Welcome to the low season. It’s time to dust off those 2017 strategies, review results and start preparing for the next 12 months
Suddenly the days are getting shorter again, and here in the Southern Hemisphere we realise that Winter is indeed, coming. That means that the peak season is now done and dusted for another year, and we know that for any business working in tourism, that there is never a time to sit still.
Over the coming weeks, we are going to share tips on how to review and prepare your attraction or tour operation for the next peak season. But before we can charge ahead making plans and implementing change, we must stop and reflect.
Reflect on the the past 12 months, the highs and lows, and identify what things could be tweaked to help your business work more efficiently. Now is most opportune time to do it, as it is the maximum period before next peak season, so any process changes can be implemented with plenty of time for your staff and yourself to adjust.
But how do we reflect in a constructed way? A good way is to gather your team for a half day meeting to review your results. This is not simply about the dollars that came in, but also operationally - what worked well and what didn’t.
Before we head into the meeting, you and your team need to do some homework. Gather those results, pull the necessary reports and take them with you.
Review your sales mix
The easiest thing to look at first is your sales mix. Where was the business coming in from? Was there any distributors that have increased/decreased significantly. It is always beneficial to review your sales mix as it can highlight whether you have put “all your eggs in one basket” which is always a red flag. A strong and diverse sales mix means that if one distributor closes or a market suddenly recedes significantly, then your business won’t be impacted too much.
Make sure you are up to date on the details of your source markets - what is their economic situation and forecast? Are there anything politically that is happening that could impact people travelling and how is your currency sitting against theirs? Always speak with your NTO as they often know what is happening can help build out your knowledge and speak to your inbound tour operators who work in that market as they often pass on great information that can help.
This is also the time to review whether there are any new market opportunities available. Does your product need to be tweaked to suit this market or do you need some product development specifically for this market. Has there been any new distributors enter the marketplace to reach out to?
How are your direct sales going? Front Gate sales as well as online? Have these grown on decreased. What is impacting results? Are there any opportunities to further grow revenue through packaging options such as in-attraction experiences to sell direct?
Review your rates
This is the time to review whether your rates are still profitable. Have any costs increased over the past 12 months that need to be taken into consideration. Is there some large expenses forecasted in the coming 12 months that need to be accounted for. We have posts on reviewing your rates previously here which should be able to help you.
Remember that your nett rates must always have a profit margin included. If your largest client brings you 50000 people per year and you have only added $1 profit margin, then you are only making $50k. Not a huge amount of money to take home.
Always remember, that if you increase rates beyond CPI, then you will be required by your trade partners to highlight the reasons for this - what additional value will their guests receive? Or if it’s due to significant increased operational costs, you can highlight this to them.
Review your product
Analyse each product offering and the pax numbers against it and compare it against the year prior. Have any of these numbers spiked or retracted? For the tours or in-attraction experience who have retracted, it’s time to review what are the reasons why this product could be declining - how is it being marketed and distributed? Who is the target market for this product and is the experience meeting expectations of this market?
If a product is not performing and the above has been reviewed, you then have to make a decision to whether continue this product or what changes need to be made in order to increase bookings once again.
Review your operations
It is always handy to go into this part with a plan. There are often quite a lot of different people involved with different issues that they wish to discuss. Rather than it turning into one big complaint session, go department by department and allow them to highlight what did work (first) and what isn’t working (second) and then ask them, “what do they think would assist in making what isn’t working well to be more efficient or effective?”. Write it up on a whiteboard for everyone to see. Quite often other departments are involved, so they might be able to assist.
Finance are having to make multiple distributor invoice adjustments each month with is making reconciling and end of month lengthy and difficult. They often find out the invoice is incorrect after they have sent it to the distributor who’s accounts team highlight the error there. Finance then have to send it to the Sales team to review and authorise the correction before sending out the corrected invoice. What should be a simple task has now taken 3 days.
Sales then will also express frustration at this as they have to authorise multiple adjustments each month (which they find is not a priority of their time) and also it is embarrassing to have to keep apologising to their client for the multiple errors. They have also loaded the rate in the system so they are frustrated at the Front Gate and Reservations staff for consistently getting it wrong.
Front Gate and Reservations teams are also frustrated as they have over 250 distributor partners rates that they have to get correct each and every time these tickets and bookings arrive. When there is a large line waiting to get through, they are often putting in what they think it is quickly rather than the cumbersome process of scrolling through the the distributor list all trying to get the right rate. Some have different rates for FITs and Groups and it’s just so much to remember especially when the pressure of a long line in front of them.
This issue highlighted by finance actually impacts three departments and has a flow on effect. So the questions this raises then is:
How can we make it easier for the Front Gate Staff to find and apply the correct rates?
Do we need to simplify what rates we have available?
Is there a way for the booking to be double checked before the invoice is sent to ensure the rate is correct?
These questions may highlight a larger issue at play. It could be lack of communication lines between departments and expectations of each other or it could be that the ticketing system being used is not being efficient in processing distribution tickets and that a new ticketing and booking software solution will solve this problem.
This time of reporting and reflection will allow you to have greater visibility of what is actually happening in your attraction and open up opportunities to refine the great processes and develop plans to tackle the poor processes. It opens communication between departments and allows for greater revenue opportunities to be found.
And then we have a happy team moving forward together.