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As more travelers discover the wide range of dude ranches available — from rustic to luxurious and everything in between — the popularity of dude ranch vacations will likely continue.
According to Gene Kilgore, who is recognized by American Express as the world’s leading authority on guest ranches, this type of vacation gives clients the opportunity to unplug from their busy lives and reconnect with each other. Plus, he notes, dude ranches represent a part of our American history that some travelers don’t know anything about.
“Unlike older generations who grew up with all kinds of television Westerns, younger people have no connection with the American cowboy and the West,” Kilgore said. “So, it’s kind of like a great discovery process.”
To encourage that discovery process for both travelers and travel advisors who may not be familiar with dude ranches, Kilgore has developed several websites designed to make ranch vacations easily accessible and bookable.
On every site, the ranches are divided by category, making it easy for agents to browse according to the type of ranch they feel would be the best fit for their clients. These categories include guest ranches, working ranches, resort ranches, luxury ranches, ultra ranches and private ranches. In addition, several specially designed tools help agents refine their search.
“On all our sites, we have a tab specifically for travel advisors, where they can create an account and see which ranches will give them a commission,” Kilgore said. “This is a really nifty thing we’ve added because I believe so much in the travel advisor part of the industry.”
On all our sites, we have a tab specifically for travel advisors, where they can create an account and see which ranches will give them a commission. This is a really nifty thing we’ve added because I believe so much in the travel advisor part of the industry.
A second “check availability” tab allows agents to input detailed information for each client and quickly find out which ranches have availability. Kilgore notes that this particular feature was designed to save advisors time. By using the tool to check availability first, agents can narrow down the options to ranches that not only meet their clients’ requirements, but also are available on the dates their clients want to travel.
“There is no universal reservation platform for ranches,” Kilgore said. “So, when I designed this, I was thinking about travel agents having one tool [to check availability] instead of having to go ranch by ranch, calling or emailing.”
Kilgore describes guest ranches as “a cruise ship on land,” and encourages agents who regularly book cruises for families to consider booking ranches because they’re usually all-inclusive like a cruise. However, because each ranch has a distinct personality, he also suggests that agents develop relationships directly with the ranchers in order to match the right product with the right clients — which, in turn, benefits everyone.
“On a cruise, you’re selling a room with a veranda or a room with a window, and everything else is the same,” he said. “But with the ranches, there are variables to consider, such as do they have kids’ programs? Are there special kids’ rates? Is there something for older parents to do? What’s the fishing like? What’s the river rafting like? There are a lot of different moving parts that people need to understand, so the more travel agents can communicate with the ranchers directly, the better everything’s going to be.”
If advisors need further help figuring out which specific ranch is right for which client, Kilgore has a solution for that, too: the “concierge” tab.
This tool provides nearly 24-hour access to a dude ranch expert — often Kilgore himself — so agents can call at any time, explain exactly what their clients are looking for, and be connected with somebody who knows the product and can tell them which ranch might be better than another. Kilgore calls this service “a life preserver” because it helps agents make their way through a sea of dude ranch options.
In the end, Kilgore says, the thing that makes ranch vacations so exciting and so special in today’s world — and the reason he hopes his websites will make it easier for agents to book them for clients — is that they give families a way to get back to their roots and get back to each other.
The DetailsGene Kilgorewww.genekilgore.com