Tips for Running Great Winter Experiences
Last Updated January 17, 2018
North America’s east coast started the new year off on a very cold note. I won’t lie, if it wasn’t for my dog and the need for groceries, I wouldn’t have left the apartment (and the three blankets I was under). When I turned on the TV on New Year’s Eve, it was a wonder to behold thousands of people still braved the second coldest December 31 on record to celebrate.
While I may be a wimp when it comes to cold, festivals like Quebec City’s Carnaval de Quebec, countless ice hotels, and ski hills all prove there is no shortage of people who want great experiences during the winter months.
Brian Tuttle with Chicago Food Planet says they make adjustments for cold weather to help maximize the indoor time. “We never go more than a few blocks between tastings. Often local history/anecdotes are told inside. We tell guests to take a mental snapshot of outdoor points of interest on cold days, and then we tell them the full stories once we’re all warm again.” Tastings also feature more of the hearty fare we crave, he says. “We love a good soup in the winter”.
“Partners appreciate you bringing people during their slow season”, adds Jusep Sim of Toronto’s Chopsticks and Forks. His experiences feature international cuisine in the Canadian city where cold is a way of life for far too many months of the year. Jusep says communication with your partners is key, especially around the holidays. “Some of my partners closed between Christmas and New Years and I have one partner who is closed for the first two weeks of January.”
“You’ve got to be really committed to delicious food and stories.” Another Toronto operator, Culinary Adventure Co., says guests are really engaged during their winter experiences, and so are his guides. “We were a year-round operation when we started in 2010, so we’ve always loved this time of year! That said, slippery sidewalks and wet slush is a downside. The pace on our tours is a little slower having to navigate snowy paths, but we make it fun!”
Let’s get real about guests though. Weather can definitely keep people holed up at home or in hotel rooms, right?
“Surprisingly, we do not get that many requests for cancellations, even in -36 degree weather!!” That’s Tobia Galipeau from Local Montreal Tours, making me feel like an even bigger wimp. That being said, “There was a spike in no-shows in the recent cold snap of 4 consecutive days where the temperature was under -20, but nothing that required modifying our usual policy.”
A few final thoughts from our warm-blooded champions of the north:
Brian: Framing the experience for the guests is the key. Sometimes I forget that. If we’re letting them know the step by step experience (“And then we’ll lose feeling in our toes!”), but be able to frame it in a constructive way (“We are bold adventurers out here today, taking advantage of the best food in the city. Not even frostbite will stop us! One block after the frostbite we’ll have hot chocolate waiting for you!”), then people tend to be happy. It’s the winter. People expect it to be cold. They can adjust. It’s when guests are caught off-guard by something that throws the experience into a less desirable place.
Jusep: People really appreciate the experience as much as they do during the warmer months as most of my guests during the cold has been out of town guests who see the tour as a bit of an adventure. Another great benefit has been that my response rate for reviews received has been almost 100%.
Kevin: Being a year-round operation in Toronto (Ottawa and Winnipeg will be year-round in 2019) gives the chance to sell two of the biggest “gifting seasons” of the year: Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Sometimes a gift certificate just doesn’t cut for this time of year. Guests want to do something with their family and friends. We had record tours and capacity this year between Christmas and News Years! Lots of visitors to Toronto from Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, Ohio, London and elsewhere – but lots of locals wanting to get out of the house and do something with their visiting relatives.
Tobia: We keep our tours as they are! Montrealers don’t let the cold weather stop them, so why not show that part of our culture to visitors? The only adjustments we do are that we leave it up to each guide’s discretion to modify the time spent outside where possible, while respecting our vendors’ space and capacity. An extra touch that goes a long way is that we stock up on gloves and hats from the dollar store and offer them to participants who come underdressed.
Mind these tips and you too will be welcoming new guests with a gloved hand and scarf framed smile. Thanks to our northern partners for weighing in on their winter experiences and sharing their invaluable knowledge.
For cold weather and other guest concerns, EzTix has the best team of support agents in the business. Our solution offers great tools to set your policies for exchanges, refunds, and all the frequently asked questions your guests have. Our calls don’t go out to contractors, we hire and train our agents in house to serve you best. Learn more about the EzTix Solution here.
Thinking about expanding into the winter months? Ask any questions in the comments, and we’ll get answers from our winter wondering experts.
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