Let's assume your marketing budget is tiny... What can you do, without spending much money?
Social media is one activity, and great for raising awareness, but it's hard to control.
Email helps you nurture your visitors and create repeat business.
When lockdown ended, several businesses kindly emailed me to let me know that after taking my advice they'd used direct mail, resulting in great levels of bookings from previous visitors.
Let's take a closer look at the benefits of building a strong mailing list and using direct mail.
These are in addition to the fact that it costs very little to send out multiple emails.
1. Mailing lists give you more control over your communications. You're not just passively waiting for people to look at your website or social media - you're pro-actively targeting them.
2. Attention: you might think your inbox is overflowing with emails but compared to social media, we get far fewer messages by email. It’s easier to grab attention because email feels more personal, easier to see and retain. If some one signs up to get your emails, you’re not competing for their attention as much as on social media.
3. Email is less passive.
4. You can decide who sees what content. You can send different emails to different people. This means you can segment markets and send them really appropriate messages that get results.
5. You can easily personalise email messages. You can’t do that on social media which feels more mass-market.
6. You can get immediate feedback on the results of your emails. If you use the right software (don’t be scared – easier and cheaper than you might think) you can see who has opened your emails, who has clicked on a link etc.
7. You can test out emails to see what works. Known as A/B testing, you can send one email to a small group of people, a different one to others and then compare results to decide what to send to the rest of your mailing list.
8. You can remind people. On social media if you don’t get much of a response, you can repeat your message but the people who’ve already seen it will think you’re repeating yourself. With email you can choose to send a reminder mailing, just to the people who didn’t open it in the first place.
9. Email feels familiar, and more permanent. We all despair of the endless changes on facebook, snapchat, rise of tiktok or what-ever the latest social media tool. Email feels more constant and safer.
10. Perhaps most importantly – you own your email list. If you are over-reliant on social media or just blithely hope people will come to your website, you’re not in control of your business. Your mailing list is a direct route to people who have said they want to hear from you. You know they’re interested.
Want to know more about how to build a mailing list and write effective mailings? Take a look at the online marketing workshop.
I can hear your outrage! You've spent time making sure you're "Good to Go" and Covid-secure and now I'm telling you that's not what you need to do?
Accreditation and reassurance schemes like "Good to Go" and "Safe, Clean, Legal" are definitely a good idea. They'll help you work out what you need to do to operate safely and reassure visitors.
It's definitely worthwhile participating in one of the schemes.
But once you've done that, how are you going to attract visitors and encourage them to return to you?
Visitors aren't asking about safety or cleanliness
I did a quick straw poll of tourism businesses yesterday to find out whether people are asking about cleaning or Covid-secure protocols when booking or making enquiries. 70% of businesses said they were not being asked about them at all, 25% said a few visitors were asking, and 5% said yes, all their prospective visitors had asked.
So what are visitors asking about? Cancellation and refund policies seem to be right at the top of the list of things visitors want to know.
What messages should you use to attract visitors, if 'safe' isn't the right selling point to use?
Have you noticed a flood of posts on social media, using the VisitEngland kite mark, "We're Good to Go"? It's great that so many businesses are participating and using the reassuring logo. It's natural to want to tell people you've successfully gone through the hoops.
But when there's a flood of similar posts on social media, you need to find an additional way to stand out.
Research has shown that visitors really want to have some fun, they want to escape the confines of their home, to meet up with family. They do want to know places will be clean but don't want an overly sanitised experience, or to feel like they're visiting a laboratory.
So make sure you stress your usual key selling points, then offer a reassuring safety message.
We know people want to know about cancellation policies and refunds so make sure that information is clearly available. Show prospective visitors what it will be like to visit you, with a short video walk-through. It doesn't have to be polished, just authentic and clear.
Tell visitors about the fun they can have in your area, what's open and what they'll be able to do when they visit. Show them how they can escape the daily grind, and offer inspirational ideas. Safety and cleanliness are important, but most visitors will see those as givens, so you need to stand out in other ways.
We keep talking about the 'new normal' and life is going to be different but humans are still humans and a strong emotional appeal is always important.
Competition is tough so you need to stand out.
Visual impact is important to grab attention and get people to read your website, posts on social media or information within your business.
Here are some quick design tips to help people notice your business:
Keep it simple. Cluttered designs are less impactful.
Stick to a simple colour scheme with two or three colours. Use similar colours in all your marketing so you gradually build a brand awareness.
Choose a couple of fonts – one for headings, one for main text – and stick to them. Don’t add in extra fancy fonts. Avoid handwriting fonts like Comic Sans unless you’re a school teacher.
Use white space. It’s free and it makes it easier to read what you have to say. Your headings and information will stand out more. Pages are easier to scan if you space out information.
Don’t centre text. It’s harder to read than left-aligned text.
Don’t use all capitals. Capitals are fine for headings but don’t use them when you write more than 4 words. They’re harder to read and the message is difficult to absorb. And many people think of capitals as shouting.
Make your call to action (‘book now’, ‘visit today’, ‘call us’) as visible as possible. Buttons with bold text work well on websites.
Show priority text by using strong colours and larger fonts.
You don’t need an expensive designer for simple design jobs like creating social media posts or posters within your business. There are some brilliant free online design tools. I love Canva.
I often write about how to improve your tourism marketing, even on a low budget. What about the things we might be doing wrong? Could we save time and money just putting right a few mistakes? The answer is a very definite ‘yes’.
These six marketing mistakes are all really common. I find myself making some of them too, and have to make a conscious effort to go through them from time to time to make simple, no-cost improvements.
Marketing mistake 1: Making it too hard for your customers to find you, to know what you offer, and want to buy from you
We want people to spend their money with us. They’ll do that if they 1. know about us, 2. know what we do, 3. like what we do, 4. trust that we’ll do what we say, and 5. really want what we do. Your marketing needs to be geared to achieve all this. Often very quickly. In competition with many others.
So bland statements like ‘we’re open’ or ‘we offer a unique product with something for everyone blah de blah’ just won’t work.
You need to make it much easier for people to buy from you.
Here’s an example:
If I tell you about my marketing consultancy, the books I wrote years ago, the destination strategies I’ve developed, the online marketing workshops you can buy, the workshops I run, you’re unlikely to immediately see the benefits of what I offer to businesses like yours.
It’s all too long-winded and vague.
However, if I sum all that up with just one sentence that shows that I might be able to help you, you’ll be more interested.
For example: I help to make businesses - like yours – better and more profitable.
So, you definitely need one strong, clear message.
Luckily, that’s an easy thing to put right. You can do it now. When you re-write it, make sure you include the kind of key words your guests search for, so that you can help improve your search engine rankings at the same time.
Marketing mistake 2: Too much information, not enough inspiration
Remember, you’re promoting a tourism business. Not toilet rolls, not machine parts, not baked beans, but something that people can get excited about. You’re promoting an opportunity to escape reality, to do something interesting, to enjoy the beauty of your area, to relax…
Take a look at your website and other marketing. Have you just spewed out information, instead of offering any inspiration? Of course you need to offer information, but inspiration is really important too. It’s what will make people feel excited and happy to book or come to visit you. Inspiration can trigger action, and differentiate you from other businesses.
Marketing mistake 3: Not enough repetition
Once you’ve put 1 and 2 right, you need to do it again and again. We used to say that people need to see marketing messages at least 3 times before they take action. Now it’s more like 7 times. So you need to repeat your key message much more frequently than you probably think.
I talked about this in a recent blog. It’s one of the easiest things to improve on, as it also saves time and effort. Remember, there are lots of different ways to repeat marketing messages, so it doesn’t feel too repetitive.
Marketing mistake 4: Far too few photos
This is a really common, and important mistake. We’re asking people to commit to coming to see a place they might not have been before. We’re asking them to make an effort to travel to places they might know but have forgotten. That can be hard to do. Words can offer information, inspiration even. But most people want to see pictures of your business and local area. I’d say only 5% of all businesses have enough good, varied photos on their website.
If you don’t have enough images of the right kind, showing potential visitors everything they want to see, they’ll look for them on other sites. Which means they may get side-tracked and not bother to come back to your site.
I hope you’ll agree that so far these marketing mistakes are easy to put right?
The next two are easy to deal with too, and are the ones that make the biggest difference to any business.
The final one is the one that will have the strongest impact on your profitability.
Read all about them in the Tourism Network Online Community - it's free to join
As regular readers of this blog know, l’m a fan of small, almost effortless, low cost marketing tweaks that can make a difference very quickly. Some may sound odd or flippant but those who try them, often email me to tell me they worked. Today’s suggestion is no exception.
Are you feeling blue, in a black mood? Seeing red or green with envy? Is life a little grey, or maybe it’s not that black and white?
Yes, you’ve guessed, I want to talk about colour.
You may think this is something you’re more likely to hear your home-schooled off-spring discussing, but it is a proper grown up topic. It’s even a research topic for psychologists.
Using the right colours at the right time could help make you more money.
This might sound a bit ‘woo woo’ but it’s true. Whatever you want to promote, you need your target markets to feel positive about you, to understand and like what you do, and react positively. Colour can help.
Choosing the right colours can help make your activity stand out. It can make your content more readable.
It can make people feel warm and positive about you. It can help reassure, calm, persuade.
I’ll get on to how and what you can do in a moment.
First of all, let’s look at an example of the power of colour when your marketing budget is miniscule.
I learnt about this it was during a conversation with Stelios, the owner-founder of Easyjet. It was about 25 years ago, when the first low cost airlines started. I've never forgotten it because of the impact it had.
It might sound crazy to compare your small business with an airline - bear with me. I'm guessing you think your marketing budget is small? When he first started the airline, Stelios spent all his money on buying planes. There wasn’t any money left over so his marketing budget was also tiny, in comparison with all the giants like British Airways.
I met Stelios* on one of the first flights when he systematically went from seat to seat, talking to every passenger. He thanked everyone for flying with him. He didn't say 'thanks for flying with EasyJet'. Instead he said, 'thanks for flying with me', presenting it as his very own business so everyone felt glad to have met the owner, and felt like they were part of a club, instead of customers. At that time corporate, faceless airlines like British Airways were the norm.
Then Stelios asked everyone some questions about themselves. Being nosey, I listened to his questions and their answers**. He had several ways of basically asking the same questions in order to profile his passengers and find out their reasons for travel.
When he got to me, I asked if I could ask him some questions instead. He grinned and agreed. I asked him why he was on his own flight and asking so many questions. He pointed out that he didn’t have a budget for research but needed to know as much about his customers as possible. So he frequently travelled on his own flights and just talked to people. “And people can see how lovable I am so I hope they’ll talk about me to their friends”***.
Then I asked him why he’d chosen that bright orange colour. It was everywhere – on the outside of the planes, on the seats, the uniforms, the marketing. Everywhere. He asked what I thought of when I saw that exact orange colour. The answer was obvious – EasyJet. He said he’d looked at other airlines and they all used a combination of colours. None of them were particularly memorable. He needed to use a colour that no-one else used. Even if it looked brash, it needed to be unforgettable.
He’d also considered how the colour orange makes people feel. It’s considered a fun, friendly colour. Not quite as hot as red, not quite as cool as yellow. It can feel energetic and positive. So orange became ‘his’ colour. EasyJet practically owned the colour orange. When they first started, Stelios barely had to do any marketing – he just painted everything orange and people thought about EasyJet.
You might not want to do this but the lesson is the same for any business - be consistent with the colours you use, for maximum impact.
So back to your business, presumably with a smaller marketing budget.
I’ll explain the connotations of some colours in a moment. First some things to think about.
Here are some examples of how colour can make people feel, from Oglilvy. Search for 'colour psychology' and you'll find many more.
Scroll beyond the image for some more marketing lessons from Stelios.
More marketing lessons from Stelios
*When he launched Easyjet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou insisted everyone use his first name. Otherwise he said people wouldn’t talk about him because they were scared of getting his name wrong.
But more importantly, he positioned himself as the cuddly, smiley, cheeky chap who was the face of the airline. He instantly differentiated his airline by using his personality. This was at a time when British Airlines was a major competitor and their marketing was always very corporate. Stelios immediately positioned his airline alongside Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, feeling more fun and approachable. Are you the front person for your business? How good is your 'about' page?
** Stelios lesson number 2. Market research is important but doesn’t have to be expensive. Ask people questions. Use the answers.
*** Stelios lesson number 3. People buy people. Be the face of your business. Tell your story. Be human.
*** Stelios lesson number 4. Think of a way to make people talk. It’s the cheapest, most effective marketing method.
Are you neglecting one of the most important pages on your website? Do you have a really good 'about' page, or is it perhaps a bit of an after-thought?
You might be surprised at the increasing number of people who can be convinced to book, visit and buy by a good 'about' page.
Here's why it's worth spending some time crafting a really good 'about' page:
How to create a really strong 'about' page for your business:
Even if you feel a little uncomfortable writing about yourself, or don't think you're very good at writing, there are some straight-forward things you can do to create a strong 'about' page. Read more about the elements to include and how to make your 'about' page more powerful in the Tourism Network online community (free to join).
A man once came up with an idea that could double sales of an already popular product.
According to advertising legend, he told the business owners that he could vastly increase their profits with the addition of just one word - in return for an enormous fee for himself of course.
Eventually they agreed to pay him, perhaps because the idea was just so intriguing. What was this incredibly powerful word?
I'll explain: he worked for a shampoo company who used the words, 'lather and rinse' on the back of every bottle of shampoo. His great idea was to simple add the word 'repeat' so it became 'lather, rinse and repeat'. The instruction to 'repeat' remained on shampoo bottles for years and years. It might not have doubled sales but it certainly increased them significantly.
What has this got to do with your tourism business?
I was speaking to some one recently about a promotion we did a while ago that was really popular and successful. But we made a mistake. We did it once. That was it. It worked really well, yet we didn't do it again. All it would take was a simple leaflet reprint, or even just another social media push for the online .pdf version. Yet we simply moved on to the next thing.
We do that a lot in tourism. We post something on social media that gets loads of engagement. We feel pleased. Then we move on to the next thing.
We often assume we've 'done' something and don't repeat it, not wanting to bore people or assuming everyone has already seen what we do. Yet we're continually trying to attract new visitors, so there's a constant stream of new people we need to convince.
Think about the best promotional activities you've ever done. Which could be repeated? Which social media posts got great engagement? Can you make a note to repeat them at regular intervals, maybe just adapting images and words a little so they don't become dull?
It's said that most of us need around seven touch points - maybe a mention in a magazine article, a few social media posts, recommendation from a friend, perhaps an email - before we respond and actually buy something. If that's true, then saying something brilliant once just isn't going to do the trick.
You not only need to repeat yourself, but to also use similar messages in different ways.
So sometimes you really don't need to reinvent the wheel - just to do what you've done before, again - and possibly again. And again.
Make sure you're signed up to receive details of future blogs and business support.
You're tired. You're busy. You're got so many things on your mind. You really want to get away. You need a holiday.
So you go online to find somewhere to visit (after lockdown), a good place to stay. And very quickly you feel completely overwhelmed.
There's so much choice! It makes you feel even more tired.
Every place promises 'so much to see and do', 'home from home comforts', 'warm welcome'... you get the gist. Bland. Boring.
One or two places look pretty awful so you can immediately ignore those. But what of the ones that look quite good? How will you make a decision?
Some destinations look a bit more intriguing than the others. There are long lists of things to do. But even those lists feel overwhelming - how do you know which to choose? Which will meet your needs? The places to stay look great and promise 'high quality' but after a while all those pictures of shiny kitchen surfaces, comfy sofas and beds with a towel or rug folded on them merge into one. It's so difficult to choose.
We need to make it easier for visitors to choose our destination, our attraction, activities and accommodation. We need to stand out, in a way that's much more memorable.
That's where a good story comes in.
There are essentially three ways to compete:
1. On price (but there'll always be some one cheaper and someone more upmarket than you).
2. By being better than everyone else. A good idea but it can be expensive as you may have to constantly upgrade. Even harder - how do you convince people that you're better than everyone else?
3. By being different. This is by far the easiest. If you have a good story...
What makes a good story?
So what do I mean by a good story exactly? It's anything that sets you apart and makes you more memorable. It could be your story, something you do that's different. It could be that you're fantastic at doing something. It could be the story of your building, something interesting inside your building, something from your local area. It could be one big story or a combination of many. It could be something dramatic or a collection of small details.
It has to be something that sets you apart. It has to be memorable. It has to be something that other people will want to talk about. Ideally it will even make travel writers want to write about you, which will also help with your search engine optimisation.
The key thing is to create a connection with other human beings. To show, not just tell.
I recently posed a question on twitter to some travel journalists: what would make a holiday cottage more interesting to stay in & write about? Their responses came immediately:
@WillHide: The hook would have to be something you could do from there. The actual cottage itself would unlikely be the reason for the story but you could bring it into the piece.
@SallyShalam responded with lots of advice, based on her very extensive experience of writing about destinations and accommodation: It’s important to identify what your target market is likely to read. This way, you can be clearer about courting publicity from the most suitable publications. It really matters.
Be clear on what the stories are about your place and aware of different types of article. Does your property warrant a full article in own right? Eg, Is there sufficient material to fill a couple of pages (historic house, major renovation, end of a long labour of love, and why do we need to know about it now, etc)? Or does it work as a base for a wider destination piece? (What’s the story about the region? Why now? Is there a critical mass of good things to visit within reach?) Or, would it work well in a themed round-up (best bluebell walks, region for seafood, new heritage opening, or somewhere to test your eyesight, etc).
Now put those two together - stories plus target market - and it will be easier to see which writers or editors will appreciate hearing about you most.
Finally but oh-so-crucially, photography. It simply must be factored in to your marketing plan. Editors reject places purely on the basis of poor images. Editors beg me, when I’m speaking at regional tourism events, to ask you for decent pictures. You need a professional set of shots. If your property is a heritage/interiors story then you need an interiors specialist.
My anecdote: A property owner asked me repeatedly to review her cottage so eventually, despite having reservations, I agreed. When I got there, it was tiny (which is fine) and furnished entirely from IKEA (not fine, what am I supposed to say about it?) Which left me with the problem of filling the other 650 words. A property which would have worked fine as a short entry in a round-up theme such as coastal cottages simply didn’t stand up as the main event in a review.
@LottieGross: Sally makes some excellent points. A house isn't enough of a story on its own without a great human angle (interesting historic resident? Or are current owners a story in own right?) A USP is essential. And hot tubs don't count as a USP! (USP = Unique Selling Point)
Amanda Brown PR has just published a podcast on this very topic, speaking to another travel journalist about 'why we all need to hark back to our childhood and re-learn the art of storytelling to reconnect with visitors and guests". You can listen to it here.
In a future blog I'll offer some ideas for stories you can tell, even when you think you don't have a story. Sign up here to make sure you don't miss out.
No matter what your business or how big your marketing budget, there's one thing that you're probably not doing enough. It's always important, and thanks to Covid is now even more essential.
Everyone needs reassurance. We need it in different ways, but we all need it.
When some one doesn't buy or book something, it's easy to assume they either don't like what you do or your prices are too high. More often these are not the reasons. They're not sure, or they lack information. A little reassurance can go a long way and make a big difference to your marketing.
How do I know? It's something I've studied and experimented with, over three decades. I've helped clients to add a few simple words of reassurance to their marketing copy, on websites, social media, in person - and they've often been amazed at what a difference it makes. A subtle change or the addition of a few words could make you a lot of money.
The sentence above is true, but I also added it as an example. When you read the start of this article you might not have totally believed me when I said that reassurance is important. You may well have been questioning the validity of that statement or what I even know about it. So I added some reassurance about my experience, and about the results businesses can achieve by implementing my advice. Can you do the same in your business?
Think about some of the questions you might subconsciouly ask yourself before you buy anything. It could be a quick "is it good value for money?", "will it taste good?", "will I really enjoy it" or "will my family want to do that?". Before booking somewhere to stay we may ask, "is there enough to do in the area?", or "will it be comfortable?". Thinking through such questions and considering visitors' potential concerns can help you provide more information and reassurance.
Consider each page of your website and the sort of questions anyone might ask. What might visitors concerns be? What additional (not so much you over face people - usually a couple of sentences are enough) information could you add to reassure potential visitors? Do you need more images to show them? Have you included reviews on your website instead of sending people off to another site?
Reassurance about re-opening
We normally want to feel reassured that places will be clean. Now safety is paramount.
There's no question that people are ready to travel again and want to plan their trips and holidays. Most will wait until it's really safe to do so, but they're already dreaming and thinking about what they'd like to do. Our challenge will be to make sure we take advantage of that pent-up demand and secure bookings and visits. Building consumer confidence through the right kind of reassurance is gong to be more important than ever before.
What can you do?
Once you've looked at every angle of your business and how you can make it feel safer (see below for more information), think of the different questions visitors may have. You might want to make a note of how you'll answer those questions, and list out all the things you're doing/done to keep visitors safe.
Communication will be just as important as the actions you take. Make sure you're open and honest about everything you do and plan to do. If you don't know the answer to something, it's better to say so than to take a gamble.
Consider how you can communicate your plans with visitors, both in advance and when they arrive. Think about the different types of reassurance they might need. For example, some people will be concerned with physical measures and cleanliness. Others may be more worried about booking if they think they can't get their deposit back if something happens.
Explain all the infection control plans you will follow. A brief video can be very effective. It doesn't have to be polished - showing that you're a human who cares is better than a glib promotional film.
Inside your business it's a good idea to make your cleaning schedules visible and clear, perhaps with a poster or note.
Where to get more information and advice
As my family will tell you, I'm no cleaning or safety expert so please don't ask me about the best cleaning routines or where to get PPE (I've had a lot of emails on these topics which I'm afraid I just can't answer!). However, there is a lot of help available, and some additional guidance about to come on stream.
Quality in Tourism have already added to their existing inspection schemes with a Covid-ready Safe Clean Legal scheme.
VisitBritain/VisitEngland are now consulting with the industry ready to create a visitor reassurance kite-mark for use across the tourism industry. They expect this to be ready in early June and it will be free of charge. You will be able to find information about this when it's ready along with plenty of other industry information on their website.
Hospitality Industry Training have published this helpful guide. UK Hospitality are now also working on protocols and guidance which will be published soon.
See also this guidance on carrying out a workplace Covid risk assessment. There is some government guidance on cleaning.
Most recovery planning currently focuses on the logistics of safe distancing and what re-opening will look like. There’s a real need for this but I’d like to look further ahead, to a more positive future.
How can we increase business survival rates? When tourism fully opens, there will be a marketing stampede: fierce competition for travellers’ attention. The tourism market is already crowded, yet we’ll all be shouting our wares at the same time. How can anyone stand out?
In the fight for day-to-day survival, most conversations about destination marketing themes and messages have paused. Businesses are scrambling to consider the physical adaptations they might need to make.
The tourism industry’s survival depends on our being ready to spring forward with concrete plans, welcoming messages and interesting experiences to capture the public’s attention.
This article looks at what we need to do to bring about tourism recovery. It considers possible opportunities, visitor mind-sets, and practical actions for destinations and businesses.
I’m writing from the perspective of my own practical experience of destination promotion, business development and support. I’ve built on what I learnt from previous crises such as Foot and Mouth and 9/11, and on what’s happening in other countries post Covid-19.
Looking back through rose-tinted glasses?
We look back to pre-Covid times as the halcyon days of tourism. But the industry wasn’t without its issues. Some areas suffered from over tourism. Some were under-visited. Few tourism businesses were operating at peak capacity or profitability. Tourism growth was ad hoc.
Some issues were much discussed but never resolved: the need to disperse visitors away from honeypots; the need to develop off-peak tourism; and how to reduce over-reliance on online travel agents.
Covid has caused enormous human and financial losses. Many aspects of life have been affected. As we eventually move forward, now may be an opportunity to re-think tourism. We’re in the unusual situation of having to re-start an industry out of almost complete hibernation.
An opportunity for ‘good’ tourism?
We’ve talked about sustainable and responsible tourism for a long time. Growth has remained the focus for many destinations, with little time to stop and re-set. Now could be the time.
We have an opportunity to think about the sort of visitors we really want. Where do we most need visitors? When? How do we want them to arrive at our destinations? Is it time to focus on value over volume? What do we want visitors to actually do? Is there a way to ensure broader community benefits from tourism?
What are the opportunities for more meaningful and slow tourism? I’m looking forward to increased interest in sense of place and local distinctiveness. People have started to see things on their daily walks they didn’t notice before. Minds are opening to small pleasures.
One outcome of the pandemic is the increased recognition of the value of local communities, and small actions that collectively contribute to better outcomes.
We may not have previously promoted very strongly to local people, yet they are set to become an important market, both directly and indirectly. There is an important ripple effect. How can we make better use of local and regional ambassadors?
This is a good time to consider about different ways of connecting with audiences and potential visitors, and the importance of building relationships and engagement.
Inside visitors’ minds…
The desire to travel is still strong, possibly even increased by lockdown.
Common sense and research indicate that the day visiting local market will be first, followed by regional visitors, then domestic and eventually international visitors. It is likely that car travel will be the initial preference, avoiding some forms of public transport and air travel.
It’s useful to consider the ‘first’ visitors we’re likely to see:
How can visitors be encouraged to travel when it’s safe to do so?
Visitors will need to know where it’s safe to go. They will want to feel they will be welcomed by locals. It will be essential to build trust and confidence. The Safe Clean Legal kite-mark scheme developed by Quality in Tourism and the proposed VisitEngland/VisitBritain schemes will play a key part in reassuring visitors.
Along with the urge to explore and discover new places, some anxiety and caution are likely. Some will seek out the familiar and enjoy the nostalgia of returning to much-loved places they’ve visited before.
Some visitors may feel over-whelmed by the possibility of their freedom and feel under pressure to make the perfect choice. Compelling marketing messages and tangible reasons for visits will be key. Dull lists will be less effective.
Visitors may initially spend more time in local destinations than they might normally consider. We need to make this an active, positive decision with a good outcome, not just seen as ‘making do’.
Anticipation is part of the enjoyment of travel. Now is the time to stimulate anticipation. Visitors want to be able to share their plans, and talk about their discoveries. They will need some direction to find the places on their doorstep they haven’t yet enjoyed.
It’s likely the tendency toward last-minute booking will increase still further. Visitors will need to feel secure about their bookings and have the opportunity to delay or ask for a deposit refund should plans have to change.
Many visitors will want to avoid logistical challenges: we will need to demonstrate ease of arrival.
Opportunity to re-build tourism, based on some promising trends
Some trends have already emerged during the pandemic. They may give clues for new product development and experiences, and marketing messages that will appeal to a post Covid-19 market:
Time to (finally) build off-peak business?
It’s looking likely that we’ll miss the bulk of the summer season. If this is the case, then many visitors will be more than ready to enjoy time away in Autumn and Winter. Some of the usual concerns about weather may take a back seat when there’s an opportunity to enjoy free time in a different place.
We’ve talked about increasing off-peak business for a very long time. Now might be the chance to experiment with winter openings to change perceptions once and for all. What can we do collectively to build business during the shoulder months?
What do destinations need to do?
Most destinations are currently using a ‘Dream Now, Visit Later’ approach. Some destinations seem to be thinking about recovery planning mainly in terms of how they will deal with post-lockdown tourism and encourage safe-distancing. More pro-active destinations are planning post-lockdown as well as revising their existing marketing strategies so the two planning activities can merge into a longer-term plan.
Businesses are increasingly looking to destination organisations and government for co-ordinated messages about which places will safely open and how visitors will be welcomed.
In addition to leading collaborative marketing, and adapting messages to the ‘new normal’, destinations can use this time to consider what ‘good’ tourism means for their area, and what kind of visitor economy they want in future.
An important role will be guidance on product development. Initially this may be centred around appropriate adaptations for social distancing. Competition for visitors will be fierce and there will be pressure on destination organisations to help businesses survive. There will be an increased need for support to help businesses build on trends in order to create the kind of experiences and product that tomorrow’s visitors will want.
Next steps for businesses?
What can business do to recover quickly and be stronger? Some important activities:
Communications will need to take account of the changed market place. We’ll need to:
Free tourism marketing advice
Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs