Cruises are so 2019! Ranch vacations are the travel industry’s best-kept secret – so much so, that most travel agents and advisors barely know about them – yet...
But ranch vacations aficionado, Gene Kilgore – who’s been in the business over 40 years – wants to change that, and offer Travel Agents and Advisors the chance to bring these incredible experiences to travelers looking for the ultimate getaway.
Here, Gene answers travelers’ and travel agents’ most burning questions about ranch vacations, and explains why Travel Agents need to start promoting ranch vacations today.
How many dude ranches are there in the U.S.?
There are over 200 dude ranches in the U.S.
How many dude ranches are there outside the U.S.?
In Canada and Mexico, another 20 or so. And in South America (Argentina and Chile) they are called ‘Estancias’ and there are probably another 25 or so.
Photo: French Creek Sportsmen's Club at Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming
What’s the difference between U.S. and international dude ranch vacations?
There’s basically no difference between U.S. and Canadian ranch vacations. Both countries offer a range of ranch experiences, from luxury ranch vacations, resort ranch vacations, boutique ranches, working ranches and everything in between.
However, when you visit ranches in Mexico or ranches in Argentina (otherwise known as ‘Estancias’), guests will experience wonderful cultural differences.
For example, different riding styles, different customs, different cuisine, different languages and different apparel.
This can provide an added cultural and educational benefit to a week on a ranch vacation.
How much does a ranch vacation cost?
The average ranch vacation costs about $350 per day.
However, the cost of a ranch vacation can vary – rates can start from $250 and go up to $2,000 per person per day.
What is the average length of a dude ranch vacation?
The average length of a dude ranch vacation in peak summer season is usually six or seven days – that seems to be the standard – although today many ranches offer shorter three-, four- and five-day packages (especially during spring, fall, winter and shoulder seasons).
To fully immerse in the complete ranch vacations experience, it is highly recommended that families book a full week (six to seven days).
Photo: Big Hole Lodge, Montana
Why are travelers suddenly more interested in nature vacations?
Because they are the best antidote for an over-civilized world, where ‘virtual’ experiences are gaining in popularity and influence.
Travelers are suddenly more interested in nature vacations due to the recent lockdowns, social distancing, fear and isolation brought on by the Pandemic.
Being stuck in houses and cities has just created a surge of pent-up desire to get out into the wild, in order to recharge and realign one’s priorities.
I have always said that nature reconnects us with the natural rhythms of the earth and families want out of the cities, to embrace the beauty and nurturing qualities of the wilderness.
In the days, months and years ahead, nature and wide open spaces will be at a premium, in demand by parents and children.
What are the advantages of family ranch vacations?
Ranches act as a natural ‘base camp’, offering a whole host of activities and family fun, that each member of the family will treasure.
In today’s world, families want – and need – time to reconnect and bond. Parents want kids to play with other kids in safe, natural and nurturing environments.
Family time is premium time and ranches know this, so they have created amazing ways to inspire and bring families together.
Plus the owner families and ranch staff often act as wholesome role models for kids, who are amazed that these lifestyles exist today in a world where life moves at high speed.
Photo: Triple Creek Ranch, Montana
What is a luxury dude ranch?
A luxury dude ranch offers more activity options, a higher staff-to-guest ratio, upscale cuisine and accommodations, and personalized services beyond compare.
If we use the motel/hotel example, there are properties like Holiday Inn and Best Western for economy travelers, then super high-end places like The Four Seasons, with everything in between.
Luxury ranch vacations are ‘The Four Seasons’.
But there are ranches that will suit all levels of expectations and cost: fancy and incredibly-located ranches for the most discerning, and beautiful, simple ranches for people that don’t need all the ‘bells and whistles’.
In some cases, travelers will prefer to have an entire ranch to themselves and exclusive whole-ranch, or ‘Private’ ranch bookings are growing in popularity.
Whether cushy or laid back, high-end or basic, it’s important to understand a client’s needs, hopes and desires, and narrow down the options based on availability, location and price.
Why do you believe Travel Advisors/Agents haven’t pursued booking dude ranches?
I’m not sure why Travel Advisors/Agents haven’t pursued booking dude ranches, considering how all-inclusive (lodging, meals, activities) and marvelous they are.
Many Travel Advisors only keep destinations, resorts and cruise travel as their main focus. They know the cruise product so well, but not ranch vacations.
The cruise industry has done an amazing job at selling themselves to Travel Advisors, but the ranch vacations industry hasn’t, which is why we’ve launched our big Travel Advisor Initiative – the opportunities ahead for Travel Advisors and ranch vacations are exciting!
We want to be the go-to place for Travel Advisors around the world to come and get the best information, education, help and personal assistance they need to successfully book a ranch vacation for their clients.
Photo: Huka Lodge, New Zealand
What should Travel Advisors ask clients to make sure they’d be right for a dude ranch vacation?
After establishing from the client an interest in this style of vacation, Advisors should ask a number of questions:
- Where they would like to go, for how long, are they flexible in their dates, if they want a ranch vacation with an extensive kids program, or a ranch vacation where kids and parents interact together.
- What is their price range, do they want a comfortable easygoing ranch, luxury or even an ‘Ultra’ high-end ranch?
- What season do they want to travel? Summer in the West, winters in the Rockies or ‘desert style’?
- Do they want a horse-focused ranch vacation, or would they like a hiking or fly fishing vacation?
- Do they want a spa/wellness ranch vacation or more action and adventure?
Websites Top50 Ranches, Ranchweb and Ranchvacations.com are here to help curate these questions, and more.
There’s a type of ranch vacation for literally everybody!
Is there any charge for using the Ranch Vacations Concierge Service?
There is absolutely NO charge for anyone to use our Ranch Concierge Service.
We’re here to help our Advisors in every way! We want to be the go-to place where travelers will find the very best information in the world on ranch vacations.
We are members of ASTA and we believe Travel Advisors/Agents are the unsung heroes of the travel world – we want to help them be more successful than ever and assist them in making ranch vacation dreams come true for their clients: active families from all around the world.
Original interview carried out and written by Widness & Wiggins PR.
Co-written, edited and created by Kate Hammaren; luxury and adventure travel writer, editor and world traveler.