Outdoor Business Tips for Operating Post-Coronavirus

Things that we will cover in this article:

Shifting Travel Trends

We believe that our new customer will be more local instead of the traveler market, even if you’re in a world-famous destination and that outdoor recreation is going to grow faster than before once the stay at home orders get loosened. We are optimistic of course, but we are seeing these trends already, with people visiting local and state parks, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors. It’s one of the best ways to get out of the house and still maintain social distancing.

People are feeling pent up in their homes and are craving recreation.  As our entertainment options dwindle, there will be more demand than ever to get out and do something. In the past, entertainment included sporting events, concerts, crowded bars, restaurants, night clubs, and while we in the outdoor industry all scratched our heads wondering why more people don’t get outdoors! We believe that people will use this opportunity to appreciate what being outdoors has to offer.

The Initial Short Term Pent Up Demand

We’ve talked to many of our partners and most of them are mentioning a spike in new bike sales and even rentals in places where restrictions are loosened.

We’re seeing an increase in new and used bike sales in the city, the rentals are also slowly picking back up – Andrew, Bay City Bike, San Francisco

Long Term Travel Trends We Anticipate

  • More road trips instead of flights.  The risk of contact is higher on flights and the price of gas is cheaper than ever.
  • Customers wanting to support local businesses as they explore locally.
  • “Socially distant” activity providers will be on the rise. We believe ‘socially distant’ this will be a search filter option in the future when selecting activities. Luckily, we won’t need a filter as the only activities that we offer on our platform are outdoor, human-powered activities.

Tips for Running the No-Touch or Low-Touch (Outdoors) Business

Note: These are business tips for optimizing your business and driving sales in a new and creative way and are in no way the guidelines or recommendations that are offered by the CDC or your local health department on re-opening your business.

The consumers are going to look for their safest and socially distant recreation options. In order to succeed, you’ll have to lead with safety as well as the experience.

Brick and mortar retailers and grocery stores are thinking about strategies for the “new normal”.  How to survive and thrive and what changes are necessary.  We are sharing some of their business processes and ideas that you may find helpful.

No Touch Transactions

Customers will want to avoid places where they will run into crowds.  Even better, they want to transact online and have their gear delivered to them.  They are used to this now with grocery delivery, even Target, Home Depot, and Costco have jumped on the delivery bandwagon.

  • Rent Online, with Delivery:  if you are equipped to do this, customers will embrace it.  Example: check out Black Tie Skis delivery model.
  • Rent Online requires Online Booking Solution: If you don’t already have booking software on your website, you may want to consider it.  Adopting technology like booking software and e-commerce solutions can increase sales and traffic to your store virtually.  If you need help deciding on a rental software or need a free solution, check out our rental and tours software article. There are so many options in the market right now, whether you want to pay per month or pay per transaction.  If you decide to use a form or a DIY route, please see our note of caution below on accepting online payments.
  • Online Demos: Video calls are the new happy hours.  Jump on a video call with your clients, show them all the features and benefits of your products, help them rent online and have it ready for the clients to pick up, or better yet, deliver it.  Throw in a happy hour beer if you feel like it.
  • Shop Online, with Delivery: You can easily ship products, or even start running deliveries yourself to your local customers. Let the customer shop online and get their bike parts, new bikes, kayaks, or other merchandise delivered right to their door by delivery services, or even you!

Low Touch Transactions

Reducing or eliminating touchpoints in the shop is going to be important.  Focus on what can easily get people in and out faster and technology that can reduce manual, “touchy-feely” tasks and protect the people inside your store.

  • Rent Online, Pick Up in (or Outside) the Store: Have your online bookings pre-booked, so when the customer arrives, the product is already ready and waiting outside of the store. You can answer any of the questions either through a screened window or door.Rent online pick up in store
  • No Payments or Paperwork in-Store – this is where online booking and e-commerce software helps.  Payment and paperwork can be shifted online.
  • Digital Waivers – FREE from TripOutside
    • Send your customers their rental waivers to sign on their own devices prior to their appointment. This is even safer than having an electronic kiosk.
    • We have built a free digital waiver process just for you that you can use for your business. They are typically included in our advanced plan, lifetime access, no limits, or restrictions.
  • Shop Online, Pick Up In-Store: Same goes for purchases.  If the customer has to come to the store, make their time in the store as limited as possible. Let them try on the items if they need to, but letting them shop online in advance will reduce the time spent in-store.  The way I imagine this is that the customer has already purchased their biking shorts or climbing shoes online, and they pop into the store for a quick Q&A and/or trial (or they have already called you or video chatted), make any changes necessary, and they are out the door.
  • Appointments Only Shopping:  taking appointments to limit the number of customers in the store at a time will help provide customers peace-of-mind and help you with staffing.  Use an appointment system like Calendly, or simply use Google Calendar to open up blocks for appointments.  In your plan, you may need to think about a waiting area outside the store for customers that allows distancing.
  • Physical Store Changes: 
    • Install handwashing stations, potentially inside or outside of your business. If the customer just wants to wash their hands so that they don’t have to go all the way into your employee bathroom.
    • Have hand sanitizer on hand near the door for customers and staff.
    • Designate outdoor gear pick-up areas and tour meeting areas to keep customers from unnecessarily entering the store.
    • Consider installing a plexiglass shield, your customers and staff might just might appreciate the extra layer of protection.

A Note of Caution About Online Payments

  • Making sure you are PCI compliant and use online booking software that is connected with secure payment or integrate your forms with a 3rd party payment processor.
  • Do not save the payment method! This could result in a data breach and you, or the system that you are using, could be targeted to steal CC and personal information and the business could be fined or held liable.
  • Examples of non-PCI compliance:
    • Taking a credit card through a website form, where the shop can view the full CC number. Even if you’re accessing this information through a password-protected database, you should never be able to see or access the customer’s full CC.
    • If you are going to use an online form like Formsite or another online solution, make sure you integrate it with Paypal, Stripe or another payment provider that handles the transaction.

PCI non compliant form


Here are some examples of secure payments:

Fareharbor secure payment

Secure payment example


Launch that E-Commerce Store

Now is the perfect time to go through all of your inventory and come up with a plan to take your business online! These are exactly the things that you may not have had time for before…well, now we all have some time.  This may not last long so jump on this opportunity to take your business online!

We’re seeing so many of our outfitters take their shops online using easy to use platforms like Shopify, where you can launch an online store for only $29/month! Here are two examples of stores that we have seen gone live in the past few months, Chile Pepper Bike Shop and High Country Outfitters.

You can set up your store in a matter of a few days and the best part is, you don’t need a fulfillment center, you already have a store!

high country outfitters


Full Visibility “Show me Your Preparation Checklist”

  • This is the time for full disclosure more than ever. Have prevention checklists and tags that show the customers the precautions that you take on each rental and then market them. You may already be doing all of these things, so now you can take the time to show your customers the extra steps that you are taking to ensure their safety!
View this post on Instagram


Kayaks 🚣‍♂️ are now approved during #SaferatHome. The weather is looking great this weekend ☀️ Come paddle 👌 #kayak #MilwaukeeRiver Here are the steps we are taking to help protect the health and safety of our customers and staff during #Covid19 so you can enjoy the outdoors with confidence! 1. All customers will book online and sign a waiver online as well. 2. When customers arrive they will call/text BCK and let us know they have arrived and remain in their vehicle until their kayaks are ready for launch. 3. All customers are asked to wear masks when interacting with staff. BCK staff will wear mask at all times. 4. Increased gear cleaning protocols. All gear and equipment will be completely wiped down before and after each use. 5. We are limiting the number of guests on tours. 6. Kayak renters will adhere to 6 foot distancing on and off the water. 7. Staff and guests who feel sick are asked to stay home and will be provided a full refund. 8. Everyone will be asked to wash their hands prior to renting or touring. 9. Hand sanitizer will be available. 10. Customers are asked to use the restroom before arriving at BCK. This is a challenging time for all of us, but our first priority is to the safety of our guests, staff and community. Thank you, #BrewCityKayak

A post shared by Brew City Kayak (@brewcitykayak) on


Comment below and tell us what else should belong on a prevention checklist. 

Potential Changes For Tour Operators

  • We don’t see the big bus tours coming back as fast or the customers wanting to book them – small custom tours will do much better. This may mean that you’ll need more guides.
  • Consider all of the disinfecting practices from the CDC for rental gear if your tours involve equipment.
  • Limit the size of tours: Rock climbing tours, biking tours, rafting, and other tour operators may want to consider the size of the tours that they want to run for the foreseeable future.
    • Small groups that know each other already may do better with tours than strangers. Especially when it comes to relatively closer contact tours like rafting.
  • Shuttles: Take a look at the practices being implemented by the best airlines. You may have to run half the capacity and provide extra spaces between customers.  Or you may consider letting your customers shuttle themselves to the meeting point on their own if it’s possible or allowed.
  • Provide free masks and gloves for clients (for free or at cost) once availability opens up.
  • Taking care of your staff – this one is obvious, but we wanted to mention it:
    • Provide masks and other PPE equipment
    • You’ll have to think about protecting your staff from the customers. 

Legal Considerations

Let’s face it, the legal issues and considerations keep most of us all up at night when we are trying to do the right thing and run our business. Here are some things to think about in the post-coronavirus world:

  • The best practice would be to follow your local health department and tourism guidelines and check with your legal team on what your responsibilities are for keeping customers safe. What are some of the things that a business must provide? 
  • Are your customers required to follow processes that they have not had to before like wearing face masks, letting you know if they are sick, etc.
  • Should you create a separate waiver for coronavirus prevention items, to make sure these things are not missed?
  • Here are 4 considerations to think about from staffing, communication and operation that you may find useful.

We hope this was helpful and we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions – we will update and improve this as frequently as possible!

Why Trust Us?

We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy travel advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built TripOutside. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these blogs and content very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:

  • We only work with the highest-rated outfitters in the industry.

  • We’ve traveled to hundreds of destinations that you see on TripOutside in our RV over 6 years and want to share the places that we love with you.

  • We don’t distract you with any ads and never sell your personal information, ever.

  • We are a small, self-funded team and only grow with your support. You can support us by booking your next outdoor adventure on TripOutside.

  • We want to help you get outside. Please share your feedback with us on how we can help make TripOutside work for you!

Related Post

Review Summary by TripOutside

TripOutside is launching a new reviews widget to showcase the incredible reviews of our outfitter ..

Read more

What to Look for in an Online Booking System

This is a summary of the original webinar with Darcy Gassel from Trtyn, a trailblazing online bookin ..

Read more

Digital Waivers

Digital Waivers For Outdoor Businesses We want to help as many outdoor gear rental and activity pro ..

Read more

Best Rental & Tour Booking Software for Outfitters and Activity Providers

BEST RENTAL AND TOUR BOOKING SOFTWARE Are you a bike, paddle, or ski shop that rents outdoor gear a ..

Read more

Outfitter Resources: Tips for Outdoor Businesses to Survive COVID-19 Crisis

Tips for Small Outdoor Businesses to Survive the COVID-19 Crisis  The COVID-19 pandemic has presen ..

Read more