia, though. As you think about Asia and parts of it are still a tropical paradise, right?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:02:15] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:02:16] What is it about Asia that really kind of draws you and makes you have it on your bucket list?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:02:23] Yeah. I was just trying to think about what was on the other side of the world. It’s like as a guy, I feel like my proficiency is being accustomed to where I live. I’m like trying to put myself as far away from where I am right now. It’s like the last time I went out of the country I was down to Patagonia. I went basically to the other pole and try to get as far away from there as possible. I was thinking about if I was to run the latitude and stop on the other side of the planet where would that be? It’s like somewhere over there. I’m anxious to see that part of the world as well.
Adam Stoker: [00:02:56] I like it. As someone who is supposed to be an expert about the place where you live, it’s probably nice to go somewhere that you know nothing about.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:03:04] That’s kind of the idea. Yeah. It’s like trying to get as far away as you can. Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:03:08] I like it. Okay. I know you’re really well-traveled from some of our conversations before we started the show. This may be a difficult one for you.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:03:17] Okay.
Adam Stoker: [00:03:18] Tell me about your favorite trip you’ve ever been on and if it’s hard to decide just one, just pick one.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:03:24] Yeah, I’d say getting to travel the country with my wife was a big one in 2010. We took about four months to go visit most of the national parks and national forests. We just did it out of our car. We just drove around the country for probably I think it was like four or five months and just tried to visit everywhere we could. I’d say that was one of the experiences that wasn’t just great for the travel, but I think it was also something that really solidified our relationship because if you can manage to do that and not kill each other…
Adam Stoker: [00:03:52] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:03:53] …then you’ve accomplished something great.
Adam Stoker: [00:03:55] If you can be in a car for four months together, you’re going to make it.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:03:58] Yeah. It’s like periods of hiking and camping for long periods. It’s like you really figure out what you can put her through that she can tolerate and evidently she can tolerate quite a bit.
Adam Stoker: [00:04:13] That’s great.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:04:13] That was, I’d say, an important one for me.
Adam Stoker: [00:04:15] You went to lots of national parks or all the national parks.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:04:20] As many as we possibly could. There were certain ones where we had to go around because there was something happening. You’d be surprised how many national parks you had trouble getting into because it’s still snowing in June and some of them, it’s like I was a little surprised by that, but there was also other ones that aren’t national parks that you realize you have to look a little deeper into the maps of some of these states because a lot of the hidden gems aren’t the ones that get the press of a national park. There was an area I ran into on the border of Montana and Idaho that was probably more spectacular than almost any national park I had been to that was right along the border there. I was like, wow, this is spectacular.
This was 2010 so we didn’t really have the Google maps and it wasn’t as sophisticated as it is these days. We just had a big road atlas, like a big paper one and because we just wanted to kind of have something solid that we could always rely on. What we did was we highlighted the route all the way from the east coast and kind of drew the highlighter on the roads we wanted to go to in the areas we wanted to go. We had it all kind of mapped out and how long we were spending in each place. It was that old kind of that nostalgic form of being able to do a trip that I don’t know if people still do it like that anymore, but it was cool for us. I enjoyed it.
Adam Stoker: [00:05:44] Yeah that sounds really cool. People may be listening and think. Okay, four months is a long time, but with the number of national parks that you guys hit and the distance that you traveled, I bet you felt a little rushed in some of these destinations, didn’t you?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:05:58] Some of them we did. Others we got there and felt like we didn’t need to spend as much time as we allotted and others we did visit, we spent more time like in Utah. It was one of the places where we had a shorter time planned but then we got there, and we were like, this is more of, like, a three-week kind of place. When we got to Washington State, we ended up staying with a friend there for a couple of weeks. We weren’t planning on staying that long on the Olympic Peninsula but we got there, and we’re like, “Wow, this is really pretty, too. We could spend a little bit longer here.” You can’t be too rigid on your schedule. I think that’s part of how you don’t drive each other and saying is that you’re able to be flexible on stuff like that.
Adam Stoker: [00:06:37] Yeah. I don’t know how to make it happen because there’s all kind of logistical issues for most people and work but I think everybody in their lives should take a four-month trip to visit almost every part of the country. I mean you learn so much that you didn’t know just by going to these places.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:06:56] Yeah, I think you do, too. I think the struggle for most people in doing anything like that is finding the right timing in their life to do something like that. It’s like you had to find some either transitional period or maybe you’ve just become an empty nester. Or maybe you just finished college or like I don’t know what the situation is but there’s got to be some long-term plan to do it. Make sure you have the space to actually do it because four months for most people isn’t something that’s really practical to be able to do.
Adam Stoker: [00:07:27] Yeah. Maybe you break it up into pieces.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:07:29] You break it up into pieces. I could see that. Doing something like that. Like, pick a section and do that over the course of four years for like a few weeks or something like that. I can see that working.
Adam Stoker: [00:07:38] Yeah, Well good. Thanks for letting us get to know you and your travel habits a little bit. It sounds like that trip just, I’m jealous of four months going to see the whole country. It sounds amazing. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up as Captain Henry. What was the path to get there?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:07:59] Yeah. The path, I guess it all started from childhood really. When I was in my younger years, I lived on a horse farm and I was always inclined to spend most of my time outside because when you live out in the country that’s what’s available to you. Most of my childhood was spent riding horses, believe it or not, and kind of that. Your imagination can really carry your places when that’s kind of the environment that you grow up in. When you got a horse, you could be one of many things, right? It’s like you could be a cowboy. You could be a knight. You can be whatever you wanted kind of thing. That kept me outside when I was younger.
Then, I made a transition to Charleston, kind of the mid to late nineties, and then I discovered the water. With that being said, my grandparents always lived on the water. I got to spend a lot of time on the water even when I was living in North Carolina but I think I really fell in love with boats and kayaks once I had moved to Charleston, which I think was around ‘98 that happened. I started to really dive into that culture. Right after high school, I went down to Patagonia. It was right around six months and I went down there with the National Outdoor Leadership School doing mountaineering and glacier rigging, you’re doing a sea kayaking and Wilderness First Responder training. They kind of throw you right into developing the skill sets and…
Adam Stoker: [00:09:31] Another amazing trip to an amazing destination.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:09:33] It is an amazing destination. If you go down to Patagonia, it’s a super choice. I highly recommend it. Once I got back, that trip was kind of what fostered my love for sea kayaking specifically, that type of expedition. When I got back from that and this would have been like in 2005, the beginning of 2005, I was having this real culture shock from having being submerged in the wilderness for so long. I mean I was in a place that was really devoid of human activity for six months. The first thing I hit when I get back to America is Atlanta International Airport. I’m like, “Oh, man, it’s like, this is really jarring.” I didn’t realize how much I didn’t want this until I just got back kind of thing. I was like, “What do I do that keeps me outside?” I got introduced to Chris, who’s the owner of Coastal Expeditions. I was like, “Man, I got to keep doing this. It’s like I need to be doing what you’re doing right now.” That’s when I really started with Coastal Expeditions, it was in 2005.
Adam Stoker: [00:10:39] Okay.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:10:39] The only time I wasn’t actively working for Coastal was when I was in college. At some point in college, I had this idea. Well, it’s like maybe because I was pre-med originally and I was like, I could probably get a job as a PA or something and make a lot of money. I worked in a clinical setting for a while during college. I was like, “Wow, this is not fun. It’s like it’s always that struggle that was like, it’s like I needed to have a career that maybe will make me a lot of money, but unfortunately, that just wasn’t the right answer for me. You have to really do whatever your heart path is and your Dharma. I figured that out through trying to go down the wrong path and then saying, well, this definitely wasn’t the right thing for me.
Once I got back on, it’s interesting. It’s like that idea that if you really throw yourself into something that you’re very passionate about, success will follow. Most people are too afraid to do it because of kind of the direction society wants to point you most of the time, but I found great success staying and doing what I’m doing.
Adam Stoker: [00:11:40] Well, sometimes the most valuable experiences are figuring out what you don’t want to do.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:11:45] That was a big part of it. Yeah. Figuring out what I don’t want.
Adam Stoker: [00:11:48] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:11:49] But over time I came to realize that this is really all I ever want to do This is kind of where it’s at for me.
Adam Stoker: [00:11:55] Well tell us about Coastal Expeditions. What do you do specifically?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:1159:00] Coastal Expeditions when we started was just a kayaking company and mostly what we did was kayaks. This is like when kayaks became huge in the early nineties, right? Like diving all the way back to 1990, kayaking was like a big sport. It was like when paddleboarding hit the market. It’s like when people like Larry Hamilton and folks like that were like, you all need to be doing this. That was huge, right? That was only like a handful of years ago that paddleboarding just blew up. Well, in the early nineties, it was kayaking. Coastal Expeditions were like, well, we’re going to do kayaks and people seem to be loving this. It was great and kayaking is still really fun and really a popular sport.
Coastal Expeditions started launching kayaking tours and that was the heart of the business back then. Over time, as we kind of built our products and we got more qualified people and we started to kind of build this business, it turned into kayaks and paddleboards and boat charters and ferry service. I think we’ve had great success as a company because of the people that we hire. I think if you were to ask me, like, “What is it about Coastal Expeditions that’s made you all so reliable and with a good reputation. What is it that really plays into that?” I’d say, “90% of what makes us great is the people that work for us.” We typically try and find the people that have that unteachable factor because that’s really what makes the product stand out to folks. Coastal Expeditions is …
Adam Stoker: [00:13:40] Real quick. Everybody that works for you, then they could have been a doctor, but they choose to do this.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:13:45] No. It’s more like when I go to hire someone I’d actually prefer if someone came to me and they had a perfect resume. They were like, “I know every single plant and every single animal that’s like in the low country here. I can tell you all of that stuff.” Honestly, if they were dull and they didn’t have personality or character, I still would hire someone who didn’t know anything about it.
Adam Stoker: [00:14:08] You hire the exciting personality that makes up the flowers that they see.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:14:12] You can teach that person…
Adam Stoker: [00:14:14] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:14:15] …but what you can’t teach is the character, the personality, that X factor. You can’t teach that quality in people. When you’re really hunting for the right people, you look for someone with that characteristic and then you teach them, right? Coastal Expeditions on top of what is that we do, which is kayaks and paddleboards and boats, we are outdoor educators. If we can’t teach someone, then we’re not very good educators. Why wouldn’t you grab the person with that amazing, the personality you gravitate towards because ultimately, if you’re going to spend 3-4-6 hours with somebody, I mean, hopefully, that person is entertaining to be with.
Adam Stoker: [00:14:55] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:14:5] In a nutshell, that’s kind of what Coastal Expeditions is. We are a group of naturalists, like-minded thinkers that are dedicated to the preservation of the bare islands and coastal conservation. We use boats, kayaks, and paddleboards as a vehicle to help people fall in love with this part of the world with the low country because if you love something, you tend to want to protect it. It’s this form of conservation through adoration basically.
Adam Stoker: [00:15:01] Great. Well, I’ve got a lot more questions for you.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:15:21] Sure.
Adam Stoker: [00:15:22] But before we dive in again, let’s take a quick break and when we come back, we’ll talk a little bit more about how you interface with the destination, and the different Convention and Visitors Bureau as you work with so effectively.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Relic. As many of you know, I own an advertising agency called Relic and we work specifically with tourism destinations. If there’s any of you that are struggling with what to do next or you’ve tried agencies that don’t specialize in tourism or if you’ve been using the local flavor for years and years and you’re just looking for something new, I would say give us a call. Give us the opportunity to take a look at your plan. See what you’re doing. Use our tourism knowledge and industry specialty to examine everything from your brand to your tactical execution and make recommendations of how to help
We will do that assessment for free. We’ll give you those recommendations for free. If you like what we say, maybe you can hire us to execute on those plans. Kind of a risk-free opportunity to have us take a holistic look at everything you’re doing, provide some recommendations and you kind of see us in action. If you’re interested in having us do something like that, please send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to set that up with my team.
Adam Stoker: [00:16:49] Captain Henry, you were telling us a little bit about Coastal Expeditions and what you guys do. I know that you operate out of several destinations. Tell me the destinations you operate out of.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:17:01] Well our flagship location is on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. If you would try and find our central office, the hive mind of Coastal Expeditions, that’s where that is. We also run a ferry service out of Garris Landing, which is north of Mount Pleasant and that’s the ferry that takes people out to Bulls Island. We also run trips out of Kiawah River over there on Johns Island. We have a location on Isle of Palms where we do kayaks and paddleboards, and our location down here in Beaufort, which specifically is kind of in the downtown and also out there near St. Helena.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:37] Yeah. Okay. I mean, it’s a pretty sizable operation with multiple locations. How many boats do you guys have?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:17:43] About six.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:45] Six boats.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:17:48] Six boats ranging from 53 feet all the way down to 23.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:49] Wow. Okay. Wide range. How many paddleboards and kayaks would you say you guys have as an organization?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:17:56] Probably 120 kayaks. Maybe it might be more like 175 possibly and then probably right around 70 paddleboards, something like that. Six kayak trailers, three vehicles, 15 passenger vans, and a lot of rolling stock.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:16] A lot to keep track of, right?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:18:17] Right.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:18] Like a lot of boats to keep track of, a lot of inventory of kayaks and paddleboards, and tours going out every day in multiple locations. With each destination that you’re in, you obviously have to work closely with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. We will narrow in today on Beaufort because that’s where we are today. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. What works? You don’t necessarily have to get too specific on what doesn’t work because we’re here in their office today. I don’t want you to get in trouble.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:18:50] Yeah. I don’t want to get kicked out. I like it here. It’s a cool building.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:54] But tell us a little bit about what works with your relationship and why it works with Visit Beaufort.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:19:00] Well, the CVB, whether here in Beaufort or in Charleston. We’ve always worked pretty tightly with this organization. Like in Charleston, we expect, and we love to do these programs where people come and they visit our location. We get to tell them about our products, people in the different industries’ hospitality, get to see and get a lot of information about what it is that we do. It was one of the first things when I came down to Beaufort is to try and network with that community of folks here. It’s one of the first things on that bullet list. You got to get a hold of the CVB and then the natural thing was to Chamber of Commerce, and then, the Hospitality Association. It was very important to become friends with everyone at the Visitor’s Bureau because they’re good partners to have. They are good friends to have. I’d say it’s a very beneficial relationship. I enjoy it.
Adam Stoker: [00:19:58] You’ve been really proactive about building that relationship between Coastal Expeditions and Visit Beaufort and visit Charleston.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:20:07] Yeah. In general, it’s like yes, I am in the eco-touring industry but if you would ask me the type of business I do, I say I’m in the relationship business.
Adam Stoker: [00:20:16] I like it.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:20:17] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:20:18] Okay, Captain Henry. Your first priority when you guys came into Beaufort was to come build a relationship with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tell me, what benefits you get from that relationship and strengthening that relationship?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:20:33] Well, I mean, the networking is a big one. It’s like you’re making a relationship with the people who have already established all the relationships. I was born in Savannah and lived in Charleston most of my life. I seemed to end up in Beaufort. It is kind of an interesting fitting series of events that happened to me because it’s kind of right in between these two areas I’m so familiar with. When you come into a place where you haven’t been living most of your life, it’s like, how do I make friends? It’s like the new kid at school. Where’s the kid that knows all the other kids? Usually, the CVB is such a good hub for that.
Adam Stoker: [00:21:07] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:21:08] He can make the introductions that you need because they already know the like-minded folks and who it is that you need to be making a relationship with. That was just kind of the natural first thing that you do when you come to it.
Adam Stoker: [00:21:22] Great. From a value standpoint, when you sit back and look at your business and say, “Okay, what value have we got from the destination? I know networking has been important. Have there been specific introductions that you’ve gotten from Visit Beaufort that have benefited you?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:21:34] Yeah. Of course, in particular, the real champion that I’ve come to really appreciate as Linda Jeffries, who is here at the CVB. She’s constantly introducing me to new folks and to folks that could benefit the business. I think she calls me even more than I would come to expect of her. I think she goes out of her way to make us feel welcome. It has been really … and Robb too. It is like he provides lots of valuable data. It’s very important to have these numbers as they come in. This is a very comfortable place to be if you’re someone who’s coming here and starting a new franchise of your business. It was very welcoming.
Adam Stoker: [00:22:16] That’s great. Let me ask you about the data that you get from Robb. Is that like a standard monthly report that they send out to you? Or what’s the method that you received that information?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:22:25] Honestly, you can get those reports even sooner than that. I’m a member of the Hospitality Association. They do meetings sometimes every week, every now and then it’s bi-weekly but you know, Robb will pop on and if he has any new numbers, he’ll update you and say, “Hey, we’re seeing people revisiting Beaufort or like we’re seeing that the confidence in the market is going up.” He’ll come through with that data pretty regularly as soon as he gets it. Yeah, it’s very valuable.
Adam Stoker: [00:22:52] That’s great. Great. I know they had you on their podcast, the Intercostal Podcast fairly recently. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:23:00] It was good. Yeah, it’s what I’m used to. It’s a funny thing about being a guide, especially like me. It’s like I’m very used to talking at people but for some reason, somehow I feel like I’m not very good at having conversations outside of guiding. I’m used to being the one kind of leading and in charge of doing most of the talking. It’s like I spent so much of my social currency doing that, that it’s sometimes it’s hard for me outside of working to engage in what people consider to be normal conversations.
Most people see the opposite of their job like they sit inside all day and they’re like having a hard time being able to talk to people in their day to day when they’re working but then when they’re outside, they’re like, “Yeah, I get to go out and socialize.” I do not feel that way. When I get invited to come, do something like a podcast, I’m like, “Oh, this is what I’m used to. This is my job. It is to talk at people. Yeah, it was very fun. It was a lot like this. It was very entertaining to do and that’s something I don’t mind doing.
Adam Stoker: [00:23:59] Good.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:24:00] It is very familiar.
Adam Stoker: [00:24:01] When you came on the show, tell me kind of the types of things that you guys were talking about so that the listeners, I’m talking to listeners of the Intercostal Podcast. What were you trying to convey to them when you came on the show?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:24:17] Product awareness. I think what most people needed to know what it is we’re doing here in Beaufort. Why are we here? I think the big message of the podcast is more like, “What is the product that you’re doing? Where are you operating? It’s like a lot of it was just trying to introduce folks into what you can expect when you visit Beaufort out of Coastal Expeditions because traditionally if you know coastal, you’re probably only aware of what we’re doing in Charleston. But we have to inform people about what it is we’re doing and be.
Adam Stoker: [00:24:45 Very cool.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:24:46] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:24:47] Okay. All right. Let’s pivot a little bit.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:24:48] Okay.
Adam Stoker: [00:24:49] Let’s talk a little bit about COVID, how it affected your business in 2020, and how are you going to take some of the changes that happened and use them to build as opposed to slowing down?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:25:02] Yeah, The COVID thing is a good question. I think from the very beginning we wanted to be proponents of safety as early on as we possibly could but it’s always a hard decision for a business to say, “We are going to shut down.” It’s like especially in March, like in our season, that’s like you’re putting the pedal on the gas in March. You’re trying to make hay when the sun shines. That was kind of weird to shut down as the season is supposed to start going and then the market lost, all the confidence, right? It’s like no one was going out. Everything’s shut down. The schools are doing field trips. It’s been like that through 2020 and, it’s been kind of weird, but slowly the confidence is coming back but luckily, Coastal Expeditions is a strong company.
We were able to weather 2020 more comfortably than most. If you’re asking about the raw data of 2020 industry-wide, whether it’s Coastal Expeditions or the people who take you out to Fort Sumter or whatever it is. If you’re in this type of business, you’re down, you’re down like 40% from what you were the previous year. It was a big hit. Unfortunately, as a side effect of that, everyone became unemployed for a decent period of time, including myself, because the company wasn’t open. What do you do? But you have to plan to bring everybody back as soon as you can operate and figure out how to operate safely. I think as time has gone on, we’ve learned and we’ve learned how you can operate and you can continue to do business but you just have to do it safely and be diligent about the way you’re doing it. It allowed us to open back up after that period of quarantine when it first happened. Now we’ve been pretty close to doing what you’re doing. We just have to do it at a diminished capacity-
Adam Stoker: [00:26:49] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:26:50] We have to add steps in the process and already-
Adam Stoker: [00:26:54] They allow fewer people on the boats, fewer people on tours.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:26:56] Yeah, exactly. It’s staffed like diminished capacity. For example, I’m operating the St. Phillips Island Ferry at 65% of the boat’s capacity, because that makes me feel like you get a little bit more space and you’re not quite as close to folks. For example, on the kayaking side of the business, we had handwashing stations. We had to kind of like space out the way we were kind of doing the fittings and the boat fittings. You just have to be a little more tactical about how you do it but over time we learned and we were able to adapt and start to open back up, luckily.
Adam Stoker: [00:27:31] Great.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:27:32] But it was just that period at the beginning of 2020 where by the summer we were like I think we can do this safely and let’s get this rolling again.
Adam Stoker: [00:27:40] Good. Do you feel like, from a volume standpoint, you’re starting to see those numbers come back? Obviously, you can’t operate at the full capacity, but in the capacity, you’re able to, are you seeing that demand resurface?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:27:51] Yeah, some of it is. You can tell it’s not the full potential. You can tell you’re still not getting the full amount that you were. We won’t really know what that looks like compared to 2020 until we’re deeper. We are still early into 2021.
Adam Stoker: [00:28:06] Right.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:28:08] That’s really hard to know. One thing we are very sensitive to is letting the market speak to us. A lot of the decisions I make about how to run the business is by letting the market talk to me. If I start to see more people come up and then I have more offerings. I’ll kind of build it as I kind of see the market change, and that’s where people like CVB are important. It is that you get to communicate with them about what the market’s doing.
Adam Stoker: [00:28:34] Yeah, that was going to be my next question because I think listening to your audience is so critical. I’m glad you guys are doing that. I’m wondering maybe some of the things as you’ve been listening to the audience, what have you learned about your business that maybe you’ve had to pivot or change?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:28:50] Yeah. I think what we learned is luckily we’re in a business that’s not so reliant on brick and mortar that we have to totally shut down. A lot of businesses probably are in a much more dire situation because they’re confined to a certain space to do business where we got trailers of kayaks and vehicles and boats, and we can get out and get away. We can do it pretty safely. Luckily, we were able to adapt in a way that I think a lot of people weren’t able to and luckily our leadership team at Coastal is very good and very cunning. We were able to make these changes. Other people weren’t so lucky unfortunately but that’s that kind of thing.
Adam Stoker: [0029:38] Well the listeners of our show are mostly Convention and Visitors Bureaus or DMOs. As they’re listening, I would love to have you maybe explain to them what you feel like is the most important thing that you need, especially at a time like this from the different destinations that you interact with, and maybe what other guides and outfitters around the country and around the world probably are needing right now from the destination?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:30:06] Yeah, I think the most beneficial thing that the CVB did for us was they kind of gave us a like a real champion for us when we first arrived. When we first got here, I made that relationship with Linda Jeffries here at the CVB. I think she’s gone out of her way to make these introductions, to make us feel welcome, and to develop new relationships between us and other people. If you are CVB, if your new business coming into an area and they have a CVB, I mean I think that’s what made all the difference in the world for us is being able to have someone who helped build these relationships between us and other folks. It’s like having someone who is like, “Oh, welcome.” It’s like I’m going to jump on your thing and we’re going to integrate you into this community. I think that was probably the most valuable thing that came out of the CVB for us when we first got here.
Adam Stoker: [00:31:01] I love that. I think if I’m in Destination listening right now, the question I’d be asking myself is, does every business within our destination feel like they have a champion in our office or an advocate in our office that has their best interest in mind? If you can’t answer yes, that business would know who Linda Jeffries and your destination is, I would make sure that I’m doing the work that it takes so they understand who their champion is and how that person is advocating for them because it sounds like it’s been really valuable for you to have that person.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:31:37] It has been really valuable. It’s a pleasant surprise. A lot of the time I’ll be so caught up in my work and I’ll get just an unexpected call from her. She’s like, “Hey, I got these folks visiting town from this association who want to do this and I think it would be good for you to get to know these folks. It’s amazing to have that kind of person. It’s like you almost feel like she works for you.
Adam Stoker: [00:32:01] Yeah.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:32:02] It’s like, wow, I can’t believe that. It has been very valuable to me.
Adam Stoker: [00:32:08] That’s great. Well, Captain Henry, this is good stuff. I think if some of our listeners want to come down to Beaufort and go experience Coastal Expeditions, what’s the great way or the best way for them to get a hold of you?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:32:16] There are a couple of ways now. We are offering tours out of downtown Beaufort, which kind of explore the riches of the Beaufort River. This would be a tour that focuses on the natural history and the human history of the area and that could be anything from yeah, spotting wildlife like dolphins and migratory fowl, all the way to possibly Spanish colonialism here in Beaufort in the deep, extensive human history of this area, which in Beaufort is way more expansive than anybody knows. This was an area that would have been older than Saint Augustine had the colonial attempts to settle this area actually worked.
And then also, if you’re looking to kind of get out and get that jungle safari experience, then you can come out to St. Phillips Island. We offer a ferry service that launches from Hunting Island State Park.
Adam Stoker: [00:33:12] Okay.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:33:13] That’s a great product. That is a lot of boat experience. Also, we do this kind of safari-style tram ride through the island. It’s an untouched climax maritime forest, where you can tell it’s never been timbered. A lot of the areas have. It’s got these I mean, just big ancient oak trees, and it’s absolutely beautiful. You kind of do a safari-style ride through the island, and then it’s an untouched beachfront, right? It’s never been manipulated. It doesn’t get re-nourished, so it’s very raw. It catches all that energy that hits the island. It’s got that untamed look about it. If you’re trying to go do that kind of experience then St. Phillips is probably a pretty good tour for you to hop on.
Adam Stoker: [00:33:57] Great. An actual contact info, website, URL or maybe email?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:34:02] Yeah, the website, will give you the greatest, probably idea of the scope of what it is that we do because we have product all the way from Beaufort all the way up to the Santee Delta. If you’re looking for some tour that happens on this humongous stretch of coastline we’re talking about, we cover, there’s something. If you want a good idea of what all these products are, go to the website.
Adam Stoker: [00:34:24] Okay.
Captain Henry Brandt: [0034:25] It’s very easy to find, but if you need to, we are also happy to take your call if you have any questions.
Adam Stoker: [00:34:29] Is it coastalexpeditions.com?
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:34:30] coastalexpeditions.com.
Adam Stoker: [00:34:32] Okay. Perfect. Well, hey, I can tell you love what you do, Captain Henry. It’s something; it’s fun to see people who love their job. We appreciate you coming on, sharing your experience, and talking a little bit about your business and your relationship with the CVB today.
Captain Henry Brandt: [00:34:48] Yeah, Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Adam Stoker: [00:34:50] Absolutely. Well, thanks, everybody for listening. If you enjoyed today’s content or episode, please make sure that you leave us a rating or a review and other than that, thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.