Like all ski resorts, Jay Peak was dealt an end-of-season blow by the rapid spread of COVID-19. Recognizing the need for revenue and the reality their loyal passholders were facing, the Jay Peak team, including Director of Marketing, Kim Hewitt, and General Manager, Steve Wright, quickly adjusted their strategy. With the help of Ashley Fay, Senior Implementation Specialist, Inntopia, they rolled out a new, unique product and offer in the span of just a few days.
Pascale: Let’s start with the basics. What is Jay Peak’s typical pass strategy?
Kim: We use a pretty standard model with three price tiers. The earliest deadline for the most affordable rates is usually in May. Along with best season pass rates, guests can also use their pass for the remainder of the current season. We also incentivize early purchases with a free lift ticket for those who purchase by the earliest deadline. Following the May deadline, there’s a second October deadline. Once we hit the October deadline, rates increase to what they will be for the remainder of the season. In the past, all season passes have been paid in full at the time of purchase.
Pascale: How were things looking at the end of the 2019/20 season?
Kim: We saw an increase in season pass sales for 2019/20 over 2018/19. Up 8% in units and 12% in revenue, which exceeded our expectations. Given the major season pass products in the market, seeing an increase in sales is a win.
Pascale: And then COVID-19 arrived. Walk us through the last couple of months.
Kim: Things were crazy a month ago. Jay Peak closed right when the May rates for regular season pass sales would have gone live. Like everyone, we had to quickly readjust our season pass plan. It was important to us to recognize the solid and reciprocal relationship we have with our season pass-holders. They’ve stood by us and we wanted to do what we could now to help them, so we rolled out more flexible payment and refund policies for the 2020/21 season.
Pascale: What does your new season pass product look like?
Kim: The pass tiers and products are the same, but we adjusted the payment process and refund policy. We extended our earliest deadline to June 8, season pass-holders only need to pay $25 to lock in at the earliest, most discounted rates (the remainder of the purchase will automatically be processed 60 days from their initial purchase), and introduced a no-questions-asked refund option through October 1. The goal was, and is, to make it as easy as possible for our season pass-holders to commit to a 2020/21 season pass but also offer full refunds should our season pass-holders need that flexibility.
Pascale: At this point, who was still around at Jay?
Kim: Our resort closed mid-March and most employees were furloughed. The usual team members at Jay Peak were not available to set up a new configuration to sell season passes, so Inntopia stepped in to help. Our General Manager, Steve Wright, led the charge for figuring out deposits which, as you know, required more thought and work to accomplish in our systems.
Pascale: Right. And, Ashley, that’s where you come in. What did that look like on your side?
Ashley: This setup was very different from their normal policy which is to collect 100% for season passes at the time of booking. In fact, most Siriusware users collect 100% at the time of booking so this was not something I had come across before.
Pascale: What was the biggest hurdle?
Ashley: There are some limitations on dateless/remote inventory products (for example, season pass product type) that do not work well with how deposit schedules calculate a specific amount at the time of booking. We often talk about how flexible Inntopia Commerce is and this was a great test.
I pulled a few Inntopians together to brainstorm a concept that could be used for Jay Peak. I owe a huge thank you to Lisa Prive and John Spencer. Not only did they help come up with a solution, they both backed me up internally while I transitioned Jay over to this new configuration. It was definitely a team effort!
Pascale: How long did all this take, Kim?
Kim: We wanted to get out before other resorts and jump in front. Ashley made it a priority and turned it around in two to three days (reconfiguration, test, and launch).
Pascale: That’s great. Once it was ready, what did your outreach look like?
Kim: We have been treading lightly on the marketing front and currently focusing on policy updates (extended deadline, deposit, no-questions-asked refunds). Initially, we sent e-blast/newsletter messaging to both a limited season pass-holder list and also our main newsletter list describing what and how we’ve updated to make it easier for people to get their head around purchasing.
We recently launched an initial social campaign. Again, details will focus on (1) new policies (2) benefits (free lift ticket and new Saddleback partnership) and (3) our community and the strength of it. We’ll start integrating more traditional online media in early-mid May. The schedule was developed in part to avoid jumping into sales mode before people were ready for it but we also know that we see the biggest surge of purchases at the deadline so we’re trying to line up with that timing.
Pascale: How’s it going so far?
Kim: We’re not pacing anywhere near previous years and sales to date have been light, but when we send an e-blast or newsletter there is a pulse of sales. We’re seeing an uptick in sales now that the social campaign is live.
Pascale: A tough challenge but it sounds like you handled it as well as you possibly could. Wishing your team the best of luck!
Kim: Thank you!
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