Like the rest of the country, the tourism industry is ‘raring to go’ but we’re not sure when our businesses will be able to open their doors again. There is currently a lot of talk about recovery planning, and as I hypothesised in my previous article, there are a lot of variables that could affect the landscape of our industry in the near future.
However, rather than planning for recovery – what about planning for the different future we are likely to find ourselves in?
And importantly – what should we be doing today, right now to put ourselves in the best possible position.
Digital Visitor is a highly strategic business that looks at the industry and sets strategies to deliver success for our clients. And ultimately, for every client, to a greater or lesser degree, this comes back to revenue.
What I will provide you in this article are strategies and proactive advice to plan for future revenue growth. I hope by sharing our insights, this will, in turn, enable you to grow revenue for your businesses over what is arguably going to be a very difficult 12 months and perhaps beyond.
This is split into 2 parts, with this part being the primary activities you should be engaged with right now, with part 2 looking at the slightly less pressing activities you could do if you have the capacity to do so or consider for the longer term.
This might not be about what you are thinking. Instead, this is a warning over the content you produce. Across the industry, many organisations have been producing fantastic content. But recently in a creative session, our Client Services Director remarked ‘is the content being produced too good?’ This really made me sit up and ponder. When our doors open again will people feel that they have engaged with us enough over the last few months? If so, will they be rushing out their doors and through ours? Or will they initially be spending their ‘leisure’ budget on socialising, pubs, restaurants, visiting friends and family? A very interesting point to consider.
Across the industry, many organisations have been producing fantastic content. But is the content being produced too good?
I’ve heard that a lot of content being produced at the moment is about gaining brand awareness – but I would strongly advise ensuring that your content strategy and planning digs deeper than this and directly links back to future revenue growth.
Times are going to get harder, and all our tourism businesses are going to need to look at more diversification of their revenue streams to continue to be successful.
I believe a greater focus needs to be put on the revenue generation capability of your content, and this can be done in a number of ways.
- To channel donations – as the National Marine Aquarium are doing a fantastic job of with their ‘live feeds’ of their aquarium animals
- To sell products – like the London Transport Museum are doing, to drive traffic back to their online shop which is currently going all guns blazing. And like boutique hotels, using content to drive back for sales of their exclusive ‘gin’ made on their own premises.
- To sell bookings for future visits / accommodation bookings / dinner reservations / treatments / vouchers etc.
- To proactively create a retargeting pool – for future advertising when doors open. And be sure you are targeting the right audiences in the first place, otherwise, your re-targeting pool will not be the people you are trying to encourage to visit.
I believe a greater focus needs to be put on the revenue generation capability of your content.
Not every post should link back to revenue generation, that would be monotonous. But I would argue 20-30% of posts can and these should also be the posts that you put media spend behind to ensure that the greatest (most targeted) audiences can see them.
Now is the time to take stock, ensure your Search Engine Optimisation is up to scratch and plan to grow your organic website traffic.
An audit of your website SEO does not cost much and will provide clear direction on what you need to do to build organic search traffic. Even if you think you are doing ok with organic traffic, if you think you could be doing better, then you should explore this avenue seriously.
Unsurprisingly, good SEO also enhances the success of your paid media activity.
It’s essential to grow your SEO capabilities, as marketing budgets will be worked much harder next year. And if greater traffic from SEO, means you’ll save on paid media advertising, it is a very good investment.
Unsurprisingly, good SEO also enhances the success of your paid media activity, so by crafting and activating your enhanced search engine optimisation strategy now, you’ll start building less dependency on paid advertising, whilst also reducing the cost and effectiveness of paid advertising in future. A win-win!
Think like an e-Commerce business
* Disclaimer * I might be on my own with this theory, so please forgive me and continue to read beyond this section if you don’t agree with this slightly radical point.
As our doors reopen, attractions, restaurants, hotels and other tourism businesses, in some way are going to have restrictions on capacity. We will have to space tables out during dining, stagger entry for attractions and potentially limit occupancy at our accommodations.
This, therefore, limits the revenue we can gain through our traditional methods, and perhaps we need to invest energy in uncovering how we can diversify our revenue streams.
Play a game with me just for a moment, what if you could only be an e-commerce business?
Play a game with me just for a moment, what if you could only be an e-commerce business? i.e. you could only sell online? What would you sell? How could you increase current online sales? What products could you develop to sell online?
Would it be a restaurant’s secret ingredient spice blend? Will it be fruit and veg from your boutique hotel garden? or your own cider or gin? would it be toys and games from your gift shops? What would you be able to sell online with your current business and what could you sell if you developed your retail offering a little?
Now I completely appreciate some businesses are much better suited to this than others, but my question to you is, how could you focus much more on online sales of your ‘products’ that aren’t physical visits? And once you have come up with some ideas and plans, I would then ask you, what would you do to increase the sales of these items by 10?
The point is to consider growing additional forms of revenue for your business, as it is likely that your current main stream of income is going to be constricted. Start trying to think of yourself as an e-Commerce business. I’m confident, the tourism businesses that figure this one out will be in superior positions than those who don’t.
And a final point – whilst this might seem like a fool’s errand consider the following point. Once this lockdown is lifted, what if we find ourselves in the same situation in 6 months? You will be highly appreciative of your diversified revenue streams.
Now is a great time to do lead generation and there are several ways to do this well.
Many organisations are rightly creating content and promoting it to their desired audiences. This creates a key group of relevant people who have been driven to their website and can be re-targeted for future campaigns over the next 3 months to boost engagement. For our clients, retargeted audiences deliver around 3x the conversions than new audiences, so it’s well worth building these online visitors now.
At the moment, implementing digital advertising is relatively lower cost, so investing in this area right now is a wise move.
Additionally, capturing browsers email addresses is another way of not only growing your future email marketing capability but also increasing future advertising effectiveness, with various email based-targeting methods on social media.
At the moment, implementing digital advertising to capture email addresses, deliver website traffic and increase social media audiences is relatively lower cost, so investing in this area right now, before the melee when everyone’s doors open and advertising costs shoot through the roof, is a wise move.
Develop your offering
Many tourism businesses I am speaking with are using this time to develop their offerings which is a fantastic use of brain-power.
Before the pandemic, the industry was recognising consumer demand for more ‘experiential’ tourism and was beginning to develop packages, interactive experiences and more. My feeling is that this growth in consumer demand for more ‘experiences’, would not only have gained momentum, but it will also have increased in intensity. The tourism businesses that can demonstrate much more of an experiential offering may well be better placed to attract visitors, especially in a more competitive landscape.
The tourism businesses that can demonstrate much more of an experiential offering may well be better placed to attract visitors, especially in a more competitive landscape.
I was due to deliver the keynote on this topic at the recently postponed British Travel and Tourism Show and explain that there are many ways hotels, attractions, restaurants, and all manner of tourism businesses can develop their offering into more of an experience. So I urge you to spend some time thinking about how your tourism business can craft more of an experiential offering, to align with consumer desires.
This could also tie into the subject of developing a more ‘premium’ offer which a number of my industry peers have mentioned. It has been shown through various pieces of current research by BVA BDRC that whilst many people are suffering financial hardship and uncertainty at the moment, there is a small but significant percentage of people who will be better off after the pandemic. And some organisations are considering the development of more premium offerings to attract these people. In my opinion, this approach could work well and be highly effective at generating higher revenues, provided the right audience was reached. I would, however, tread carefully and ensure that these premium offerings are not showcased to the wrong audiences, as this might well end up causing bad feelings that ‘prices have gone up!’ since the lockdown.
Now I know the premium offering won’t be the normal entry price – ‘it will be a premium offering’, but just be very careful on how this is positioned, and to whom.
So, there we are. These are the strategies we are advising many organisations look into and are working with them to implement and crucially, for all of you that are raring to go, it really gives us some great projects and initiatives to get our teeth into and explore. These strategies aim to grow short and longer-term revenue and provide greater security for tourism business for the longer term, whilst being better able to weather any future storms.
I sincerely hope you have found these approaches interesting and as always I welcome and am grateful for your comments and feedback so please get in touch.
Anthony Rawlins is the Founder and CEO of Digital Visitor and has over 15 years experience in crafting digital and media strategies. He has worked with businesses across the tourism industry, including UK and international DMO’s, global travel companies and attractions. At Digital Visitor, Anthony is responsible for service innovation and works alongside the agencies biggest clients to shape their strategies and to target hard-to-reach audiences.
Anthony speaks at major industry events across the world, sharing his insights and providing thought leadership content. His personal passion is communicating the UK ’s travel offering to the ‘EasyJet generation’, many of whom have travelled the world but have never explored the UK.