Confused by the constant Covid-related changes about what we can and can't do, who can visit, when and how? Frustrated by how difficult it's become to build your business or promote your destination?
You're not alone. No one knows what will happen next and it's become hard to plan for the future. Unfortunately, competition is going to get tougher. Some will still do well.
Businesses that succeed will offer something different or better than others. They'll be good at telling people what they do. They'll make a profit by offering what visitors want and by standing out from the competition. They'll attract visitors when others aren't managing to do so.
The good news
It's easy to think there's nothing you can do, yet there is a way to feel like you're more in control of what happens next. The successful route out of such a crisis is to focus on our businesses and destinations, give all marketing a good overhaul and make it stronger, so we're ready to grab every opportunity when it comes along. One good thing - it's never been easier or cheaper to reach huge yet targeted markets.
A missed opportunity
In a 'normal' year, most businesses experience peaks and troughs in demand, with much reduced business during off peak periods. 'Off peak' means different things to different businesses. For some it's the Winter months, for others it's Monday nights or midweek. Whatever the case, it has meant that for a large part of the year businesses and destinations have been emptier than we might want them to be. There are undoubtedly some times when it's simply harder to get business but I don't really think we've tried particularly hard to get it - we've given up too easily.
Have you left money on the table?
Until now, most off peak marketing has relied on desperate price-led promotions, vague 'it might be nicer than you might think' marketing campaigns, and a lot of wishful thinking without a great deal of impactful action. We've left money on the table.
Visitors travel because they want to relax, spend time together, have fun, enjoy a challenge, discover something new and different... and many other reasons. We just haven't shown them that they can do that all year round, made it easy and attractive to do so. Of course some people don't want to sunbathe in the snow or long distance walk in the rain but destinations with far worse weather than UK still manage to attract off peak visitors.
In a changing world, visitors are changing what they do - that could be good news for you
Post lockdown, people showed that they're ready to do things differently. Many visitors are ready to take a fresh look at destinations, when they visit, how they visit, and what they do. We have an opportunity to show them that off peak visits can enhance their life and make them feel good.
How can we attract more off-peak business?
I've worked in tourism marketing for thirty years and sat in too many meetings where people have bemoaned the lack of off peak business. I have never heard of anyone taking a really robust, step-by-step, considered approach that looks in real detail at the issues of off peak marketing and what can actually be done.
What are the barriers and misconceptions and how can they be overcome? When are the off peak times that could be filled, and when are the ones that are just too hard to fill (for now)? What would make people visit? Is it possible to get newer, different visitors? To get existing visitors to think differently? How?
These are the questions I'm trying to answer with businesses in the new Off Peak Action Programme. It takes a step-by-step look at these issues and how to deal with them. Businesses are given guidance and activities to complete so they can come up with their own tailored approach. They might be able to put these new ideas into practice immediately (government guidance permitting) or it might be the spur for action to attract more business before the next season starts. The solutions won't just work over the next year, they'll create a brighter future for businesses, equipping them with a different approach. Many of the areas we're looking at will spark ideas and improvements in their year-round marketing too.
Covid has shaken the world and turned it upside down. The only way forward now is to look at what lessons we can learn and to believe we can use this time to consider how we can do things differently in the future.
All businesses need to recoup some of their losses and build their revenue back again. If we continue to believe we can only get visitors during certain times of the year, we're ruling out a huge opportunity and leaving places empty when they don't need to be.
The next Off Peak Action Programme starts on 5th October - sign up here now, if you'd like to be part of it.
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs