With pre-booking figures falling off a cliff, attractions marketers are seriously concerned about attracting European visitors this year, so read on for my thoughts on how you can act now and buck this trend.

Much like any ALVA meeting, the recent ALVA London Members Forum was full of fascinating information. Robin Johnson, Head of Europe for Visit Britain, shared the sobering fact that Europeans don’t like us too much at the moment (fair enough). This understandably makes many attractions marketers very nervous as we were also told that 70% of our international visitors come from Europe.

With pre-booking numbers for Europeans down significantly, does this mean that they’re not coming at all? One story from the ALVA audience really stood out for me. A right honourable colleague talked about theatre goers in London, and said that while pre-bookings were down for European visitors overall, their European audience numbers were pretty much the same.

The message for me here was have faith, they will visit…eventually. So what is causing the shocking pre-booking figures and why do I still think the outcome will still be positive?

Brexit uncertainty

Brexit is happening on March 29th, no…wait a minute, April 12th, no, wrong again, its June, no its 12 months – ok, let’s settle on Halloween for the moment and then roll the dice again when the time comes – although we’re going to work towards leaving before the end of May…

Surely this complete and almost laughable uncertainty is why pre-bookings haven’t been made yet? Arguably, anyone looking to travel here might be waiting for decisions to be made as this will surely affect the Euro/Pound exchange rate.

Just as the theatre pre bookings don’t affect overall audience numbers, I think we need to relax a little bit about the travel pre-booking figures. My prediction is that the French, Germans, Dutch and our other European friends will visit us this year – they just delayed booking until they knew what the hell is going on. Now that we have passed the initial Brexit deadline, everything changes on a weekly basis. Europeans will resign themselves to this uncertainty, and begin to plan their trips anyway.

Unreliable booking data

The Discover England Fund gave us a fantastic myriad of research reports with data on the booking patterns of international audiences, and in particular the bigger European markets. But I don’t think this data has been stress tested much, in particular with the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in at the moment. This research was done a couple of years ago – when we knew this was happening, but to my knowledge, none of the recommendations really paid any attention to Brexit.

I believe the typical audience booking patterns can therefore be taken with a hefty pinch of salt – particularly if you are targeting millennial audiences who are typically more ‘in the moment’ anyway when it comes to booking their trips. Again, not much of the data has specifically looked into them and how they feel about the situation.

To sum up, I predict a small surge in bookings now for the summer. BUT…. I also think many travelling to the UK from Europe, are likely to make more of an impromptu visit this year.

Attractions that accept that the UK will be bustling with our European friends this year regardless of the political situation, and adopt a strategy to attract them when they are actually here – will win. Click To Tweet

Two winning tactics

My advice to attract this market is to target them both before and after they have arrived.

  1. From now – Target those who have booked flights using sophisticated audience data
    Identify people who have already booked flights to the UK this summer (these bookings are going to increase). You can identify the people who have recently booked a flight to London from your favourite and most desired European destinations, and start telling them right now about the virtues of your attractions and why they really shouldn’t miss it on their visit.
  2. From June through to the end of September – Target those who are here with geo-targeted, native language digital advertising
    Use social media advertising to specifically identify your target international audience profiles and identify those that are currently in the UK. Communicate to them in their native language, with a message tailored to that specific audience segment (don’t forget to include a ‘visit right now’ option). You could even go further and demonstrate to them that you ‘know where they are!’ and that your attractions is actually short walk from them.

That’s my two cents / Euros!

Yes, pre-booking figures look dire and we might have a bit of a dip in European audiences this summer, but millions of Europeans will still visit. Be prepared by speaking to them before they arrive and targeting them with the right messages when they are here.

You could be the attraction that really grows its international visitors this year, despite the predictions from the industry! If you are responsible for driving international visitors to your attraction and would like to debate these tactics, there is absolutely nothing I would enjoy more – so please get in touch.