Now that schools are open again and the traditional summer season is over, there are fewer visitors travelling to West Cork.
For some businesses this might be something of a relief after a busy few weeks made more stressful by new ways of working. It’s been an incredibly tough time for many in the tourism and retail sectors. Other businesses may just be starting to feel confident about re-opening now that things are quieter, but it can be hard to get going from a standing start at this point in the year.
Converting interest into bookings
Most people will find that more effort is needed to convert interest into bookings in the autumn. This post outlines some of the strategies you can use to maximise your efforts and increase the benefits visitors bring to you and to neighbouring businesses too.
There are some very basic things you can do to show you are open: keep your Google listing up-to-date, make sure your website looks current, and show signs of life on social media. Beyond that, it is all about cutting through the noise to command your potential visitor’s attention.
As always, to sell successfully, you need to think about the visitor’s point of view and communicate to them that they can have a fulfilling break with you that meets their needs. It makes sense then to think about the kinds of visitors who are more likely to travel now.
Who are our autumn visitors?
People might be travelling now for a number of reasons:
a) Safety-conscious, cautious visitors will have been waiting for the summer crowds to go so that they can visit at a time when social distancing is easier in hotels and accommodation, restaurants and cafés, and hotspots like town and village centres or even the beaches and locations where visitors tend to cluster.
To appeal to these visitors, show them how peaceful it is here now and how easy it is to socially distance without having to put too much thought into it.
More vulnerable people will also want extra reassurances on safety. Do this gently rather than unnerving them with doom-laden language and visuals! Share reviews that praise how you are handling things and use language that reassures and offers respite from everything that’s going on.
b) Older visitors and people without young families may take advantage of better offers available in what is known as the ‘shoulder season’. But, like a lot of the domestic market, they may tend to see West Cork only as a summer destination.
Show them why autumn is great here. Think about putting seasonal images on your website, or share images of the changing landscape on Instagram. Images of empty blustery beaches, fast-flowing rivers, and leaf-crunching walks on social media can all give people a sense of why it’s great to be here at this time of year.
c) People with additional travel needs may prefer to travel when it’s quieter, and so this is a good time to make sure your messaging gets across the welcome – personal and practical – that the full range of visitors will receive.
Let people know if you are wheelchair accessible, and/or can offer ground-floor rooms for holidaymakers with low mobility. If you have a hearing loop available, say so. If you can cater for dietary needs expertly, make sure you shout about it!
If you offer good experiences to people who need them, and you deliver on your promises, you will attract visitors who may well become loyal and recommend you to other people with similar holiday criteria.
Think too about visitors who might be wary of the welcome they are going to receive. Stating on your website that you offer LGBTQ-friendly accommodation is common in the UK but not here. Make sure you are extending your welcome to all!
Share what’s available for our autumn visitors
All of these potential visitors will be swayed by a good understanding of what’s open around you. Few people book a holiday with just one business or activity in mind. Talk up your neighbours as well as your location!
Let them know there is enough going on to fill out their holiday in terms of food, activity, and accommodation. Let them know where they can eat or order food to take away, for example, or which experiences are still taking bookings on weekdays near you.
To do this, you can:
1) Add a blog post on ways to enjoy the area in autumn. Are sailing and fishing trips still running near you? Are some of the new forest bathing experiences in West Cork running nearby? Are some of the gardens on the West Cork Garden Trail in easy reach? And what are the best loop walks within easy reach?
Share news, images, and stories about these local draws and you’ll be reminding the visitors about what a welcoming business you are, as well as creating more incentives for people to book and stay longer with you.
2) Create and share inviting social media posts. If you run an activity business, your posts can encourage people to book around your tour – a meal after that sailing trip, or a stop off for coffee and cake after that bracing hike! Encourage people to stay longer and spend more, and all kinds of local businesses start to benefit from your customers.
Regular social media posting will help you maintain longer term relationships with people who won’t visit in the autumn too, keeping your relationship with them going until they’re ready to start planning a break again.
To get attention from new holidaymakers now and bring in those autumn customers, remember to use the hashtags #purecork and #makeabreakforit to widen your audience. They will increase your visibility and bolster the national and the county campaigns to keep tourism’s momentum going in these difficult times.
3) If you have an email newsletter, now is the time to use it. If you don’t, this is the time to set one up.
Even if you are closing or not in a position to open for this year, keep communicating and building your audience and goodwill for the time when things are better again.
Whether we work in tourism or not, we can all signal-boost messages from our local businesses in West Cork to keep the region as much at the front of people’s minds in the months ahead as it has been over the summer.
And stick to the government guidelines too – the success of West Cork businesses depends on visitors’ understanding that Cork’s COVID figures are low. Let’s keep them that way!
Do get in touch if have any questions at all, and I will do my best to help!