Giving a unique and real experience

Are you and your colleagues in your destination giving a real experience?

Over the excellent Christmas holiday and into February we hosted a fair few regular and new guests. This experience together with our own time out visiting friends and family in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, has given me a better understanding of where our tourism industry stands and where the opportunities lie.

Obviously weather plays a part in the domestic scene; idyllic weather in the Sunshine Coast up until the third week in January ensured excellent occupancy on the coast and to a lesser extent on the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast; cottages down the NSW coast were encouraged by an uplift in accommodation, caravans streamed off the Spirit of Tasmania with us together with a media crew covering special locations and experiences in this beautiful isle. These media colleagues enthused about the “senior or gray nomad” market booming away.

On the negative side, tales of continuing woe with the highly competitive car hire and retail businesses. This all tallies with what we read digitally and on the printed page, along with caveats about social media and other non verified media outlets – don’t believe all you read on Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor et al. A recent article in The Times from London entitled Shackled press can’t match web’s free rein spoke of the difficulty of persuading websites to take action in the event of industrial espionage, from which a number of accommodation houses and other tourism businesses continue to suffer – our own included.

From our little B&B I can report that we have excellent forward bookings particularly in the fields of special occasions and weddings. It is much more than mere anecdotal, that people are prepared to shell out good money for special occasions such as events, anniversaries, weddings and the like, whilst keeping their credit cards and purses closed for such items as new clothes and upgrades of various types.

The market seems to be in two parts – the buy as cheaply as possible TVs and other items particularly those bought in with our high dollar saving heaps, the cheap airfares (not so cheap when every item including aisle seats for those tall like me, has an extra cost attached), and cheap accommodation.

Then the expensive parts for which people want an experience and are prepared to pay for this. Here our accommodation industry needs to ensure it works with and pairs to its destination and all that it offers. This is critical particularly for both domestic and international visitors who may be coming for the first time.

Take our food and wine offerings. An excellent example of a special experience was one that we had with friends near Inverloch Victoria, where we could chose at the RACV Resort a special experience of local wines – three separate glasses of local wine in a special glass holder with a description of each underneath. I am debating whether we should offer the same on our bar as well. Now that’s special and different.

Similarly in Hobart we dined in a hostelry that that been cleverly transformed from the old IXL jam factory on the waterfront into a hotel complex. The food and wine were superb but what made this special was the waiter who carefully explained every dish to us and the flavours therein. Not cheap but no more expensive than some of our excellent restaurants back at home. Local produce, local service, local ambience, memorable.

Some nationalities like to bring their own flavour too. We had a memorable evening at our B&B with a German group, who had brought their own schnapps (I had run out of my own excellent Wild Brumbies schnapps), so after dinner I put on some German songs and we all got into the spirit of the evening. As a home away from home feeling, our menus sometimes carry a flag as well as at least one dish from their country, although most of our foreign guests come to Australia to experience our produce and ambience.

As our hinterland has one of the largest gathering of artists in Australia we always carry a few of their pottery, glass and other artefacts in our rooms, so it is natural for many of our guests to follow on with a visit to local galleries. If guests are only coming up to our area for the first time and going to a wedding, then we as accommodation providers can help ensure that they have a memorable experience outside of the wedding venue then come back and stay another time.

Likewise in the adventure events market, specialist retailers do well by ensuring that their equipment is individually tailored for these elite athletes, and where destinations vie for their business. Running gear, bicycles, kayaks are all of a high standard and, unlike in the old days when we used to camp for canoeing events in the UK and Europe, B&Bs and other accommodation in Australia is highly sought after – just ask my colleagues on the Sunshine Coast at marathon time.

For it is up to our tourism body to ensure that all the key aspects of our destination that make for a great experience work together. The present economic situation can and should be made to work for us. Ensure you give a unique experience to the first time visitor to our accommodation and location.

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