Archive for September, 2010

NEW Twitter screen capture

The “New” Twitter

I’m so accustomed to using Seesmic Desktop and the Twitter Android app to access Twitter, that I only just realized that I got access to the “New” Twitter via Twitter’s web interface….and I think that it’s pretty cool. I like the ability to see media directly in the page, as well as all the additional information that makes it easier to view the conversations that you are having. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I’d lose out on notifications, I might switch to the new Twitter as my main Twitter interface. However, I still like Seesmic Desktop and will most likely stick with it as my client of choice for now. In the meantime, I’ll keep playing with the new Twitter and at least ensuring that I know how it works and looks – and on that topic here’s my one tip and that is to tighten up the left column on your Twitter background because due to the larger body container (1040px) the left column is now down to a visible width of (potentially, depending upon screen and browser width) under 190px, I’ve set my updated background text area at 185px in width!

Here’s a screen cap of my impressions:

NEW Twitter screen capture

Click image to enlarge.

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Foursquare

This is another post in the ongoing series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts“. The big buzz this past year in social network marketing seems to have been about geo-location. Foursquare is one of the largest of the geolocation centric services with about 3 million users and about 15,000 businesses offering “Special Offers”.

PCMR Foursquare business listing

The key things to note about Foursquare is that while it is still a small social network, it offers businesses a great opportunity to hone in on some of the unique opportunities that geo-location offers. For a ski resort, the business opportunities are pretty much limited to offering check-in specials for customers at on-mountain restaurants. Once a resort claims and or creates their venue page using the Foursquare business management tools, they can offer specials based upon (copied from the Foursquare biz page):

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days) (“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times. (“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins. (“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special. (“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)

There are lots of opportunities to get creative with ways to drive customers to various on-mountain restaurants with these options, but I’d love to see more ways to drive users to ride a certain lift – by having users check-in at the base of top of said lift, or perhaps visit, and check-in at, every terrain park, but I don’t see these options currently available in the base venue package on Foursquare. There are additional opportunities that brands that Foursquare has special arrangements with, see: http://foursquare.com/thedewtour, http://foursquare.com/visitpa and http://foursquare.com/redskinsdotcom to see some examples.

The drawbacks to using a service like Foursquare is that all of the ways to interface with it require a web connection and using most of the mobile apps also requires a GPS or other location acquisition method . Only so many skiers and riders will have devices with them that allow for this and as I’ve discussed before, how many people will want to be pulling a phone out of their pocket on the slopes and is this something that really adds (or detracts) to the guest experience on-mountain?

To wrap up, I haven’t seen any examples of ski resorts using Foursquare, even ones that are just using the specials tool, have you? Let us know in the comments if you have.

Holiday Travel

Winter 2010 Holiday Travel Forecast

Holiday TravelFollowing up on MTRiP’s recap of summer mountain travel data, it’s now time to look forward with Bing Travel’s Holiday Travel Forecast for Winter 2010, I’ve pulled out a couple of highlights of interest to resort marketers:

  • Airfares for Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years are slightly down if not even with prices from 2009 and 2008.
  • As airlines have cut capacity and are now filling a larger percentage of seats, fares will start to increase for those who wait.

In addition to these points, Bing offered up a number of tips for “Smart Holiday Travel”:

  • Watch early October for holiday price drops. Since 2006, most Christmas itineraries saw price drops in the first two weeks of October. If you can’t book that early, there will likely be more deals. Bing Travel data has found that there are 50 percent more price drops during the holidays than other times of the year. Travelers are advised to set up Bing Travel Fare Alerts, which include price predictor, or subscribe to the Bing Travel RSS feed to help you catch elusive deals.
  • Be flexible. Travelers can save big by avoiding the busiest travel days during both Thanksgiving and Christmas. For example, you can save more money by shifting your outbound travel date for Christmas. More specifically, avoiding the popular Wednesday or Thursday before Christmas departure days can save approximately $15 to $70 per ticket. Use the Bing Travel Flexible Travelgraph to help determine the best time for you to travel.
  • Use available tools. Most airfare price drops last less than 48 hours, so travelers need to be ready to jump when a fare falls. Travelers with specific travel dates in mind and for whom flexibility isn’t an option are advised to set Bing Travel Fare Alerts that will notify them if the fares for their trips drop, allowing them to catch the best fares.
  • Avoid travel surcharges. Many airlines have imposed holiday surcharges. Making airfare and hotel purchases in the fall as opposed to waiting until closer to the holidays is the best tactic to avoid these charges. In addition, many airlines charge extra fees for a variety of things, from checking baggage, having overweight baggage, receiving pillows or meals, and getting aisle or exit row seats. Make sure to be well informed about your airlines’ fees.
Photo credit: Flickr user bortescristian

Summer 2010 was a Good Summer

The end of summer is fast approaching and according to recently published numbers published by MTRiP, it was a good summer for mountain travel reservations. Both occupancy and ADR were up from summer 2009, but the interesting number is that this is still only about halfway back to where things were in summer of 2008. Here’s the hard data:

…according to MTRiP, occupancy this summer* ended up at 37.3 percent, up from 35.1 percent in 2009, but down from its 41.2 percent in 2008. MTRiP’s average rates for these same time periods showed some improvement in 2010 from 2009, with rates ending up at $169 from $166. However, rates failed to match the 2008 average of $176. While June seemed pretty lackluster, both July and August were strong.

*Based on historical data as of Aug 31, 2010 for reservation activity in June, July and August at MTRiP’s participating properties.

This is certainly a ray of good news and hopefully it serves as a springboard to ever better numbers for winter 2010-2011.

Stay tuned for a look at winter 2010 holiday forecast coming up next.

Photo credit: Flickr user mkhandekar

Where to go for Birthday Dinner?

This post is a quick chance for you to help choose where I should go for my birthday dinner this Friday. Quick admission, my b-day isn’t until next Wednesday, but that’s “school night” and it was a lot easier to snag a baby sitter on a weekend night! Here’s how you can help me, choose from on of the local restaurants on this list, or write in one you think we should try:

Update – I’m closing the poll at 3pm today (9/17/10) so hurry and vote if you still want to. Also, we do have 2 write-ins for Spruce and 1 for Mustang (I can’t figure out how to make those show in the show results area).

Final Results – It’s a tie between Chimayo and Spruce with the all important tie-breaker, a co-worker’s vote going to Chimayo. Thank for playing and next time I’ll figure out a way to ensure that write-ins are somehow made visible! 🙂

Out of office

Get out of the Office Take 2

Out of officeIt’s great to get out of the office to see what your customers have to say, as I described in the first part of this two part post. However, I think there’s another reason to get out of the office that’s really important – and once again, I’m not going to write about getting out for some turns, as that goes without saying!

In speaking with other people that work in the ski resort industry, I’ve found that there’s a common theme in that there’s almost always some sort of “us vs them” mentality between the “office” and the “operations” people. It can be as minor as good natured back and forth ribbing to as major as turf wars as to who’s responsible for what and even rising to the level of major projects not moving forward due to internal disagreements. Thankfully I don’t have any personal experience with anything aside from the good natured sorts of things, and I hope that with a few good steps I can keep it that way.

It’s important to me to get face time with other people in our company that I need to work with in my various job responsibilities (you’d be surprised what I wind up doing that goes outside the bounds of  the web), it’s certainly much nicer to have a quick chat once in awhile that to just communicate with email, text or phone calls. It’s also a luxury to work at a resort that makes a lot of effort to have all staff get together whenever possible, we have a yearly mountain clean-up day, various team dinners and parties plus there are the typical manager meetings and the like.

Photo credit: Flickr user CarbonNYC
Park Silly Market

Get out of the Office

Park Silly MarketI don’t mean get out and go ski or ride, although that’s always a good idea. I mean get out from behind your computer screen and talk to your customers face to face somewhere outside of .

I spent a few hours this past Sunday at the Park Silly Sunday Market helping to staff our booth at which we were providing information on our season pass and other local programs. The Silly Market is a great weekly festival held on various parts of the historic Park City Main Street area as is a fantastic way to get out and meet customers that I would never otherwise get to chat with. It’s such a different experience to talk to someone face to face as opposed to over the phone or via email or social networks and it can be eye opening to hear what people have to say, across all sorts of topics. Another interesting aspect is that by talking to people in situations like this, it’s easy to learn about what topics you might need to educate yourself more on, like mountain improvements or ski school options.

So, the next time your sales department asks for a hand at a ski show or selling passes at the local swap, take a few hours and help them out because you never know what you’ll learn. Stay tuned for: “Get out of the Office Take 2”.

Austrian Ski Area Warning Sign

Winter Sports and Heart Health

Austrian Ski Area Warning SignAccording to a recent post in eTurboNews, “Skiers and other winter sports tourists who visit the Alps are at increased risk for heart attack due to low temperatures, high altitude and inadequate conditioning for intense physical exertion…”. The article further clarifies that, “The risk is greatest during the first two days of vacation…”, and that “People planning winter sports holidays in the mountains need to prepare themselves with regular exercise beforehand, the study authors suggested. Once at the resort, they should increase their level of physical activity gradually…”.

This is interesting news to me personally in that my wife used to be a cardiac rehab therapist in an earlier career and I know that she has plenty of tips that would range from the exercise regimen mentioned in the article to eating a heart healthy diet. The data cited in this study is European only, but I would suspect that it should translate to the American winter sports traveller as well, perhaps even more so as most Americans that ski or ride live at or near sea level and the average base level of Western ski resorts is far above (around 7-8,000 feet in CO and UT) the average mean altitude of where heart attacks in the study occurred – 4,429 feet.

Without correlating US data, it’s hard to know for sure if there’s similar trending of heart attacks with winter sports tourists, but it would certainly be easy for ski resorts to offer some basic safety information on heart health in terms of pre-trip exercise as well as acclimating and starting physical exertion at altitude at a moderate pace – perhaps a program along the lines of Go Sun Smart would be a helpful first step?

Additional Note : I wrote this post on the morning of September 6 (I try to schedule a few posts ahead of time to make the writing a bit easier by doing it in batches), our family attended Park City’s annual Miner’s Day parade later that morning and wound up steps away from a person who suffered a heart attack while waiting for the parade to start. I hope the best for that person but the freak timing gave me more thought that perhaps there are some things that tourism locales at altitude could do to help educate their guests on the effects of altitude.

Photo credit: Flick user katz2110

Start

Labor Day is the Unofficial Start to…

StartI’ll finish that title, Labor Day is the unofficial start to…the ski resort marketing season.

In the years I’ve worked in ski resort marketing I’ve often wondered a bit about why we started each winter’s marketing cycle when we did. Much of it has been related to the timing of the ski vertical publications – anyone checked circulation numbers lately? Much has also been related to traditional lead times of vacation rental bookings – anyone seen how short lead times have gotten over the past several years? A lot of timing has also been tied to the idea that Labor Day weekend is the “traditional end of summer” and that if a resort is first to market that they may seem some sort of bump in brand awareness and hopefully business over the coming season. Does any of this still hold true, and when is the ideal time for resorts to start their marketing as well as PR efforts?

Certain things like mountain improvement announcements are usually announced earlier in the summer. This is then followed by special package deals for select time frames around Labor Day Weekend. Season pass sales typically are pushed anywhere from mid-summer up through Labor Day weekend. And you can count on a big blitz of PR and marketing as soon as the first major snow storms pass blanket the mountain tops.

I think that the best time for each resort to start their marketing efforts is different, depending upon who their target audience is and therefore upon when their target audience begins to think about their winter plans. I also think that it’s integral in today’s integrated marketing environment to continually test to see if what you thought was the right time might be wrong and vice versa – see my post on testing for more.

This is also topic that we will discuss on #mrktchat tomorrow, so please stop by on Twitter at 3pm MST and tell us what you think Labor Day weekend is the unofficial start of – or just let us know in the comments on this post.

Photo credit: Flickr user iwouldstay

Must Read Presentation Tips

I don’t give a lot of presentations but for the next one that I do I will be sure to incorporate the tips and ideas in this very well constructed SlideShare deck from Jesse Desjardins (hat tip to Graham Robertson for posting), and yes I “Stole it” because I want to create a compelling and fun to follow presentation like it:

STEAL THIS PRESENTATION!

View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.
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