And we’re off!

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Snowmaking and final slope prep

Almost ready…

Ski resorts have been starting their lifts and opening their doors for the 2013-14 winter season and this past weekend, it was time to crank things up here in Park City. It was just a few lifts and a few runs, but it was great to stretch out the ski legs a bit, to take a few runs and to see everyone out and having a great time.

More than anything, opening day is the culmination of many months of planning and effort by many different groups at each resort. From the ops teams who make the resorts function to the sales/marketing teams that got people to show up for the start of the season. As part of a marketing team, I really enjoy watching people on the first few days of the season to see if they’re enjoying their first turns as much as I am and to double-check who they are. I know that the majority of visitors the first few weeks are locals/passholders, but there seem to be more and more vacationers who come out the first weeks of the season. To me, the destination visitors are the ones to concentrate on, to see if they’re from the geographic areas that we’ve messaged and to see what messages are resonating with them.

These first bits of informal feedback usually serve to remind me that ski resorts are not just for the hard-core skiers and riders, in fact it’s the opposite, they’re really for all of us who enjoy getting outside on a cold winter day and spending time with friends, family or simply on their own sliding down a mountain covered in snow…and I for one, am very thankful that we’ve only just begun the 2013-14 winter season.

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New Tools

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It’s amazing how many interesting and fun ideas there are available to experiment with on the web these days. Whether it’s an upcoming social network like Snapchat or new ways to interact with our mobile devices like Google Glass or Samsung Galaxy Gear (ok this one isn’t so exciting, at least to me, but it’s a start).

In the travel world, there have been lots of efforts to create something new and unique and while it’s not  groundbreaking, the new Google Tour Builder tool is easy to use and has lots of opportunity for those willing to experiment and spend a bit of time with it. Check out a tour that I put together in just a half an hour or so this past weekend. It should only take a minute or two to experience and I would love to know your thoughts about the tour as well as about other potential uses for this software, please let me know if the comments on this post.

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Yearly web traffic trends for five major websites

Ski Resort Website Traffic – Can the Peaks and Valleys be Smoothed Out?

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I’ve had this post, “leveling seasonal web traffic with content and SEO” marked in my Evernote blog post ideas swipe file, since it was published back in April of 2010 (seems like it was originally on a different blog then, but I digress). I like Mike’s ideas about trying to even out seasonal traffic to ski resort websites, but I do think it’s something that a ski resort can’t place too much emphasis upon as almost all websites see some sort of fluctuation in their traffic over the course of a year.

To show some examples of this, I pulled some traffic number from the site intelligence service Alexa:

NFL.com
nfl.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how traffic plummets during the offseason, and then there’s one spike during the draft?

MLB.com

131111-mlb-graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not a lot of surprise here either, aside from the fact that there’s no real bump in the offseason for baseball fans, don’t think the baseball draft will ever have the interest of the NFL draft.

Expedia.com

131111-expedia-graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

This traffic graph shows a bit more complicated picture, but one can still make out a clear drop in traffic during the 2nd half of 2012 bumping up in the first part of 2013 and then looking up through the summer travel season.

Sixflags.com
131111-sixflags-graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

This example is probably closest to most ski resorts web traffic (although in opposite seasons) in that Six Flags does the majority of its business in the summer with some business still ongoing in winter, but only at a few of its properties. Most ski resort max out their traffic in the winter but do have some summer activities that drive traffic, just nowhere to the level of winter.

I think it’s great to try to even out the valleys, but if someone isn’t looking to come out in the offseason, or start planning their trip then, it’s futile to try to lead that horse to water, because they’re not going to drink. Instead, focus on creating content that you can seed and launch to best effect as your web traffic starts to build and search engines are looking for fresh, relevant and popular content.

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Email Marketing – Still as Valuable as Ever

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Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 8.42.19 PMThe Park City Chamber Bureau hosted their annual Fall Tourism Symposium this past week and one of the pieces of advice posited by the keynote speaker is one that I think has a lot of merit. She noted that email isn’t being used by travel companies very well. I subscribe to a lot of emails (mostly from Ski Resorts) and most don’t send consistent emails and many go months without communicating with me which really is a missed opportunity in that a person that has opted-in to an email list is someone who wants to hear from you. So if you haven’t already, pull together a content calendar and start sending your emails on a regular basis, not just when it snows big or you have a flash lodging sale.

It’s not just that people have opted-in for your emails, it’s that they now have constant access to their email inbox via their cell phone and tablets. This is one of several points made in, the article Why Email Is Still More Effective Than Social Media Marketing. I think the Social Media part was added in more to capture attention than anything else, but its main points about the effectiveness of email marketing are very salient.

infographic_travel_trends_q3_2013_sojern

Positive Indicators?

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Sojern just released details about travel trends in the 2013 3rd quarter and they look positive for winter mountain destination as we head into the 2013-14 winter travel season.

First off, this was the first quarter all year in which women traveled more than men, which Sojern notes could be due to more family travel, which would bode well for ski resorts as the revenue potential from families is higher than from any other type of traveller.

Secondly, leisure travel continue to look strong, outpacing business travel at a 72 to 28 percent clip, not a lot of business travel to ski resorts.

Third, travelers are booking with greater lead times, 31 percent booked flight more than 30 days in advance versus 24 percent in the second quarter which is also a good sign for destination mountain resorts which look for visitors that stay longer who tend to book with longer lead times.

Finally, in the below infographic, note that “groups” (3 or more people) nearly doubled from quarter 2, again a simple but positive stat.

Download the full report or check out some other interesting tidbits below:

Blogroll image photo credit: Flickr user jonrawlinson
Google Analytics Academy

Get Some Google Analytics Fundamentals While You Can

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Google Analytics AcademyIn the dynamic world of digital marketing it’s vital to always be looking to continue learning, as well as brushing, up on your knowledge of the digital space. Here’s a great way to do this with basic analytics. The Google Analytics Academy is a fantastic resource to either refresh or build on your digital analytics skills, but you’ll have to hurry as it’s only available until October 30, 2013 (at least this installment of it). Head to https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/register and get cracking. The course consists of six full units of digital knowledge and, as a bonus, there’s a Google + Hangout (sorry again super last-minute) this Tuesday morning with Justin Cutroni and Avinash Kaushik (if you don’t know who they are, then you really need to attend) which is sure to be full of valuable knowledge above and beyond that to be found in the course.

They note that there will be more of these courses in the future, but none are currently scheduled, so hustle if you want to get in on this great series. Enjoy!

And guess what, if you get through the course and score at least 80% on the Final Assessment they’ll even generate a nifty document for you that looks just like this (now get cracking!):

 Digital Analytics Fundamentals

snow-shark

Avalanche Sharks?

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I can’t help but wonder if #AvalancheSharks will get as much Twitter buzz as #Sharknado, judge for yourself in this trailer:

Thumbnail blogroll image photo credit: Flickr user jakesmome
Crystal Ball

2013-14 Season Predictions

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Crystal BallCrystal ball predictions are usually fun to read and then fun to revisit to see how accurate the predictions were. Since the 2013-14 Winter Season is fast approaching, I figured a few predictions for the season would only be appropriate:

  • As long as the economy doesn’t crash (I am personally very leery of the potential economic impact of congress not getting a budget passes and in particular raising the debt limit ceiling) it will be a solid fiscal year for ski resorts.
  • It will be an average to above average snow year for most areas around the country – I’m hoping the past few sub par seasons are enough to ensure this.
  • Consolidation of ski resort ownership will continue – since skier numbers aren’t increasing by large amounts at individual resorts, I would argue that the easiest way for large ski companies to continue to grow is via the purchase of other resorts.
  • Skis and snowboards will continue to evolve – I wonder and hope that there might be a design change like the introduction of 27.5 and 29 inch wheels (standard had been 26 inches) for mountain bikes that will take hold in ski/board design.
  • Digital enhancements will continue to evolve and drive ski resort marketing more and more.
  • There will be unique storytelling campaigns unveiled this season, some will succeed and some will not.
  • The Sochi Olympics will shine a light on winter sports and offer an end of season boost to winter resorts, in no small part due to the fact that Easter is so late this season – April 20, 2014.
  • There will be way to many attempts by ski resorts to jump on a meme bandwagon – case in point, how many Harlem Shake videos did ski resorts create last season?

Ok, there’s my first ski season prediction list – let me know if you think I missed any in the comments and enjoy the 2013-14 season!

Photo credit: Flickr user Larry Kwan
Printing press

Should Ski Resorts be Publishers?

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I found a recent article in AdAge by Ben Elowitz titled, “Brands Should Stop Trying to be Publishers” an interesting concept that could readily apply to most ski resorts. Many ski resorts barely have enough staff to get through their daily work of creating ads/collateral, put on events, host media and create a few videos and post photos of fresh powder and other exciting events. To try to create a consistent stream of blog posts and extra content on some semblance of an editorial calendar will and probably does break the back of a department (or individual) that is already stretched thin.

Printing press

There are examples around of ski resorts creating successful content publishing sections, but these blogs, photo and video series do take a lot of commitment, cash and resources to support them and only the larger and more well-financed resorts can even think about going do this path.

What’s the solution? According to Elowitz it’s to look to curate the content that’s already being created about your brand (resort). Perhaps this is a good idea for the one person marketing teams around, but I would argue that it’s more about blending content created by your resort along with the content that your customers are creating as well…not a new concept (UGM), but one that will certainly allow a resort to “use a chorus to back up your own voice” and assure that everyone is reading from the same page. Save your money, buy a smaller “press” and spend a bit of that time that you otherwise spend on content creation instead on content curation.

Photo courtesy Flickr user oldandsolo
Countdown clock

The Countdown

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Countdown clockAs I type this the clock is ticking down the weeks, days and minutes until the lifts start to spin for the 2013-14 winter season. For ski resorts, like many seasonal businesses, the five months of the winter season make up the majority of their revenues for the entire season so it’s crucial to do the best job possible getting as many people as possible onto the slopes.

For most resorts, ski season begins sometime between mid and late November and runs through mid-April. This doesn’t sound too crazy until you step back and note that the busiest, and most lucrative, time of the winter comes within a month of the season starting – the Christmas/New Years week. This doesn’t sound like too big of a deal, but many resorts will gradually open terrain, lifts and revenue centers like restaurants and shops in the weeks between their opening and the busy holiday week (due to conditions and business levels). This means that they are just getting into full operating mode just as they enter their peak time frame.

So once the opening day countdown reaches zero, in many ways it’s just then starting the countdown to the holiday time, and while a resort can afford to push back its opening day due to conditions, it certainly can’t afford to push back on its holiday business.

Photo credit: Flickr user amagill

 

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