(Photo by Marcee Hillman)
It’s a warm Saturday evening and four friends are looking for something fun to do after competing in the Cascade Lakes Relay. They have never been to Central Oregon before and only have one night to do something memorable before they go back to Seattle. Earlier in the summer a family is here from Sacramento for a cousin’s high school graduation. They floated the river in the afternoon and are now downtown for dinner. During the evenings off from a business trip, Mr. Jones explores what Central Oregon has to offer while he has a chance. In all of these situations, a tour guide has a chance to bring these people back to Central Oregon.
Personally, when I am on vacation I want to explore new places and eat at local restaurants. On a recent weekend trip to Depoe Bay, my fiancé and I didn’t have very good luck picking quality restaurants. It detracted from our experience and rather than visit there again we will explore another place on the coast instead. If we’d had referrals for better restaurants or more places to visit, it may have stayed on our list of places to visit again. Visitors guides give choices by paid advertisers, not quality referrals. Tour guides may be one of the few people that visitors spend any length of face-to-face time with during their visit to Central Oregon.
While I am giving people carriage rides through downtown I have the opportunity to refer them to eat at Barrio for dinner that evening, the Victorian Café for breakfast the next morning, Pine Mountain Sports for gear and a forest pass before heading out to hike the Green Lakes Trail, back to town for a show at the Tower Theatre that evening after dinner at The Jackalope Grill. If I don’t make those recommendations they have breakfast at some chain restaurant, walk along the river, grab some fast food for lunch before a movie they could have watched at home. See the difference we can make? Which vacation are they going to want to experience again and recommend to friends back home? My referrals aren’t always as detailed. It might be as simple as having a taster at the White Water Taphousewhile waiting for a table at Deschutes Brewery.
These referral ideas don’t have to be only for tour guides. If you have a business, hotels, restaurants… you and your people can make a big difference by referring people to us. If you work at the front desk of a hotel and someone is checking in for a romantic weekend you could suggest dinner at a downtown restaurant and a carriage ride. Is it a family checking in? You can recommend the High Desert Museum, Munch & Music or to get groceries at Ag Connections or Central Oregon Locavore. When families are having dinner downtown I always tell the kids, “After dinner don’t forget to save room for ice cream at Goodies or Bonta.” Are you helping a family with teens? They would appreciate a referral to Let It Ride for electric bikes or to Tumalo Creek and Kayak to try out some stand up paddle boards. Elderly folks would enjoy visiting the Historical Society, a farmer’s market or a scenic drive along the Cascade lakes loop for lunch at Elk Lake Lodge ending with an evening exploring Sunriver.
Knowing who to refer by personal experience always helps. I try to adventure as much as I can with my family but we can only do so much. I also like when people bring me their flyers. I have a stash under the seat of the carriage to hand out. If you are in a position to refer Cowboy Carriage, give me a call and I will do my best to fit you in between booked rides or include you on a horse-drawn brewery tour so you know the services I offer. I would also consider a trade of services so we can both make recommendations to our guests.
A tour guide can impact not only visitor experiences and referrals, but also by referring to other local businesses we can make a difference in the economy. In my opinion if you want to make the biggest difference, for gosh sakes, while you have visitors attention please teach them how to drive through a roundabout!