Forty years ago, in 1982, Beth Hatt moved to Saint John from Fredericton. One of the first things she did to explore her new home was a city tour. This experience inspired her to offer a different product for visitors in the Saint John Region. Aquila Tours was born, and today the company is a leading provider for cruise training and development around the world.
Beth shares how finding your niche is key to success and when cruise arrived at Port Saint John 35 years ago – the Aquila team found theirs.
“About 15 years ago, we decided Cruise was what we were best at, so we divested of everything else,” Beth said. “It was the cruise lines that came to us and said whatever you’re doing in Saint John is really good. They asked us to model and teach it, so we launched the Centre for Cruise Excellence, and we haven’t looked back.”
Although the team at Aquila now spends a lot of their time working around the globe training tour guides and developing cruise destinations, Saint John is their living lab, where they are still on the ground learning and working to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry.
Beth said a big part of Aquila’s success has to do with working collaboratively with the people who make her community unique.
“I really believe in growing leaders,” she said. “There’s been a lot of strong women that have passed through here, and we are still very close. Mentoring is what I love to do, which is why I enjoy teaching. I never thought I would be a coach or teacher, but when it came to tourism and travel – it’s become my love.”
And there is no slowing down as Beth reflects on what is next.
“Why would I retire?,” she laughed.
Today, Aquila has 11 on the team year-round and over 50 seasonally, and Beth has two partners leading the growth alongside her. A second generation is continuing to bring unique perspectives and develop the increasing demand for industry training. Beth’s daughter Danielle Timmons and Melanie Colpitts, who started as a tour guide at Aquila in 1992 are managing partners – both bringing years of experience and knowledge to the leadership team.
As they look to the future, Beth shares how her team is what makes her proud.
“We went from greeting people on the pier to developing PowerPoints and Zoom webinars during the pandemic,” she said. “We never skipped a beat.”
And today, the Aquila team is also working to develop the hospitality talent industry.
“We volunteer to speak at schools at home and in the countries we work in, to teach our future generations about cruise as a career, and not just about the jobs onboard as crew, but also the economic impact that tourism brings to the region,” Beth said.
Aquila continues to extend their reach and shift to meet the various needs of their global clients. For Beth it’s the lived experiences that provide the most value, and she looks forward to continuing to learn and grow the business from the core of the Saint John Region.