26 Jan 2011

Tourism Businesses - How to survive in a recession!

Technically the UK is out of recession. If you work in tourism though, then you probably feel that this isn't true yet. Recession plus a new government hell bent on change has seen the effective dismantlement of the publicly funded tourism bodies that previously supported the sector. There is no money left for public sector subsidy of tourism! There won't be for a long time...

So where does that leave our tourism businesses? Where does that leave those tourism businesses who relied upon a strong public sector role in tourism and destination marketing? Who will market your destination if your local tourist board no longer has the funds to do so?

The answer...You!

You take responsibility for selling your own destination! And while you are at it make sure you promote all the businesses near you that your consumers will also be interested in visiting.

Why? You can't rely on anyone else to sell your destination for you and if you do you are making a mistake. Even the most successful tourist board websites attract a tiny fraction of the available online audience - much less than 1%. So if you are not going to tell people about how great it is in your bit of the country how will they ever find out? What will ever inspire people to visit in the first place?

Too many businesses 'assume' that consumers already know about a destination. Research indicates however that the biggest failing of tourism websites is that they do not provide the visitor information a consumer needs in order to make a booking.

Hotels - Forrester Research tells us that as many as 38% of potential customers will avoid booking because your website does not give them enough information about the local area.

Visitor Attractions - Frommers research indicates that 66% of consumers are dissatisfied with the amount and quality of visitor information found on tourism websites.

VisitBritain's own research by Deloitte highlights the double whammy market failures of:
  • Imperfect information – significant failures where both consumers and businesses in the visitor economy suffer from information gaps and potential visitors (both overseas and domestic) do not have the relevant information to use in their decisions
  • The free-rider problem - due to the fragmented nature of the industry, individual business or a group of businesses are unlikely to market a place
What this means is that consumers want access to on-line visitor information but cannot find it! And just to compound the problem, tourism businesses in this country consistently fail to provide any visitor information. You view each other as competitors rather than complementary suppliers to a global market place.

VisitBritain see these market failures as a national problem and Deloitte assert that they can't be remedied without public sector intervention.

But the public sector hasn't got any money...

hang on, last month David Cameron and Visit Britain announced a £100million 4 year global marketing campaign. A genuine partnership between the private and public sector. Is any of that money going to directly help your tourism business? 

Surely if there is identified market failures that require public sector intervention and there is money available then don't we just need to get together, as a network or community or group or whatever and say..."give us access to the visitor information we need and we will ALL start marketing Britain". In return you will collectively provide VisitBritain with a shop window of  c200,000 websites attracting an average monthly audience of at least 100,000,000 consumers. You will also make your business more interesting and compelling for the consumer because you will be satisfying their need for visitor information to help them plan their trip.

At times like these your first priority should be to look after yourselves. You need to decide what it is you can do to best protect your business and help you ride this recession and come out the other end unscathed, possibly even leaner, fitter and better placed than ever before. Ironically the best thing you can do for yourself is to start promoting your fellow businesses and selling your destination.

If this government is really interested in supporting tourism they should do so in practical ways that benefit every single business that is prepared to get involved - and there is a simple, proven way that all of the above can be achieved.

But that is for another post, another day...