Planning for Growth – Grow or Go Backwards

Anthony Robbins once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”.

Unfortunately I do not believe that is the case any more because I believe that if you do just what you’ve always done someone else will come along, do it better and then take what you’ve always ‘gotten’. The world is moving too fast and the consumer is becoming not only more sophisticated but expecting better service and demanding to have their wants and needs catered to. If you don’t someone else will.

I have recently returned from a three-week tour of European outdoor destination properties for the purpose of studying the trends and approaches that these businesses employ to remain competitive and attract clientele. What I saw was both fascinating and enlightening.

The European campground industry, like all tourism sectors has its good and not so good operators. However with the immense competition they face, the majority of operators clearly understand that you cannot “sit on your laurels” for very long because if you do you will be out of business before you know it.

One of the biggest trends that was obvious in Europe (and in Europe it is no longer a trend because it has become an established part of most successful properties operations) was that of “wellness” or “health and well being”. It was everywhere but from my point of view, the most interesting out take was the fact that holidaymakers in Europe clearly want access to a variety of health facilities – even if they do not use them, they want to know that they could if they wanted to.

In Europe a swimming pool can no longer be an operator’s only contribution to the healthy lifestyle of their guests if they want to really stand apart and move to the next level of competitiveness. Swimming pools of varying temperatures, saunas of varying types, massage and therapy rooms, mud baths, herbal rubs and beauty treatment packages were common to complement the onsite gymnasiums and normal swimming pools. In all instances these facilities were offered at an additional price that enhanced the yield factor and ROI of the property. In some instances the facilities were offered to external visitors in addition to the guests, in others they were for the exclusive use of the guest.

AN38-3-mgt-Holidayparks-After Sauna relaxation area Caravan Park Sexton Italy

After Sauna relaxation area at Caravan Park Sexten in Italy

In Australia the wellness trend is becoming more evident – generally in the more high end properties. In the holiday park market it is not a commonly offered service but, in my view, needs to be given serious consideration by those operators who are looking for something a little different to boost their competitive edge, yield and enhance their positioning.

While health and well being facilities will become more highly sought after as the European trend makes its way more strongly into the antipodean market, this is only one way for holiday park operators to cater to emerging market wants and needs. Today’s guests are looking for anything that is going to make their lives easier – ease of choice, ease of researching their holiday, ease of booking, ease of entry and exit (check in/check out) to their holiday property choice, ease of enjoyment. Malcolm Fraser once said that “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”, well I’m sorry Mr Fraser – it may not have meant to be easy but people want it to be easy. So if we are going to attract guests to our properties then we need to clearly understand how they want to pick, choose, book and enjoy their holiday and then concede to their wishes.

AN38-3-mgt-Holidayparks-Dining area Caravan Park Sexton Italy

One of the private dining areas at Caravan Park Sexten in Italy

First impressions are critical and the way visitors to your establishment see your product and experience your service will determine how they react to your fee structure and, more importantly how they talk about you if they decide to stay and actually experience what you have to offer. From the way they are treated on their first phone call or visit to your website through to the check out process; you will be judged – every step of the way.

Therefore you need to be up with the latest research and booking technology (which they will be using in other establishments), the latest administrative processes to make their welcome and exit as friendly and efficient as possible and your customer service and local area knowledge must be exemplary.

Our reception areas need to be comfortable, friendly, inviting and efficient. There is a holiday park in Brisbane – Brisbane Holiday Village – that has one of the best reception areas I have seen in our industry. It even has a customer waiting room where the guest can relax with a cup of coffee or soft drink while they wait for their site or cabin to be prepared.

Streamlining the administrative functions at check in and check out through either additional training or technology will allow staff to spend more time with the guest to up-sell your services, provide advice on local attractions and hopefully increase the length of stay. Building the relationship between your staff and your guests has an exponential positive effect on repeat visitation and referral business.

We need to ensure that websites are content rich with information on the location as well as the property and services offered – the more quality pictures the better. Remember that the holiday experience is what your potential guests will be looking for so ensure that this is what is depicted on your website and collateral.

Encourage your guests to explore the local region by organising special offers and enticing longer stays so that they can truly become immersed in the local culture – it also helps to enhance your yield, build local tourism turnover and your relationships with the local traders and tourism operators.

I cannot emphasise enough the fact that the today’s consumer is a very different person to what they were – even two years ago. They think, research and act differently and their expectations are much higher than they were. The Internet, smart phone technology and social media communication has made the world their immediate oyster. So, you can no longer get away with just doing what you have always done.

Terry Goodall
PathFinder Outdoor Destinations 

About Tim Svenson


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