Earlier this summer I gave a sneak preview of the list I was starting on trends I was seeing for tourism businesses and how it would impact 2018 business. For those of you that have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I posted a similar article for 2016-2017 trends. I would have to give myself pretty good marks for that report!
I spend a lot of time throughout the year taking mental notes of things I see and hear, and then see if I can sense trends within my observations.There is a running list I keep on my phone, in my journal and sometimes on scraps of paper. My friends from different sectors in the industry always have interesting insights. I also read online newsletters like Skift, have Google alerts set up for different tourism topics and tune into webinars on a regular basis.
New trends in 2018
What has been interesting for me to observe this year is how so many trends emerged that I hadn’t seen impact our businesses before. If I had to choose one word for 2017 it would be Change. We are used to evolving change over the years- print gives way to digital and shorter booking times are now standard. But now it seems like change is coming at a fast and furious pace. Things that worked last year aren’t working at all and new booking channels have appeared out of nowhere.
Why pay attention to my list?
Admittedly I am not a professional trendwatcher, but I am good at noticing new activities, and I love to read research articles and listen to podcasts. I travel with other tourism professionals throughout the country and enjoy lively debates over where our industry is going. I often reach out to my peers to see what they are seeing at their businesses. My plan to release my list during the 4th quarter helps those of you with budgets that start in January to take this information and make some plans. You will see one of the other things that sets my trends report apart is that I will give you an action step for each trend.
No matter who you voted for in the election, the new administration has had a strong impact on tourism already. The ‘not a travel ban’ travel ban has given our potential international visitors pause. Many of our membership organizations like U.S. Travel, NTA, and ABA are walking a fine line between working with the current administration and making sure the new initiatives are either not enacted or that visitors feel welcome and tourism businesses can find staff. The additional uncertainty surrounding health insurance has left seniors holding their disposable income a bit more tightly.
Make sure your elected officials realize how important tourism is to their district. Start now to prepare activities for National Travel and Tourism Week in May 2018.
Safety and security training for staff
Unfortunately, this topic is becoming more important every year. The domestic terrorism event in Las Vegas last week shows that no venue is safe. I attended the Secure Tourism Summit earlier this year and wrote an article that Groups Today has also published. If people do not feel safe, they will not travel. People will take safety concerns into consideration when planning travel. I think that people will not stop traveling, but I think people will be more aware of keeping themselves safe and alert when traveling. When my partner and I went to Las Vegas this spring, we spent an evening at the Fremont Street Experience. It was lively, vibrant and full of people. But I told Rich that we needed to have a plan if something went wrong. I noticed barriers to prevent cars from driving into the crowds, and plenty of police presence. But still, the area felt vulnerable.
Several years ago some European tour operators sent forms to fill out detailing how environmentally friendly we were – recycling, composting, etc. I think a trend will be for attractions and hotels to have documents outlining their safety practices that they will need to share with tour operators. Or how about if your attraction/DMO creates one this year and share it before you are asked? It shows that you are concerned for your guest’s safety.
Read my article on Safety training for staff.
Schedule a fire drill and/or an evacuation drill at least once a quarter. Schedule them while guests are in the building.
Consider drafting a safety document to share with tour companies.
China and WeChat – is everyone China ready?
I don’t think a week goes by without getting some kind of proposal for representation in the Chinese visitor market through social media, setting up a WeChat page, or getting ready to accept WeChat pay. It’s the wild west as far as tourism promotion, but plenty of small attractions and DMOs have reaped the benefits of this lucrative market without doing anything in China. In order to understand WeChat, it is important to have a personal account so you can see how this ecosystem works.
WeChat pay is just starting to make inroads in the U.S. People use their WeChat app on their phone to pay for everything in China. It is so convenient and becoming standard. Those of us who can work comfortably in this tool will be the ones who benefit.
Learn how to set up a WeChat page with my Blog post-WeChat 101 for Tourism Pros
DMOS and the contractor model
I know this is happening in every industry, but I have seen it a lot in DMOs in the past year. DMO’s are looking to cut costs and become more efficient. I know of several instances where staff have left to start their own business, and their old company is now a client. So if you are an attraction, how do you capitalize on the fact that your contacts might not be available every day? If you are a DMO, how do you communicate to your stakeholders that you will still be able to help your partners achieve their goals of growing their business if your staff is shrinking?
For my attraction readers, set up a quarterly meeting with the contractors. If they are local, invite them for lunch. If they work remotely, schedule a phone call. Use the time to update them on what is going on and how you can use their services. Ask if there are any initiatives you should be aware of and involved in. Remember, the squeaky wheel will get the grease.
If you are a DMO, consider a monthly e-newsletter to your partners with useful news. You don’t have the in-house staff to build relationships so use the newsletter to that purpose. I think they work best when they have one actionable piece of information per newsletter. Give a monthly assignment and award involvement. You want your partners to spend money with you and stay loyal to your organization. Or how about sponsoring a brown bag webinar once a month? You provide value and build relationships without a lot of work on your part. Use tools that will be a winning proposition for all.
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And a favor
I have set a goal of having at least 1000 subscribers by the end of the year. Can you help me by forwarding this post to 2-3 of your contacts and ask them to subscribe? Thank you!