When the nation tuned in to hear Boris Johnston’s speech on the 23rd March 2020, very few would have guessed that we would still be in lockdown come July that year. Fast forward to 2021 and COVID restrictions, lockdowns, social distancing and wearing masks have become the norm. However, between the lockdowns, there has been one silver lining for the hospitality industry. A whole new group of travellers discovering the joy of choosing a Staycation.
According to EP Insights, in November 2020 almost 3 out of 5 people in the UK had been on a Staycation (a short break in the UK) in 2020. That figure is staggering. Even more staggering is the fact that 8 out of 10 of those would recommend taking a staycation to a friend or colleague. That is some great free advertising!
And it’s not just the UK. The ‘Flygskam’ movement (flight shame movement) started by Greta Thunberg has really gained traction over the last few months. More and more people are choosing to holiday ‘local’ and are actively seeking holidays that reduce their carbon footprint. A study of adults in India who had travelled for work or leisure in the last 6 months and were planning to travel in 2021 suggested that 89% would opt for local, drivable destinations over foreign holidays.
It is safe to say the Staycation boom is Worldwide and set to stay, so are you ready?
Our first point is really important – help your guests find you online! Your digital presence has to be strong and inviting. This doesn’t just mean having a website. It means having a great website that performs, having a good social media output and not being afraid to list on booking platforms. This can be overwhelming, especially if it is all new to you but it really is the difference between a business that is ticking over and one that is thriving. You could have the best properties in the world, but if no one can find them online you are still likely to struggle with occupancy levels. Especially as more and more hospitality businesses get onboard with the online trend.
Picture this. You have your dates, you have your heart set on an area and you are scrolling through a well known booking platform. You come across a photograph of a property that stops you mid-scroll. That is the ‘Wow’ factor. We know there are some fantastic destinations out there and some amazing accommodation providers within them. However on a booking platform or Google search you most likely have one photograph and 10 seconds to stop a potential booker in their tracks. You need an image that creates the desire. One that drives people to find out more. Your website is your shop window to the world and your photography is how you dress that window. It is how you make bookers stop and stare. The return on investment of professional photography is significant. You can use your stand-out images on your website, booking platforms, email newsletters, social media and more.
Travellers today are more online and mobile savvy than ever before. Online booking and payments are no longer a luxury but a necessity. A good PMS (property management system) will save you time and make your life easier. It makes you available for bookings 24/7. You’ll spend less time replying to emails or taking phone calls from people enquiring about dates that aren’t available or those who have different budgets.
“I don’t want to have online booking as I don’t want to stop speaking to people” is something we hear a lot. But enabling online bookings doesn’t mean you stop the communication. The interaction simply happens at a different point in the booking process. You can still speak to every guest before they arrive – in fact we would encourage it! According to Google Trends 82% of all travel bookings in 2018 were made online without speaking to a human and Monday during working hours was the most popular booking time.
Additionally, look for a PMS that has an automated email function. Then you will never have to remember to ask for final payments or send out arrival information again. Key messages are sent when certain criteria (that you set) are triggered. Eg. Send payment reminder email ’60 days’ before arrival ‘when’ ‘final payment has not been received’. It ensures your communication to guests is seamless, informative and time-efficient for you. That builds trust in your business before your guests even step foot in the door.
Did you know that 67% of high-income travellers would rather spend their budget on experiences than a better hotel room? Gen Z travellers are the first generation of travellers to rate the experience more important than the destination itself. You are not only selling accommodation, you are selling the experience and the memories attached. This is one area where the local property owner has a step up from the large booking platforms. You probably know your area better than anyone. Booking platforms will never be as passionate about it either. Experiences can be anything from eating at a local bistro to horse riding to bungee jumping. Speak to local providers and collaborate – place links on your website and ask providers to return the favour. Not only is this helpful for guests but Google loves it too, so it will help your website’s search engine ranking position (SERP). That is – build this into your search engine optimisation(SEO) and your website will appear higher in the search lists. Remember – even if your guests book using a booking platform, over half will go on to browse your website for more information about accommodation and the experience offered.
There is no better marketing than word-of-mouth recommendations. Reviews and social media photos and tags are opening up opportunities like never before. Millennial and Gen Z travellers heavily trust and rely on online reviews, with 72% of new customers not booking until they have spent time reading other travellers reviews. Reviews are nothing to be afraid of. According to SaleCycle 95% of traveller reviews are positive. Make it easy for your bookers to leave a review by using a verified review service and sending out an automated reviews request – 80% of travel customers who received a request left a review, that figure drops to 22% when review requests were not sent (SaleCycle). Asking guests to ‘Check in’ to your properties is an easy and free way to ensure your business is recommended to family and friends as when they post their amazing holiday pictures and experiences people know instantly where that have been, the same goes for tagging pictures.
The travel market is set for a major comeback throughout 2021 and beyond. ACT Studios can work with you to reinvigorate your business and help with all of the above points. You don’t have to do it alone. Our small team of industry experts are on hand to answer all your questions and hold your hand every step of the way. Get in touch to find out more and schedule a DNA call. Call +44 (0)333 344 6897
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and how we can help improve your visual content.