Scavenger hunt firm named tourism startup of the year
A small startup company that helps Ottawa residents and visitors experience bitesized versions of the hit TV show The Amazing Race has been named New Company of the Year at the 2010 Ottawa Tourism Awards.
Urban Quest. com is the brainchild of Amazing Race mega-fan Anthony Woods, who said he has spent considerable time mulling over how to bring the fast-paced TV scavenger hunt to the capital.
His winning formula sees clients, from one person to large groups, choose from a handful of quests. They are provided clues at each location to identify the next place to go. A quest could involve sending groups to Parliament Hill or the Fairmont Château Laurier, among other destinations, to find monuments or pictures in order to decipher clues and determine the next location.
The quests take between 90 minutes and two hours to complete and if things get too difficult, a cheat sheet is included to help people along. At the end of the hunt, participants f ind themselves at a downtown restaurant where reservations are waiting. The restaurant is not included in the price.
Woods said initially he focused on creating an annual day-long competition for teams of scavengers. However, a revelation at a videogame store last year provided him with new direction.
“ If you think about how major video games are introduced, the first thing they do is sell the walkthrough guide with the game,” he said. “That totally changed the business model for us.’’
Based on the video-game model, Woods decided to make his quests more of a personal walk-through. “Instead of a one-day super event, we made it much more family-oriented. We wanted to take reality TV experiences and make them available for the common man.
“I am pretty pleased. The take-up and the response has been extremely positive.”
Woods said with little marketing UrbanQuest. com has sold more than 100 quests, at a cost of around $ 20 each, to hundreds of participants. The company officially opened for business in August 2009.
Quests can be printed off of the company’s website and those pages can be carried to each clue point downtown.
Woods said by this summer there should be six quests available for Ottawa scavengers.
He is also expanding to Toronto with two quests.
UrbanQuest. com was given its award during a gala dinner ceremo- ny held at the Casino du Lac-Leamy Thursday.
The award for Innovation of the Year was given to Tours of Parliament-Library of Parliament, which encouraged book lovers to take tours of the facility.
The 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, which was held at Scotiabank Place in December 2008 and January 2009, won the Event of the Year Award.
The Ottawa International Airport Authority and Air Canada were given the Tourism Partnership of the Year Award for setting up direct flights between Ottawa and Frankfurt.
John Cosentino, general manager of Albert at Bay Suite Hotel and Best Western Victoria Park Suites, won the Tourism Volunteer of the Year award and Dick Brown, executive director of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, was named Tourism Leader of the Year.
The event was also used to honour others who have already received awards from Ottawa Tourism over the past year, including 2009 Star of the City, Sampson Nabigon, Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing Award winner Alec Ross and Ottawa Tourism Scholarship winner Debbie Morris.