SECTION 11
BEST PRACTICES IN RECREATION

Your guests come to your operation on their vacation to relax and to participate in some sort of activity in the great Northern Ontario outdoors. As a business owner, you can improve upon your guest’s recreational experience. New attractions and activities will enhance your guest’s vacation, encourage longer stays, and can attract new customers. To improve on what you and nature have to offer, think in terms of how best to provide additional or new forms of recreation.

There are several ways to make your operation more attractive to both new and returning customers:


1. ADD SERVICES TO YOUR EXISTING OPERATION

Improving recreation at your operation can be done by simply adding more on-sight services or features. Some services can be relatively inexpensive, but some additions can come with a hefty price tag. Depending on your clientele you may consider adding:

A Children’s Playground - Many operations are family oriented and playgrounds are great for younger children. You can purchase a family-type playground from any local hardware or lumber store. Don’t forget the sand box!

A Fitness or nature trail - Take a walk, identify natural features on a self-guided trail with a brochure or signs. The trail may include an obstacle course or fun component to test one’s balance, agility or flexibility. These are natural structures that are simple, long wearing and easy to use.

An Outdoor Sports Areas - Many people enjoy being involved with traditional sports. You many consider setting up one or some of the following:

Winter attractions can include:

A Recreation Centre or Entertainment Centre - This can be a large indoor room or separate cabin where all guests can go on a rainy day. Be sure to have books, magazines, games, and puzzles on hand. Craft supplies, toys, and dress up clothes are great for smaller children. Other options can include a piano, pool table or ping-pong table.

If your operation is more modern, you may consider having more electronic forms of entertainment such as video games, big screen TV, or even a computer with internet access.

A Fitness Centre - Many people workout regularly and want to keep their fitness level up, even while on vacation. Having an on-site fitness centre may make a customer chose your operation over a similar facility. Your fitness centre can be a large room or separate cabin. On site equipment can include: a tread mill, free weights, bench press, universal gyms, etc.

A Hot Tub or Sauna - Many people enjoy these features (especially after a workout in your fitness centre!). Make sure that rules are posted.

Add Extras to your American Plan or charge for:


2. RECREATIONAL PROGRAMMING

Recreational programming can be an important marketing tool. Planned activities create products that guests can relate to and use. Programming can generate new business and certainly, encourage repeat business.

Organizing different types of activities can make a guest’s vacation more memorable. Planned activities can range from such simple things as a weekly fish fry to hiring the services of local speakers, musicians, or story tellers, to create an evening of entertainment. Types of programming will vary with your type of clientele. Programming ideas can include such things as:

Make up a weekly schedule to allow guests time to prepare for the fun. Try to include a contingency activity in case of bad weather. To publicize the events you can:

Consider providing a baby sitting service for your guests in case the adults want a night out.

A couple other nice touches are:


3. ALTERNATIVE TYPES OF RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES

You may consider adding different types of recreational activities at your operation. Listed are some of the newer types of activities that are happening in outdoor tourism. For a brief introduction to some of these activities you can check out NOTO’s Ontario Outdoor Adventure Guide. The web sites will have more, detailed information as to how to become involved with each activity type.

Paddling in Ontario. Canoeing and Kayaking.
http://www.paddlingontario.com

Hiking the Trails of Ontario
http://www.ontariooutdoor.com/results.aspx?pname=hiking&search=trail&aid=p45&gid=p29&language=en

Mountain Biking in Ontario
http://www.ontariooutdoor.com/results.aspx?pname=cycling&search=mountain&aid=p43&gid=p28&language=en

Wildlife Viewing in Ontario
http://www.ontariooutdoor.com/results.aspx?pname=nature&search=wildlife&aid=p48&gid=p30&language=en

ATVing in Ontario
http://www.atvontario.com

Snowmobiling in Ontario
http://www.ofsc.on.ca

(a note of caution - motorized activities and non-motorized activities are usually not compatible)

You may even consider relatively untapped activities such as:

Fly fishing
http://www.ontariooutofdoors.com/fishing/flyfish/

or:

To check out other outfitters that are already offering some of these activities go to:
http://www.noto.net


4. OFFER TOURISM PACKAGES

Packaging means offering your operation, with all its facilities and services, to your guest as an all inclusive per person package. Most Outfitters have some form of the basic types of packaging:

Packaging your facilities and services has many advantages, both to you and your guest:

Setting Package Rates

Setting the rates is the most important decision that you will make during the entire year. It is imperative that you set your package rates by knowing what your actual costs are. The best practice is to consider cost plus profit. You need to have excellent accounting records to best estimate your package pricing.

Basically you determine all of your overhead costs (mortgage, salaries, advertising, taxes, expected profit, memberships etc.) and your variable costs (gas, food, labour, merchandise, heat, hydro, repairs etc.). Determine how many guests and how long they stay during a normal year, then figure out the number of guest days. Divide your total costs by the number of guest days and you should come out with the figure per person per day that you require to meet your expectations. It is best to go through this exercise with an accountant, book keeper or small business professional if you don’t have the experience yourself.

Once you have your package price per person check with the package prices of other, similar quality, similar services, operations. You should be in the same ball-park pricing range.

Rates should increase yearly by at least the rate of inflation.

Packaging other, Off-site Products or Services

To increase the number and types of products that you offer, you may decide to offer packages that go beyond the scope of the traditional hunting and fishing or eco-tourism operation. By creating unique tourism packages you can attract customers that would not usually consider staying at your operation. Listed are some types of packaging that work well in the industry:

Creating a Package

For a step-by-step approach to developing a package, you can obtain a copy of the Tourism Packaging Manual, for Ontario from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.

An on line copy (72 pages) is available at:

http://www.tourismpartners.com/publications/IndustryResources/PackagingManual/indres_packagingmanual_COMPLETE.pdf

For packages where the draw is the attraction or event, you need to build the package around the attraction or event. In some cases, you will have to negotiate with other businesses to secure enough spaces or tickets for your customers. This is usually a win-win situation for all involved and you should be able to negotiate a discount from these businesses for a certain number of guaranteed spaces or tickets.

For all package types you need to ensure that:

To price a package you need to consider all of your costs. Packaging is a tool used by businesses to increase the number of customers patronizing their operation. Pass any savings onto your customers rather than yourself, if you do receive a discount from another business. You need to cover all of your costs, plus a profit, yet remain competitive with other businesses marketing the same type of package.

When offering a package, make sure that your insurance company is willing to cover all aspects of your package.

If you have no intention of ever offering a package, you may consider having an information rack in your lobby, complete with brochures from other businesses in your area, for the convenience of your guests.

 


 Related Content

NOTO Office Communications

Nature and Outdoor Tourism - An Industry Vision for the Future

Articles From The Outfitter

A Stargazer’s Survival Kit, from The Outfitter, by Steve Dodson, Spring 2004

Diversifying Your Business, from The Outfitter, by Debbie Sauvé, May/June 2003

Incorporating Video Making Into Your Business, from The Outfitter, by Diana Oddi, May/June 2003

 


 References:

The Outfitters’ Manual. NOTO. Circa 1985.

Lodging Operator’s Manual. BC Motels Campgrounds Resort Association. 1997.

Snapshots: an introduction to tourism. 3rd Ed. 2004. Norma Polovitz Nickerson and Paula Kerr.

Pearson Education Canada, Inc., Toronto, ON.

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