1. Finding More Favorable Loan Terms and Conditions:
The majority of the lodges I have visited have been in the owner’s family for a significant amount of time and have significant equity built up in the property.
When business revenue was sagging, these lodge owners were able to leverage their significant equity built up in their lodge operations and negotiate better monthly terms due to the low loan to value ratios.
By obtaining more manageable monthly payments, they were able to create that extra bit of breathing room every month as they waited for the tourism industry to turn around.
Alternatively to refinancing the whole mortgage, a lot of lodge owners have also done equity take out loans to invest in aging infrastructure and marketing campaigns.
2. Subdividing Excess Land and Selling Off as Cottage Lots:
Disclaimer: You will need to consult with your local zoning bylaw and any development restrictions that may be in place.
During the recent fishing lodge industry slow down, some lodge owner’s made use of their excess land that was not necessary to their operation.
The lodge owners went through the proper channels to subdivide this excess land and create valuable cottage lots which were then sold off. Some even went so far as subdividing the excess land and developing cottages before selling them off.
Often times the buyers were past American guests of the lodge that lived a good distance away and did not make it to the cabins often. The lodge owners then offered to serve as property managers for these cabins which spent most of their time as short term rentals.
The lodge owners made the profit from the sale and also added a revenue stream managing the properties on an ongoing basis.
3. Attending More Trade Shows:
Some lodge owners decided to take matters into their own hands and doubled the number of trade shows they attended during the “off season”.
Lodge owners that did this reported earning back enough additional revenue from the increased number of guests to cover the cost of the trade shows plus some additional revenue.
These lodge owners felt that the real payoff will be in earning the repeat business of these new guests.
4. Increasing Online Presence and Social Media:
I spend a lot of time on all sorts of fishing lodge websites. Odds are that if you are a fishing lodge owner I have visited your website.
There is a very clear trend in the industry of improving the quality and quantity of the lodge’s online presence.
As I will discuss further below, your client list is aging and if you want to attract new generations of fisherman, it is important to go where they are which is online.
Some Lodge owner’s have implemented Instagram accounts into their marketing strategies. Instagram couldn’t be a more perfect place for lodge owner’s to show off big catches and the picturesque scenery of their resort.
Lodge owners have also recognized the need for a high quality website and the importance of generating regular content for that website.
5. Email Marketing:
Most lodge owner’s started collecting their guests email addresses many years ago, but only a few lodges started implementing email marketing into their strategy to increase revenue.
The lodge owners that regularly touched base with their old guests throughout the winter (showing them pictures of what’s been going on at the lodge, etc) retained a significantly higher percentage of guests than those that waited to hear from their guests.
I’m sure all of your guests would love to hear from you, so start crafting a regular email just to say hello.
6. Google Adwords Campaigns:
Type a search into google such as “Fishing Lodge vacation”. Notice those ads that pop up first at the top? That’s google adwords and some lodge owners are paying for it.
How it works is you buy certain google search keywords and when potential guest is searching for a fishing lodge and clicks on your ad you will pay google for that click.
The price per click varies but I would guess per click isn’t more than a few dollars.
7. No Longer Relying on Their Old Return Client List:
Aging fisherman is a problem for the fishing lodge industry.
There was a time when lodge owners could do very little marketing and solely rely on past guests to come back. You could set your watch to their annual trip. These old faithful guests have aged and aren’t being replaced by a new generation of anglers at the same rate.
Some fishing lodges recognized this trend early and segmented a portion of the younger population that have interest in escaping the city for a taste of the Great Canadian Wilderness.
Fishing Lodges have become a popular destination for bachelor parties. This is one of the ways lodges have focused on a younger demographic.
8. Completing Extensive Renovations:
As much as guests like to feel “they are getting away from it all”, I will attempt to speak for the majority when I say that they still want a good quality cabin to stay in that is well kept.
The fishing lodge inventory in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut has aged as many lodge owners simply did not have the funds to provide high quality accommodations.
As the fishing lodge industry has been improving the last few years, lodge owners are investing in significant renovations and they’re seeing the return on their investment.
Our company completes a lot of “As Complete” lodge appraisals which where the appraisal is based on the value of the lodge after the renovations have been completed for mortgage financing. This helps the lodge owners develop a clear plan and renovation budget and obtain financing.
9. Completing Strategic Expansions:
Unfortunately, a significant amount of fishing lodge operators did not make it through the rougher years post economic collapse in the United States.
As a result of some of these lodges closing their doors, those annual guests that were loyal to the lodges that ceased to exist became “free agents”.
Some lodges saw an increase in their business as a result of this and were able to expand the number of cabins their lodge offers and see them booked very quickly.
10. Public Dining Restaurant:
This is obviously not a option for very remote lodge operations.
However, some of the road access and boat access fishing lodges on more “well-travelled” lakes or in close proximity to a town have opened up their dining rooms to the general public with some success being seen with this decision.
No longer is dining in the main lodge just an option for those American Plan Guests.
Lodges often have a lot of food waste. By opening up the lodge to the public, those extra meals that may have turned into waste have become an extra few dollars that add up over the course of a summer with no additional effort.
11. Diversifying The Company Profile:
I have seen lodges successfully diversify their business operations to include additional revenue sources such as: dock construction services, cabin construction services.
This was discussed above, but lodge owner’s often have the inside scoop on what is happening in their nearby cottage country.
Some lodge owner’s have capitalized on cottages that were available at a discount and could be resold or were prime for redevelopment.
Others have purchased prime land that will later be subdivided and sold off as cottage lots.
12. Offering Long Term Rentals:
There have been many instances where highway road construction crews were working in the area of fishing lodge operations.
The lodge owners were able to capitalize on the situation by renting out some of the cabins for the entire summer to the crews.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and its employees also occupy cabins on a seasonal basis at some lodges.
13. Killing Off The Revenue Drainers:
Could you potentially sell one off one of your outposts and increase bookings at the remaining outposts?
The more buildings and cabins your operation has, the higher your repairs and maintenance costs will be maintaining these structures.
Usually the case is one of the outposts is severely under-performing in comparison to the rest.
You have to be willing to “kill off your darlings”. What does “kill your darlings” mean? It is a writing saying meaning that we should be willing and prepared to kill our favorite characters if doing so is beneficial to the story.
That’s solid advice, and I agree with it and believe more lodge owners should apply it when it comes to their business decisions.
Many lodge owners bought in with the dream but few were prepared for what it takes to run a successful business.
The successful lodge operators enter every year with a detailed plan. They recognized the need is increase their business acumen and/or have hired consultants to help their operations.
I truly believe the tourism industry in Canada has really “turned a corner” and is on a healthy upward trend.
I believe the fishing lodge industry in particular is going to be seeing a continued increase in growth as individuals recognize the necessity of connecting with the outdoors as we surround ourselves with more and more technology.
With that being said, I hope one of these 13 Tactics helps you improve your lodge operation this year.