There have been a lot of new words or trends that have come into vogue in the past few years. One of which is the staycation which the media have seen as the saving grace of the UK. We are told on a regular basis that people are staying at home and this is hugely benefitting the tourism industry, rural areas and that it is a trend that is here to stay.
I suspect over the next few weeks as we move into the main holiday season there will be more and more in the media about staycations. But is it true? I recently read a piece in the paper about the rise in staycations for 2011 and that the key UK destinations for 2011 were London, Highlands and Edinburgh. This was at the same time I was hearing reports from the Highlands that they were worried about business as huge hikes in fuel prices means that people are not travelling so far North. I again heard this today from an economist who said that Inverness businesses were worried about the main tourism season.
Certainly as a family we left it quite late to book a holiday. When I first worked at VisitScotland and answered phones for accommodation bookings and enquiries. The common rule of thumb was that if you want to self cater in Scotland you need to book well in advance or you wouldn’t get the area or the property that you wanted. This has changed with people leaving it often till the last-minute before they book. Certainly when we booked in April you could still get accommodation on Arran, many of the other Islands and most places we considered on the west coast. We did not have to make any compromises. We got the location we wanted, at the price we wanted, the property size and at the time of year we wanted. It felt like a buyers market not a seller’s market.
So is the staycation word just a dream that the media use to prevent us from slitting our throats about how bad things are? Research from VisitScotland would suggest there is some truth in it. 1/3 of people that they researched wanted to holiday in the UK. In 2008 this figure was 1/5. People are more likely to keep the main holiday and book less short breaks and people are staying closer to home or staying at home and truly having a staycation. People are risk averse they are wanting to stick with what they know so hence there is some truth in the staycation story.
But. Yes there is a BUT. My but is you can’t as a business sit back and wait for that business. VisitScotland research also shows that people are very price sensitive they are looking for the best deal. You need to be prepared to haggle and use offers. And they pointed out at a recent workshop you need to be visible you need to be where your customers or your potential customers are looking. Not sitting back and waiting for the business to come to you. As it won’t. We are not in that type of economy. And I suspect never will be again.
I have just come back from a meeting with local businesses from various sectors many who benefit from tourism like food and retail. All of us around the table agreed that times were tough and though there were signs of improvement we are not out of the woods yet. And there are a whole lot of variables which could tipe the balance as to wither things improve or get worse. We also agreed that there is till pain to come and that is seen today with the news that Habitat one of the old darlings of the high street is closing outside London. No – one is immune. What we were all in agreement with though was that the businesses that will survive are those that run a tight ship, know their financial information, have a forward-looking strategy, promote themselves to their existing customers and potential customers, offer a great service and don’t stand still.
So to answer my question is the staycation a reality or a myth? I am not sure to be honest. Certainly I would agree that more people have had a holiday in the UK in the past few years that is a fact. But we have lots of tourism offerings in the UK that want a slice of that business. And in my opinion it is the ones that have been canny about it who have got some of that staycation pie as it were. It’s those who have communicated regularly with their existing customers with regular newsletters and offers. It’s those who have communicated with their customers and asked for customer feedback. The ones that have been prepared to haggle to get the business some of the pie rather than nothing. It’s those who have embraced new ways of doing business have looked at Social Media as a marketing tool and not sneered at it as irrelevant. It’s those who have tried new things sometimes they don’t work but often they do. It’s those that have still invested in their product and stand out from the crowd. In short it’s those who have worked hard at it easier to do during good times much harder when the going is tough. I am not sure that staycation has been the boom that it’s sometimes made out to be. But it has ensured for businesses that took advantage of it that they have been able to maintain and in some cases grow their business. However in order to do so they have worked very hard at it. So yes it has been a benefit to the tourism industry and for camping and caravanning there has been growth for others it has meant survival or marginal growth. So for that the tourism industry has been lucky as some sectors such as construction or property have had no straws to clutch to or life lines.
But I believe that it doesn’t matter what business we are in. The principles are the same during tough times you have to work really hard to get noticed and if you don’t you will fail. Equally you have to keep a firm grasp on all areas of your business or you will fail. And for those that do that they will come out of this period stronger and tougher and ready for growth.
This blog is the start of my thoughts for a newsletter article I am writing for Bright Light Marketing which will come out in July. I am also going to add case studies to the article. So let me know your thoughts. What do you think? Is Staycation a reality or a myth?