With all the discounting going on in the travel business, I was starting to wonder if I was missing something? My adventure travel colleagues have been laughing at me because I am concerned our industry is becoming commoditized by the Internet. They suggest I just need to drop prices on our trips in order to combat the slow economy and weather the storm. Certainly our volume of travelers are down but its our most elaborate and subsequently expensive trips that are still selling best. Others suggest I “trim some fat” cutting back on services that we provide to shave some costs.
What to do?
After much consideration and number crunching – and no matter how clever I try to be – I cannot justify what I would chop out of our existing Chilko River trips, for example, in order to make it cheaper and hopefully a more attractive “price point”.
Do I fly guests to Williams Lake and bus them 4 hours to save 200 bucks each on charter airplanes? Will that make our trips more appealing? Or how about driving 11 hours from Vancouver instead of flying at all? Then I had an epiphany…
I cannot make the trip less expensive because all the existing components are crucial.
What about trimming our profit? Our margins, which my accountants will back me up on this, are so atrocious that I am already in the “labour of love” or even worse “lifestyle job” category. So shaving profits is clearly not an option unless I want to live in one of our tents.
So the dilemma continues…
My theory is that if your trip is of great quality then people will travel to great ends to participate. This is true in places like Patagonia or the Himalayas so to appease both trains of thought, we are launching a new series of trips.
ROAM Down Home
These are not discounted versions of our existing adventures but rather less expensive trip alternatives in similar or new locales. Our newest surf trip in Ecuador is one of them. It is a great program and utilizes wonderful accommodations like the Canoa Beach House as well as excellent guides.
However the nature of these trip plays to more self-directed opportunities for travelers (that is marketing speak for less included). People can even choose to rent our properties and do everything else themselves (that’s financial speak for making something but doing less). The options for additional upgraded services, if required, are plentiful but not included.
In Peru, 90 percent of our existing clients are opting for the most expensive hotel components on our 2 week lodge-to-lodge trek. Its an outstanding program worth every penny. We would never compromise what we believe it the best way to visit Machu Picchu. But what about all the others who do not travel with us because of costs?
Presto, ROAM Down Home offers a classic Inca trail camping trip with an active tour of the Sacred Valley or river rafting option. No five star hotels or lodge-to-lodge trekking on this trip but an excellent valued experience and the ROAM attention to quality and amazing guides.
Closer to home, we are developing a circuitous 14-day BC Whitewater Explorer trip. World-class whitewater on a number of BC’s best waterways combined with fun party nights in Whistler. Sure there’s a bigger time commitment for traversing across southern BC (instead of charter flights) but we hope to attract a younger demographic or those with more time.
Our new camping-based Chilko Multisport offers 7 days of activities for less than $2000. We still have the elegant Lodge at Chilko as our mainstay but many folks love to camp and soak up the great outdoors.
In the Kootenays, we have the new Nelson Waterfront for vacation rentals or fully-guided multisports offering tremendous value in the marketplace. Our new Lodge at Mabel Lake sleeps 28 people and is about as cozy and down home as a lodge can get at a price most people can afford.
Lets be clear, our deluxe departures and custom trips are continuing to grow and are the heart and soul of ROAM. But at the same time we have recognized that our guests are coming to travel with us in multi-year cycles.
We believe it is a good idea to have other options to satiate their travel needs whether they are going to college or putting kids through college, starting a family or looking for a family reunion spot, starting their first job or planning their retirement.
We think their is a place to ROAM for everyone. ROAM Down Home is a new direction for us and we hope to broaden our appeal. Two years ago I traveled with a pediatrician who owned the largest cigarette chain store in Wyoming . He wanted to open up funeral homes so he would be “truly vertically integrated”. Really. I don’t think we want to take it to that extreme but do believe we can be more responsive to our guests’ needs at any point in their lives. My marketing friends call it a “price point strategy” and my dad always reminds me that you get what you pay for.
That being said, we are excited to offer some great trips at great prices, without compromising ourselves or our exisiting product. Happy Travels from the Crew at ROAM