Archive for September, 2011

Airline Fee Model for Ski Resorts?

Airlines are raking it in with their fees these days…$1.38 Billion (for baggage and reservation changes) in the first three months of this year alone! Now, I don’t agree that airlines pay no taxes on the fees they collect from things such as checked bags, assigned seats, itinerary changes and those lovely ‘snack packs’. In particular, I find a statement from Spirit Airlines’ CEO Ben Baldanza in his testimony before the House Transportation Committee that checked bags are “not essential” to travel. Well Mr Baldanza, for anyone going on a vacation other than to a nudist colony, you might want to pack along a change or two of clothes, and if you’re taking a ski vacation I can think of a few other items to pack along as well.

This did get me to wondering if perhaps the airline fee-based model could work for the ski resort industry. In fact, here are a few ideas for fees that ski resorts could charge as well as a “lift ticket”:

  • Parking Fee – how about charging even more for people who don’t pre-pay for their parking?!
  • Man-Made Snow Access Fee – this would a great revenue producer in the early season, if you don’t pay, you don’t get to ski on the runs with man-made snow
  • Grooming Fee – those fancy grooming machines aren’t cheap and the people who drive them don’t work for free, so why not a fee to ski the groomed runs
  • Terrain Park Fee – jibs and jumps need a huge amount of building and maintenance
  • Mountain Evacuation Fee – I figure this could apply to any number of things, from toboggan rides to lift evacs
  • First Tracks Fee – for those who adhere to the “No friends on a powder day rule” and can afford to buy their fresh tracks
  • Front of the Line Fee – lift-line cutting fee for those who hate to wait
  • Gear Fee – you can ride the lift, but if you want to bring along a ski, pole or snowboard…pay up

What do you think about this shift to à la carte based pricing in the travel industry? Is it good, bad and what other crazy fees do you think a ski resort could charge for?!

Photo Credit: rcmaclean on Flickr
Facebook Places Editor

Fake Reviews and Listing Errors

With increasing traffic coming to ski resort websites and even people arriving at resorts directly from sites such as Google Places, Yelp and Trip Advisor, it becomes all the more important to make sure the data on those sites is as accurate as possible. In several recent articles, there has been discussion about the growing trend of information on crowd sourced sites such as these being inaccurate, whether by accident or via a more malicious reason.

Facebook Places EditorAnother element crowding is in the fact that so many people are randomly adding check-in type information that duplicates are unavoidable. A great example of this is Facebook Places (changing to something else soon I’m sure), but in just a few editing sessions on the Facebook Places Editor app, I’ve updated 275 places (almost all duplicate entries) just in and around Park City, yeah I’m a bit biased in trying to help out the local community keep our data clean.

Here are a couple of fake reviews and listing errors stories:

  • Trip Advisor’s Fake Reviews
  • Closed in Error on Google Places
  • In a personal example, I dealt with a slew of bogus single star reviews on a Google Places business page which significantly lowered the overall review, not a fun situation when the entire “flag” process is automated and undocumented. To this day, I’m still not sure if it was a malicious effort or simply a database glitch.
The takeaway from this as a ski resort marketer (or any marketer or business owner/representative) is to find your brand online and monitor, check and repeat. And if you see something amiss or awry, get on it. If you have an experience or thoughts to add to this, let us know in the comments.

Favorite ski or snowboard memory from growing up.

As the fall colors have come out in full force and the countdown to the coming winter season opening drops from months to weeks, it’s a great feeling of anticipation, but also one of remembering winter’s past. In particular those memories of sliding on snow in the valleys and hills on Minnesota…

  • Some of my first recollections of sliding on snow are cross-country skiing on trails around my childhood home of Rochester, Minnesota in under bitter cold gray skies. But, I got the downhill bug on a little molehill which was called the Rochester Ski Hill and consisted of a warming hut, a Poma lift and two trails which I remember (not as fondly) side stepping to help groom them out. I also recall a lift ticket was something like a buck, but that little slice of fun closed many, many years ago.
  • I loved school ski trips to the little resort in the Mississippi River valley called Mt Frontenac, now just a golf course, where I learned to make turns with tips from my elementary school teachers and figured out how to ride a tow rope and a t-bar (after plenty of trial and error).
  • Finally, I have lots of great memories of making turns down the slopes of Welch Village (also in the Mississippi River bluffs) with the Rochester Ski Team and learning how to rip turns around bamboo stuck in the snow – I also learned that it’s not a good idea to straddle a flush (thank goodness I watched someone do this). But we also learned a lot of other great skills, like how to time our breaks in the lodge on sub-zero days so that someone was always coming down the course with the rest of us shivering in front of the heaters to warm up again. Of course, this is also where I had my first powder day, a 6 inch ‘dump’ that we skied all evening, even though we had no clue about what we were doing.
Ah, those memories are enough to get me revved up for the coming season…what about you, drop a ski or snowboard memory in the comments!
Photo credit: Welch Village Twitter backgound
Ski Resort Ownership Timeline

Who are the Big Players in the Ski Resort Business

The September 2011 issue of Ski Area Management (SAM) Magazine, included a well executed document showing ownership changes of North American Ski Resorts. It’s amazing to see all the changes over the past 18 years, seems like only yesterday ASC was buying Wolf Mountain, but wow, I guess it really was back in 1997! Take a peek (click the image below for the PDF) and be sure to check in w/SAM for updated versions:

Ski Resort Ownership Timeline

Flight news and more flight news

Is it me, or does it seem like there’s suddenly a flurry of interesting news in regards to airlines and flying. Now, for many ski resorts, this probably isn’t that big of a deal, but for destination resorts, I think it’s news to keep an eye on.

First off, is the fact that Google has finally unveiled their first integration of their purchase of ITA Software in their new Flight Search. I do like the speed and user interface (super clean, but with some real guts as you click down), but am pretty disappointed in the quality of results – as an example, it’s adamant that I can’t fly from SLC to RST (where my parents live) even though I get 1400 results when searching the same route on Kayak? In any case, the features are slick and are better presented than anything I could describe in this slick video:

The second, and nowhere near as ‘neat’ news, is that airlines are planning cut back on their flight capacity, more than usual for the upcoming winter months, with even Southwest Airlines holding off on expanding its fleet at all. The potential for higher fares is not as big as threat to destination ski resorts as the fact that it will be even harder for ski and snowboard vacations to find empty seats to even get to the resorts. Here’s hoping the airlines are judicious in their winter flight planning and keep plenty of capacity to all the winter destination gateway airports…

Memories in the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is one of those cool internet tools that seem to pop up only once in a while and make you go “why haven’t I used that site in the past — months/years?!” I recently had a quick Twitter exchange with @slopefillers and @mehwolfy in which we compared a few ski resort websites from the Archive. After that I had to sneak a peek back to what the resort website looked like when I started managing the web properties back in 2003 – there are a couple of broken images and it’s a really slow load, but it’s all here:

And then, I looked back at the first site archived for PCMR:

I love the links at the bottom to update your browser – particularly the one to update to IE 3 – ah, how time flies.

Red Bull and the Art of Flight (Promotion)

The energy drink company Red Bull is an impressive marketing and promotion machine and their latest winter sports effort, “Art of Flight” is another example of how well they bring a media product to market, in fact, I’d say it might better bet titled “Art of Promotion”.

The movie officially launches today, September 8, available via download on Apple iTunes or ordering a DVD or Blu-ray disc version, but Red Bull has been running TV ads for at least the past week teasing the movie and they’ve certainly got some good PR efforts going as well as I noticed this article in the local Salt Lake paper this morning promoting the movie as well. And they’ve also kicked it into gear via social channels, even going as far to use Klout Perks as a way to get more exposure for the movie.

Is Red Bull’s strategy working? Well, it got me to write this post and peep their teaser – in fact, check it out for yourself:

Labor Day Travel Infographic

Labor Day Travel Infographic – Winter Travel Indicator?

Looking at this Labor Day Travel infographic from VisibleTechnologies, it’s interesting to see what their social media monitoring platform has pulled out for travel patterns for this holiday weekend. I do wonder about the 4% of people going skiing this weekend, but perhaps that’s a good indicator of what the upcoming winter ski season will be like, what do you think?

Labor Day Travel Infographic

Source: Visibletechnologies.com

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