While we wait with bated breath for announcements of future government support, as Boris recently said, we need to ‘Hope for the best, and plan for the worst’.  Whether this is extending furlough for tourism businesses, or something else altogether, we need to prepare that we might be on our own, and plan accordingly.

With this in mind, what can tourism businesses do to survive (or even thrive) over the next 6-9 months?

We’ve got the VAT benefit which we can help for a while, but to be frank with you, we need to generate revenue. We need sales and unfortunately, we’re heading quickly into what is typically the quieter time of our season.

So, how can we grow revenue? 

Well, there are a few options.  In a previous article, I highlighted some ideas around diversifying revenue streams. I urge businesses to take this seriously and spend some time on innovation to not be so reliant on footfall. 

Many ideas can be explored here, from branded products, development of your E-commerce capabilities, the creation of higher value experiences and more. For every business, there are several avenues they could and should explore to de-risk their current business model. 

One nationwide trust I have spoken with recently is proactively creating a strategy to target higher-value visitors, whose average spend is far above the usual £10 spend.  To do this, they are looking at developing unique experiences amongst a raft of other value-added services and visitor offering to generate £150 per person, per visit.

We still need to generate footfall/visitors/guests.  It is the lifeblood of our businesses, therefore all efforts need to be made on crafting and implementing the most capable and transparent marketing strategy we have ever delivered.

Whilst these ideas will take us so far, we still need to generate footfall/visitors/guests. It’s the core of our industry. It is the lifeblood of our businesses, therefore all efforts need to be made on crafting and implementing the most capable, streamlined, and transparent marketing strategy we have ever delivered.

In order to generate sales, we need our marketing activity to step up to a whole new level and we need to implement a new approach for the new challenge we now face.

Most importantly, we need to make this Autumn and Winter, the best Autumn and Winter we have ever had. We need to drive footfall on a level we have never had at this time of year before, and we need a plan of how to do this.

Enhancing out of season marketing is something we have done for our clients in the past, to great effect, but it has never been as serious as it is now. Off-peak marketing was seen as a ‘nice to have’ and would certainly add to the bottom line, but it wouldn’t an absolute requirement for survival.

For many businesses, this autumn/winter season has become just this, a make or break period where we have to put our best foot forward and generate revenue.

So, how can you do this? How can we turn A/W into our new Summer? How can Orange become the new yellow?

Here’s the format to follow.

Step 1 – Audiences

This is the beginning of the plan, and get this wrong at your peril. Which audiences do you need to attract? Who is most likely to visit you? A quick tip – It’s not necessarily families!

Your families audience, who you might rely on for October and Christmas peak visitors, isn’t the audience that is going to get you through this.

Your families audience, who you might rely on for October and Christmas peak visitors, isn’t the audience that is going to get you through this. School holidays account for 5 out of the 25 available weeks you have for Autumn / Winter, so don’t put all your eggs in this basket.

Identify exactly the kind of people you want to visit you, and craft your plans toward reaching them and perhaps take a look at:

Get into the detail on the groups of people you want to attract; take their perspective. Where do they live? What are their interests? How do they like to travel? This doesn’t need hours and hours of time or thousands of pounds spent on segmentation, it should all fit on a page (at most). Having a concise plan lets you focus your mind and informs the rest of your marketing strategy. 

Step 2 – Content

What you say to these audiences, is essential to compel them to visit. Reassure them, craft the messages that speak to each audience you wish to attract.

Use imagery and rich media, not static print.  Make it easy for audiences to visualise visiting you. 

Use imagery and rich media, not static print.  Make it easy for them to visualise visiting you.  You could craft a series of targeted itineraries for each audience explaining exactly how they should visit you, for how long and what to do on their visit. 

Perhaps create a package deal, that includes everything you recommend they do. This could include experiences, lunch vouchers, treatments and any partnerships with other nearby tourism businesses. 

Step 3 – Digital

What I have always felt is more true than ever before – your marketing must be agile, transparent and measurable.  This is digital marketing. 

If you don’t know how your marketing is working, you don’t know how to change, optimise and grow. 

You can craft a fantastic A/W 2020 campaign using PPC, social and email marketing alone. We’ve done it before with staggering results, that will deliver a  sustained uplift in mid-week and off-peak bookings.

Step 4 – Start

Timing is everything, and time is running out. Your A/W 20 marketing campaigns should be in their planning stages now, and you need to launch in a few weeks. Following these steps and getting it right, we’ve proven you can grow off-peak and out of season tourism significantly.

This year is exceptional and unprecedented, therefore your A/W 20 campaign needs to be the strongest campaign you have ever done at this time of year, and indeed perhaps the strongest marketing campaign you have ever delivered full stop.

Failing to get your visitors in over the coming months doesn’t bear thinking about. We’ve already seen many attractions and tourism businesses close citing the pandemic as the primary reason. This doesn’t have to be the case, and you exceed your own expectations of what can be achieved over the coming months.

Getting your ‘off-peak’ campaign right can make you one of the standout tourism organisations. It can put you in the best possible position for growing your business when things eventually return to normal. Capitalise on the pent up demand for the industry, and give visitors fantastic experiences and the leisure time they have been yearning for most of the year.

I hope this article has helped your thinking on what you could achieve with the right strategy and If you would like to explore further, how best to craft your Autumn Winter marketing, please do get in touch. I wish you all the best of luck.