Thoughts by Olly Reed
“How’s your summer going?” The age-old question those who work in tourism and hospitality businesses ask on a daily basis. Summer footfall is hugely influenced by factors such as societal impacts on spending, experience trends, and events in the news, but one factor remains the largest, which is the good old British weather.
I spent the last fourteen years praying for rain during the summer school holidays. Family and friends would be puzzled as we sat in the garden, having a BBQ, and I’d start smiling when it started raining. Why? No one likes a soggy sausage, but I knew when the rain falls during the summer, the place I spent my working days would be full of tourists looking for something to do in the dry. I’m sure my peers in gardens, zoos and outside attractions felt the opposite.
So, here are a few thoughts on how your marketing team can react to the weather to ensure your summer isn’t a total washout.
1. Remove focusing weather from your evergreen marketing material
Firstly, this one applies all year round and will take a bit of getting used to. If in all your marketing materials you refer to yourself as a wet weather attraction, or the sun is always shining in your marketing photos, you’re giving yourself a hard time to persuade potential visitors that you’re a great visit whatever the weather. Some zoos, for example, have extensive indoor exhibits, and visiting when the weather is a bit grey means fewer queues. Museums are great when the rain comes, but when the hot weather shines their air-con atmosphere and large spaces are a great place to get out of the heat.
Removing weather messaging in your business-as-usual content doesn’t mean you can’t be clever with your advertising and seasonal content (see point three). But by removing any weather messaging that pigeonholes you into only visiting when the weather falls in your favour is a way forward to ensure you open yourself up to all audiences.
2. Focus on pre-booking advertising
Research from Visit England corroborates what we’re experiencing across clients and peers; people are booking later and later this year, across both holiday destinations and visiting attractions. Whilst this trend isn’t likely to go away anytime soon due to the uncertainties we’re facing day to day, focusing your marketing efforts to encourage pre-booking is the best way to spend budget to guarantee visits, whatever the weather.
The public’s ethos when it comes to online booking was revolutionised by the “pandemic years”. But as restrictions decreased and attractions got back to normal operations, many people removed the focus of encouraging people to pre-book in advance.
Whilst your visitors pre-booking has a huge range of positive impacts (staff planning, activity rotas etc), persuading your visitors to pre-book means that the ever-changing weather forecast can’t impact whether they choose to visit you on the day they booked.
The reduced capacity of the pandemic meant people felt they had to book to be guaranteed entry, but with capacity limits pretty much a thing of the past for many, how can you encourage people to book?
No one likes giving discounts, but many attractions offer advanced booking incentives if you book at least three days in advance (limiting the weather impact). Other attractions have an on-the-day/door price which is more expensive than booking online in advance (at least before midnight of the day before). Price-sensitive visitors will book in advance to get the better value, and no matter the weather on the morning of the visit, they’ll be making their way to you.
Whichever works for you, pushing for online bookings will help confirm visits.
Do you have a weather plan?
As a scheduling tip for social media, consider including a tactical weather content plan that you can quickly publish when the weather isn’t to your liking (depending on whether you are an indoor or outdoor attraction).
3. Digital content and campaigns that are reactive to the weather
Using social advertising to encourage pre-booking when the weather is looking in your favour is a great way of reducing the weather’s impact on your attraction.
We all know that the weather affects people’s moods (remember my soggy BBQ smiles?). So if the sun is shining on a Tuesday and you want your audiences to visit you on the weekend, but the weather isn’t looking good, why not use impactful creative and messaging to encourage pre-booking on the day Tuesday when the sun is shining?
We’ve designed creative campaigns which we’ve activated across the meta suite to be positioned only on the days when it was raining. Wet weather bespoke video encouraged bookings for the attraction when we knew the weather was going to turn against them.
Not only is digital advertising a great tool to track whether your marketing spend is actually working, but it’s also great to use prebuilt campaigns to react in real-time to your potential customers. Speak to your digital teams or agencies on how to make this a reality for you.
The weather in the UK has never been totally predictable, and with the real-term impacts of climate change, who knows what summers will look like in years to come. The truth is us Brits love talking about the weather, so the fact it’s a large factor in choosing to visit somewhere is no surprise.
Use your reactive content to encourage pre-bookings, and remove weather-focused messaging in your general out-of-season marketing to ensure you don’t pigeonhole yourself in the eyes of your audience.
Good luck, I hope you have a fantastic summer. If you’re worried about your footfall or want to do something to have an impact in the short term, fill out the contact form, and we’re more than happy to have a conversation.
For over a decade, I'm proud to have worked in marketing, communications, fundraising and creative roles at some of the UK's leading tourism & purpose brands. I joined Navigate to ensure our leading marketing consultancy continues to deliver for our clients.
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