Travel Trends for 2017

I love watching things change in the travel and hospitality industries. Never a dull moment. Whether it is decor trends that change, or the plating of food, every year has some new, evolving trends that either shock us or surprise us. Wall colours, ways of travel, types of accommodation preferences, types of travellers and their expectations…here is what is being predicted for 2017:

Travel experiences

Travel experiences (Image cred: pixabay.com)

  1. EXPERIENCE. More and more travel experts say that travellers want experiences with some kind of purpose, especially when it comes to wellness and cultural education. Travellers want to have digital detox options and they want to experience different indigenous cultures. When I say experience, I mean travellers really want to experience certain things like working on farms, taking lessons from local artists and trying out local cuisines.
  2. CONSERVATION. Another trend that is growing quite quickly, is the trend of travelling with the purpose of conservation. Conservation of not only the planet, but also cultures, wildlife and more.
  3. MORE DESTINATIONS IN ONE TRIP. Travellers don’t go to one destination and stay there for two weeks anymore. Instead, they make the most of their time away from home and fit in as many destinations and experiences as possible. In South Africa, this is a huge trend as travellers want to see, for example, Cape Town and the Kruger National Park all in one trip.
  4. EXPERIENCE DRIVEN TOURS. Tour operators say that travel to Africa is booming. Travellers now want the true African Safari experience and less luxurious spa experiences. Things like walking safaris, canoe trails and fly camping should do the trick. Experience driven tours that encourage travellers to move at a slower pace while on holiday are a must in your planning for 2017 if you want to “wow” your customers.
  5. COMBINATION TRIPS. “High-low” safaris are also becoming very trendy in the travel industry, where travellers rough it with walking trails or canoeing and then end off their trip with a few days at a luxury lodge. Combination trips are definitely something to look into. Gosh PR also mentioned this at the THINC Africa Conference, hosted by HVS earlier this year, where they explained that UK travellers want something from both worlds in one trip. With South Africa having so many stunning beaches, we need to tap into this travel market, providing tours that combine safaris and beach holidays to travellers from around the world.
  6. LIVING ROOM-LIKE SPACES. With regards to decor, hotels have living room-like spaces to look forward to – moving away from the traditional front desk.
  7. CULTURE INSPIRED DESIGNS. Culture-centered designs where there is not much difference visible from the indoor spaces to the outdoor spaces is not necessarily a new trend, but it has increased in popularity.
  8. BOHEMIAN FOR BUDGET. Bohemian simplicity has become a popular design trend to follow, especially for budget hotels, with high-touch furnishings, but simple, environmental finishes.

References:

http://www.greenspot.travel

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com

http://www.travelweekly.com

http://www.goshpr.co.uk

The Customer Journey

It’s all about touch points.

Subconsciously we all rate our experiences all the time. Whether it is the drive to a destination, the arrival, an activity at a destination or even the departure, there’s always a score attached to it. Not necessarily a mark out of ten, but definitely a “yes, I’ll do that again”, “next time I’ll do it differently” or “no, I’ll never do that again!”

This is exactly what goes on in customers’ minds during visits to a specific destination. Every part of a customer’s experience adds to the overall assessment of their customer journey. The customer journey consists of different touch points where the destination has the opportunity to either impress or disappoint. These touch points often interlink with one another, like for example:

During the arrival phase of a customer’s journey, the ideal would be to be greeted and guided to the parking and reception by the security guard at the gate. This would be the first touch point between the customer and the destination (not omitting the previous post-stay touch points, i.e. visiting the destination’s website to find directions). If the security guard failed to live up to what the customers expected when arriving, this touch point would have been a negative experience. This is only one touch point within the customer’s journey, hence you understand how many opportunities a customer journey consists of for the destination to impress and exceed customers’ expectations.

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Mapping

The journey continues throughout the customer’s visit, whether it is a lunch at the restaurant or a stay over. The customer journey also does not end when the guest departs. Follow up phone calls, email communications, social media posts, likes and shares and Tripadvisor reviews all form part of the post-stay phase. This is why it has become very important for destinations to be just as active and pro-active online as their customers. The customer journey is not just face-to-face experiences anymore. It now includes telecommunication, written (and e-mail) communication, verbal and non-verbal communication, social-, digital and print media (marketing) and more. Therefore, it is very important for different departments to understand the customer journey, as these departments tend to interlink with each other on a regular, minute-to-minute basis. Reservations, sales and marketing work hand-in-hand to provide customers with the best possible deals. Front office, reception and security work together in ensuring that the check-in process runs smoothly. Marketing and food and beverage work together closely when it comes to the menus, specials, etc. Understanding the customer journey assists the different departments in helping each other to exceed customers’ expectations and to eliminate gaps within the customer journey where touch points are exposed to possible disappointment.

Travelling Mystery Guest offers workshops on customer journey mapping. Mapping out your destination’s customer journey will assist staff to understand their roles in the different touch points and to roll out the process on paper to see what a customer expects at certain times and places within the customer journey. No destination’s map will ever look the same, as not one destination offers the same experiences. Different customers will also lead to different customer journey maps, as no customer has the same expectations. Hence, during Travelling Mystery Guest’s workshops, the destination’s main type of customer is used as a prototype.

If you would like to learn more about your destination’s customer journeys, contact Travelling Mystery Guest today!

Word of Mouth – Get them to talk about you

Did you know that, according to referralcandy.com, customers attained through word-of-mouth spend 200% more than the typical customer? They also make double the referrals than your usual client.

Mark Zuckerberg, chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Facebook, said:

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

This is why review platforms, like TripAdvisor, are doing so well in the tourism and hospitality industry: People influence people. Before making any purchases, customers search for reviews and referrals related to products and services they are interested in, in order to make a calculated decision on what to purchase.

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

Customers trust those suggesting certain products and services, as they know that no one will put their name on the line for a brand that won’t live up to the anticipated standards.

Referring customers may dub a hotel’s check-out process one of the most important touch points of the customer’s experience. A restaurant’s work is not necessarily done after the customer has paid the bill. Yes, post-purchase experiences can determine a customer’s brand preference just as much as any other touch point in the customer journey, encouraging or discouraging word-of-mouth marketing.

The question is: What is it that makes customers want to talk about your brand?

Word-of-mouth kicks in…

  • When a customer experiences something way beyond what was expected.
  • When the customer was impressed by a physical, non-verbal statement. It could be a unique architectural feature, a kinetic or educational experience or an act of generosity, like offering free dessert to buying customers. Like entrepreneur.com puts it: “Flour, butter and sugar are cheap advertising.” In comparison to all the other advertising options out there, I agree. Find something within your brand that sets you apart from the rest, even if it costs you a little extra flour, butter and sugar each month. Use it to your advantage.
  • When you prepare and budget to deliver a service that generates word-of-mouth. Sometimes we need to sacrifice one thing in order to gain another, i.e. Expanding your restaurant with a unique children’s playground might just get your customers talking.
  • When you trust and allow your customers to deliver the news about your brand to their friends. They won’t repeat what you say in your advertisements – give them the opportunity to do the marketing for you.
  • When it is something interesting to share with friends. There has to be a reason customers want to talk about your destination, isn’t there?
  • When it is easy. You need to help word-of-mouth along. Make it a simple, easy-to-share message – anything longer than a sentence is too long. Don’t just stick the message to a brochure or your website – make it portable with things like emails and social media.
  • When you make customers happy. Content customers are supreme promoters, so delight them, excite them and make them want to tell a friend.
  • When customers trust and respect you. Always be honourable and entwine ethics into what you do. Be good to your customers and satisfy their needs. Customers won’t talk about a company that might embarrass them by not living up to what others say about the brand.

Whether we like it or not, word-of-mouth is here to stay. As people, we want to have conversations and we want to share in each other’s joy. It’s part of our being. So get your ducks in a row, put on your brainstorming caps and create opportunities for customers to talk about you!

Staycations – A threat or an opportunity for your destination?

Written by: Renate Engelbrecht

There is a lot being written about the word, Staycation, but do we really get what it’s about? Do we realise that Staycations could either be seen as a threat or an opportunity for local businesses?

Staycation

Staycation – Photo taken by Renate Engelbrecht

We often tend to focus all our marketing efforts on guests coming in from abroad – you know, those with the dollars. But then, when last have we really taken a good look at what the customers right under our noses, the locals, are looking for? That family of four driving past your destination every day on their way to school; the couple who just bought a new home around the corner and committed themselves to weekly date nights; the retirees who love to invite their precious grandchildren for a visit, but don’t know where to take them for entertainment…

STAYCATION: A period in which individuals or families stay at home and take part in local leisure activities within driving distance from their homes and sleep in their own beds at night.

What causes guests to revert to Staycations?

  • Economic pressure or recession
  • The rise of fuel prices
  • The increase of tourists who want to reduce the carbon footprint
  • The urge and necessity to save time (travelling could take up to two days, where Staycations require one hour’s travel at most)
  • The larger the family, the less the finances for travel when you take into account the costs of restaurants, transport and accommodation
  • Health concerns may alter travelling plans
  • Work commitments may thwart plans of travelling abroad or even just out of town

How can Staycations be to your destination’s advantage?

  • You can get the locals on your side – the best all year round customers you could wish for!
  • Local businesses can work together, for once, and build a stronger, more steadfast relationship
  • You could wind up with a whole new group of customers, allowing you to broaden customer experiences offered, hence catering for a wider range of clients.
  • It will drive you to get involved in your local community – a must in today’s competitive business environment and economy.
  • It will encourage you to learn more about your immediate and surrounding areas – something we tend to neglect when focusing on foreign tourists.

How can you drive locals, or rather, Staycationers, to your destination?

It so happens that not all towns and cities are ideal for Staycations. This is where you, as a destination, have the obligation to create experiences for Staycationers and keep them from driving to the nearest best town for the day. Yes, you still want to make a buck or two, which is why you need to think clever! You need to find a way to cater for guests who want to relax in a wallet-friendly environment, while still growing your profits:

  • Open your destination’s swimming pool for the public on certain days, offering refreshments and snacks on a budget that might up your sales for the day. Add some water activities, i.e. water aerobics at an hourly fee and increase profits in that way.
  • Put up some alternative activities that may be used by the public at a minimal fee. Think table tennis, volleyball, giant chess, put-put and some facilitated local games like the well-known South African Boeresport. That’ll keep’em busy!
  • Run local tours – not only at your destination, but also in the surrounding areas. Make it interesting and try to educate. Educational tourism is just as much a thing as Staycations. Put together an “Explore your city” package with local businesses like museums, botanical gardens and local breweries, for example, and put a mark-up on it.
  • Host a fun run and have participants enjoy a breakfast buffet at your on-site restaurant afterwards at a discounted rate. Often you will find, if it was a good experience, that these guests stay for longer or they return.

I say, let’s turn Staycations into the best opportunity for destinations yet!

Be the customer to know the customer

To be a customer is different from offering a service to a customer as I am sure you are aware. Still, as service providers we often forget how it feels to stand on the receiving side of things. Every now and again we need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be a customer in order to identify our customers’ needs and expectations.

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

In his book, Marketing Tourism in South Africa (4th Edition), Richard George says:

“By observing your involvement in the decision-making process as a consumer, you will develop a better understanding of marketing and consumer needs and aspirations.”

We cannot market our destinations and services to customers if we don’t know their needs and aspirations. This is why quite a few destinations, like Southern Sun’s resorts, invest in employees who are primarily responsible for direct customer interaction. In addition to the extensive, continuing training they undergo, each employee experiences the resort first hand before they get the opportunity to work on the front line. (Marketing Tourism in South Africa. 2013:18) This allows them to experience the complete customer journey, giving them an overview of what customers will expect when they arrive at the destination.

In the tourism and hospitality industry, guests usually have to make a decision considering what they’ve seen on the internet or on a brochure, which is why many customers depend on referrals from friends. When employees have experienced the destination’s service, it makes it so much easier for them to up-sell.

“You need to understand the customer journey before you can sell it to customers.” –Renate de Villiers

Invest in your employees. Train them continuously, make them understand the customer’s journey through your destination and involve employees in the communication process with customers in order to get to know your customers better.

In the end, tourism and hospitality is all about relationships and as we all know, people understand each other much better if they have something in common. Employees who have not experienced the customer journey of your destination will therefore struggle to find “common ground” with customers and will not be able to sell the destination to the best of their abilities.

So, take the chance to let your staff stand on the receiving side at least once and then let me know what changes you see…

 

(Thanks Richard George for a stunning book! Such hands-on examples and great ideas for blog posts!)

We want to know the story

Isn’t it true that you always want to know the story of the destination you visit? I want to know where the restaurant’s name came from, where the photos on the wall were taken and who the old “tannie” was who’s recipe is used in the signature dish.

We all want to know.

One place that got the message loud and clear is OJ’s, a small, quaint restaurant that could easily be mistaken for a take-away shop on route through one of the Freestate towns, Heilbron. From the outside it doesn’t promise much, but believe you me, on the inside it’s a completely different story – literally.

Do you remember the time when all South African cars had yellow coloured number plates? The time when towns could still be identified just by looking at one’s car? Well, that is where OJ’s’ story begins. OJ was Heilbron’s number plate code. Today these number plates are part of the name and décor in one of Heilbron’s finest restaurants. It tells stories of days gone by and paintings of old cars with OJ number plates hang proudly against the walls. The menu has also been carefully planned – catering for the farming community that it is, but also for those who appreciate that extra touch. Still, the community can identify with its story, which is why many of them will keep coming back.

OJ's

OJ’s

Tips on how to tell your story:

  • Use the town’s history as a theme and a timeline.
  • Involve the community.
  • Be creative and use old things to create new things.
  • Include the theme in your décor, your name and your menu items.
  • Add items to the menu which you know the community will enjoy and then just give it an extra touch to make it look more appealing.

So…what is your restaurant or destination’s story?

How does a ‘Customer Journey Evaluation’ work?

Similar to mystery guest visits, Travelling Mystery Guest offers destinations “Customer Journey Evaluations“. But how does it work?

Customer Journey Evaluations

Customer Journey Evaluations

Firstly, let’s have a look at what a customer journey is all about. If you think about it, it is actually self explanatory: It’s the journey of a customer at your destination, whether it is a restaurant, guesthouse or hotel.

Travelling Mystery Guest‘s customer journey evaluations include the following:

1. Mystery Guest Visit:

A mystery guest is sent your to your destination to experience the journey you offer to your customers firsthand. Travelling Mystery Guest has developed its own list from which its mystery guests explore your destination‘s offerings. This includes your website, the service levels you promise and what is experienced, the ergonomics of your establishment, communication of staff, etc.

2. Report:

A full report is written about the customer journey that was experienced, including congratulations on what you have achieved, suggestions on what can be improved and tips and ideas to assist you to focus on your advantages.

3. Qualitative Data:

Travelling Mystery Guest also includes qualitative data in the report, which allows destinations to measure their performance and growth over a period of time.

If you are interested in a customer journey evaluation for your destination or if you would like some more information, contact Renate de Villiers: enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 082 336 1562.