After nearly a decade of working closely with holiday parks across the country, I do have a unique insight into the marketing challenges tourism properties regularly face.
Today, industry research says that more travellers are seeking an ‘experience’, that wonderful uniquely memorable moment that defines the holiday, location or activity. People will travel great distances to experience something truly memorable, even stay awake all night just to see an amazing sunrise.
It is often the seemingly small moments that linger in our hearts and minds the longest that will be talked about, laughed at and enjoyed time and time again for years to come.
People come back with stories of the places they’ve been but more importantly, the people they’ve met and the experiences they’ve shared. Facebook pages are filled with photos of people having fun all around the world. Sometimes you can see where they are but mostly it’s shots of who they’re having fun with; friends, relatives, locals, the barman, fellow travellers… Rarely a room in sight. So as the accommodation providers how do we contribute to these positive life experiences?
With an exchange rate that is pushing outbound international destinations, higher fuel costs and strong competition in all sectors, it has never been more important to develop effective strategies that give your product a unique point-of-difference that offers your guests the best chance at adding new experiences to their bank of treasured holiday memories.
Consumers look for reasons to choose. The research process for them is time consuming and just not fun! While many in our industry believe that price plays the most significant role in this decision process, the reality is very different, unless the offers are identical. Imagine two hotel rooms – both have beds, bathrooms, plasma TVs and Internet access. One is decorated in blue, situated on the first floor and has ocean views. The other is decorated in earthy tones with an outlook over a natural tropical forest. Which one do you prefer? The answer is unlikely to have anything to do with the room, even though ultimately that is what you will be paying for. Consumers consider far more than the basics.
This is where good product differentiation can create a real competitive advantage. What makes your property different, unique, special? Are your beds super comfy with high quality linen and luxurious pillows? Are your staff experts in the local area and multi-lingual? Can you provide in-house babysitting for children or pets? Have you been awarded for superior customer service? Can you book or organise a local attraction or experience for guests? Can you pick your guests up from the airport or organise a transfer? What can you do to help the weary Internet traveller choose you?
And when they arrive, how do you treat them? Are the lights switched on in their room? Heating or air-conditioning on? Late arrivals not an issue? Milk in the fridge?
Brands play a role in helping consumers choose but brands alone are not the answer. Travellers want a positive experience where they are made to feel welcome – as a guest, not a nuisance. (Some accommodation venues treat the guest as if they are doing them a favour!) Positive customer service is king and guests will talk about the way a particular staff member “went out of their way to help them”. So now you have the guest, how you treat them is the key to getting them back or getting their positive feedback in person or on line.
It’s well documented that it costs 10 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one returning. And while one guest will tell you about the positive experience they have enjoyed, 10 won’t tell you (they’ll just tell their friends). Proactive customer service can be your biggest point of differentiation – the difference between a guest raving about what a great experience they had, or not. Customer service… now that’s another article entirely.
Goodall Dineen Group