If you’re feeling the pains of the low season, you’re not alone.
Seasonality is a big challenge for everyone in the tourism industry. As the temperature drops, profits and bookings follow.
While you might be tempted to take the winter off, laying on a beach with a piña colada in your hand, successful operators understand that what you do in the low season determines the success of the rest of your year.
Here are 5 things successful tour businesses do to prepare for peak season.
Start hiring and training
Hands down the most important thing you need to focus on right now are building your team for the year. The best operators do things to keep your seasonal employees happy, so they come back. But it’s likely that you’ll still need to hire a few fresh faces. And everyone will need to brush up on their training.
If you’re looking for students, Facebook is the best recruiting tool. With new regulations restricting what you can target for hiring ads, you can’t specify age or gender, so encourage post sharing instead.
Run a gift certificate contest asking people that share with their friends or post recommendations in the comments. And don’t forget to highlight the perks of working as a guide. Say something like “Tag someone who wants their summer job to be an adventure”
If you’re after top guide talent and have money to spare, it’s smart to attend industry conferences. Many professional guides go looking to connect with new employers. Just prepare to pay them competitively.
Now that you have started your staff search, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll get everyone up to speed. While training doesn’t start until your seasonal staff begin, start planning now.
Get your processes and policies up to date. Decide what external programs your guides will need to enroll in and what you’ll do in-house. Or consider automating your training.
Create training videos that show your employees how to use your internal tools, like your booking system, and upload them to a private Youtube channel. This not only comes in handy at the start of the season but if you need to hire someone in the middle of peak season as well.
Get your equipment and property ready
Many operators sell off their equipment at the end of the season and purchase new the following year. Since equipment depreciates, it’s not worth holding on to for long. Buying new cuts down maintenance costs and reduces the risk of something breaking down in the middle of a tour.
Whether you’re buying or repairing, do it now.
Same with your leases. Your phones, vehicles, rental spaces will all be up for renewal. All of this upfront cost can add up quickly. So try to negotiate back-loaded payment plans that allow you to pay more at the end of the year when your business is cash positive.
Beyond your physical equipment, you also need to update and reevaluate all your software. Think back to what worked the past year, and what caused headaches. If you’re tired of your clunky payment and POS system, you might want to try something like Square.
Call your lawyer
Regulations in the tourism industry can change drastically year to year so check in with your lawyer. They’ll make sure your liability and insurance is up to date and tell you what licenses you need to renew. They can also review your waivers and documents to make sure they hold up.
Nail down your processes
Chances are you’re pretty attached to the way you do business, but it never hurts to improve productivity. Using technology you can automate a lot of work, from receiving bookings to staff scheduling and customer notifications. Things that used to take 5 steps and interrupt your day can now run seamlessly in the background.
If you have workflows in place, take some time to review and update them. If automation is completely new to you, get in touch with support for your software tools or take a look at their video documentation to find out what’s possible.
Get some pre-season sales
So far everything on this list costs money. It can be stressful going into a new season with high out of pocket expenses. Give yourself some peace of mind by collecting pre-season sales.
The best way to do this is with your gift certificates. Send a promotional email out to your existing customer base offering 10% off gift cards. This can be very effective during the holiday season but works year round as well. While you won’t get any upfront bookings, you’ll earn some extra revenue.
Plus an extra: Enjoy your downtime
While you shouldn’t see your entire low season as a holiday, you should take some time off to sit on a beach with a drink in your hand (or whatever you do to relax). Enjoy the time you have to unwind now so you can focus all your energy on running your business come peak season.