Our new business member Foxtrail Canada is a popular outdoor self-guided adventure that combines treasure hunt, escape games and sightseeing and that has been around in Switzerland for 20 years. After recently expanding to other European countries, for the first time the Fox is now coming to North America – to Vancouver.
Foxtrail was born in 2001 in Thun, Switzerland and has ever since established itself as a popular leisure activity for family, friends, tourists, schools and companies. Participants are given clues and explore their way through the city to find hidden messages, crack secret codes and solve riddles. This combination of treasure hunt, sightseeing and outdoor escape game has been a popular activity for groups of all ages. Twenty years later, there are nearly 60 active trails in Switzerland in 20 different areas. After the big success in Switzerland, expansions to France, Finland, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom followed.
Today, for Foxtrail’s 20th anniversary the fox is exploring a new continent and currently establishing its business in Vancouver. Foxtrail Canada is currently selecting possible locations for installing the clues (stations) for two trails in Vancouver that are planned to be launched in early 2022. We invite you to check out the brand new Canadian website to follow along their journey.
We had the chance to talk to Tiago Sousa Lage, Managing Director at Foxtrail Canada.
How was the idea of Foxtrail born?
Foxtrail’s history is a family story. Long before Foxtrail became the well-known experience for leisure activities and company events it is today, it was a simple but ingenious idea of the Wiederkehr family.
The brother of Foxtrail’s founder lived in the USA and would travel to Switzerland only for short stays, visiting the family. During the holidays he looked forward to lots of fun and adventures with the family and children. Any excursion to small villages, lakes or mountains, however, did not satisfy his creative mind. It had to be something special – an astonishing paper chase with many surprises. Shortly after, they succesfully did their first paper chase in Thun, Switzerland. Afterwards, it became clear that the excitement, entertainment and team fun was great and long-lasting for all family members, no matter how young or old. Why shouldn’t far more people benefit from all that time and effort to set up the adventure and from those creative ideas?
How different is a Foxtrail experience from other known activities such as escape rooms?
Foxtrail has a very strong combination of features that really make it stand apart and that have been key ingredients for the huge success of this concept and this brand. First of all, when you see Foxtrailers in action, you will likely not be seeing them holding their phones. Instead they will have a set of printed instructions and clues to help them solve each puzzle, one at a time, until they reach the final station. This offline concept bundled with trails designed to take you off the beaten path, allows for more excitement and a true exploration sensation. Swiss are known for many things, including their creativity and engineering, and trust me, the puzzles people will have to solve and the objects they will have to play with are simply phenomenal ideas. Lastly, if you add an outdoor experience with no specific time required to complete the activity, you will end up having a fascinating and enjoyable experience with your family, friends or colleagues.
Why should people participate in a Foxtrail activity?
Our motto says it all: “Play, Think, Move”. Having fun, activating your brain power and staying active can be seen as the three legs of the stool.
In more detail, there are several advantages for participants. You will socialize with your friends, family or colleagues and teamwork will be literally required to solve some specific puzzles. The latter can also be leveraged by companies who are keen on having their human capital engaged in interesting outdoor activities, especially these days after this long pandemic disruption.
The fact that you will be seldomly asked to use your phone, perhaps not even a single time after you check-in at the start of the trail, will allow for everyone to be more present, to soak it all in, the ups and downs of moving ahead in that fun quest. These days, this unplug factor is something that we take very seriously and strive to keep alive as long as our customers tell us they really enjoy exploring the old-fashioned way; some sheets of paper and a pen… and off you go to explore your city.
Something that drew my attention during my recent visit to other Foxtrail locations in Europe was that there are HR managers assessing groups of candidates as part of the hiring process while doing a Foxtrail. This really tells how engaging this experience can be and also how revealing from a team dynamics perspective.
Why did you decide to expand to Vancouver?
Vancouver is a vibrant metropolis with active and adventurous people. The Pacific Northwest has the most comparable lifestyle to Switzerland in North America, particularly British Columbia. The magnificent urban landscape allows for unique combinations of city trails, nature trails or both. This was definitely a no-brainer for us, and we could not be more excited to pin our first flag in North America in this gorgeous city.
How did you build up your network in BC/Canada?
We started with the most obvious link, through the Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce. As a Swiss based venture, it made all the sense to leverage not only their experience in supporting business development efforts but also their distinct pride in ensuring that we, as a newly incorporated organization in British Columbia, have a partner fully vested in our success. So far, it has proven to be extremely valuable to us. We are hoping that as we launch the first trails in Vancouver and gradually increase our footprint, we are able to give something back. This is underpinned by one of my personal mantras – always a two-way street and always very naturally done in order to be sustainable.
Through other initial efforts, we were also able to be in touch with the Swiss Consulate in Vancouver and the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia. These are two good examples of stakeholders who have already contributed positively to the start of this journey in Canada.
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What are the biggest challenges for your business?
Undoubtedly, all the partnerships that we will need to build in order to provide an attractive mix of locations for our quizzes and puzzles throughout the city. They will be done with both public and private stakeholders and by partnerships I mean a more formal or informal authorization to install something for people to play with or simply to read or interpret in the stakeholder’s outdoor or indoor location.
Can you give us any hints about where the trails in Vancouver will be located?
I can share that the Fox will surely not be playing too far away from Downtown Vancouver. Another thing I can reveal is that this city is more than ripe for disruption when it comes to self-guided walking tours. The city is extremely rich in terms of different urban landscapes, and we will take advantage of that. Maybe the first trails will contemplate some landmarks and not exclusively the off-the-beaten-path concept more prevalent in Switzerland.
Foxtrail Canada is currently looking for local Partners. Who can become a partner and what would be the benefits?
We expect to establish partnerships with both public and private stakeholders. Our website lists all sorts of partners and I can give you a few examples: cities, municipalities, tourism regions, museums, shops, malls and restaurants.
The way it works is that as we design ideal locations for Foxtrail stations (stops) we will often need to install something for Foxtrailers to read, interpret or even to play with. Our partners benefit being part of a trail as they are exposed to Foxtrailers which can lead to additional traffic, future visits or in some cases it can even have a positive economic impact due to purchases of goods or services. More traffic will generate more awareness about a specific location and I would be remiss not to mention that being associated with a cool, young and vibrant brand such as Foxtrail, can go a long way in our participants mind when remembering their experience and which places they had fun.
Thank you, Tiago, for taking the time to give us some interesting insights!
Photo credits: Foxtrail