To be an exceptional guide, you need to know your stuff and tell a great story. But what about if it's freezing cold outside? How can you keep a guest happy and guarantee a 5 bubble-rating on TripAdvisor if it's snowing, icicles are forming on faces, and toes are going numb?
Here's how to provide a glowing guest experience for your sledding night, ski trip, or other frost-capped activity, even when temperatures are falling.
1. Give multiple reminders of what to bring
Don't presume something is common sense: outline it on your website and in your office, brochures, booking confirmation and reminder email. This might be a reminder to wear warm layers and a hat, bring a snack, or pack a change of clothes.
Your guests are likely to have booked other activities in your destination, so make sure it's as easy as possible to remember the essentials for your one. A handy tool to consider for pre- and post-trip communication is the TrekkSoft automated email and SMS reminder feature.
2. Bring spares of what guests shouldn't forget (but probably will)
Even if your guest's ticket includes "remember layers!" in bold letters, it's still not a guarantee that they will arrive prepared. Have the real essentials on hand in case of forgetfulness, such as sunglasses for a private ski class, a hat for an Arctic boat trip, or gloves for tobogganing.
If you can come to a guest's rescue with what they know they should have but left in their hotel room, they'll be forever grateful. By going above and beyond expectations, you can receive truly golden TripAdvisor reviews (for more tips, remember our 20-step TripAdvisor checklist!)
3. Prepare for what could go wrong
Think of this as cynical optimism rather than negativity. If something can go wrong, you want to be prepared for it. If the weather gets too cold and good moods start turning, is there a mountain cafe you can warm up in? Is it easy enough to turn back early if conditions change?
Your guests won't necessarily criticise you for unexpected setbacks during the activity, but they might criticise how you deal with it. Map out every possibility for your winter activity and know you can keep calm under pressure. With a cool head and a bit of improvisation, you might even turn a setback around and provide one of your best activities to date.
4. Bring warming provisions
One essential that solves many problems? Hot tea. Even if everything is running smoothly, bringing out a flask of a warming drink can be an excellent mid-point break or end to your winter activity. It's also a near failproof way to bring your guest experience up a notch.
One of my favourite travel moments of 2016 was evening sea kayaking in Greenland under the midnight sun. We paused to take in the Arctic views, and the guide from PGI Greenland brought out a bottle of Jägermeister from his bag (as well as a Coca Cola alternative).
While we'd been paddling between the icebergs for the last hour, he'd been quietly collecting small pieces of ice from the water around us. He put one piece of ice into a shot glass for each of us, acted as bartender, and we instantly felt a bit warmer. Can you provide your guests with memorable surprises like this?
5. Be chief photographer for the group
If guests are layered and wearing gloves, taking photos of the activity isn't going to be particularly easy. Designate yourself as chief photographer at the start of the trip and take the pressure off them so they can properly enjoy the activity.
If you return to your office at the end of the tour, you could quickly copy across your photos to the SD cards of guests, or make them available online or by email.
Here's one last tip: if you're encouraging your guests to keep their cameras off and enjoy the moment, provide them with a reminder or two to be mindful. One of the best tour guides I've had told the group to stop, pause, and take "a mental photograph" of the beautiful scenery. By really taking in the landscape around us - and being observant enough to notice the little details - I'm sure I took away even more fond memories from the activity.
How do you go above and beyond for guests during your winter activity? Are there any other secrets you've learned during your time as a guide or company owner?
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Written by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.