The Ultimate Pre-Season Checklist for Resorts & Attractions

As resorts and attractions businesses prepare for opening day, it is important that team members ensure that every facet of their systems and operations are optimized. Once the gates open, or the lifts start running, everything becomes operationally driven and there is little time to focus on back-office operations. Taking a few tactical steps before the rush begins will help set up the business for success in the season to come, and beyond.

Here are the 7 most critical steps to take before opening day to set any ticketing business up for success:

1. Establish a Google ‘My Business’ Profile

There are multiple reasons to set up a business profile on Google for free. Think of it as the business’s first introduction to a new customer. The majority of searches begin in Google, so it is critical that companies control the narrative and their first impressions by highlighting the most important information as well as what makes the business unique.

With a Google Business Profile, potential customers who find out about the attractions or resorts through search or Google Maps are able to immediately see informational items such as:

  • Products/experiences offered
  • Hours of operation
  • Customer reviews
  • Peak times

If the business doesn’t currently have a profile, start by adding essential information and then personalize the page with the logo, photos, and even offers or announcements. If the business already has a Google Business Profile, make sure that it’s up to date, including the product catalog.

An updated, polished Google Business Profile helps build consumer trust because they can easily view all information and because the business can publicly respond to reviews to build trust, send and receive direct messages, and even post answers to frequently asked questions.

Once the Google Business Profile is established, Google can provide important insights around how new customers are finding the business and how to harness that data into actionable marketing initiatives.

2. Set Up Google Analytics

Google Analytics can provide tons of data on how guests find a business, which pages are being most frequently viewed, and ultimately how to measure and adjust online marketing activity.

In March 2022, Google outlined its plan to move all data analytics to GA-4 as its primary cross-platform Analytics solution, which empowers businesses to see unified user journeys across all platforms and provides the knowledge needed to adjust their marketing strategy and spend. Operators gain a complete view into the customer lifecycle to understand how customers move through the purchase funnel. Operators can also improve ROI to understand the full impact of their marketing across different touch points.

GA4 also features machine learning-driven predictive modeling, creates new audiences of users likely to purchase or churn, and automatically surfaces critical insights to improve marketing.

Learn more: Marketing Meets Revenue: How to Align Departments Around Optimal Pricing Strategies.

3. Optimize Your Website to Drive Top-of-Funnel Traffic

It sounds obvious, but customers need to be able to find your online store.

Make it easy for potential guests to convert into paying customers. Check that there is a simple customer journey from point A (information gathering) to point B (actual sale). You can do this by adding CTAs, or call to action buttons, on all product pages. The homepage, for example, should have a clear, color-contrasted ‘call to action’ above the fold so people don’t have to scroll down the page to find a “Buy Now” button. This ensures that there is a clear place to go to make a purchase.

Here are a few best practices that ensures every page of the website is driving traffic towards the CTA:

  • Add a prominent call to action (CTA) in bright, contrasting colors above the fold on every page of your site.
  • The text in the button will highlight the desired action such as “Buy Now & Save” as opposed to passive language like “Learn More.”
  • Ensure it is only one-click to get potential customers to the store. It should open in the same tab with zero interstitial pages in between the CTA and digital storefront.
  • All emails, newsletters, and highly trafficked pages on your site should have a link or button to buy tickets that goes directly to the digital storefront.

4. Refine Your Mobile Presence

Mobile sales are now equal to or greater than those completed on desktop and the e-commerce experience is an integral part of any sales strategy.

For ticketed attraction businesses, consumers are likely taking a multi-screen approach, searching both via desktop and mobile throughout the purchasing process. It is critical – both for the overall brand perception as well as actual conversion – that the mobile experience is as smooth as any other sales touchpoints.

Traditional problems with mobile websites include clunky search features, slow loading times, content that doesn’t fit the site, and too many steps during checkout. When selecting an e-commerce platform, ensure that they provide a mobile-friendly/responsive experience so you do not lose any customers into a mobile black hole.

If you already have a mobile site, the best way to check the performance of it is to use a tool like Google Lighthouse to check and improve the performance, quality, and delivery of the mobile page. Lighthouse will run a number of tests against a page and generate a report on how well the page performed and where to improve. If your site or pages score on the lower end of the spectrum, consider investing in resources to optimize the mobile purchase path.

5. Educate Your Customers Around Pricing Strategy

One of the key steps in implementing a dynamic pricing strategy is educating customers around the concept of ‘buying early to get the best price.’ Of course, this process should start long before the guest ever visits your website.

During the pre-season, it’s vital to promote the concept that visitors can “buy early and save” across all owned channels including the attraction’s website, email marketing, and social media. Operators should also promote why it serves customers’ best interests to buy early – beyond price – including that guests can skip the line at entry, check-in faster, and access the park earlier.

While many guests already understand the concept of dynamic pricing, it serves to have the benefits repeated as often as possible. On the operational side, selling online in advance means that park and attraction managers can run their operations more effectively by proactively planning based on pre-sale numbers. Operators can make better decisions around staffing and F&B when they have a better idea of how many people to expect on-site. This ultimately leads to shorter lines, better customer service, and ultimately, an improved guest experience.

6. Train Staff on New Systems

There are unprecedented advancements taking place among technology providers that make resort, activity, and attractions operations smoother than ever before. While leadership is responsible for finding the best platforms for their particular business, it always requires some level of training for operational staff.

Whether the operator has recently introduced new technology, such as a new e-commerce engine or POS system, or is continuing to use legacy systems, it is a great idea to pause and review how staff can best use a company’s tech stack to improve guest relationships and interactions at every touch point. Tech fluency is an essential part of the job and, when harnessed correctly, can free up on-the-ground staff for deeper in-person relationships with guests.

Pre-season is a great opportunity to hold either in-person or virtual training sessions, which may involve various technology vendors and partners. Or, perhaps it’s time to detail system processes through SOP’s (standard operating procedures) or similar documentation.

7. Remind Team of Refund Policies & Ticket Redemption

While a liberal refund policy might seem like the best approach when you’re trying to drive a sale, the best course of action is often a strict “no refund” policy for pre-sold, date-specific tickets. Customers are getting a cheaper price, which naturally comes with some risk. Refunds undermine the pricing strategy and actually lower the perceived value of the advanced purchase ticket.

If you’re looking to offer peace of mind to customers, Catalate provides resorts, attractions, and activities operators with the option to add a “rain guarantee” to their e-commerce experience for a small fee.

On Catalate’s e-commerce platform Cloud Store, payouts are initiated automatically, without customer or resort involvement, if it is forecast to rain for 3 hours or more during park hours on the date of a customer’s visit.

Just as you would perform pre-season maintenance on the physical infrastructure of your park or ski resort, the same should be done for your digital infrastructure. By focusing on the areas most likely to drive higher sales and revenue, you can ensure that your next season gets off to a solid start.

Catalate is a global pricing and e-commerce company empowering ski resorts, parks, and attractions to increase online revenue. As the only purpose-built ticketing platform for the industry, Catalate has developed successful strategies for hundreds of partners across $1 billion in online sales. Get in touch today.

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