ManxSki blog 76: Season review

New technology on the terrace

New technology on the terrace

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Should have trumpeted the February offering a little louder, now we’ll just have to save the celebrations for the centenary post, if we’re

still in business.

Stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms

And yes, this one is a tad overdue, but we’ll put that down to the demands of a heavy season, now drawing to a close.

But then without looking back I’m sure I’ve trotted out that excuse before, and isn’t the truth at least partly that after six years we must be running out of fresh things to write about?

Well that, dear reader, is for you to judge, but flicking through the photos to decide how to garnish this offering I have been struck by how within the bounds of a yearly activity, change does occur, and we either change with it or suffer - as many other businesses far from this mountain fastness are discovering.

So what is new? Booking patterns, certainly. We are lucky to have a devoted and growing band of supporters some of whom have visited us every year,

sometimes more than once in a season, but to continue to grow we must attract new faces every year.

Without giving too much away to the opposition we use tried and tested portals to set out our wares, and have also varied these over the years to try to tap into new markets. A clear and accelerating trend is for the punter to delay his accommodation choice later and later.

The vast majority of our clients travel by low-cost airlines and in the scrabble for bookings they are offering flights further and further in advance; you can currently book flights well into the summer of 2014!

So flights get booked earlier and earlier, but save for key high-season weeks there is no reason for the skier to pin himself to a particular ski-area so far in advance and certainly not a resort or indeed a chalet. So earlier this year we were looking anxiously at our spreadsheet and wondering when the gaps were going to get filled.

The good news is filled they were; now we’re totting up the figures we’ve recorded an increase in bed-nights over last season. But it takes work and quick reactions; often the last thing you need when busy in the kitchen half an hour before dinner is to have to switch to salesman role to persuade a wavering punter of the merits of your accommodation over the opposition.

So they book later, they look for deals and they often come for shorter stays. Again low-cost carriers are partly to blame; midweek flights are

generally cheaper and those lucky enough still to have jobs have realised they can fit as much skiing into a long weekend as a traditional week with only half those precious holidays consumed.

This year I grew adept at slotting bookings into gaps in the schedule but drew heavily on the Boss’s reserves of stamina; changeovers had to be slick and care was needed to avoid imperilling our Wednesday off - much needed respite in a hectic schedule.

So how do we stay fresh? We change too.

The menus are an obvious example. Some of our standards have been on the table since year one and indeed the regulars object if they don’t turn up, but it’s good to try different things. Experimentation is generally kept for friends, and not everything works first time, but this year we took the basic menu up to two weeks of offerings, particularly useful when Pat and Andrew booked for 15 days - we managed to avoid any repeats throughout their stay.

And we have to react to changes the world throws at us. When we first opened our doors back in 2007 very few guests brought a mobile phone, and roaming tariffs ensured they generally stayed turned off save in emergency. Then smaller and smaller notebooks started appearing, and we saw our first Kindle - very cutting edge.

Last year’s must-have was the new iPhone and this year it’s been tablet explosion - again necessitating hasty upgrade to the chalet wifi.

Now to us one of the most precious aspects of chalet-life is dinner-table interaction, but the ever-present accessories were starting to

intrude. It’s a difficult one; skiers understandably want to show off the footage from their helmet-cams, it helps us to be able to show forecasts and webcams at breakfast, but we’ve made a ruling - no portable devices at the table - and after some grumbling in general it’s been well received.

Feed-back is life-blood to us - we need to know we’re getting it right, or if not, what we can do to put it right.

Since day one the Boss has kept a visitors book - now approaching the end of volume 2, it makes fascinating reading and can raise a wry smile - combined with the rogues gallery of the Facebook page it can transport us instantly to memorable weeks.

We also encourage clients to post reviews on public sites, we know how much these can be relied on by those chosing accommodation. A big thank you to everyone who has taken the trouble to post reviews, we really appreciate your comments.

So yes, a changing profession in a changing world, but a richly rewarding one. I think the year to come will throw up plenty to keep me scribbling....

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