A quick jaunt up the A82 to Arrochar from Glasgow. Me, midge-repellent, a car full of teenagers let out of lockdown and four bikes. I have never been more ready to go on holiday in my life, and the levels of excitement in the car, when our loch-side rented cabin came into view, were worthy of a trip to Disneyland.
Seems that Malcolm Roughead, head honcho at VisitScotland, has got it spot on when he writes “there’s nae place like hame”. Anyone trying to book a holiday in Scotland this summer had to adopt supermarket-sweep style ninja tactics to bag that idyllic rural cottage in the Highlands, or the city-slicker pad in Edinburgh, as our uber-impressive hospitality industry stepped up to accommodate us all safely, hands-sanitised and two metres apart.
Scottish searches on Google for “staycation” soared by 3,826 per cent in July compared with last year, and searches for “holiday in Scotland” rose a whopping 300 per cent between March and July. Happy days. Turns out one of the few positive side effects of the pandemic is that Scots are starting to rediscover their own country.
And, whilst I’m sure VisitScotland’s “Only in Scotland” ad campaign has stirred our national pride (let’s overlook the fact that I’m English), who could face the game of airport roulette? Altogether better to stay local.
But whilst juggling Covid-clean regimes and suddenly self-isolating staff, the canny holiday operators are laying the groundwork to turn this Scottish fling into a long-term love affair. They’ve clocked how consumer buying behaviour is changing, are alert to how to capitalise on this, and have hard-wired their response into everything they do. Easy, right?!
Yes, price and quality are still our main considerations when choosing our staycation, but we’re a demanding bunch and we’re now seeking out authentic, purposeful brands who actively put their staff, the environment and their local community firmly at the heart of what they do. And of course, whilst you’re doing this, you need to be transparent about it and share what you’re doing in an impactful way.
In a world of connected technology, we’re craving human connection (especially now) and the need to feel part of something. Not too tricky to tackle whilst your staycationers are still with you, but how can you build this into your digital communications? It can be as simple as sharing a video you’ve taken of the sunrise from your holiday property, responding to comments shared in reviews and in visitor books, or highlighting how your team is having fun planning new activities for us to enjoy when we come back.
Don’t be shy. Make sure people know that you’ve enjoyed looking after them and that you can’t wait to see them again. We all like to feel appreciated. And if, like Center Parcs, you can up the sense of urgency with an early-bird discount so much the better. Mind you, with Hoseasons recording one staycation booking every 11 seconds in the UK this summer, the urgency element is pretty much there.
Be discoverable. Literally make sure people can find you easily, but even more so be discoverable in the internet ether. You can’t all get the number one spot on Google, so if the commercials work for you use aggregators like Airbnb or Booking.com to take the pain out of our holiday research. As well as aggregators, have your local destination management company on speed dial and think collaboration with other complementary businesses. Pool your brain power even if you don’t pool your budget.
And whilst talking digital, the smart holiday operator is seriously engaging in the digital space. More than half of us are now comfortable buying from a mobile device, and will jump off if the shopping experience is frustrating, so think mobile and think visual. Conjure up in our minds those braggable Instagram images – hot social currency to share with our online tribes when we’re staying, and make sure we can easily see all your five-star user reviews.
So, stay on top of that sexy social media and make sure your photography doesn’t let you down. But don’t forget the digital workhorse – email: staggeringly cost effective, focused on people who are already engaging with your brand and, for 60 per cent of us, influencing our purchasing decisions.
Now is also the time to capitalise on the rise of the locally-conscious consumer (thank you coronavirus). Our heightened sense of community extends past just popping to our local Spar. We are realising the role we can play in supporting smaller, local companies and are getting behind them with our wallets. So, make a noise about your local credentials.
Finally, be clear about who your targeting, and do this relentlessly and repeatedly. If your venue is geared to families, make sure you dial up messages about all the great things there are to do on the doorstep, and how to keep the kids entertained if it’s raining. And don’t forget Wifi.
Best holiday of my life? Arrochar definitely ranks up there. Even before a seal popped his head up to say hello as I pottered about on Loch Long in a canoe. Scotland. See you next year.
Ellie Murphy, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), chair of CIM Scotland