What Constitutes Value?

Something I was concerned about when we set up the recent survey we sent out was, how do people perceive value? What concerned me was, would respondents understand that value was not necessarily price, though it could be. As the point of the survey was to find out just what our customers valued, (other than price) I think this was a legitimate area of concern.

I was therefore quite rapt that we only had two or three comments (out of hundreds) mentioning anything to do with monetary value at all. Instead, what respondents highlighted most were the positive feelings they got from being looked after by friendly, knowledgeable and caring activity guides and lodge staff. Second, to the enjoyment of interacting with lodge staff and activity guides, was being able to experience the beautiful scenery of the area in which River Valley Lodge is situated and from which our adventure activities operate from.

In a sense, what people valued most were monetarily priceless, having more to do with genuine manaakitanga (hospitality), and interaction with the natural environment.

New Zealand is now at Level 2 with most businesses being able to reopen, while bars, one of the last to open their doors, have to wait to tomorrow the 21st May. Some tourism businesses are again operating, while many are choosing to remain shut until Spring. Some have decided to mothball their operations for the next 18 months, while a few have closed permanently. The whole industry is hoping that our “bubble” will be expanded to include Australia. Having Australian visitors would be a welcome boost.

As an update, we have decided to reopen River Valley Lodge (effective now) for groups up to 10 guests. Our adventure activities, whether river or horse-based will not resume until after 1st October 2020. Incidentally, Grade 5 rafting is unable to operate under COVID-19 Level 2 rules.

One thing I imagine most tourism businesses are experiencing at the moment, as we are, is the volume of emails from third parties wanting to “help” market what we offer, to New Zealanders. To be fair, many of those offering these services do not want any money for this, and I must say we are thankful for their efforts.

However, one thing they almost all have in common is they want us to provide heavily discounted deals. I read of two for ones, (two people staying, eating, rafting or horse trekking for the price of one person), or other types of heavy discounting. The argument goes that New Zealanders will only travel or visit if they can get a deal.

Some adventure operators have already gone down this road. Going down this road puts our industry into even more financial jeopardy. The race to provide the biggest discount, or the cheapest deal is a race that no-one wins. Certainly not the operator, and eventually even the customer loses. Standards have to slip, and short cuts have to be taken if these deals stay in place over any length of time. It is a race to the bottom.

River Valley will not be playing this game of heavy discounting and deals.

As we found from our survey, what people value and remember is not whether they got a few dollars off the ticket price, but rather the experiences they had that you cannot put a price on. The warm fuzzies if you like.

Depending on significant discounts and financially, crippling deals to attract customers is merely lazy marketing. I challenge the industry. Do you want to go down the road of the big discount stores, “where everyone gets a bargain”, or do you want to go down the other path, one that does require a great deal more work, of providing truly world-class experiences for our guests?

I know which path we (River Valley) are committed to, and I also know what our guests genuinely value and remember.

And it is not some sort of discounted deal.

Brian Megaw

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