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

Sunday, June 7, 2020

New Development Groups for Scottish Golf Tourism?

Whilst we can't allow for the specifics of global activities that disrupts our sector we can, indeed must, as professional businesses plan for things going wrong before they happen. This may be off the scale in previous measurement charts but the travel and tourism sector has had serious issues to contend with over the past two decades that resulted in radical change, loss of businesses and realignment of the sector.

The problem is that we don't seem to have the ability to learn and not repeat mistakes.

I recall the morning of 9/11 clearly as I was sitting in Edinburgh in a meeting with the new Chief Executive of VisitScotland about golf tourism and representation and growth of the sector. I came out of that meeting with Malcolm Roughead, with no knowledge of what had been happening whilst we talked and the diametric position of everything having changed but the content of the meeting being more relevant than ever.

The outcome eventually led to the creation of Golf Tourism Scotland, an industry wide body that was set up to communicate with and represent the diverse interest of a sector that encompasses courses, accommodation, ground travel, travel agents and tour operators. An industry that had suffered post 9/11 but was moving into a very fast cycle of capital investment in new product at the top end but a sense of crisis was emerging in golf courses at the second level with supply greatly outweighing projected demand.

GTS was about developing new standards, involvement with new technology, raising the profile of the sector. It was involved with working on deals for the sector around the Ryder Cup and intrinsically involved in trying to create a permanent centrally funded public/private golf structure that would be there to develop the sector through good times and (it was very clearly understood and stated) the future bad times.

Roll forward to the planning for a post crisis landscape and what do we have?

We have in a single week, communications from two different newly set up "golf groups" seeking to influence strategic thinking about the way forward for golf tourism in Scotland.

If I wasn't older and wiser it would break my heart.

Good luck to these groups in achieving their aims but the real truth of the matter is that while everything was good for Scottish golf tourism, the industry saw no need to develop a structure for a sector that was performing so well and generating so much revenue for the country and the clubs. Advance tee time bookings were on a rolling basis looking good for "next year and we've got another Open Championship the year after. Why would we spend our time supporting a golf tourism body?" Not a real quote perhaps but a reflective sentiment.

The idea of being ready for future crises was one of the reasons for the conception of GTS; it was mentioned many times that the industry needed a strong and permanent voice to see it through the good and the bad. The industry didn't agree; focus was lost, activity dropped off, membership of the organisation fell away, public sector moved on. It had been allowed to become irrelevant to too many

Golf Tourism Scotland was wound up some three or four years ago and ironically the last board was made up by some, perhaps many, of the very people who are now populating the new groups. I appreciate the vagaries of hindsight but nevertheless the confident assertions that GTS had achieved its objectives seemed hollow even then.

So twenty years on from the meeting of the Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators that identified the clear and immediate need for the development of a wider body and a clearer public private partnership to develop golf tourism we now have three groups all pursuing similar statements of intent.

Who knows what the outcome will be but you'd guess that Malcolm Roughead may have a strong sense of deja vu when he gets a request to meet with a group of businesses asking how we can all work together to improve Scotland's golf tourism sector. Working together is the key and the two new groups should be getting in touch with the (albeit flawed) Golf Steering Group and developing from there. If the real objective is getting golf tourism in Scotland back on track, empowering what is established will be a lot quicker and more effective than starting something new.

The lack of real structure across the whole of Scottish tourism will come under serious scrutiny and perhaps strain over the coming months and years. Golf Tourism Scotland is perhaps but a microcosm of areas, regions and sectors across Scotland. Some may be better prepared than others for the speedy implementation of joint strategies you fear however that too many areas are not.

Joined up thinking is not something as a tourism sector we have yet cracked. We need to rethink not only the published strategy for the next ten years but the structures and communications that are needed to deliver that vision.