Great Big Sea frontman promotes province’s uniqueness
© Kevin Higgins photo
NOT ORDINARY – The message musician/actor Alan Doyle had for the delegates at Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual Conference and Trade Show in Gander last Thursday was simple — Newfoundland and Labrador is unique, and it’s this that makes it attractive to tourists. The lead singer for Great Big Sea also passed along some steps of success the band has followed during the past 21 years.
Alan Doyle has travelled around the world and rubbed shoulders with men and women from all walks of life — that’s just an ordinary day for the lead singer of Great Big Sea.
However, his love and pride for his home province is not so ordinary, and he expressed his sentiments very clearly Thursday to delegates attending Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual Conference and Trade Show in Gander last week.
Doyle, who was born and raised in Petty Harbour, said the best thing about Newfoundland and Labrador is its uniqueness — a uniqueness that makes it stand out globally.
“The more I talk to people (about Newfoundland and Labrador through my travels) the thing I get most often if I ask ‘Why are you going? Why are you here? What’d you think of it?’ They say it’s different…they love it because it’s different,” he said. “That’s so amazing. We have something that’s different than anywhere else. We have something that’s like nowhere else in this day and age, when everything is like everything else.
“I’m blown away with what we (Newfoundland and Labrador) have. The experiences we can offer people in music, geography, weird places to stay, weird meals to eat that they never had before, stories, acting, drama, bars, streets, hikes…the product, the material, the heart of what we sell to people we don’t need to make up, and I think almost everyone (else) needs to do that.”
He said those involved in the hospitality and tourism industries in the province are so lucky to be from a place where the heart of what they sell is readymade.
“It’s key for us (in the tourism business) to be ourselves…people love that and it’s why they come,” he said.
To illustrate the point Doyle recounted a conversation he had with his good friend, Russell Crowe, during one of the actor’s visits to this province.
Crowe is a world-renowned actor, producer and musician, having starred in such films as Gladiator and Robin Hood.
“I wrote a song with Russell, after I asked him why he comes here, and he said he feels like he comes to a different place…he said, ‘I’ve been in Canada (Toronto and Hamilton) and now I’m in a different place…I don’t feel like I’ve been in the same place…I don’t feel that I’ve been anywhere like this place before…That doesn’t happen to me very often’,” said Doyle. “The song (Where We Belong) speaks to the heart of the unique place we’re from.”
Doyle’s address was not just filled with anecdotes, but sprinkled with suggestions.
He offered advice on how people in the hospitality industry can keep visitors coming.
“Make a plan, be organized, and work with people —not have people work for you or you work for people,” he said, referring to some advice that was handed to him, Sean McCann and Bob Hallett from Sean’s father, Ed McCann, when they first formed Great Big Sea.
Doyle compared the entertainment business to the hospitality industry in the fact that every day a hospitality operation is open for business is showtime — just like in the music or movie industries.
“They both have a showtime, and there’s nothing more important than to be ready for showtime,” he said, noting this is something he has been more aware of since becoming friends with Crowe.
“You need to be ready. Getting ready is something you can do nine times out of 10. The most successful people are ready for what they have to do. You can’t fake being ready.”
Doyle told the audience of a recent experience he had requiring a level of readiness from a hospitality operator that proved just what he was saying about readiness brings success.
Just a few weeks ago he was stranded at the Inn when the ferry didn’t run.
However, he said, the operators of the Inn are ready for such incidents, and he was flown to St. John’s so he could meet his other obligations, while an Inn staff member drove his vehicle back to St. John’s.
“They’re ready, and I can’t stress it enough that you need to be ready.”
The third bit of advice he passed along was that in the world of business you need to do whatever it takes to be successful.
“You need to do whatever the days asks of you, not what you would hope the day would ask of, not what you thought it would ask of you, or not what is convenient, ” he said. “People need to do the good and the bad stuff…it’s the small stuff, if they go wrong, that results in big problems. You need to do whatever it takes.”
These have been three of the strategies followed by Great Big Sea, and himself, have followed to earn success.
“I wish you luck with it all,” he said in closing.