7 Productivity Hacks for Outdoor Operators

By: Neal Belovay, PicThrive

By automating small tasks, outfitters can save time during the adventure tourism peak season. Take it from famous businessman Dale Carnegie, “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” The weeks are counting down and there are so many little details to manage, just imagine if some of those tasks could be redesigned or eliminated altogether.

About 34% of the year’s cumulative video and photos sales happen in July, according to PicThrive data. We can compare that to June and August each having about 20-22% of the year’s total sales. With such an influx in single-month volumes for July, it’s all the more reason to get tasks organized and have operations running smoothly before peak season arrives.


Saving time -- The ROI of planning ahead

So many small businesses are cleverly changing how they operate with minor changes. Look at the efficiency gained in adding a calendar link in an email, using tools like Calendly  (We are huge fans of this one!)  or Zoho Calendar and Monday -  They all offer ways to automatically stay in sync with staff and customers.

Check out these seven productivity hacks to simplify operations, save time and still deliver a great guest experience.

Hack 1: Put chatbots up front for the “curious shoppers”

Use a chatbot to reduce the amount of time spent on the phone answering repeat questions.

Even with all the benefits of connecting us through the Internet, it’s still hard for many people to purchase “sight unseen”. For those would-be customers who are in search mode, you can anticipate their questions through a friendly and timely chatbot on your site. Despite your detailed FAQs, some people just want to ASK their questions their way. And with the advances in AI, it’s pretty simple to give guests the info they need to feel comfortable with the purchase.

Productivity Pro Tip: You might not even realize just how much time you spend answering questions on the phone. Tomis, a chatbot designed specifically for tour operators, tracked an average 2,500 messages a month in its first year supporting tour operators. Some adventure travel outfits are even automating post-booking reminders for what to pack and what to leave at home.

Hack 2: Record training videos for new staff

Every season there are new people to train. And no doubt you’ve walked many new hires through your daily activities, your favorite scripts and even the most mundane tasks of cleaning gear or uploading photos.

Save yourself some time by recording a series of daily activities.

Recording “walk-a-mile” demonstrations and “How-To” videos is a cheap and easy way to provide on-demand training. Most of us have tried learning how to do something via a video from YouTube. It should be a very comfortable medium for your staff who need to learn how to check in guests quickly or set up groups of guests by size and abilities.

Tips for simplifying your training:

  • Video editing apps on your phone like iMovie or Vimeo will give you more ways to edit or add text if you have step-by-step instructions to follow.

  • Store your recordings on Vimeo or in a private YouTube channel just for your team.

  • Delegate to experienced staff so you get a mix of faces in the training experience, and a mix of tips to pass along.

  • Organize everything in a single doc with links or sort them in groupings based on the different roles within your team. There’s even a free planning template from Trello to get started.

Take time to give experienced staff room to shine, says James Whiteside with Royal Gorge Rafting & Zip Line Tours.


You’ll find more insights in the Pre-Season Guide: Make Your Summer Easier in 30 Days.

Hack 3: Cut out pre-purchase steps

Put everything a guest needs as part of the purchase in one place. It cuts down on their abandoning the booking, and it cuts out unnecessary administrative time. Even for those using multiple tools to get the job done, there are ways to integrate the different steps so the customer has a more seamless experience.

Many adventure travel operators with small “home bases” have moved the pre-purchase process all online. They have set up a booking process that includes waivers, digital check-in, photo packages and other upsell opportunities as part of their signing up for the activity. Some use tools like Zapier to set up links that pass the information across systems, others buy from providers that are directly building integrations. Wherewolf even gives you a calculator to estimate how much you could save by cutting out the pre-booking churn. 

Hack 4: Schedule guest reminders so you can forget about it

Schedule SMS and text messages to go out automatically and you won’t have to remember to tell your customers what to remember.

Many customer service and reservation systems are offering tour operators SMS reminders as additional automation benefits. Once a booking is made, it’s easy to have any number of messages go out, with rules for timing of day and number of days before the activity date.

Look at your existing tools to see if they have added these features, or you may be able to trigger messages through a Zapier or IFTTT integration. Both sites offer pre-built triggers that might give you new ideas for automating simple tasks.

Productivity Pro Tip: Extreme changes in weather could automatically trigger an unscheduled reminder message to customers with bookings on a given day.

Hack 5: Follow-up with friendly customer review requests

Automatically requesting a review is an easy and natural step when using a branded online store for video and photo sales. Whatever workflow you have, look to add marketing automation that does the customer engagement for you.

If it doesn’t sound like it’s worth the effort, consider the financial upside. There are several reasons Google Reviews or TripAdvisor ratings are a great option for marketing a small adventure travel business, the primary being they are free! If sharing and writing reviews can lead to incremental revenue, setting up automated messages to request a few extra reviews can definitely be worth the effort.

For example, Matt Volpert from Kern River Outfitters couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his bank statements. “Without me promoting my online store, people were buying photos online at a higher rate than before, and it was enough to make a meaningful impact financially.”


Hack 6: Insert dynamic pricing rules to anticipate customer behaviors

Setting up pricing rules in your booking system to avoid extra back and forth questions with shoppers is a pro move. Establishing your sales strategy to take advantage of real-time calendar availability and digital payment systems is also a great way to cut down on the steps to complete a guest booking.

Look for ways to build different packages and pricing structures based on the season or other custom fields you choose to set. Booking platforms like The Flybook, FareHarbor and Xola provide different customization options for your reservations.

Productivity Pro Tip: Use last year’s sales data to identify your high and low weeks. Check out the 2021 Customer Behaviors Report: Key insights for adventure tours.

Hack 7: Go paperless. Toss paper calendars and sticky notes

Repeating tasks and daily checklists can be managed in staff schedule tools or basic phone apps designed to help with task management.

Check out Trello for shared responsibilities within a team. This staff scheduling template could be a good place to start. Add deadlines or set them as recurring tasks and assign them to one or several people all from one place. It’s a great one for teams constantly moving around, where your phone is the only tool you have on hand.

And while you’re at it, maybe stop using USB drives. Aside from the expense and the one-time use that ends up in a recycle bin (hopefully), the time your team spends loading each of them up can be cut out entirely. When you move to an online marketplace where guests can buy and share their digital memories on their own time, from their own devices, your and your staff’s time frees up.

*Access more tips to prepare for your opening day by downloading this Pre-Season Guide: Make Your Summer Easier in 30 Days.


About the Author

Neal is the Co-founder and CEO of PicThrive, the industry's leading photo and video platform used by hundreds of adventure tour operators throughout the world to sell and share tour media with guests. After a year-long global backpacking trip, Neal and his brother uncovered the need for PicThrive. To learn more about their journey launching the company, visit picthrive.com/about/.

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