Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winter Tourism - Opportunity is knocking, let's answer the door!

This past week, an ad appeared in the PACKET for a position at White Hills that would focus on marketing the facility.  That, coupled with the Town's pronouncement that it would renew efforts to build a Winter Tourism Strategy, started me thinking about some of the tangible things we could do as a community  to take better advantage of the tourism opportunity.  (I use WE because we own the WHITE HILLS RESORT so its future affects us).

 I call my suggestions: "Strategic Doing".

Of course, these are only my thoughts, I'd like you to share your thoughts here as well.  Together we could all benefit.


I’d like to see a very clear goal spelled out for everyone (especially employees of the Hill) who has anything to do with winter tourism in Clarenville:  

OUR GOAL:  The Winter Customer Experience in Clarenville (White Hills) will exceed or at least equal what we promise


Communication is critical for Winter tourism’s / White Hill’s success.   I want to see all communications to be looked at from two perspectives:

1) Potential users of the resort need to know that there is a great winter Resort in Clarenville (Resort Awareness)
2) Users of the Resort need to know about, and be encouraged to use, the services available to them in Clarenville (Community Awareness) – Capture the economic development potential of the Resort

As alluded to above, I would, first and foremost, like to see and hear what we commonly call “the hill” re-branded as a  “Resort”.  The term Resort is much more encompassing than “hill” and indicates a broader range of winter activities including Downhill, Nordic, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling, Socialization, Food, etc.


Leverage Resort Awareness:
The Avalon market seems to be the most important non-local market for the Resort.  Anecdotal, the bulk of skiers from that region tend to be secondary/post-secondary students and young Families (this needs to be quantified).  Tradition media works well, but could be better targeted to Sporting stores, Sporting Clubs, and schools - these should be the natural focus for marketing material. 

More schools, colleges and sporting groups should receive a stronger focus in direct communications.     

In the US, at the Disney parks, each user is asked for their email and postal code.  Workers at the registration could easily collect that.  Like Disney, we could use that information to track usage, and more importantly,  use that address to generate a timely email to the customer thanking him/her for coming and asking them about their experience.  If this feedback is interpreted and used, we could learn a lot and use it to help develop a better user experience.

Upgrade email newsletter: The current “newsletter” that comes from White Hills is nothing more than a short email – it lacks any attractive content, it often lacks a subject line and it does not engage the reader – it needs to. A high quality, formatted, easily read (on Smart phones - no, not a PDF) weekly electronic newsletter could feature pictures comments from skiers, advertising etc. could be distributed through email and social media – keeping the Resort top of mind. This is a tool that is currently used but underutilized.

The use of traditional media is very important to White Hills Resort’s continued success; however the opportunity to leverage social media has not been well exploited: both by White Hills and by the Town.

Leverage Facebook, Twitter and You Tube:

As of Aug. 31, 2012;   White Hills has 2054 Facebook followers and 208 followers on Twitter.   This means that you have ready and direct access (via smartphones) to over 2000 people who are receptive to any messages (and any surveys) that White Hill’s sends out.   Further, accessing them is free and you can track their take-up on any given message.
With the trend towards a more visual internet, the commonplaceness of small video (go-pro) cameras and You-Tube, many people are placing videos of their experience at White Hills online.  THIS IS A HUGE UNTAPPED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY – encourage people to post their videos and link them to the White Hills Facebook site.  Offer Prizes, a Contest.  Also develop and suggest the #whitehills hashtag for Twitter.   

The people who manage the communication need to be aware and open to the potential and the power of Social Media to communicate with (2 way communications) potential customers. Further, using Social Media advertising, you can directly target chosen demographics in a cost effective manner.

I have spent a lot of time developing some expertise here and see tremendous opportunity to tap into Social Media.  This capacity can be accessed with minimal training costs.

Clarenville Community Awareness:

There has been no direct link drawn and measured between the existence of that Resort and the Town of Clarenville.  There needs to be.

A Different approach: Free Signs – contrary to the traditional approach of selling signage, the resort could also offer a reverse model by offering free advertising space to certain businesses.  This approach would entice more businesses to become involved, thereby creating better ties with the local business community.   In return, the business would offer discounts/freebees to resort customers.   Subway for example, could place a sign on a tower - in turn they would offer a benefit to a Resort customer (Buy one get one free)  this system would see direct benefit go to advertisers & customers rather than the resort – but such benefits would generate greater sales volumes for the resort. 

Chalet Television Monitors – Flat screen monitors cost less than $700 to install.  A simple memory stick can be placed in the TV to create a continuously running slide show.  With minimal training, and using PowerPoint, Ads / Information items can be placed on that memory stick and that could display on the TV’s in the Resort lodge area (similar to the TV in the lobby of the CEC and at the CNA campus).   Ad placement could be sold on these TV’s.     

Tower Signs – the tops of the lift towers, the light poles and the side of the Magic carpet all make ideal locations for tasteful advertising signs.

Signs on White Hill’s Road – there is 4 km or road opportunity between the Resort and Clarenville.  Selling signage space along the road would generate money for the resort and create an incentive for customers to come into Clarenville and buy. 

Town signs at Resort – As a visitor to White Hills, I need to learn about Clarenville.  I want to know what Clarenville has to offer and If I knew that I might just take advantage of that offer.  The TOWN of Clarenville needs a stronger presence at the Resort.

Signs in Town – Clarenville town owns, but does little to promote the resort.   Directional signage in Clarenville with the Resort’s logo would raise awareness of the resort among locals and stimulate business.

Lift Pass - Booklet of Value – When selling season lift/trail passes the “value” is limited to being able to ski.  This value could be expanded greatly if a Value book of coupons from sponsors was sold with the pass.  In theory the value in the coupons could exceed the value of the pass – making for a great sales promotional hook and thereby encouraging more pass sales.

Link with Events Centre – better and more cross marketing needs to happen between the resort and the Events Centre.  A visitor at one venue would be currently hard pressed to know the other exists. That can easily change.  

Package Caribous & White Hills Resort – The Caribous are a big draw and they play on the weekends.  By offering a pass for the game and a ski the value proposition is doubled for the customer.

Chalet WIFI – The Chalet should offer WIFI to enhance the customer experience and encourage non skiers to come out to the resort to watch.  The WIFI system could be a sponsored system where once the system is accesses, sponsor messages could be displayed at start-up.

Frequent skier cards – for people who do not buy yearly passes, one of the challenges is cost and at the end of the year issue of “I wonder how much I spent?” and “maybe I should have bought a pass?”  A Frequent skier card would allow a person to track their usage and incentives them to buy a pass the following year.

2014 Winter games – This year we need to actively promote the 2014 Games in Clarenville at the Resort and in the Town.

Making the Experience

Outdoor Shelter/BBQ hut/hot-tubs – A lot of resorts offer an outdoor cookhouse, gathering spot that provides shelter, warm-up ability and a place for socials.   With a view of view of Dark hole Pond a kiosk type shelter with a large BBQ pit could provide to be a solid attraction for après ski activities, food and refreshments.  Taking this further, hot tubs are becoming increasingly popular and such a feature could provide a good draw opportunity. 

Snowmobile trail/lot – the lack of Snowmobiler access to the Resort Chalet facilities limits the potential of the resort.   By making one of the lots accessible for snowmobile trailers this would 1) reduce congestion on the road 2) encourage snowmobilers to stay off snowmobile restricted areas 3) create a new market & revenue stream for the resort’s lodge.  

Work with Town – The Town and the Resort needs to have a stronger link to ensure maximum mutual benefit.  This seems simple enough to do but seems not to happen.  Take Winter Carnival for example, very few events happen at White Hills when it could be the crown jewel of Clarenville’s winter carnival


  1. I agree with bolstering the White Hills as a winter destination resort. I wouldn't go as far as making the resort and the road to it a giant set of classifieds, but I understand where you are going with it. I think we should try to expand Clarenville's destination designation as both summer and winter. Lets do more at White Hills. Add a golf course, cabins, mountain biking trails, paintball, canoeing, kayaking, etc. It's great that Clarenville is recognized as a winter destination, but why leave out the summer season. Clarenville is beautiful during the summer and fall seasons, but we should rely on more than just the sights to bring people to our town. Thoughts?


  2. You're right Mike. Regarding signs: I developing a communications plan we need to find a balance between effective messaging and visual pollution. My point is that there is a huge untapped opportunity to do something to make the resort's visitor "aware" of the opportunities in Clarenville.
    Regarding 4 seasons: you bet there are lots of things that can happen - most at a limited cost.

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