Getting Over the Speed Bumps & into the Fast Lane

A year or two ago I was wishing I had a dollar for every time I heard those three words ‘global financial crisis’. However the money phrase now seems to be ‘two-speed economy’ referring to some industries that are booming such as resources and mining, while others such as tourism are experiencing tougher times.

Adopting a winning mentality – The media’s propensity to promote a bad story was summed up at a recent event by a speaker as “the public becomes addicted to bad news” and because they expect poor performance they can end up adopting a siege mentality. As a resort complex if you get into such a position there may well be a tendency to batten down the hatches in an attempt to weather out the storms but experience shows that such an approach can mean your business won’t be ready when the sunshine eventually does come back out.

Resort managers who are succeeding at the moment take the attitude that they will run their business as a success. They continue to advertise in a targeted and positive manner, maintain their staffing, and make it business as normal. Someone I recently spoke with has even hired a trainee so their new recruit will be fully trained and productive prior to their next peak periods. Now that is a winning mentality.

Perception is reality – your experience can be different. Just as the economy may be running at two speeds, it seems that the tourism and accommodation industry is doing the same.

Each time I speak with a client in the management rights industry the subject inevitably turns to how well they are performing this year. Some readers may be surprised to hear that recently I have heard positive stories such as:

• ‘This is our best year since we bought the business.’

• ‘We are currently up 5% on the same period last year.’

• ‘Our results for May have been the best since our complex opened.’

Common traits of successful operators – As my conversations with these successful operators continue, common themes emerge. They all share:

• A thorough knowledge of their business and target market

• Creativity of thought

• A preparedness to run the business as a success rather than simply resigning themselves to the industry’s current struggles.

The speed or success of a particular complex does not necessarily depend on its location, although this can bear some influence. Knowing your business is about understanding your customer offering or proposition and how you can leverage this to your advantage.

Grade your accommodation – Assess the units in the letting pool – are they all up to the standard you want? If they’re not and the owners aren’t prepared to spend any money on repairs or upgrades, you may be able to promote the units as ‘economy’ grade while others in the complex are classed as ‘standard’ or ‘superior’. For operators of a high rise complex, units may be grouped by floors (first to fourth, fifth to ninth etc) or by the type of view they enjoy (pool, ocean, garden or mountain views).

Set appropriate price levels – Customer tariffs can then be set according to the unit type.

Regardless of how poor one’s perception of the economy may be, people will still take holidays. If they can source accommodation with a reasonable location and price (yours), it is better for you and the lot owner, than not having a booking at all. If it is the guest’s first time in your complex and they have booked one of the more basic units on offer, take the opportunity to show them what a ‘standard’ or ‘superior’ unit looks like for not much more money. If you make them feel welcome, and they enjoy their stay, you have a good chance of ensuring they’ll return with a booking for a higher grade unit.

Understand and cater to your market – Understanding your market is about knowing the type of guests who are attracted to your area generally and in particular to your complex. Do you have:

• Nearby attractions that draw particular people (think theme parks, zoos, wineries, beaches and other natural wonders)?

• A high draw card event in the area (a triathlon, music festival or industry event)?

• Particular facilities in your area (for example, major sporting facilities, golf courses, airports, business centres, theatres)?

If your complex meets any of these criteria, consider targeting those visitor groups most likely to visit the area. You can do this in a number of ways:

• Advertise where ‘tourist attractions’ are marketed so visitors associate their tourist visit with staying in your complex

• Tailor a package for guests who visit for a specific event or attraction (like two nights accommodation and tickets to the event/attraction for an all-in price).

• For group bookings to regular events, such as a music festival, contact guests a couple of months ahead of time to gain a booking for this year’s event.

Get online to get up to speed
– You can harness social and electronic media tools (such as Facebook or Twitter) to optimise the promotion of your complex and the ability to target your market. Associate your website or Facebook page with information or links to popular nearby attractions. That way, when a potential guest does an internet search for that attraction, there is a higher likelihood that your website may also feature.

Critically assess how you are driving your business – what speed are you doing? Are you a Sunday cruiser, stuck in traffic or motoring along in the fast lane with your foot firmly down on the accelerator?

Sheryl Mahoney

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