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So You Own a Helicopter, Are Tours the Ticket?

Posted 1 years 127 days ago ago by jhadmin

The aviation industry is constantly changing. If you own a helicopter or fleet of helicopters, and have an interest in capitalizing on the tourism side of the industry, then Patric Douglas, CEO and founder of Big Mountain Heli Tours in Bend, Oregon, can help develop your company no matter your location or equipment.

When Douglas first entered the heli-tourism industry he confidently brought his 30 years’ experience as a tourism developer to the market. With his proven track record in tourism development Douglas is now lending his services to help those entering the heli-tourism industry find success. He is the owner of companies that have pioneered everything from white shark cage diving in Mexico (sharkdiver.com) to building underwater cities in Dubai (reefworlds.com). 

In October 2016, Douglas turned his full attention to aviation and emerged with the successful launch of Big Mountain Heli Tours (flycascades.com). Upon securing a partnership with Leading Edge Aviation (flybend.com), one of the largest helicopter training schools in Oregon, Big Mountain Heli Tours exceeded its 2017 forecasts and is poised for continued growth and expansion in 2018. The addition of an instructor-level tour company helps Leading Edge Aviation build hours and offer real world training for those moving on to other careers.

During his first year, Douglas has noticed several opportunities in the industry that many small companies are not capitalizing upon. He has spent time analyzing ways that smaller companies can expand, market their brand and offer tours that attract customers.

“Tourism is not rocket science – but it is a science – and if you’re rolling out a shark-cage diving product, a whitewater rafting product or a heli-tour company the basic principles are the same. There are some very cool, new online tools available that make marketing to specific clients more accessible than ever, it’s all about the data,” Douglas said.

It is Douglas’ intent to serve as a resource and consultant to aspiring heli-tour companies looking to grow their brand and repackage tours already being offered. With his many years of tourism experience he has the ability to help helicopter pilots or struggling tour companies launch or relaunch a successful heli-tour company.

“You can be anywhere in the world and I’ll find you a basic helicopter tour with a wow-factor built in that people will pay money for. The key is understanding the area around you, what your customers want and to create genuine tourism through authentic experiences,” Douglas said.

Douglas has identified three pillars for a heli-tour company to find success.

First, the company needs to establish their bread-and-butter tours. These are the workhorse tours that last 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or one hour. While these are more basic tours they still need to incorporate moments of magic or showcase something amazing. This is critical to success, so operators often need to dig deep into local history or natural phenomenon that clients will love. It’s important to remember that we are all explorers at heart.

Second, build corporate partnerships that open doors to weddings, resort tours, and corporate tours. Corporate America’s and resort hotels’ needs are growing for helicopter lift and support. Heli-tour companies will benefit from having products ready to roll out as markets shift and change.

Third, and this is where it gets fun, develop what Douglas refers to as “X-factor” tours offering unique experiences that are unprecedented and extraordinary. Big Mountain Heli Tours specializes in answering odd phone calls from potential clients with special requests that create a one-of-a-kind customized tour experience. Owners of heli-tour companies should be prepared and enthusiastic to provide service for even the most outlandish tours that prospective clients can dream up.

When done properly, bread-and-butter tours create opportunities in the corporate tours space, which opens doors to the X-factor tours.

Douglas suggests that companies begin by identifying their basic bread-and-butter tours. With his background in tourism and as a marketing professional with a holistic view of what the client wants, Douglas has a keen ability to see topography as a tourist,.

Douglas is not a pilot or aviation professional, but he understands tourism. He sees a helicopter as the ultimate tool that can get people to fun and interesting places in a short amount of time. It is a resource that allows people to see their region from the sky. The challenges are identifying how the helicopter should be used to create experiences that customers will pay for, and to keep tours fresh so they return.

Many small aviation companies offer flight training courses only, but have an interest in expanding into heli-tourism. Douglas advises that if you are good at helicopters and flight training, you should stick to your core competencies. However, in order to expand into heli-tourism a consulting firm like Big Mountain Heli Tours can help develop the tours and handle the marketing using data-driven metrics to capitalize on tourism opportunities in any given region.

Prior to launching his heli-tour company in Bend, Douglas studied available data to learn that 3.1 million people visit Central Oregon every year; close to 70 percent are return visitors and less than 1 percent of those people had ever seen the Cascade Mountain Range or the city from the air. With that knowledge, Douglas was able to create a unique slate of bread-and-butter tours knowing that almost none of his customers had ever enjoyed the experiences he was providing.

After establishing his basic tours Douglas was able to gradually expand his tour options based on an understanding of what his customers wanted. He established corporate partnerships with nearby resorts to reach new demographics and provide specialty tours. One new corporate partnership is Big Mountain Heli Tours, offering luxury upscale home and ranch-realty flights by helicopter. Taking to the sky to show land from a helicopter, the partnership gives local realtors an advantage when showing high-end properties to potential clients.

Douglas’ X-factor tours and one-time events provide unprecedented experiences, most notably flying 60 passengers with 22 bottles of Dom Perignon and catered lunches to a private ranch and small basecamp locations for the solar eclipse in 2017.

With his past successes and over 30 years of experience as a tourism developer, coupled with his new success in heli-tourism, Douglas is excited to expand into consulting to help struggling or aspiring heli-tourism companies find their niche to launch and grow their companies.

Douglas has the ability to assess what a heli-tourism company has to offer in terms of helicopters and potential tours in any particular region. He sees the topography through the eyes of a tourist and can help a company use their helicopters as a tool to provide hyper-local fun new ways to show customers the area from an entirely new perspective.

More information about Big Mountain Heli Tours can be found at https://flycascades.com

Patric Douglas can be reached at 541.668.7670 or staff@flycascades.com

About the Author: David Clewett is a  freelance journalist based in Bend, Oregon, author, and fly fisherman. He enjoys the challenge of all three and finds satisfaction in a satisfied client, a well-written poem, and a rainbow trout rising to strike the fly.

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