Digital connection vital for track business
When the McAtamney family launched Four Peaks High Country Track in 2006, approximately 50 per percent of their work was completed via telephone and traditional mail.
Fast-forward to 2019, and that’s been completely transformed, with almost all daily business completed over the internet.
Owner Jo McAtamney says the internet has played an integral role in the growth of their business.
“It’s essential. People book by email, most find us by our website, we communicate with clients almost wholly by email, payment is 99 per cent done by internet banking, and only a few still pay by cheque.”
“We also have a track Facebook page, and suggest clients put photos and comments up when they’ve completed their trip.”
Staying connected, and making the most of technology available to them, has helped the family run both the walking track and mountain biking experience, alongside their high country sheep and cattle station.
The private track is situated in the Four Peaks’ range between Fairlie and Geraldine, with the company employing one full-time staff member and two part-timers, as required.
During the track season (mid-November to mid-April) groups of up to 10 people traverse the four day/night track which provides a 50-kilometre trip around the station. It follows the route taken by early farmers in the 1850s when sheep were first introduced to the area. Numbers are limited to ensure a tranquil experience and to avoid any stock disruption.
Clients only need to carry a small day pack as they have their gear transported hut-to-hut.
“When a group arrives at the station huts on their first night, my husband and myself, sometimes our son, or a farm employee, will meet and greet them,” Jo says. “We give them a health and safety briefing and answer any questions they may have. The next morning, we drive them to the beginning of the track and see them off.
“Our walkers and bikers are able to experience a working sheep and beef station and the life of the early farming pioneers in the area. The shepherds’ huts are upgraded for comfortable accommodation, but still retain their authenticity.
“We also have a recycling system in place at the huts for walkers’ rubbish and we collect the food scraps for our hens.”
They’ve also installed small solar panels at each hut which run LED lights.
While the experience provides an opportunity for people to go back-to-basics and enjoy the great outdoors without the need for technology, behind the scenes it’s a very different story.
As the director and day-to-day operator, Jo is kept busy taking online bookings, and maintaining the website, on top of transporting the packs, and servicing the huts.
They use a rural broadband provider and are served via a repeater on Mount Dobson. Jo credits the internet with boosting interest in the track.
“Communication and marketing have improved over the years solely because of the internet.
“It’s a huge timesaver for running the business and provides advantages to the whole community here; most notices of community meetings are all via the internet now.
“Our connectivity does ‘kick out’ from time-to-time, often during bad weather. Better reliability would be a big help, but I’m not sure about its speed compared to others.”
Jo encourages other businesses to adopt a proactive approach to digital connectivity.
“Don’t even consider running a business without it!”