Hospitality Marketing: The Decline of the Domestic Long Break

The writing’s on the wall. Despite holding steady between 2014 and 2015, the number of Britons taking longer breaks in the UK (4+ nights) is, as of 2016, in relative freefall. This year, a mere 24% of us are planning to take our main holiday somewhere in these fair isles.

And while this decline is part of the general narrative stretching back to a peak in 2012, a 10% drop on 2015 represents the biggest year-on-year decline in the UK long break market for over 10 years.

“… the domestic short break market is on the rise with 73% of Britons intending of embarking on a short break…”

On a somewhat more positive note, however, the domestic short break market is on the rise with 73% of Britons intending of embarking on a short break (1-3 days) within the UK this year. That’s up from 71% in 2015. So, while we are witnessing the speedy decline of the domestic long break, the problem is – in part, at least – being mitigated by the relative health of the UK short break market.

Unfortunately, last year the hospitality industry in the UK saw 2 million fewer domestic room nights compared to 2014 (down from 108 million). And there’s no sign that shortfall is set to be addressed.

How can the domestic hospitality industry bridge the domestic room night gap caused by the rapid decline of the domestic long break?

Surviving the Decline of the Domestic Long Break

As noted above, there are two trends currently at play in the UK domestic holiday market, which are on balance negatively affecting our hospitality industry:

Interestingly, bdrc Continental’s keynote at the 2016 National Hotel Marketing Conference notes that these trends aren’t, as has been the case in the past, the result of external factors. Instead, the decline of the domestic long break is ‘more of a structural change in how we take holidays’.

“…the decline of the domestic long break is ‘more of a structural change in how we take holidays’”

As a result, the hospitality industry – particularly independent hotels and accommodation providers – needs to fundamentally address the way it markets its products. This means developing a firm understanding of why UK holidaymakers take domestic short breaks, the biggest demographics for those trips and how best to communicate with them.

Reasons for Domestic Short Breaks

According to bdrc’s Hotel Guest Survey 2015, the top reasons Briton’s take domestic holidays are ‘to visit friends and relatives’, ‘to visit a local attraction’ and ‘for activity and adventure’, with the most popular type of holiday being a city break.

It’s important to remember that holidaymakers generally visit an area not for the accommodation, but for the area itself. This means that while hospitality marketers absolutely should convey what makes their business better than its competitors (especially in a competitive city setting), there should also be a focus on the local area.

“Enticing holidaymakers with promises of local attractions and adventure to rural locations is therefore an important tactic to ensure success.”

Indeed, there is general consensus within travel industry trends reports for 2016 that while city breaks are the fastest growing market globally, rural breaks in Britain are a close second in the popularity stakes. Enticing holidaymakers with promises of local attractions and adventure to rural locations is therefore an important tactic to ensure success.

The Domestic Short Break Demographic

As noted in ABTA’s ‘Travel Trends 2016’ report, the British family is ‘key to the domestic market’ taking, on average, 2.2 UK holidays per year. And this is further supported by those taking domestic package holidays, an option ‘most popular among 16-24 year olds’ and ‘families with children under 5’.

Bdrc highlights two reasons for this; firstly, the focus of ‘Gen Y’ (those born between 1980 and 2000) on affordable luxury and; secondly, safety which in 2016 is a consideration for 77% of British holidaymakers.

“…any and all brand messaging should seek to inspire travel, while breaking down psychological barriers.”

It should go without saying that focusing on these two distinct demographics, and their desires and concerns, should form the backbone of your hospitality marketing strategy. And, ultimately, that any and all brand messaging should seek to inspire travel, while breaking down psychological barriers.

Social Media as a Tool for Surviving the Decline

Targeting

A clear theme has emerged through this article; the need for sophisticated targeting of content and brand messaging to attract the right people to book short breaks. And, as we’ve said time and again, social media – continuing to refine its targeting options – currently presents the most compelling and cost-effective targeting solution on the market.

Taking Facebook as an example, hospitality marketers can easily target specific messages to users according to their age, gender and – perhaps most importantly – interests. And, as the bdrc report shows, social media has greatest influence on the 18-34 target demographic highlighted above.

“…hospitality marketers can easily target specific messages to users according to their age, gender and – perhaps most importantly – interests.”

But sophistication in targeted content on social media has progressed even further than assumed interests. It is now possible to use information about your audience – gathered by Facebook and Google Analytics – to direct advertising to specific users based on their website behaviour. This is a topic we’ve also explored in depth here…

For instance, if a user were to click on a specific suite or hotel in a certain area, we can then take that information to curate specific content designed to encourage booking, driving conversion rates up.

Up-to-the-Minute Content

This ties back to both paid targeted advertising and the compelling, organic content you should be sharing with your fans on a scheduled, regular basis. If there’s one way in which social media is superior to more traditional forms of advertising (even other form of digital), then it’s the ability to share up-to-the-minute information at the click of a button.

That means the ability to quickly share and promote last-minute, value-added offers that have become popular. That means to share with people information and news about local events and attractions – the very reasons why they may want to stay at your hotel.

Final Thoughts

The current shift in domestic holiday behaviour is a fundamental one, not seemingly affected by the external factors (the credit crunch, London bombings) that have had an impact in the past. Such a shift can’t simply be ridden out, and means that hotels and accommodation providers alike must adapt to address domestic room night shortfall by supporting the accompanying rise of the short break.

“…that hotels and accommodation providers alike must adapt to address domestic room night shortfall…”

Key to this process is a firm understanding of relevant demographics – in this case, ‘Gen Y’ and young families – their desires and interests and the best way in which to reach them. And with ever-improving technology, social media presents the most compelling way to achieve success and survive the decline of the domestic long break.

If you have any questions about the above article, or would like to discuss your social media requirements in greater detail, get in touch with our Marketing Manager, Nick Livermore, today on +44 (0)117 403 0088 or click here…