Are you feeling happy to see your destination full of visitors, and businesses with full calendars? After months of empty rooms and attractions, it feels good to see the tourism industry starting to get back on its feet.
The one consistent element of these difficult times has been that we’ve had to learn and adapt as we go. The need to try different approaches is ongoing, even now most businesses have re-opened.
Should we congratulate ourselves on a destination marketing job well-done? Or just accept that our destinations are full because visitors can’t go overseas?
Are we maximising opportunities to genuinely change perceptions about domestic holidays?
We talk a lot about visitor management: what are we actually doing, in really practical terms right now to safeguard the interests of local residents and the environment, balancing their needs with those of their visitors?
Some destinations are doing this much better than others. I’d be interested to hear of those that feel they’re doing a particularly good job.
Over the last few weeks businesses have told me of their experiences and the differences between current visitors and those pre-Covid. Most are happy at the chance to welcome new visitors and extend their markets. Some feel quite perturbed about visitor behaviour.
Accommodation providers are suffering due to the increasingly common practice of spread-booking (booking several options and cancelling unwanted accommodation at the last minute). This situation isn’t helped by online travel agent cancellation policies.
While many business owners say they’ve found most people are simply happy to be out, some say they’ve found their guests to be more demanding than usual. Some guests have higher (sometimes unrealistic) expectations, and are resentful that they had to swap their overseas trip for a domestic one. It seems many conversations have started with ‘we were meant to be in [insert overseas destination]… but had to come here…’
Some accommodation owners feel they are constantly having to defend their Covid policies or to explain why there is reduced capacity at attractions and catering establishments. Many report messier rooms and houses to clean than pre-Covid.
Some visitors have chosen accommodation in the countryside because they perceive it as safer. While the majority of first-time rural visitors enjoy the peace, fresh air and countryside, some are disappointed at the lack of facilities.
Pubs and restaurants are particularly under pressure, especially with current staff shortages. Increased levels of no-shows, customers impatient when they have to wait for tables to be sanitised, or not wanting to abide by Covid guidelines are all common issues. Staff are often abused and overwhelmed by demands from customers.
It’s not the job of a DMO to help teach the public basic manners and appropriate behaviour. Perhaps these issues will melt away once the pandemic ends. It’s equally likely that our businesses are going to need significant support for some time to come. It’s easy to assume this needs to be financial, but it seems moral and emotional support will be also be valuable.
Susan Briggs - Director, The Tourism Network