Marketing Trends to Explore This Autumn and Winter Tourism
First, let’s set the scene.
2023’s summer was one of the most challenging peak seasons tourism has had in a long time. We’ve seen the last of lockdowns and reduced capacity, but for UK tourism this summer had lots at stake.
The start of the year saw the cost of living crisis continue taking hold. Spending was reduced, and uncertainty was in the air. According to GWI consumer insights, 38% of Brits had not booked their summer holiday destination in June. Which, by most year’s standards, was cutting it fine.
One of our travel clients usually expects people to book four months in advance, but that fell to four weeks on average. Every insight report and research paper points to consumers booking later and later.
So, what are they waiting for?
Past trends might surmise consumers booking later as they shop around for a good deal. Last-minute offers can mean holidaymakers delay to nab a bargain. But the core reason for the delay this year is something less obvious.
To put it bluntly, people are in a state of uncertainty. Weather, job security, transport, travel strikes, and whatever is around the corner in politics and the climate. Two news stories dominated the summer holidays: travel chaos in airports and ports, and devastating fires and extreme weather.
The first was caused by a combination of planned strike action, staffing shortages and Brexit of course. Brexit has undoubtedly impacted international tourism, both inbound and outbound, and we saw the true impact with travel queues at the start of summer.
Then, the devastating wildfires across the world. Scientists are saying this summer was the hottest on record. Climate change has been on the news agenda for years, but we've seen a frightening example of what inaction looks like, with fires in tourism hotspots worldwide impacting local communities.
These events meant that those late bookers had to decide whether to take a risk with a trip abroad or risk a soggy UK summer.
The Weather in the UK
As I talked about in my weather article in the summer [here], the weather in the UK is a mixed one. Some summers are a complete washout, whilst others will be non-stop sunshine. The weather impacts tourism more than any other factor in the UK, and with a varied one this year, how did a summer of rain and sun impact domestic tourism?
In a nutshell? This summer was generally positive. We've spoken to our Association partners, networks and peer groups, and this summer seemed to be better than last year for most. Attractions had a steady stream of visitors and revenue. Some are still not at 2019 levels, but we're seeing the majority of our clients up on last year's numbers.
Indoor Experience - 11% up on 2022 revenue // 23% increased footfall on 2022
Outdoor Experience - 27% up on predicted footfall // 22% increased footfall on 2022
Mixed Weather Experience - 40% up on revenue // 37% increased footfall on 2022
So, what does that tell us?
You can't blame the weather for not getting you the results you wanted this summer. And you can beat your targets with a targeted and strategic marketing mix.
But that's summer done and dusted. What's in store for autumn and winter this year?
Trends to look out for
More and more UK audiences are looking for value. We're not talking about cheap, but about value for money.
For destinations, they're looking to package up their hotel with experiences or dining. Whereas in years gone by, people would be happy to book separately to get the best deals. Perhaps due to the later booking trends, consumers want value for money in one place.
For attractions, they're looking at memberships or annual passes to revisit as many times as they like. This means you're going to have to be straightforward and clever in your messaging and creative. What makes you valuable, or what makes you essential [view more].
For decades our founders, Anthony and Simon, have been predicting the “experience boom”.
After being confined to their homes, consumers realised they didn’t need more “stuff”, they wanted to make memories. As Bernard, CEO of ALVA, often muses, a four-year-old child starting school would have spent over 50% of their life in lockdown
After months and months of being unable to explore and experience, families are now looking to rectify this. And whilst the domestic boom of 2021 has passed, when it comes to key holiday periods and gifting seasons like Halloween and Christmas, consumers are looking to book “experiences”. What does this mean for you?
The time to put on that seasonal event or behind-the-scenes experience is now.
Don’t be afraid to offer something truly unique with a premium price tag. A one-on-one tour with your attraction’s curator? People are willing to pay for that as long as you give them value for their money.
This trend also means you should be investing in your digital marketing campaigns for gifting experiences. Once you’ve got your products online, putting effort and budget into showcasing them to your target audience can generate huge revenue opportunities for the end of the year.
The time has finally arrived when all of the audiences you’re trying to reach are online. QR codes pre-2020 were seen as a flash in the pan idea, but are now a marketing tool to track interactions like never before. So, it’s good news that everyone is using digital right?
Yes and no. It’s great that your audience is now in a place you can access them with trackable metrics like return on investment, and conversion rates. But, the competition is heating up online. More and more organisations are moving to socials and search platforms to advertise, which means to truly stand out in the digital space, you can’t just pop one of your stock images from 2012 and hope for the best. To stop the scroll, you have to engage, excite and inspire. Do your digital campaigns do this? Do they stand out? Do they excite you? Because if they don’t excite you, someone who knows your brand, they probably won’t excite your audience.
Invest in creative for digital. Either look to your inhouse teams for a new and innovative idea, or speak to your digital agency or partners. Better creative = better results.
Just look at what we achieved for Mauritius [view here].
And finally. Digital advertising is great for getting to your audiences in a targeted way. But, those pesky folks at Meta and Google are constantly evolving their targeting parameters. This means you’ve got to be an expert at PPC and social to get to the people you need. This is only going to get worse. Don’t forget, those thousands of people on your social media channels, you don't have the relationship and ability to talk to them. Putting up posts and content will only get you to a small % of them. The time to build your email database is now.
Your database is the only channel you own 100%. The only way to talk to thousands of your audience directly. Don’t underestimate the importance of an email.
Start building your audience. Why not try a data capture campaign to build thousands of new subscribers? The better and more engaged your audience, the less you’ll need to rely on the other digital channels in the future.
As we approach the final quarter of 2023, budgets will be finalised, and targets for 2024 will be set. This is an opportune moment to reshape your marketing strategies. While it's important to reflect on the past year, your actions in the next few months can significantly impact the future.
If you're seeking innovation and development in your marketing efforts for 2024 and beyond, don't hesitate to reach out to Navigate. We're always happy to have a conservation to explore the direction you're looking to explore.
Olly Reed, Account Director
Olly has spent the last 15 years building a specialism and passion for marketing in visitor attractions, creative agencies and conservation charities. He's lead marketing for national and international brands, developing their digital presence, curating engaged audiences and ultimately growing their revenue.
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