Let’s not mince words: it’s been a hard few months for those in the travel, tourism and leisure sectors. Research from VisitScotland found that in the first month of lockdown alone there was a direct loss of over £164m to Scottish tourism – with 99% of businesses interviewed experiencing cancellations and reductions in bookings, and 58% having to reduce staff numbers (including through furlough).

With the Scottish Government announcing that self-catering holiday accommodation can reopen in Scotland from 3 July with no travel distance limit for leisure, outdoor hospitality allowed from 6 July, and all holiday accommodation and hotels permitted from 15 July, there is growing excitement in the sector. But after such a period of downturn, brands can’t go back to their old marketing proposition: a new approach needs to be taken.

Insight on consumer trends

VisitScotland recently released some interesting consumer insight, which will be useful for holiday and leisure providers in Scotland:

  • Indication of reduced spend on holidays/breaks this year – across the UK the anticipated number of UK short breaks and holidays is down 30% compared to normal.
  • In terms of regions/nations to be visited between now and September, 12% of people surveyed in the UK said Scotland (12%). The South West of England and Scotland also lead for visits planned from October onwards.
  • For the summer period, countryside/village and traditional coastal/seaside town destinations are the most popular (32% and 30% shares respectively). Cities move into joint second place for trips scheduled from October.
  • Understandably, self-catering is providing the most popular (with self-catering holiday options able to open from 3 July).
  • 35% of Scots will book directly from a hotel, 26% from online travel agents (OTAs), and 12% from the Homestay website.

Three tips for creating tourism marketing post lockdown

Move from ‘armchair travel’ to encouraging conversion

Over the last few months, travel and hospitality brands had to quickly pivot from encouraging sales to ‘armchair travel’: including posts showing beautiful landscapes or behind-the-scenes blogs or live streams of what was happening on site. Now, as Scotland is beginning to reopen, it’s time for this message to change.

While some people may not be keen to travel, a survey by VisitBritain (taken the week of 15-19 June) found that 40% of the public have either already planned or intend to plan a UK short break or holiday by September, so there is a great opportunity to promote your business and drive excitement for what Scotland has to offer.

Don’t just focus on the next three months either: the appetite for travel is set to increase as the year goes on. Showcase all there is to do in Autumn and Winter, as well as Summer, for the chance to captivate a larger audience. 

Use your website, blogs and social media to build engagement, with the aim of driving conversions.

Share how you are putting safety first

On 25 June, VisitBritain launched its ‘Good To Go’ scheme – a 20 question self-assessment for travel and leisure brands. This assessment is designed to act an industry standard to show that businesses have read reopening guidance and have steps in place to keep visitors and customers safe. Once completed, businesses will be given a ‘Good To Go’ mark which can be used across all marketing to showcase that the business meets the required standards. For brands with multiple venues or locations, please note that each branch will need to complete the assessment separately.

This is a great way to prove to the public that you are doing what you can to keep them safe – especially since research from GlobalWebIndex found that in the UK, 64% said regular cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces such as leisure venues was important to them, while restrictions on how many people can enter (49%) and provision of hand sanitiser (47%) also deemed vital.

Make sure that any change you put in place is shared with the public – whether it is showing pictures on social, a page on your website, or printed signs actually on-site. By showing what you are doing to keep your staff and visitors safe, you will drive more positivity to your brand and create a feeling of safety.

Showcase the area as well as the location

While hotels themselves can open, many of the amenities cannot. Therefore, now is the time to pivot marketing away from ‘just’ the hotel stay, and towards what can be done in the local area. 

Promote your holiday accommodation as a great ‘base of operations’ for local activities – whether it is a wildlife park, walks or cycling trips, entertaining days out for the kids. Capitalising on the school holidays and short staycations can help provide that boost you need and provide a hook as to why people should visit you.

While it is sadly unlikely that businesses will be able to recoup the full losses from the past three months, the opportunity now is to start afresh and help display the amazing tourism offering Scotland provides.