Eastbourne’s problem isn’t a unique one. As a vibrant seafront destination it doesn’t struggle to fill rooms and sell tickets at peak times. What holidaymakers don’t go to Eastbourne for, historically, is what it has to offer mid-week.
Perception. Its importance cannot be overstated. How a brand or business is perceived ultimately governs the type of custom it receives. And it’s no different for destinations, as Eastbourne will readily testify to.
The perception of Eastbourne as an exciting weekend and summer holiday destination will endure. But we’ve been working with the DMO since last year to alter that perception, and keep pace with holidaymaker expectations to improve mid-week occupancy figures.
And the results have been telling, with evidence from hotels themselves suggesting that Eastbourne has seen a change in booking patterns (towards mid-week) since our partnership began.
The bookings data for hotels is a valuable commodity. As a result, accurate degrees of change have proved difficult to pin down.
But the story doesn’t end there, with local businesses informing Eastbourne directly that mid-week occupancy figures are up noticeably since the destination began redirecting marketing spend to social media.
With a move towards social media as a marketing channel, our aim for the campaign was a positive shift in the perception of Eastbourne as a UK destination. And we have been very pleased with the results of our social media campaigns so far, and how they’ve driven engagement with our target market.
The evidence behind this piece does, however, stray from the potentially circumstantial and into the empirical. If we look at STR’s UK Coastal Towns Review, we can see that ‘Eastbourne showed the largest year-over-year performance growth…’ of 6.1%.
Seen in the context of a general decline in hotel occupancy figures of 0.2%, this alone is impressive. But when you then consider the spread of occupancy figures throughout the week, the results are even more startling.
As it stands, Eastbourne has among the most stable occupancy figures of the destinations assessed in the report. And while it’s most popular day is Saturday with an average occupancy of 87%, its mid-week figures only dip below 70% on a Thursday. A difference of 17%.
Naturally, those figures mean little in isolation. But compared with Blackpool with Saturday and its worst performing mid-week day at 92.2% and 63.6% respectively (a difference of 28.6%), you can see just how well Eastbourne is performing.
While we won’t go into the minutiae of our work with Eastbourne here (you can see our extensive case study for that), it’s worth emphasising our general approach.
Resonating with a wide audience across topics was key here. As such, we ensured the content we crafted was relevant for its target market. An example of that is the ongoing video series created in partnership with Michaela Strachan, which sought to highlight many of Eastbourne’s lesser-known treasures; its gastronomic heritage, for instance.
More than anything, what our work with Eastbourne highlights is that the types of challenges that can be met and surpassed with social media are changing. Gone are the days of social media as a woolly marketing channel – it delivers on real business objectives directly.
It’s difficult to alter the perception surrounding a destination, and even more difficult if destinations continue to direct spend in traditional areas. What social media does well is allow us to target demographics closely and with agility. An advert at a cinema or print wrap on a national newspaper doesn’t.
We, as marketers, must not only strike out at our target markets with the right message, but also in the right way. Only then will we be able to alter perception for the better, and ultimately achieve what we set out to.