You don’t have to travel far to be a tourist – as increasing numbers of Brits are finding, it’s fun to holiday at home.
Whether it’s being driven by the weak pound or just a desire to see what’s on their doorsteps, staycations are soaring in popularity.
The demand is there – so it’s up to the travel industry to adapt its tourism marketing strategies to capitalise on Brits who holiday in the UK or are looking for short breaks.
Just last week, there were figures from a holiday cottages letting agency in Scotland saying bookings over the Easter weekend were up 20 per cent on last year.
The firm said 55 per cent of its customers last year were from Scotland, with 40 per cent from the rest of the UK and five per cent from overseas.
Meanwhile, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions revealed Scotland outperformed the rest of the UK last year, with visitor numbers at tourist sites up 13.9 per cent.
Biggest selling points
Its landscape and heritage were the biggest selling points, ideas that have been reinforced by tourism public relations campaigns. And it’s those two points where the UK’s tourist industry makes its biggest mark among overseas visitors.
Foreign tourists come to these shores for our castles, royalty, history and scenery. No matter what we think of it, the weather doesn’t put them off. In fact, I’ve heard locals in cities like Barcelona speak in awe-struck tones of “all that green” back in the British Isles. They know Britain and Ireland are wet – but they see beyond that.
Getting British tourists to think the same way about their homeland and opt for a UK holiday is a stretch. After all, the reason I was in Barcelona in the first place was to be guaranteed to get away from the rain!
So what can we do to encourage Brits to take advantage of what the UK has to offer?
First off, we can sell them on the quality of the accommodation. Our client Apex Hotels prides itself on the warmer welcome their staff offer guests. In fact, Apex has built its current marketing campaign around the prospect.
Guests feel at home
It makes sense to make guests feel at home. A happy customer is more likely to be a repeat customer.
There’s also something to be said for acknowledging that a hotel might not suit everyone in every circumstance. Those holiday lets, holiday cottages and caravan parks provide flexibility that suits some travellers, particularly families with young children.
VisitScotland’s figures for overnight tourism from January to June last year show there were 3.389 million trips made. That was worth £932 million to Scotland’s economy from holidays and short breaks – much of it money that could have been leaving the country until the rise of the staycation.
But visitors won’t come for weekend breaks or longer stays unless there are tourist attractions, be they natural, cultural or experiential.
The scenery sells itself, in films, adverts and calendars seen the world over.
Two of Scotland’s biggest cultural attractions – the recently refurbished National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle – each welcomed two million visitors for the first time last year. Others have adapted to the more tactile times, taking their exhibits out of glass cases and setting them up to appeal to families.
Tourism marketing messages
And don’t underestimate the value of concerts, theatre shows, restaurants and nightlife to the tourist economy and travel and tourism marketing.
But it’s in the experiential attractions that there has been much movement in recent years. From trampoline parks and mountain bike tracks to zip wire rides and treetop adventure trails, getting people active has grown in popularity.
That could be a reaction to the growing interest in healthy living – but it certainly brings an adrenaline boost to any break.
There’s quality equipment and training available, with safety the top priority. The industry has made it easy to have fun.
The most important thing the UK tourist industry does is maybe a little un-British – it is unashamedly proud, and tells the world just that. And, given the leaps the industry has made, it has earned some bragging rights.
But perhaps it needs to shout a little louder to get those home-grown holidaymakers’ full attention.
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