As Irish holidaymakers start planning trips in Ireland in 2021, the question of value raises its head again.
Pól O Conghaile wrote in The Independent this week about the perception that staycations are a rip-off. (The article is definitely worth your time to read!) And social media is swirling again with criticisms that Ireland offers worse value than other destinations beyond our shores.
There has never been a better time for tourism operators to attract domestic visitors to usually quiet areas. But to win that business, and keep loyalty going when people can travel more freely again, it is important for us to address and win the argument about the value of a trip to West Cork.
What is a good value holiday?
When people start thinking about good value in holidays, they often focus first on price. There is some gouging going on, and so, as a tourism provider, you need to make sure you get your prices right.
A fair price is the cornerstone of your recovery
When you are pricing, think forward to winning regular business from now on rather than trying to recoup the awful losses you have had over the last year. Fair prices will win the trust and loyalty you need to start growing your business again.
Why value is about more than price
It’s important to realise that money isn’t the only thing that affects people’s ideas about ‘good value’. There are lots of other factors that visitors value when they are choosing a holiday and reflecting on its success.
- People value being treated well.
- They appreciate making meaningful connections with places and people.
- Most importantly, they value experiences that give them wonderful memories they can hold on to for the rest of their lives.
And so, while the headline price of an Irish holiday may seem daunting to people who have tended to go on low-cost international holidays, we need to communicate clearly about all of the things that contribute to the value of what we have to offer.
Think about what your customer values
People have different goals as well as budgets for their breaks, and so you need to think hard about what your customers appreciate so that you can talk about value in ways that will work for them.
A customer who is looking for a cheap and cheerful family holiday by the sea will have different ideas about value than the person whose idea of heaven is a Saturday-night table in one of West Cork’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
Think about the kind of customers you attract and what they love about the time they spend with you, in your business and around West Cork.
Sketch out some quick profiles of your key customers, the kind of spending they do, and the aspects of the area they appreciate, so that you can tailor your information and recommendations in ways that will resonate with them.
5 ways to create and communicate value
1) Save people time
People value their time, so don’t waste it. If an enquiry comes in about the service you offer, get back to people within an hour if you can. Ideally, drop what you’re doing and reply straightaway, if that doesn’t risk life and limb for you or anybody else.
If potential bookers always contact you asking the same questions, review the information on your website so that you offer clarity about your offer from the outset. And while people are visiting you, share tips on the best ways for them to make the most of their time in West Cork.
When they are in West Cork, put up a blackboard telling them about local events on today, or drop in hints that help them make the most out of their time in our part of the world – “If you’re heading to X, don’t miss XX just around the corner. It’s a real gem and it’ll be a great way to finish off your afternoon!”
2) Talk about the extra touches you add to your visitor’s experience
We often don’t tell people about aspects of our offer we take for granted.
- If you have a B&B with a really fantastic garden, do you mention it on your website and feature it in your social media posts?
- If you have a hotel with free parking, or ground-floor facilities suited to people with mobility issues, does your website mention these things as features? Do you let people know that your self-catering welcome basket is packed with local and home-made produce?
- And do you tell people about everything your activity price includes, from free use of equipment to a photo of your group emailed on after the experience?
Let’s take an example about how we communicate with hikers. Lots of West Cork accommodation owners will offer walkers lifts to and from start and end points of popular routes, but they don’t tell people that until they arrive. Yet about 70% of the enquiries coming into our walks websites are about transport to and from our waymarked routes.
Better communication improves value and drives bookings!
In Pól’s article, Julie O’Brien talks about the Irish breakfast as a classic example of a brilliant offer we forget to explain properly to our visitors. If your ‘included breakfast’ features locally produced black pudding and home-grown tomatoes, shout about it!
3) Help your visitor to find out about experiences and offers suited to them
Make sure you are helping your visitors to achieve an affordable holiday that gives them the experiences they value! Let them know about offers or venues that will help them to get the most out of their visit.
If you have a self-catering cottage that caters for young families in and around Bantry, for example, and you want to help them find great places and reduce costs, tell them in advance about the early bird offers at the Brick Oven.
If you’re running the 4-star boutique B&B next door, and you know your visitor will be actively looking to make the most of West Cork’s best restaurants, offer to make a booking for them in advance for dinner at Blairscove on the Saturday they’re in West Cork.
These customers may value different kinds of things, but you can add value by helping them to achieve the best possible holiday they could hope for. These kinds of steps are wonderful prompts for word-of-mouth recommendations too.
4) Celebrate free and low-cost experiences
So many of the great parts of a West Cork holiday are completely free.
If your accommodation is within metres of access to the Beara Way or the Sheep’s Head Way, or a great spot for Insta-worthy summer sunset photos, say so. If you are inviting visitors onto a farm property, let them know that the children will have a chance to meet or feed the animals. A visit to one of West Cork’s markets is free, but the highlight of many people’s holiday …
If somebody is spending a lot of money to stay with you, or they are booking an expensive activity with you that is likely to be the flagship experience of their holiday, add value by recommending free or low-cost things to do around that.
Make it easy for people to make the most of their time with you!
If, for example, somebody is booking a sunset boat trip with you at seven o’clock, let them know in advance and in their confirmation email about the great affordable places they can eat before they join you.
You’ll be helping them with their itinerary and making that visit more valuable to your local community by increasing dwell time and spend.
5) Shoulder season & off-peak offers
At quiet times of the day, week, or year, you can generate better value for visitors and your business by using discounts. It can be worth taking on extra cost to generate business and increase the overall perception of the value of your offer.
For example, if no-one is booking your kayak trips on Tuesday mornings, could you offer a discounted special offer for those slots to bring in business? And are you doing enough to promote lower prices and offers outside the summer season?
In September, for example, you might reduce your rate or add in ‘free extras’ to generate business, and that can open up the range of people who can afford to visit.
Think about bundling your offer with another business too to create eye-catching offers that focus visitors on the value of the experience rather than price alone! A one-night, Monday hotel stay with a guided walk included on the Tuesday morning can be great value for your visitor when the price is good and the included activity reduces the planning your customer needs to do for their trip!
If we all work hard to improve the perception of West Cork as an off-season destination, we can begin to shorten the times of year that count as ‘shoulder season’ and expand the number of weeks where we can attract excellent numbers.
Holding on to value
At the moment, West Cork offers the kind of space, peace, and natural social distancing that people prize most while COVID restrictions are still in place. We are more in demand as a holiday destination than ever before, and it won’t be difficult for most businesses to attract visitors during the peak season.
But if we become associated with poor value, we will lose ground.
To create a truly sustainable tourism economy in West Cork, we need to make sure that we are valuing the things our appeal is built on – the natural environment that draws people here, as well as our local communities.
A thoughtful approach to creating and communicating value will help us to create connections with visitors that will be the foundation for a meaningful, long-lasting recovery that benefits all.
Siobhán Burke is a tourism consultant whose recent projects include destination and product development on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, in Ireland’s Ancient East, and around Dublin. Her specialist areas include craft, maritime, and community tourism, as well as accessible tourism.
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