Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Events - the sector with no light at the end of the tunnel

We can't change a venue red today but it doesn't mean that we're not involved in this. We are a small independent promoter and at the periphery of the music industry (of that we have no misconceptions) but it doesn't mean we don't feel or see the impacts of the lockdown not only on us but on all of those that make WinterStorm and our South Beach Sessions happen. With no support for so many in the sector there is a sense of abandonment that needs addressed.

As independents, by definition, you get used to being on your own and when you see the big boys in the industry glibly using phrases like "We're all in this together" it sometimes takes every morsel of restraint to bit your tongue.

This crisis is indeed existential for many. We may all make it to 2021 but can we all make it through 2021?

With events rolling over and new tours and festivals being announced there is going to be more competition for the "leisure pound" than ever before. There is no reason to forecast that the public will spend much more on 2021 events than they did in 2019 - they only have so much money and the demands next year for leisure time are going to be as never seen before - holidays, friends and family celebrations, sports, dining out even.

We think that's a logical or at least sensible outlook. If you have twice the number of events or even 150% of 2019 events you cannot expect the same level of ticket sales and spend across such a high supply; it's illogical - it's possible but not certain. There are going to be more tours, more midweek gigs, more music and theatre releases held back til next year, more supply on every level but DEMAND CANNOT follow. It's just impossible.

It's why there needs to be a genuine review of the sector and a three year plan to see how it can re-balance itself through an extraordinary 2020 of no events and a 2021 with a glut.

This is a long term issue for the events, hospitality and music industries and it needs strategic and JOINED UP thinking like never before.


Friday, July 3, 2020

We're Good To Go

I think all of the industry across Scotland will be well aware of the We're Good To Go scheme by now and should have implemented all of the checklist recommendations.

Once that's been done however you need to ensure that you're reassuring your own customers and promoting your levels of care. It is absolutely critical that for the time being at least "We're Ready to Go" sits in importance with your site wide Book Direct messages. Even more so.

 We suggest the following
  • Create a dedicated page on your own website for We're Good To Go and tweak the text to emphasise the personal measures you've undertaken for staff and guest safety
  • Link to the website page from your emails, your social media and share on group pages and discussion forum everywhere.
  • Consider creating a series of digital postcards that use the logo as part of an ongoing "Safe" destination campaign
  • Consider putting the logo on all your web page hero images
We've created sample text from VisitScotland's email for our clients to use as a template for their pages. and used this as a simple guest facing page for The Priory Hotel in Beauly to link to from their welcome back opening offer to their closed mailing list

The text from VisitScotland is show below with links to signing up for the scheme

VisitScotland | We're Good to Go

We've worked with Tourism Northern Ireland, VisitEngland and VisitWales to develop a new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike – as the sector works towards reopening.

The ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard and supporting mark mean businesses across all sectors of the tourism industry in Scotland can demonstrate that they're adhering to the respective government and public health guidance, and have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment to check they have the required processes and protocols in place.

The free scheme complements the guidance already issued by Scottish Government to help tourism businesses plan to reopen.

Scotland’s tourism sector has suffered terribly from the impacts of coronavirus. The Scottish Government has been doing all it can to help the sector through these challenging times and we continue to support tourism businesses as they prepare to open their doors again.

Good to Go is a really positive development, developed jointly by the four Visitor agencies across the UK, that will ensure the sector is as prepared as possible to welcome visitors again. I’m pleased to see the establishment of this UK wide self-certification scheme that will enable businesses to demonstrate that they are ready to reopen and give much needed confidence to visitors and communities that tourism can begin again.

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Tourism Secretary
Together with the new national tourism and sector guidelines, the Good to Go Scheme will help businesses get ready for the indicative start dates in July. A nationwide scheme gives a consistent approach across all of the UK and will give visitors the reassurance they are looking for.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland

To obtain the mark you must complete a self-assessment through an online platform - goodtogoscotland.com - including a checklist confirming you have put the necessary processes in place. Once complete, you'll receive certification and access to the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in your premises and online.

Businesses across the UK will be assessed according to their respective national guidance once published, including the physical distancing and cleanliness protocols that must be in place.

In Scotland, businesses will align with the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Visitor Economy Guidelines. An ‘alert’ system ensures that businesses signed up to the standard are notified if there are changes to the official guidance. A call-handling service will provide support and advisors will also carry-out random business support calls to ensure businesses are understanding and adhering to the guidance.

The self-assessment process links to specific guidelines for sectors including accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants and pubs, business conference and events venues, and tour and coach operators, with signposting to further industry and trade association guidance as required. We are aware that a couple of sector groups are not on the tick box when completing the self-certification. Simply continue as if you weren’t a member and answer further questions before completing the process.

We'll continue to update our Get Tourism Ready section of this website with up-to-date national and sector guidelines.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Social Distancing Survey - one metre or two?

Like everyone else in the country (Scotland and the wider UK) you can't have missed the arguments raging about the reduction of the two metre rule and it looks as thought later today (Monday 22nd June) that there may be a relaxation in England.

The call from hospitality businesses to reduce the distancing to one metre has been loud and sustained and it sometimes appears that there is no dissonance amongst operators. 

The troubling aspect from our point of view as event organisers is that everything that's being discussed just now is about supply side economics. It's about being viable at one metre and not at two. The trouble with that scenario is that it doesn't even recognise that the consumer has a say in this. If you haven't asked your customers what their view is on one versus two are you perhaps going to open and fine that you have increased supply for an overestimated demand?

Early doors I picked up a comment from a multi venue operator in central Scotland labelling the rush to open as a a fools errand and that phrase has become embedded in my mind. It is all very well opening up with 80% capacity but what if you only need forty because your customer is more cautious (understandably) than you?

We have a mailing list of three or four thousand of people who have bought tickets for our festival and music events over the past four years so thought we'd send out a very simple questionnaire to see what the thoughts were. No hooks, no catches just three really simple questions... 

Regarding the 2 metre social distancing rule, do you think..?
Number of
It should be kept at 2 metres
It should be reduced to 1 metre
It should be scrapped altogether
Don't know
No Responses
When pubs and restaurants reopen with social distancing are you
Number of
More likely to visit with two metre rule
More likely to visit with one metre rule
Not likely to visit until social distancing is removed
No Responses
What age group are you in? (Not compulsory!)
Number of
18 - 34
35 - 50
50 - 65
Over 65
No Responses
So you can always take stats and make them work for you so you may get what you're looking for out of these.

First off, we thought 400 responses in a 24 hour period was actually indicative of the strength of feeling. Question three reinforced what we knew already regarding the age group of our music events - classic rock and seventies and eighties bands - and is clearly older than the broader pub range. 

(The younger age group is pretty much statistically insignificant but 60% of that age group indicated they wouldn't visit until social distancing was removed)

Things to Consider?
  • Your customer (okay our customer really!) is split down the middle about one vs two metres and you MUST factor that in to your opening scenario. Get it wrong and you may have reputation management issues that make TripAdvisor look like a walk in the park!
  • While 40% of those surveyed said they'd visit a pub and restaurant with a one metre distancing almost 36% said they are not likely to return until social distancing has been lifted. This has major impacts on a) your supply and b) critically your demand.
It's a simple exercise but maybe you should repeat it with your own mailing list? Use it as a positive contact point and see what you get back.

It does however prove yet again that focusing solely on opening up supply is absolutely no guarantee that the hospitality business across the board is going to see the demand follow.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review | Twenty Things to Double Check You're Still Doing

As businesses start looking tentatively towards the future it is essential that the recovery is not handed back to the OTA’s. If one lesson has been learned it is that every business must get back to driving direct business.
It's not easy however and an online strategy has to be so much more than just a nice looking website. The challenge of starting to claw back that lower cost direct business needs a whole lot of wheels turning together.
Review | Renew | Recover 
In all honesty this revised list of Twenty Things to Do has not changed much in five years – what was right and relevant then is perhaps even more prescient now. These may well be basics to many but getting back to basics is never a bad idea! And remember this is not a definitive list of things to do. There are twice as many things that you can and should do to work on those direct bookings but small changes can make a big difference so start with some of these.
In the current times however, anything published is almost instantly out of date so we are taking a novel view to digital support and will be launching our own “Guide to Building a Website” website! Throughout June, we will be updating briefings and publishing them as live webpages in our own mythical “Brigadoon” style Hotel site with examples and downloadable briefings on all of the subjects below and more.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Scotland Direct EPK Launched

Book Scotland Direct is something that we had been planning to roll out in June for our own clients only but it has been suggested that we should consider putting out to a wider distribution should anyone wish to use it.
We have no great expectations that we’re building a viral brand concept here but there is no doubt that the louder and more collectively we all shout about booking direct the more effectively that message reaches the market place and the greater the chance of increasing low cost DIRECT bookings.
Indeed, one of the most telling phrases we have picked up since the lock-down started “Don’t let the OTA’s own your recovery”

For sure, when Scotland re-opens one of the many things that needs to change is Scotland’s unhealthy dependence on third party distribution channels and quite simply put it is critically important that each and every one of us in the accommodation sector clearly express to our customers across the world that it is ALWAYS best to Book Scotland Direct.

Informing the Market

This is not a pitch for business or for your subscription. 

Book Scotland Direct is intended to be a badge for your business to wear digitally expressing to your clients that you want, indeed, need them to consider booking direct every time they look at accommodation in Scotland.

The project will provide ongoing and updated information and advice from the very best across the industry to help you convert your guests form third party bookings to direct bookers.
As part of widening the project out we have already started reaching out to digital marketing and booking engine providers servicing the Scottish accommodation sector seeking their involvement and expertise and best practices with the aim of creating a definitive bank of advice and information for everyone from B&Bs and Self-Catering through to hotels of all sizes.

We have prepared a basic Digital Promotion Kit which will be available on a free of charge licence for anyone who wishes to use the logos and project content on their own website, digital marketing and in-house print if required.

Electronic Promotional Kit

The Resource Library will build to include case studies from digital marketing experts, booking engine providers and hotels outlining to how to continuously build more direct business and reduce the costs of conversion. 

If you are interested in getting involved or wish any more information leave your details on the link below and we’ll send you updates in the coming weeks. 

Find out more about Book Scotland Direct on the Plan B website