In June of 2016 I chatted with Mike Brcic from Sacred Rides about their upcoming guide sharing product offering, which has now been released to the general public.
To review, the idea was to apply a “ride share” model to the guided mountain bike tour industry. Sacred Rides has been extremely successful with their longer duration, destination tours, but they felt that there was a market for 1-2 day rides for people who are in a location for other reasons, such as a family vacation or a work trip. It’s simply not feasible for the current Sacred Rides business model to operate hundreds of locations around the globe, especially for shorter duration trips, so the “affiliate guide” concept was born!
The program, now officially dubbed Sacred Rides Getaways, went through a six-month beta program with 20 guides. While the guiding and logistics concepts were easily transferred from the existing business model, the beta period was essential for developing the web backend and testing if it could scale once the program was released to the public.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Mike and talk about the program now that it is coming out of beta.
Singletracks: Last time we spoke this was still in the planning phase and the beta hadn’t started yet. How did the beta go, and what changes, if any had to be made?
Mike Brcic: The beta went even better than we anticipated and there were very few adjustments that needed to be made. The initial affiliate guides have been booking trips and getting paid for over 6 months now. We’ve now started work on developing a mobile app, as well as preparing for what we expect will be huge growth.
ST: What does Sacred Rides provide to the Getaways affiliate guides?
MB: We provide affiliates with their own mobile and SEO-optimized website, backend booking and operations system, and online training for guiding principles, safety, and risk management. On the business development side, we provide a central website where customers can search for rides based on date and location, and then book the trip right then and there. Rides can also be sorted by area or rating. It functions very similarly to vacation rental websites that users are likely already familiar with. We can also provide analysis and assistance for any under-performing accounts in order to help them maximize both their bookings and ratings.
Additionally, affiliates get 10% off standard Sacred Rides tours, and they are free to barter trips with other affiliates around the world. We’re also working on creating an affiliate-only destination tour as an added perk.
ST: Is online training the only education that is available for prospective guides?
MB: No, that is just for them to get up and running. Within a year of signing up they would also need to attend a regional on-trail training course taught by some of our experienced destination guides.
ST: On the flipside, what does the prospective guide need to provide?
MB: The guide would need to obtain any licensing required for their area. Of course these requirements fluctuate wildly from place to place so we can’t do it for them, but we do offer a comprehensive checklist based on things we have learned from expanding into various areas. Guides are also responsible for their own liability insurance, and again, we can provide some guidance and access to discounts based on our partnerships with insurance providers.
ST: Are guides expected to provide accommodations or rental bikes?
MB: No, however if they want to do that it can certainly help their bookings. We do have several beta guides who happen to own a rental property and they offer package deals with lodging and the mountain biking trip. Others partner with a local lodging provider to obtain discounts. It’s also okay to just offer the trip itself with no lodging… it’s up to the individual guide. As for bikes, we are working with Norco and have secured generously discounted pricing for affiliates who want to provide a rental fleet. We’re also working with some accessory and nutrition partners… more to come on that.
ST: How do the guide affiliates get paid?
MB: When clients book a trip, they do so directly on the Sacred Rides Getaways website, or via the affiliate’s own website. 90% gets disbursed to the affiliate and we keep 10%. Out of our percentage, we donate a portion to community and trail projects around the world, as well as maintain the backend infrastructure. Also, if affiliates attempt to bypass the booking system in order to keep that 10% they will be unable to receive customer reviews and insurance may not cover them.
ST: What are the growth plans for this program for this first year?
MB: The seasonal planning cycle of mountain biking being what it is, we know that 2017 will pretty much be a wash for us. We are looking to take on about 150 new affiliates worldwide, which will be about break even on our initial investment, and then in 2018 we expect to grow exponentially and turn a profit on our end.
ST: So that brings up the big question: How much should an affiliate guide expect to invest in order to be part of this program?
MB: Affiliates will pay $1,500 CAD annually (about $1,100 USD at time of writing). This of course plugs them into all of the benefits we’ve talked about. They will also get a personalized domain name, and they will have the entire Sacred Rides marketing machine behind them. Part of the thinking in setting such a substantial investment is to hopefully bring in the best, most dedicated affiliates who have a desire to grow their business.
I should also mention that during the beta we realized the need to separate into assigned territories, in order to avoid having affiliates stepping on each other. If you live in an area with only one decent ride someone may already have the rights to it, but if you’re in a hot bed area with lots of riding opportunities we can of course support more affiliates.
Clarification: According to a recent email from Mike Brcic, “It’s always been envisioned as an exclusive program (i.e. if you get access to a territory, no one else can come into your territory, for at least 5 years).”
ST: So where do people go to book a trip or apply to be an affiliate?
MB: The Getaways web site is fully operational and can be accessed here: https://getaways.sacredrides.com
We’ve simplified it such that prospective clients and affiliates can all get where they need to go from a single landing page.
So there you have it. If you have always wanted to be a mountain biking guide, but don’t want to “work for the man” or bear the entire responsibility of developing a business from the ground up, you now have a potential partner to help you get up and running. While the price of admission is substantial, it is designed to be somewhat exclusive, but still be far less expensive than more traditional franchise models, while providing full access to Sacred Rides’ substantial experience in the guiding industry.
Last updated on June 9, 2017 at 9:51am MDT.