We at Zephyr Adventures are very into feedback. We have been sending an evaluation form to everyone who has traveled with us since 1997, using the same five-point scale to evaluate everything from restaurants to hotels, from guides to the overall trip.
It’s a rough business because a) it is hard to please everyone and b) we have very high standards for ourselves. It is not pleasant when you get a low rating as a guide or we get a low rating on a trip. But if you are into feedback, you have to be prepared for the bad as well as the good and to make corrections when necessary.
This past week we were disappointed to get one “two” rating (Fair) and two “three” ratings (Good) in the results on our recently-completed South Africa Hike, Wine, and Safari Adventure. Granted, the other ratings were all Very Good or Outstanding but our goal for each trip is to have no one rate the trip lower than Very Good. We failed on this trip.
The primary reason was trip size. We had 25 people on this trip. Although this is the maximum as per our stated policy, we heard from a number of participants the group size was too large.
The interesting thing is we have done the number crunching and we can’t tie group size to participant satisfaction on past tours. It’s just not correlated. And there are real reasons why a large group can actually be more fun, primarily because it means you have more potential new friends to meet and hang out with on your vacation. We have seen this work over and over.
We decided to do more research and conducted one of our High Roller Surveys, short two-minute surveys of our most-traveled alumni. We asked what the optimum group size would be (12, 16, 20, or 24 participants) and the results were 20-24 for Biking Adventures, 16 for Hiking Adventures, 20-24 for Skating Adventures, and 24 for Wine, Food, & Beer Adventures.
So there is no real desire among our alumni for smaller trips. One of our alumni, Marian Melish, put it this way: “I do not feel that the group size needs limits – we have had our most wonderful experiences with a small group ( Burgundy) and a large group (Switzerland). “
We also asked about participant to guide ratios, which we current have set at a maximum of 8:1. (In other words, we have two guides on trips up to 16 people and add a third guide at 17.) 2/3 of the respondents told us decreasing this ratio (having more guides) was not important and only 8% told us this would be “very important”.
So we are going to lower our maximum to 24 participants on most tours and keep our maximum participant to guide ratio of 8:1. This is the maximum – many trips have smaller trip numbers and higher guide ratios.
However, based on the poor South Africa tour results and the desire of our alumni to have a lower maximum on hiking adventures, we will institute a new maximum of 16 participants on our Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Tibet, Peru, Kilimanjaro, Hadrian’s Wall, South Africa, and Chile & Argentina tours.
Our goal is to constantly provide outstanding vacations for our travelers and we hope this helps. We appreciate the feedback!