Daily Journal column: Give the Mayans credit this summer
Today, the Daily Journal continues a series of online-only columns with a column by Bruce Murdy, president of Rawle Murdy, a Charleston-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm.
Column: Harbinger of better things to come — summer 2012 Travel Trends
There are many worldwide events that help us see into our economic future. Crude oil prices. The European debt crisis. Even the upcoming presidential election will have an impact. But this year, there’s another benchmark to consider — summer travel trends. Yes, it’s that time of year where the Griswolds load up the family trickster and head out on vacation. This year, for the travel industry, things are looking better.
Why are most destinations feeling this turnaround? Well, there are many reasons. One obvious one is the Mayan calendar, which tells us the end of the world is coming soon. Most pundits believe, however, that it’s more than that. It’s a combination of travel/tourism focusing on smarter brand advertising, continued value packaging, smarter targeted online ads, greater investment in marketing overall, and of course, pent-up consumer demand.“Staycations” were the buzz a few years ago — staying home and creating a special “vacation at home” experience. Just like the EU backlash to European austerity programs, people are now acting on the pent-up demand for travel. They’re fed up. They want to GO somewhere and DO something. Domestically, fuel prices are moderate and most experts don’t expect them to spike during summer travel season — good news for drive-time destinations.
All of this is resulting in forecasts for a good summer vacation season.
Living in a desirable destination as we do in Charleston gives us a good gut feel for how the economy is faring. And this spring, the streets and restaurants of this world-class city have been filled with well-heeled tourists. And the numbers support what we see and feel — the Convention and Visitors Bureau measures continued growth in occupancy and average room rates.
Value-added packages continue to lead the way in hotelier offerings. But with all things, value packaging doesn’t always mean discount packaging. I was intrigued by a television campaign by Atlantis in the Bahamas — fourth night free with three paid. But going to their website, I noted that rooms at the property in July ‘started’ at $535 per night. So, for a four-night stay, you’re still paying more than $400 per night for a nice, but not extravagant, experience. Value-added offers often take the form of resort credit, which can provide a value to consumers, yet cost the property little.
I’ve been addicted to a Travel Channel show called Hotel Impossible, where the host helps neophyte hoteliers spruce up their properties to avoid catastrophe. While it gives the sense that most hotel/resort operators are unsophisticated, frankly, the opposite is generally true. With a proliferation of smart property management systems, sales managers are constantly fiddling with rates to maximize the return. The idea of last-minute bargains is rarely the case, even though 50% of Expedia’s bookings are for the same day!
Hoteliers are becoming much more creative in their package offerings, as well. From basic value-added offers such as the “one day free” or “resort credit” offers, we see wine packages, cooking programs, kids meal programs, environmental programs, a plethora of learning for life programs, romance packages, spa packages and on and on.
Marketers of all types can learn from travel/tourism marketers. They have been challenged for the past few years, as we all have, and many have responded with smart marketing, smart packaging, smart use of supply management software, aggressive pricing, etc. And it’s paying off. This year, pricing is moving up. Occupancy is moving up. Outlooks are brighter in the travel industry than they have been in many years.
So, customize your offerings. Provide something unique. Market aggressively. And perhaps with a little help from the Mayans, the summer of 2012, (and hopefully beyond) will look brighter for us all.