Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kimberly Rielly: A New Climate for Winter Tourism

Mother Nature has handed us a smorgasbord of weather so far this winter, with wildly fluctuating temperatures and at least 14 types of precipitation. We haven’t got a contract with her; and I am confident that the usual blanket of snow will arrive just a little bit later than expected this year.

Of course, I’m no meteorologist; maybe it won’t.

I’m not going to talk about climate change. It’s a fact; and though it might not completely eradicate what we now consider typical winter recreation in the Adirondacks for decades, these weather fluctuations WILL be a factor from now on.

As a tourism-dependent region, it is incumbent upon us to be flexible. In addition to having a wardrobe that consists of a variety of different weight jackets, business owners need to be nimble enough to switch modes quickly with respect to marketing.

My office has put this to the test.

I’ve had a “snow alert” email queued up for distribution for a couple of months now. It’s still there waiting for the moment we hear about that predicted nor’easter.

In promoting winter to the leisure travel market, our content and marketing strategy includes a schedule of prioritized topics and keywords for inclusion in emails, blogs, SEO releases and more. For winter, these topics include snowshoeing, alpine and nordic skiing, pond hockey, skating, tobogganing and other ways to play in the snow and ice throughout the region.

But this winter, we’ve had to adjust that schedule. Our original timeline called for a switch from highlighting alpine skiing in December to cross country/backcountry skiing in January. Due to the lack of snow on the backcountry AND groomed trails, we reverted to highlighting the promotion of alpine skiing again this month, as Whiteface Mountain was up and running, primarily with man-made snow.

Content changed on all fronts. Instead of writing a blog about snowshoeing, I recently wrote about the virtues of ice, and adventures in hiking with microspikes for these conditions.

This was prompted by conversations that I had with a couple of our local licensed guides. They reported to me that they had convinced some of their backcountry ski and snowshoe clients to keep their reservations, and have taken them out with microspikes or crampons for the icy trails. Flexibility saved the day; not to mention their projected income for the week.

If I had submitted an editorial (or advertorial) about snowshoeing to a print publication for distribution in January or February this winter, there would be no recourse. Inspired by the article, the potential visitor would inevitably be disappointed to learn upon further investigation that there isn’t enough snow. Instead, I have in my arsenal a toolbox full of flexible tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to nimbly post updated photos, to promote events and to monitor and respond to inquiries.

Over 90 percent of all travel research is conducted online. And now, social networks like Twitter and Facebook are filled with on site, in-person, real-time accounts from people who are already in the destinations that are being researched. With the prevalence of smart phone use, potential visitors are able to check the current weather in Colorado while walking down the streets of New York City. If there’s no snow, savvy travelers will know. Why not provide them with incentive to visit anyway?

Fortunately, the product that we have to offer, whether direct or indirect, serves as a very popular backdrop. We know that the primary driver of visitation to the region is the unique mix of mountains, lakes and rivers that comprise the Adirondacks, and the outdoor recreational activities that they offer.

If Mother Nature has taught us anything this winter, it is that there is an increased need for creativity and flexibility. If you can’t go snowshoeing, hike with crampons. If your customers are looking for a weekend getaway in the Adirondacks, offer them a creative experience they can’t resist, (and market it online, where they will find it!)

Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism

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Kimberly Rielly

Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.




One Response

  1. Ann Melious says:

    Good points, Kim.

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