Well, we need to start with where we are now. In a perceived post-pandemic era, travel boomed. Undaunted by massive jumps in fuel, air, auto rental and other costs travelers set out in big numbers. Enter full flights, sky high costs, and lines around the block.
It is important to factor in two things: Cost was not a big deterrent, and bucket lists and old favorites drove the growth.
But, now that savings and retirements have been dampened, interest rates have soared, and everything is more expensive — things will change. The road ahead is not at all clear, but here are some steps to help you move ahead.
Brand is key. In good times, every destination thrives. In bad times, brand can be the difference between failure and success. Brand is a space in the mind, that you put there and you own. We pay more to use brands we value. We sacrifice to associate with top brands. I might drive less or take the bus, but I still want my boogie coffee from Starbucks. So how do you take a brand stress test? Look at your website, social, print materials, and experience. Is the same logo on them all? Are the colors the same? Do you describe your product the same in them all? If the answer is no to any of these, then we have a problem. How about your Google listing? Wiki reviews? Ads, guidebook? If your brand varies from place to place, buckle up, the ride is getting bumpy. Strong brands help you through hard times, weak brands expire.
Value is vital. No not being cheap — but a sense of a fair deal. If the consumer thinks they are being soaked, they will not return. And they might offer up bad reviews and poor word of mouth. So, no don’t discount, but bundle, surprise, and offer added value. A bespoke experience is what will thrive. As the casual tourists disappear, the people who have the time, money and will are going to be looking for a special experience — not off the rack but made for them. And, if they see a real value, it will make them into active envoys for your product,
Service is the thing. Bad service in tough times is a bad idea.
Service is the key differentiator at all times. But in tough times, service is an affordable way to break out. That means trains, response time, and going the extra mile. But great service creates brand loyalty, great reviews and amazing word of mouth. Cut back on service and you are pretty much cutting your own throat.
SEO… SEO and more SEO. Yes, you can cut back on Google ads, social posts, and even mailing. But where can you do more for less? Your website. That’s where you have control, do business and build community. Run your blog like a magazine that attacks new clients who don’t know you but find you via SEO (Search engine optimization.) Run these blogs to your social pages. Make it the fodder for your newsletter. SEO is cheap, powerful, and good for you. Do it!
Partnerships make sense. Anytime. Work with the winery down the road, or the weaver or cheese shop. But, in tough times it builds out the scope of your products, and it helps reach new audiences. And it gives you an advantage. Experiences are part of travel — and if you just do one thing you are leaving money on the table. Plus if you cross promote, Google loves to see links to your site.
Have fun. War, disease, and crowds. Not fun things. We travel to see, learn and experience. And we do it to have a good time. Find the fun. Chase the light hearted and inspirational. If your customers feel good, they foster good memories, and will have a brand loyalty that will bridge good times and bad. Please don't forget the fun!