A no-fumes, no-noise, all-electric harbour tour experience
Halifax Harbour Tours offers a truly unique harbour experience. They present visitors to Halifax’s iconic waterfront a unique, environmentally-friendly harbour tour. Their boat, The Violet Mac, and their first Captain, Colin Smith, along with their knowledgeable tour guides carry groups of up to eight passengers on a no-fumes, no-noise, all-electric cruise around the harbour.
Colin Smith and Glenna Thornhill, a retired couple from Dartmouth, launched Halifax Harbour Tours in 2019. Colin’s entrepreneurial spirit wasn’t ready to retire so he set out to conquer the harbour.
Colin designed and build a custom, all-electric vessel that could operate commercially and carry small groups. He hunted down the hull, sourced the motor, consulted the engineers, and The Violet Mac was born. Having years of experience on the water in various roles, including as a tour guide, his vision didn’t stop at the boat. Halifax Harbour Tours’ raison d’etre was more about offering something different, something unique for their guests.
Glenna meanwhile has handled much of the management of the business. She has balanced overseeing regulatory compliance, hiring and managing staff, business administration, and meticulous attention to guests needs with great skill. The results is unmatched guest satisfaction, extraordinary guest reviews, and a new business that run like a well-oiled machine – except this machine needs no oil.
The greatest asset of an all-electric boat is that it is quiet and pollution free. Their shared commitment to creating a unique, relaxing guest experience has seen the company grow which each season.
The first year was about turning a boat into a commercially-viable, passenger-carrying vessel and building a brand and business around it. There was a lot of testing, building, and engineering. We were with them on the dock more than once helping and getting our hands dirty, so to speak. Our partnership began in 2019, we created the brand, established a core social presence, and developed a website with a robust online booking engine. To this day, our booking solution handles all of their bookings and almost all of their transactions. The boat hit the water for a few commercial tours in the fall, a little later than expected but in great shape.
2020 posed challenges that everyone knows too well. Needless to say, there wasn’t much of a season as most parts of the world faced lockdowns, international tourism was a bust, and locals either opted to stay home or were legally required to. For our part, we encouraged and supported a digital-first approach to marketing and operations from day one, leaving Glenna and Colin uniquely positioned to focus on COVID-19 protocols while their guests could safely discover their service and complete their booking online. The Violet Mac booked and carried passengers safely and the season was—all things considered and by any reasonable measure—a success.
With a little hope and hard work, the 2021 season was able to start sooner than 2020’s, the boat was able to stay in the harbour a little longer. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all of the businesses on the waterfront, they enjoyed a more successful season than the Violet Mac had yet seen. We ran more ads, engaged with other local businesses on social media, redesigned and expanded the website to add more about private tours and corporate offerings.
The 2022 season is the first without public health restrictions, and with a full tourist season, and it started with a boom.
We continue to work with Glenna and Colin to grow their business and we’re delighted that our services have contributed to a season with more sold out tours than ever imagined!
Now, don’t tell Glenna, she still hopes that retirement might one day mean retirement. But we’re, selfishly, hoping The Violet Mac is joined by another all-electric boat next year. Then, even more guests can experience Halifax Harbour Tours unique service. This business and Glenna and Colin are a perfect example of how Halifax can put its best foot forward as we grow as a city and welcome new guests, residents, and grow new businesses.