Boyne Resorts owns and operates a collection of mountain and lakeside resorts, ski areas, and attractions spanning from British Columbia to Maine.
The majority of its 11 resorts are ski focused and while they do operate through summer, the winter season is their peak season, starting from Thanksgiving onwards.
Michael Anselmi is Vice President of Revenue Strategy & Business Development, overseeing lodging revenue and distribution as well as lift revenue and analytics. His team also consists of a Director of Revenue, an analytics specialist and on property revenue managers.
We caught up with him to find out how Boyne has adapted to the challenges of COVID-19, how he hopes to manage uncertain demand moving forward, and his goal to get all resorts running on autopilot.
How did you have to adapt operations this year?
When it comes to lodging, the primary issue is housekeeping. One of the main roadblocks, we have run into is having enough beds. When people are coming Friday, they're checking out Sunday or Monday, you just try not to service beds and then you're cleaning up the whole operation on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
Then, it's really about managing bottlenecks – F&B, bathrooms and lift queues.
When you're sitting in a lift line, you have a set of skis on or a snowboard so you're almost five or six feet apart as it is. So it's really about building the queues where people are distanced between their arms appropriately.
In our New England resorts, for example, skiers usually drive to the resort, then go into a day lodge, have coffee, maybe breakfast, and put their stuff on and go. This year, they can't. They are going to have to get prepared in the car or at their house and then drive over. So it'll be interesting to see how that behavioral change will affect us.
How are you managing the uncertain demand?
We try to balance demand by the way in which we sell our passes. Some have total access, some can’t go on weekends, so it’s trying to balance when you can come and when you can't and see if we can push crowds in the right direction. We believe the lever of price and blackouts will shift our guests accordingly.
Then we get to our lift tickets. Again, we’re going to use price leavers: weekend access, non-weekend access, to manage demand. But skiing is mainly a weekend sport and midweek we're always trying to solve. But with work from home schedules, and home schooling, we may be able to drive demand for mid-week because people are going to be more flexible.
There's a lot of hypothesis out there. And our job is to test, see if it works. And try again.
How are you managing that seasonality - smoothing out the weekend peaks and midweek troughs?
We've tried some different strategies on the lift ticket side, and we've talked about lodging, but we haven't really solved this yet.
We've looked at a product stay like a vacation rental for 30 days and get a 30-day ski pass as that will be more accommodating for families because you have a kitchen set up and more space to maybe do work or schoolwork.
A lot of school schedules are up in the air. If we had more solid intel, so we knew, for example, that everybody was going to work from home or take classes from home from until February I think we'd be more aggressive in it, but we don't know enough yet.
Our average length of stay is four days. So perhaps we should be discounting the fifth day or giving some program of fifth day stay free or sixth day stay free because we're not getting that anyway. Let's try to push it. And when we have somebody stay six days it's one additional lift ticket, it's maybe one additional rental or two additional meals.
What impact has that had on your revenue strategy?
We are an activity and attraction company and our attraction and activity is skiing and so we need to be smart about that and I'm not going to push away any bookings we get. We have to push up price, where we can. But we also need to be smart about where we do it. We're relying more on lift tickets and yielding there and less on ADR.
But I still want to take every booking. We're looking at different channels because we need to. And if we don't, we're done. People shop a lot of different ways and not everybody knows our home grown channels. We are adding Hotel Tonight and Airbnb.
We know that’s a place we need to be in the market and a lot of people shop that way. So I'll pay the commission just to have our lodging active there because it's an important marketplace. I need to be out there and testing a price point and seeing if it bites.
How have you been using Duetto during this time?
We're now over the hump of year one with Duetto. Last winter was good up to mid-March.
Centralization, as well as the simplification of reports, has really helped my life. It enables us to define our segments better and look for opportunities to grow those segments as well as our forecasting abilities.
Running on autopilot is the goal.
Why did you choose Duetto?
The team and the technology. Duetto is an external coach and partner when it comes to revenue. That was the most important thing to me.
Sure, the technology is great, but there's still a hands-on art of revenue management and we need that hands-on help.