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Lodging
Every Resort Website Says “Plan Your Trip” but That’s Not What We Mean

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       

Let’s play a little word game starting with this screenshot of Vail’s old home page.

plantrip

We start with a call to action: Plan Your Trip. This is followed by dates to enter for booking your room, a link to buy tickets, get deals, or buy a season pass.

But let’s break that up for a second.

Act 1: PLAN
Let’s start with just that word plan and apply to three different ways we might use it.

“Let’s plan our day.”

“We need to plan the birthday party.”

“I’m working on our marketing plan.”

In each case, these uses of “plan” assume a lack of specifics. They imply we aren’t quite ready to act. That decisions haven’t been made.

In the first example, we need to figure out what we want and need to do that day. In the second, we’ve gotta decide on what’s going to happen at the party. Only then can do we start to act and actually do what we’ve planned.

We’re Assuming a Plan Already Exists
The ski industry has been saying “plan your trip” for as long as I can remember, but in almost every case what we really mean is:

“You’ve already planned your trip, here’s where you can book it.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because a planned vacation means nothing unless it’s booked. But I think somewhere along the way we’ve been checking off the “help our guests plan their trip” box without ever actually helping them do so. Maybe that’s why travelers usually look at 38 sites before booking.

In that lack, however, there’s an opportunity to do much, much better. Because if we keep telling people to book when they haven’t even planned and then don’t help them get from point A to point B, we’re gonna lose people.

An Idea
But what if planning a trip actually meant planning a trip. What if we presented a visitor with all of their options, helped them prioritize and choose what they wanted to do, gave them a chance to indicate why they were traveling, extracted some indication of what cost level they might spend at, and recommended other things they may not have thought of.

And then what if all this went into a engine that calculated about how long they’d want to stay, lodging that would best fit their needs, dates that would allow them to do as much as possible (and decompress busy times of the year), and more.

So far only two resorts have done this: Le Massif de Charlevoix

…and Mont Tremblant.

tremblant2

tremblant3

tremblant4

Tall Order, but Need to Be Honest
This is a tough task, to be sure. It’s not as simple as writing copy or pasting the embed code for your booking widget.

It takes much more planning, much more code, and much work, but the results so far are scratching the surface of a tool that puts resorts in the drivers seat of the experience people plan at their resorts.

More than anything, though, I think it’s time to realize we aren’t really helping anyone plan. Instead, we’re assuming they already have.

And until we face that fact, we can’t change it.



  • WisSkier

    My 925 is in the retail industry, we have a chain of big-box stores in WI, Iowa, Minnesota, and one location in North Dakota and most of my work is spent on the back end mechanics of the Ecomm site.

    Ecomm is not really a leap forward for retail but a leap back into time when we would provide a list of want and needs to the grocer and they would go into the backroom and obtain the goods on the list and then the goods exchanged for money. Yes, the nature in which the list is delivered and the exchange occurs is medium-tech. Also, the convenience of submitting the list and not having to sit and wait at the counter is another leap forward.

    Back in the old days of travel one would go to a travel agent have a chat and then the travel agent would make the arrangements. Medium-tech allows us to make the arrangements directly, but usually leaves out the details of what it is we are actually travelling for. You noted this app last winter and I checked it out and that is what we are seeing here an attempt to return to the “old days” of arranging travel. The application is trying to replace that human travel-agent expertise.

    In this case it is going to be a harder thing to do. Ecomm is the simple exchange of data, money, and goods while these travel applications will need to discern human wants through a web form interface. Not saying it is impossible just challenging and of course it will not be a resort that is doing this but a dedicated software house working to serve the whole industry.

    Having the app sit at one resort already assumes quite a few decisions have been made by the potential customer, making a decision engine that takes in all the snow resorts and offers the customer a number of ranked matches against a questionaire. Of course, the next step is to get them booked.

  • jj

    Good comment on an interesting topic. I’m involved with several online ski
    discussion forums where true ski trip planning from the first germination of
    the idea to travel often occurs. The decision making at that early stage lends itself to a resort-agnostic decision tool like I think (?) WisSkier is talking about.

    It starts with a person asking: where should I go on vacation? The person may come from NJ and typically already knows they want to go to either New England or “out West”. Beyond that they are wide open as to their
    actual choice, such as which state and which specific ski area. Then it’s about determining their skill level, onslope vs. après ski interests, family vs. adults only, “must have” requirements such as slopeside lodging or best chance for powder or at least one day at resort X, budget level, desired gateway airport, etc. These general preferences lead to specific
    recommendations such as Keystone for affordable slopeside, Alta for powder, or at least one day at Squaw while visiting North Lake Tahoe.

    I think some of the travel booking sites have decision tools
    like this, but I’m thinking a company like Liftopia might be a poised
    to really capitalize on this sort of resort-agnostic trip planning tool as a
    spin-off of their lift ticketing database?? Or is type of tool already out there and I’m just missing it??

  • Luu Kee

    Greg I totally agree. And your reference and write-up on Le Massif de Charlevoix is one of my favorite examples of trip a planning resource, and I did a lot of research, both from a UX and from a pure concept view.

    I would be curious as to your opinion about the Ski Utah Trip Planner – The tool does not book a user, it doesn’t require dates, it simply supplies some suggestions based on 1 of 3 personas (which can be easily refined) or a user can define their own interests. And even a result/tool this “simple” took a lot of dev to make happen. https://www.skiutah.com/trip-planner Thanks for brining great topics forward for discussion.

    PS – I heard this is going to be the best winter ever ;)

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