What Skiers Can Teach Small Outdoor Recreation Businesses About Honesty in Marketing

by Joanne Steele on January 5, 2010

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Photo by Lenore Marie. Link to her photo stream below

Yesterday National Public Radio had a story, “Ski Resorts Tell Tall Tales About Deep Snow” about over reporting of snow conditions at ski areas across the United States.

Two things I took away from that story:

1. Rural tourism is all about outdoor recreation, which is fraught with conditions beyond the control of business owners and operators. You’re dealing with snow, fire, drought, beetle kills, mud slides, high winds and more.

In the news segment, Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Area Assn. was interviewed. He said, “We are an industry filled with optimists. If you’re a cynic, you go to law school. If you’re an optimist you end up running a ski area.”

I would contend that the whole outdoor recreation industry is run by optimists.

2. Fudging the conditions even a little bit isn’t possible anymore.

As reported, there are now iPhone apps for ski reporting! People can take pictures of the smoke filled canyon they’re rafting through, and devastating burns and beetle kills on the trail of their guided backpacking trip, which they’ll share on their Facebook pages and on review sites.

It’s all in the marketing. Outdoor recreation is like the world’s most available reality show. It’s not Disneyland. It’s nature at its finest and sometimes at it’s worst.

Your honesty can build your reputation. As I said, it’s all about reality. If a customer doesn’t want that kind of experience that’s fine. Let them go to Disneyland. But when beetles, a mud slide or fire devastate your guided route,  bring along a naturalist and market it as a learning experience, an eco-trip.

Sometimes Mother Nature wins and you have to give up and cancel. When winds are too high for a safe hot air balloon landing, or when forest fires have filled your route with smoke, you’ll keep your customer for another time by rescheduling.

The bottom line is that unlike the ski areas that fudge their snow reports and get caught. You want your customers praising your efforts to educate and amaze them by what’s happening in the real outdoors world.

Check out Lenore Marie’s photo stream on Flickr

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