The Perfect Getaway

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THE HEADLINE IN THIS MORNING'S Los Angeles Times read, "Summer airfare deals are taking a vacation." The article went on about increased airfares, a reduced number of flights, the high euro-to-dollar ratio and, if you can imagine, more densely packed airplanes on domestic and foreign routes this summer. This is bad news for the travel industry, but it looks to me like an opportunity for those of us in the motorcycle business.

Riding a motorcycle is a great way to take a vacation. You never have to settle for a middle seat. Someone isn't going to lose your luggage or keep you waiting on the runway for hours. You can eat whatever and whenever you want at a price you feel is reasonable. You can dictate your own schedule. And while fuel prices will have some impact, gas isn't going to break the vacation piggybank. We in the United States enjoy easy roadway access to 49 states, each with their own charms and oddities. For those inclined to foreign travel, there are three distinctly different places to travel to: Mexico, Canada and Quebec. Yes, I know Quebec is a part of Canada, but it is much different than the rest of Canada.

You as a dealer can benefit from promoting motorcycle vacations this year. Heck, you could probably even organize a tour or two for customers who are less adventurous. Plant the idea of a motorcycle vacation in your customers' heads by promoting it on your Web site, in your direct mail and in your e-newsletter. Let them know that you're their shopping center for all of their vacation needs: tires, batteries, chains, sprockets, tune-ups, luggage, outerwear, helmets, GPS units and mounts — you do carry this stuff, don't you? — boots, gloves, rain gear and all the other things that makes touring possible.

Putting up a few signs around the dealership wouldn't hurt, either. "Airfares High? See the USA on your motorcycle. Departures daily, everywhere." (All right, I'm not the greatest ad copywriter, but you get the idea.) You might consider hosting a few seminars on the details of motorcycle vacationing: how and what to pack, what kind of riding gear is best, touring maintenance, roadside repairs.

PRACTICE VACATIONING

Think about organizing a mini-vacation or "practice tour" over a long weekend to a fun, scenic spot just beyond the reach of your regular Saturday or Sunday ride. A practice tour would be perfect for people who have never toured before, as it gives them a chance to see what it's like and note what other items they need to make a longer ride easier and more fulfilling.

Approach your local travel agent and see if you can put together some kind of co-promotion that gives your store's customers some benefits if they purchase a vacation package involving specific hotels or resorts. You could offer it at a discount or as an incentive if someone purchases a motorcycle or a specific dollar amount of gear from you. (See also "Minding Your Business," February — ed)

People want and need vacations. Taking a plane or traveling by car has become too expensive for many U.S. consumers. A motorcycle is the perfect alternative, and what a coincidence! You have a base of people predisposed to riding. A motorcycle vacation offers many benefits to riders: You don't end up taking as much junk (yes, junk) with you, you get to smell the pines and wildflowers, you journey on your own schedule, it saves gas, and best of all, it's fun.

You get benefits as well. If folks bypass the traditional fly/drive vacation, they'll have money to get some of the gear they've always wanted but couldn't justify until now. You can make up for some possibly lost vehicle sales or even sell a few touring bikes. And you'll have "morphed" yourself into another business.

As any Harley-Davidson dealer can attest, touring bikes comprise an important segment of the market as the baby boomers shift lifestyles. But people don't need a dedicated touring bike to tour. All they need is an idea and then someone like you to make it possible.

Mike Vaughan is the former publisher of Dealernews. You can reach him at mvaughan@mikevaughan.com or via editors@dealernews.com.