Paul Regnier has taken groups on trips to experience some of the world’s most stunning ecological wonders in Arizona and Kenya. Now, the Baileys Harbor resident hopes to bring more groups to Door County to soak in the landscape of Wisconsin’s celebrated peninsula.
“In the next year I hope to build a strong Door County base in addition to the trips out of the area,” he said.
His business is niche-marketing oriented, generally working within organizations such as the Sierra Club, university groups, and local establishments like The Clearing. His eco-tours attempt to immerse participants in deeper aspects of the destination.
“We focus on the natural and cultural aspects,” he explained. “We eat good food – local cuisine – and try to support the culture that brought us there in the first place.”
This means eating at family restaurants and staying in independently operated inns and hotels when possible, hiring local guides, even steering his groups to gift shops operated by the park service, because he says for those organizations, every dollar is a difference-maker.
The green buzz in business is palpable everywhere today, but Regnier isn’t just an entrepreneur out to make a buck on a new niche. He carries a Masters degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation and worked as director of the Ridges Sanctuary for 15 years. He’s been leading groups on tours and excursions for 25 years in various capacities.
He has purchased a mini-bus to tour the peninsula and aims not only to bring people into the county but to be of service to those already here. He sees Door County as a natural fit for eco-tourism.
“Especially if it’s done right,” he said. “I’m looking to bring people in to the natural and cultural areas, specifically the nature preserves. Timing comes into play there. Going to Peninsula State Park in July and August is maybe not the best way to show off the park to visitors.”
Regnier said eco-tourism has tremendous benefits for local economies.
“Eco-tourism really has that element of local support. Every time we visit these places they get fees, support. We support local hotels and workers. In Door County, we don’t have the chains. There’s no Clarion Hotels or Holiday Inns, so it’s even easier to do.”
He is hoping to partner his tours with local theater and music venues to add a taste of peninsula culture. And at the end of the day, he hopes the tours support those aspects of the county that form the base of its attraction to outsiders.
“If we didn’t have the Ridges, the five state parks, we’d have a hard time bringing people up here for anything.”
Door County Nature and Travel LLC
PO Box 136