How to Create Sustainable Tourism Experiences to Reduce Seasonality Webinar
Great, so welcome everyone to our webinar this morning. My name is Janie Neumann and I'm the sustainable tourism manager at VisitScotland. And thanks again for joining us today to really find out more about the opportunities to reduce seasonality of your business or your destination through creating sustainable tourism experiences.
I'm delighted to be joined by Professor Xavier Font. Who you will meet later to will provide an overview and take us through some practical advice and useful examples really for us at VisitScotland, This is a great opportunity to share this advice and support with businesses and we understand that it's quite a challenging time for many, but it's also an important time for Scottish tourism to really support the broader development of a responsible tourism destination. So responsible tourism, you know, for us it's really core and that it's for the sustainable future and it's very much outlined in Scotland's tourism Outlook 2030 strategy.
And at VisitScotland, Responsible tourism is increasingly central to everything we do, and there's a real critical strategic importance for driving this forward because, you know, taking responsible action to reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive impacts of Scottish tourism is not only an investment in the future of Scotland as a world class and year round, very apropos, for today destination, and we want to support thriving and resilient businesses like yourselves. But it's also an investment in the people and the communities and the environment. So really at VisitScotland, we set out four key focus areas to deliver a more responsible tourism. So give you a bit of an idea of of what that means. So that's really about tourism that supports the transition to a low carbon economy, that's about tackling climate change and all that that brings with it.
So for example, considering energy use in your building, supporting low carbon transport or waste reduction, All this will support the Scottish Government net zero by 2045 targets, but also will support businesses, especially now with the cost of doing business and is a real area of focus for many, I'm sure. But we also want it to be tourism that's inclusive to all. So that's removing and reducing barriers to access tourism, be those financial or physical barriers, through increasing accessibility and supporting social tourism, for example. But it's also about quality jobs and access to fair work for everyone. We also want this to be tourism that supports thriving communities, so that supporting community health and wellbeing, but also importantly, sharing tourism's prosperity throughout Scotland with all the regions, but also throughout the seasons all year round, and really engaging the local community and getting their input and that they benefit from it, but also their input in how their destination develops.
And last but not least, safeguarding our natural and cultural heritage for the future. So that's protecting our biodiversity, our landscapes, but also promoting our cultural heritage from our historic to modern buildings, our food and drink, our music, our language, our crafts. But it's really key here to consider how we can do this, but also with by minimising the pressure on the sites and encouraging visitors respectful enjoyment so. Early. Seasonal and developing. So the kind of all the things we've touched on with responsible tourism pillars and really will be reflected in what we're going to be talking about today, because developing those experiences to attract visitors in the shoulder and off season can really provide those special memories for visitors, but also support businesses and their staff.
All year round, as well as supporting communities and destinations through increased year round investment. And you know, we're no, not new to this across Scotland. We have a wide range of activities and events to attract and engage visitors outside of the peak season.
So for example, we have the Spectra Festival of Lights in Aberdeen, which is just finished a couple of weeks ago. We're right in the middle of the Snowdrop festival taking place and many gardens and grounds across Scotland and agritourism is also a great activity that has shown year round activities, with lambing and early spring being a particular hit where pumpkin patches and Halloween celebrations in autumn, but also in here in Scotland, celebrations like St Andrew's Day or Burns night offer a range of opportunities for experiences and off season also often provides a better time for watching wildlife, for example. And as we all know, winter brings a wide range of winter festivals across Scotland. Many cities and attractions take part in that. Really, developing these experience provides a real opportunity to work in collaboration with other businesses and with your community to create kind of new experience in that bookable product. So often it's worth to just have a look around to see what's around you and whether it's your local craftsperson, the farmer or your storyteller that might engage with your visitors.
Because Scotland has many stories to tell, as we saw in the Year of Stories just gone and these stories traditional or modern, are also a real treasure trove for engaging the visitor and creating experiences. But undoubtedly there is still an opportunity for businesses and for destinations and to really look at how we can expand the offering in the shoulder and off season. So I'm delighted to have Xavier Font along to join us and share his tips and practical examples and to create sustainable tourism experiences. Hi Xavier Hi, it's good to see you Xavier is a Professor of Sustainability Marketing at the University of Surrey and specializes in helping small businesses engage with sustainable tourism as a tool for product development, marketing and communications.
So thank you so much for joining us today. You're welcome. Just as a quick. Yeah, great.
Just as a quick reminder for everybody else, we'll have a chance to, for questions and answers at the end. So please do put that in the chat functionality and I'll hand over to you. Right. Can I just check that You can see my screen at the moment.
Yes, I can see the screen and yourself. All looks good. Okay. Brilliant. Thank you very much. So, thank you for inviting me today to talk about how to reduce seasonality by the use of design have sustainable business experiences. It is topic is close to my heart.
I've been working as part of a three year project funded by the EU called Experience on this topic, and it's something we have been experimenting with for quite some time. Let's face it, it's something that every single destination is having to work on, so it's not new to any of us. If you're interested in this topic, look at the website tourism experience.org to find a number of examples of things that different destinations across England and northern France have been doing and understand the examples you'll find there are not Scottish examples, but sometimes it's helpful to listen to an example from elsewhere, and then to think, well, how would I adapt that to my location, particularly what we talk about, what to do at destination level, but also at an individual business level? I guess the main message I would like you to take away from today is stop selling high season. It sells itself. You need to market low season and you need to use low season opportunities as a way of experimenting and being innovative.
High season is not the moment to innovate. There's too much risk to experiment and innovate in high season. These are the moment which is just focused on delivering the product.
You already know that works. So it's a little bit like a comedian going on television and trying new material at Live at the Apollo. You don't do that. You've tried that material somewhere out in smaller venues where there was lower risk, and when you know it works, you bring it to the big arena.
So the same with you and high season, you find ways in which you experiment with things before. First of all, we need to focus on the fact that we need to move away from selling products and making space for selling experiences. And this may seem like a really obvious thing to say and do, but because in high season products really might sell by themselves, you're going to have high occupancy whichever way, we tend to forget that maybe they're selling because customers are desperate and they have little else to do. And I hope nobody feels offended.
by what I'm trying to say, but maybe your product really isn't good enough to compete and is only competing because in high season there is more demand and supply and therefore it's a supply market. But actually we need to use the winter to to look at how we better improve our experiences that we're selling at the moment. We tried to use the five senses of our customers as a way of enhancing that experience. And very often we're looking at the low season, and if we looked at this from a risk management point of view, we trying to say, well, we tend to accept that low season is going to happen or we tend to reduce the cost of that low season by basically saying, look, I'll reduce the operating costs, the high and low season, I'll lay off some staff, I will close out some of my facilities, but we're not necessarily looking at ways in which we can avoid or we can control or we can transfer some of the risks of that low season to other partners. So what I want you to think about to start with is how the markets that you've got in the high season are going to be different to the market that you normally have in the low season. We tend to treat our customers as if we were exactly the same in high season and low season.
And then we wonder why our product doesn't necessarily work. Low season travelers tend to see leisure and travel experiences now for different purposes. They look for something else when traveling. In low season, they search for suppliers differently and they'll be satisfied with different levels of service.
What I'm trying to say here is, selling exactly the same product, but assuming that the customers are going to be the same and they'll be looking for the same, and therefore the only thing that is within our power is to reduce the price and saying, 'I'll use a lower price as a way of trying to introduce those customers'. Isn't really going to work. We need to look at what makes our winter customers a bit different and behave differently.
And primarily we need to think about winter customers being locals first in the same way that a long time ago you designed your, you know, your website and you made it, you know. PC First, a laptop first, and then eventually you had to move your website to the mobile phone first. We need to now change our marketing campaigns for winter thinking local first.
And if you say, Well, my product doesn't really work for the local market, then don't be surprised. Then in the winter you've got a real difficulty in selling and you may have to think, how do you change that during COVID out of pure necessity? We all have to think of locals first, but I'm proposing that we continue thinking that way now, particularly for the low season. We use the local market as our opportunity to experiment. We know the local markets, essentially they recognise quality.
They can distinguish between real and fake products. They tend to be much more interested in variety, but they also have a very high level of loyalty when they find something that really works for them. Whereas with high season customers, what we tend to find is they tend to be first time buyers.
There's a lower rate of repetition and therefore there's much more emphasis on high season customers with selling for first time and not necessarily with promoting repeat visitation to the marketing techniques we're going to use are going to be different anyway. So just to give you one example here, this comes from central France and what these museum did is they said, look, in high season we get first time visitors. Therefore we can have a collection of our best known pieces. And but for winter, locals basically say they've already seen that collection. So this museum emptied the entire museum of their entire collection.
They put it in storage and in winter they used the museum as a meeting place for local communities to do arts and crafts, workshops, local theater, as a way of making sure that the building is being used as being loved, rather than assuming that more marketing to local visitors to come back and visit for the third or for the fifth year. Exactly same collection is somehow going to work. You need to therefore encourage repeat visits and you need to think about how will you bring those customers back into your location. So first of all, tell customers what to look forward to if customers don't know what's going to be different about that visit. There's only so many. That's going to come back to, you know, enjoy and repeat purchase something they already knew that worked and in the past try to create an annual pass.
And your annual pass could be a midweek membership, a 9 to 3 membership, an autumn to, you know, to spring membership, whatever works for you for the particular business that you are. Try to create a sense of belonging, create a club of regular users, whether it is a knickknack, a club, or whether it is some sort of loyalty with offers for people to keep come back, run clubs, you know, whether it is doing park run from your own facilities, if you are, you know, a historic, you know, property or whether it is some other way of increasing occupancy within your premises. Look at discounted upselling, you know, and providing some loyalty gifts. So for example, Paperchase as a company, I know not a tourism company, but bear with me.
But Paperchase provide an offer that on your birthday, if you are a regular, you know, if you're a member of Paperchase, they basically give you a £5. This can vouch for anything you want to buy. It's a voucher, right? So what many teenagers will do is they will say, you know, to grandparents and others, we would like a voucher from Paperchase because then we can add it to the £5 voucher we already have. And this way we increase, you know, amount of sales that we may have at that point in time.
So you could do the same where you could say, well, look, my cafe provides you with the coffee for one person for free on your birthday and you're not going to come on your own, you'll come with somebody else and therefore we're going to increase sales, you know, as a result of this. And you may say, well, a number of the things we've tried and what I'm going to say to you and you may not like me for it, is try harder again. When I say try hard. I want to give you an example of geo caching to a level that I have not seen it before. This location has more than 3 million users of their geo caching. Many of you will say geocaching is something they used to happen in the past.
In this location they said we're going to reduce the marketing budget that we just use for selling the destination more regularly. We're not going to print leaflets anymore and instead what we're going to do is we're going to provide genuine gifts to you, geo caching experiences, and we're going to invest time and money into maintaining all of our geo caching locations. And it created a community of people that keep coming back to enjoying these life sized treasure hunt. You know, by providing something is much more interesting, much more meaningful and than what we may have seen in some of the geo cache locations that haven't necessarily worked to the same extent.
And you will be familiar with the UK National Trust's 50 Things to Do before you 11 and three quarters. If you are not, please become familiar with it. But essentially what it does, it offers a bundle of 50 nature challenges for families to do together.
I talked about these with a particular eco resort in the Pyrenees in northern Spain, and they basically said, okay, you know, I'm buying the idea. I'm going to adapt it to my particular location. And what they did is they provided activities that customers could do while staying at their accommodation.
And these these location has kind of winter ski resort type activities as well as summer, you know, kind of adventure tourism. And low season was spring and autumn. So what they did is they made sure that ten of the activities could only be done in the autumn, ten of them could only be done in the spring as well as then the other 30 activities. Any point in the year. And what they said to customers that would come there is if you do all 15, you provide some evidence to us that we're not very strict with the evidence, by the way, but we'll give you a free weekend in our teepees. and our yurts, you know, which basically is additional accommodation.
And they're going to have low occupancy in spring or autumn anyway. And I said to David, the manager this is very generous and his point was, well, for a customer to do all 50, they'll have you know typically come six or seven weekends to stay at our place anyway. And they tend to be the kind of wholesome customers that we're really wanted to have in the first place. They tend to be the customers that we like receiving back again. So sometimes you may find that by doing this type of things you may not get more customers, but you may attract the kind of customers that you're really happy to welcome to your property. And I'm sure that every single one of the 100 plus people who are in the call right now will say they have been customers, that I would have gladly paid money, should have never, ever come to my property.
Well, so sometimes it's not about increasing the number of customers, but also doing things that will bring you the kind of customers you really want to receive. So we look at customers and focusing in winter on local customers and repeat visitation campaigns, and we could talk about how you can use your marketing tools to do that. But the next thing to consider is many of us are actually struggling to think what is attractive are on location in the winter.
And I'm thinking, listening much more clearly about on seasonal assets, because if you could not recommend to your own family and friends what to do off season or the low season in your local area, it's impossible that the customers are going to figure it out by themselves. So in my case, although I work at University of Surrey. I only live in Yorkshire and Dumfries and Galloway is a typical place for me to come to on holiday.
And I come there, you know, every autumn because I just like it. Okay. But even me as a regular user, as a regular visitor, I don't know what's available in your local area further up the country at different times of the year. So you need to find ways of telling me what's available in your natural environment, what's unique in March, in April, in June, but also then in October.
In December. Okay. And also, what will be the emotion? So very often when I go on holiday with my wife and my kids, it's not necessarily because of the place I'm going to, but actually I'm going there to to have a space, to have a moment with my family, to make us feel like a family again, to have that moment of being able to do something. So what you're selling to me in winter is potentially togetherness. You're selling to me the ability of actually spend time and be a family again. And you're also having to work with that kind of like sense of adventure.
You know, I'm not saying the you selling the the winter kind of diving in icy water sort of idea. But, you know, you selling me the sensation of coziness and serenity. Okay. The idea of cuddling up by the fireplace with a hot mug of tea. Okay.
You also have to deal with my perceptions. That is going to be too difficult to get that will be icy. It'll be cold, it'll be difficult. So some of your messaging will have to much more explicitly talk about access to the area I'm selling. The idea that time actually seems to run much more slowly in the winter. Actually, you're selling me the idea of a great secondhand bookshop in Stranraer or, you know, nearby.
Or are you selling me the idea of a local cafe with coffee, that has excellent coffee or activity such as cooking lunch with a local chef. They're going to be totally irrelevant to whether the weather is great or it's not great outside. And then you're going to sell me specific events I can do at this time of year.
To do these in many attractions, you'll have to offer me an indoor space and you'll have to provide suitable equipment and guarantee weatherproof access, as well as training your staff on how to do this things accordingly. So this comes from the Royal Horticultural Society, and I appreciate that this is an example from Whistler, which is in Surrey, but clearly the example from RHS, you know, Harrogate, you know, which is around the corner from my house, gives us the same idea. Okay, if we can redesign our car then to we can even change the planting program in my gardens to make meet winter fires and you know, kind of duck wood and all the plants to make the garden look interesting in the winter, We can pretty much make anything look interesting in the winter. Most of us tend to think of garden displays is to go to in spring and in summer.
RHS has essentially wanted to increase membership all year round. They knew that in the winter you'd only make money from your coffee shop and from your souvenir shop and they have to find a way of making the continents look and feel different and different times of year. So they would use kind of encouraging local groups of kind of a Christmas Carol singers and bringing those in, you know to to use the garden, enjoy the garden for free and you would locate him at the far end of the garden so he would have to walk through the garden and it would be sort of an element of kind of creating a sense of community within those garden. He would have to provide better lighting in the garden because a number of people will feel uncomfortable walking when he's dark or at dusk.
You'll have to provide new sort of activities, but you need to think about what will be the revenue opportunities that will come back from this for you at that point in time. When we do all this, we're giving ourselves the opportunity to design new and innovative experiences again. So in the summer you selling in bulk and you have less time for doing some of these things. And then we can think about how the winter, how the off season gives us a chance for personalisation. Okay, so rather than getting bad because you rest them, for example, that attraction is almost empty, you can turn it around and say, Well, let's sell these to our advantage.
This is the moment to personalise experiences. This is the moment for me to package my experience with other things. So there'll be a moment when my wife and I have thought, Let's go to Kirkcudbright for the weekend and we will say, but maybe there won't be many restaurants open at this time of year.
The accommodation is there but the restaurants are not. So sell packages where you can say, look, if you come and stay here, you'll be able to do these 4 to 5 things that will fill up your weekend. That gives us the sensation that actually there will be things that we'll be able to do.
Our favorite art shops will be opened still as they would normally be in September or in August. You have, you know, the opportunity to create a premium product Rather than saying it's empty, you're alone. It feels like the place should be shut. Why didn't you create the moment to say, How do I provide a premium experience to my customers? How do I make sure the customers feel like I was really special? This place was just available for me.
This is something I would have not been able to do in a previous occasion and create games. So rather than the opportunity of saying we will have a tour guide, obviously that's going to be quite expensive for you to do and you can only do this when you create, you know, we have a critical mass of visitors, but a gamification experience where you can make sure, you know, gamification, co-creation here, come together in this sense, make sure that you give customers something to do to make them feel like they can stay there for longer, but also they become the protagonist of that experience. Whether it is a quest, you know, whether it is like a trail within your town to try different shops and to see different things, whatever you want to work with. We already know about dark dark skies. And obviously this works particularly well in the autumn period where you're going to have a longer evenings. So I'm not going to tell you too much about that.
The challenge I suppose we have in the winter is to find a common need across different businesses to work much more with coordinating things between different stakeholders and sharing data. And I think this is something that we find very difficult to do in summer because we're all very busy and things that we should do at any point in time during the year. It's much more likely to start this conversations in the low season than they are to start in the high season. Something I found to worked particularly well is this other example from the Atlantic Coast in France.
So what these destinations in the coast found was that it was very difficult for them to attract VIP visitors to come in the low season and initially said it was because people don't like going places when it's cold. But the point was, well, actually people go skiing when it's cold. Nobody says, I'm going to go skiing when it's warm, right? So what they realize is that it is not because it's cold.
The people don't come because they just don't think that the product is going to be very good for them. Right. So and that's difficult to accept. Okay. But if we basically then say, look at the experience of selling to here now with a new campaign on the top left hand side of going to the beach and using one of these devices that I don't even know what the name would be, but it looks amazing, right? So these five particular communities basically said we're now going to offer four new categories of experiences the thrills experience, which essentially is the outdoor sport like the one you've got here. But then they work on their wellbeing in winter, nature in winter, family experiences in winter, and all the communication is using kind of mounted Winter Games language because the French community, the French consumers are very used to going to the Alps in the winter and so try saying to them, actually the winter is a good moment where you can do all such experiences. But anywhere in the country. So it talks about slopes, wetsuit, sliding, slalom to give a playful tone.
They've actually found this was really popular for them. And the fact that five communities invested together to do this, rather than seeing themselves as competitors gave them something interesting to do. So you can work on creating a bucket list of things you can do near and around your business. You can find ways of reconnecting with nature, something we all had to do during COVID, and we, many of us want to continue doing. Many people are still really nervous around going in to kind of a built environment and having lots of people around them telling you, going back to simpler things and changing your marketing materials to show that replacing new microwave with a firepit, providing hampers full of fresh local produce, giving us a cooking guide rather than providing ready meals as a way of just giving people a chance to do something different and promoting this traditional savoir faire, they would say in France in a room, the positivity of learning to do something that you may have always wanted to do, but you just haven't had the opportunity to do it. So we saw during COVID that these kind of a patchwork particularly well, and we've seen many businesses continue to run them afterwards as a way of creating an opportunity for doing something different.
So it optimised demand they we're renting them at £40 a pop, you know, for, you know, like a three hour kind of block in addition to obviously the cost of what you have there. And we're able to personalise them with light, with candles, with a small speaker like an Alexa, to play music for you, where the buzzer for guests to press for needing advice and you know with also play music for you and so on to create it's something that would say to you this is different. And so we can then work on this kind of a very Danish word of Hygge, and you can apply it to the Scottish equivalent of that, which I think lends itself beautifully. Just the photo you've got here shows you how it works for me. Okay, so, so being able to say, look, when it's wet, when it's cold and dark, how do we compensate with warm and light inside? You apply this kind of design and experience to work with timelessness, you design experiences where what you're selling is the unexpected laughs, the deep conversation, the shared experiences, and you look at adventure around exploring and pushing the limits and going out of your own comfort zone. So I saw an example at some point in the United States that worked very well, and I think we could apply to the Scottish examples as well.
You know, hotel the provided firepits and they had one firepit for every room in the hotel and they gave you the lovely romantic atmosphere of the all-American small package, chocolate, marshmallows and crackers. Okay. And what they did is for $5 in a £3 to £4, they gave you a packet, essentially would make your weekend much more special. And what they saw was actually many, many more of the social media photos of their property during that period where of the, of this more experience people do take photos of the hotel back for many more. You know it feels a little bit just too much, but by providing photos of these gave an opportunity for people to not talk about just the destination they've gone to but the actual hotel that provided that experience for them.
So to figure out what your calendar is for your business again, say to yourself, in my locality, if we go from autumn to the Easter weekend, what are my offerings specifically to my customers for Halloween? What am I offering for the pre-Christmas office party? People tend to be a little bit tired of the Office Party we've always heard about and they're saying, Can we provide a quirkiness and authenticity, sustainability or otherwise themed, you know, weekend can kind of go away from the same annual weekend party or, you know, overnight party or whatever it is, particularly now that people work from home a lot more. The Christmas office parties have become much, much bigger than they used to be pre-COVID. So tapping to this market, then we have the Christmas shopping market, the ability of being able to say, come and stay at my place and do all your Christmas shopping while staying here because we've got this 10, 15 different kind of shops or we have an artist that can open up, particularly for customers who will want to buy something pre-Christmas.
And this is kind of targeting the people who will not dare to buy something through Amazon for all their relatives and friends that actually want to buy something has a bit more meaning. We then have the the Christmas and New Year holiday market and you can have themed Christmases, whether it's, you know, family themed or Apple themed, it can be a *unintelligible* whatever you want it to be. The graveyard slot really tends to be between New Year's and Valentine's Day. We found a number of businesses that basically go to customers, a regular, regular to them and they say, you know, if you don't know what to buy for one of your relatives, buy them a voucher to come and stay at our property and we'll give you a very discounted voucher. What a very unique experience, because you're giving it to one of your loved ones with something that's going to be like a champagne weekend coming to our place are going to be like a the strawberries and champagne and, you know, scones or whatever it is a weekend, you know, for for somebody.
And but obviously for a time limited period between New Year's and the Valentine's weekend. We know, Janie already talked about Snowdrop walks. We tend to do very little with the Chinese New Year. I know that in Edinburgh you're really working hard on promoting, not a China ready market, but particularly Chinese New Year works really, really well for this. Okay.
And then before we realise we're at the lambing season and I remember meeting a business that basically had baby lambs and, you know, they would say to me, well, it's a very local time of a year for us. Low demand and we create a campaign that basically said to customers, you know, be a midwife to a baby. Lamb. And any of you that have a farm or know what farm life, you know, that lambs don't need very much help. But people who live in cities don't really know that.
And so it provides a great opportunity for people to come earlier to my business. Creating your own event is probably more realistic if you are to launch a tourist attraction or if you're a destination, or you can pull your resources together with other businesses. But a small business normally may not be able to do this particularly well. You may be able to do this, for example, by selling murder mystery weekend, but not necessarily by providing a food event weekend, although you can do like a learn to cook weekend, you know, by working closely with your local chef and saying, well, look, six or seven bedrooms, my hotel will be sold for that. Or you can have like a a photography weekend or something like this, which clearly is and you can see these by now, you're going to have to market sell much, much better in the low season.
Okay. So many of the things, you know, you need to do for marketing purposes at any time of the year, you'll have to do them better and work harder in the low season. But also remember, you can use this as a moment for learning what works and what doesn't work in your marketing campaigns. So then you can use it in the high season.
So you'll need to identify better your communication channels. You'll need to better identify the publications that will need content. Journalists are desperate for good content, but just search yourself.
Things to do in winter in Aberdeenshire, you know, ten things to do, you know, ten wedding venues in Northern Scotland, ten wedding venues in the Highlands in winter, and then you get to see what's available out there and you think, well, how do I talk to the journalist? That basically has to produce this? As I say, journalists will want to talk to you, contact them through LinkedIn, give them something to do, because they're always looking for new ideas to to pitch to and, you know, printed or online media materials, invest money in winter photography. I know that VisitScotland will give you access to a number of resources, but also invest money in your own photography, because very often we really, really see that the photos are using in winter just don't work. If I go to your website right now and all the photos I can see, sell me spring and summer, essentially implicitly, you're telling me don't bother to book until June.
Okay. And that kind of works totally against you. So Snowdrop walks will work particularly well and then harnessing the power of social media. But you need to think about your marketing campaigns much, much more cleverly and in much more detail. So what I'm saying to you here is you'll say, well, this is kind of social media 101.
True, but we all know that common sense is not very common. And many of you just tend to take shortcuts. So you need to sell yourself. You need to learn about what your customers want.
You need to learn about what works for your competitors. You need to also learn about what works well better for you. You need to think about and remember that each one of your social media channels has a very different purpose. You need to create social media content.
The way you know when and how you're going to communicate materials. So, for example, we know that for accommodation businesses, a large proportion of bookings take place on a Sunday evening or a monday evening, Sunday evening, because you realise your weekend was really miserable and you're desperate to go somewhere Monday evening because you first have to go to the office, ask for time off, book it, and then by Monday evening you promote your content. So if you know that these are what's happening typically with your kind of business, why you promoting your business at any other time of the week? Other than, you know, Sunday or Saturday by which some people are creating that ideas or where they may want to go and you give them the idea that you are the place to make that booking and you may probably need to get some professional help setting up some social media competitions. And I think this much more important in winter than it would be in high season, particularly around, for example, using good affiliate marketing.
You know, these Instagram post you can see here on the bottom left hand side, 12,810 likes. I mean, how much money are you willing to pay for that? This is a post for boutique retreat. A Holiday letting agency, they've got 150 you know cottages and this couple basically saying we had a wonderful birthday weekend drinking endless cups of tea and smelling the autumn dancing in the breeze. And you may say, Oh, my God, this makes me puke.
Okay? Smelling the same old and dancing in the breaks like you would never say that. Well, you may not want to say that, but look at the 12,810 likes, right? And this is when I found this before and I'm sure that we had even more. So the challenge here is they can make it work. Why are you not prepared to do that for yourself? You'll need to become a much better storyteller. Many of the things that you may be prepared to do in social media marketing aren't going far enough. You'll need to challenge yourself be much more ambitious, particularly in the low season, and you will need to therefore think much more about the benefits you're expecting from your campaigns.
The reason why I'm saying these is many of you need to think much more clearly what is and trying to achieve here a mind promoting winter season. You know, tourism because I want to generate a year round income because I want to improve the quality of my service, because I want to increase the mixes and prices. I want to provide a consistent service year round, because I want it to be my chance to be more creative and innovative and to entrepreneurial or because I want to be able to create loyalty of customers because they know they have a regular place to go to.
This is my very last slide and we were opening for questions and answers. Now I have not been able to see what you've shown in your chat until now, whether you've shared some of the things you're already doing or whether you've got some questions, how this may work in your context. But I want you to go back and think about what are the three things at the moment sell the most for you in winter and what makes those three elements different to what you sell belonging to somewhere. And then think about yourself. Tell me something.
This part of winter is very easy to always say. What doesn't work? Let's focus on the positives first and let's kind of build on that. And in those positives, I'm suggesting that to increase your sales you can do a number of simple things to start with, okay, because we're not trying to go from 0 to 100, we are just trying to make incremental benefits with marginal improvement on your product. Okay? There's nothing revolutionary that we can do.
There's nothing, in the same way that you don't get fit overnight by going from your couch to running marathons. You don't completely transform your business overnight. So start thinking about how do I theme what they already have? How do I decorate my pub for Christmas? How do I decorate it for Halloween? How do I decorate it for the Chinese New Year? How do I make it longer? How do I mix indoors and outdoors so people spend one hour, 3 hours, 12 hours longer at my business? How do I make it unique? By tempting customers with a small gift that will make them feel special? How do I make it special? By making them something, giving them something they cannot do in the high season, for example, Dog Beach walks How to increase the size of the group by encouraging somebody who's already coming in the winter to next time come with their friends, their family, you know somebody else. How do I share my experience with another business so we can say to somebody, when you come and stay with us, next time, we can book a restaurant ready for you before you come. So you'll have the best place by the log fire guaranteed before you arrive. And how do you share with the community So the people that will come feel like actually when I come to Scotland, I met somebody Scottish.
I had that opportunity for unique experiences. If any of these were of interest and you want to know more? There's this website tourismexperince.org that you can go to. Well, we've got three years worth of knowledge that we have gathered from these examples from France and England. Thank you very much for listening so far, and I will just now open up the chance for some questions. Janie, back to you.
Great. Thank you so much exactly for that. That was a whistle stop tour of some really great examples and practical case studies and hopefully lots of things that people could take away. And just looking at the chat and thanks very much, Jason, for posting a link to the Cairngorm seasonal campaign in the national parks where winter comes to life. So that's great to see.
Also great to see that we have a participant from Mexico. So so with regards to the s'mores, that's wonderful. There's some great examples of what the Scottish equivalent would be around them. Could we have Haggis, Neeps and Oatcakes? So one thing to bind it together, but I think everybody loves roasting a marshmallow and also like with the whiskey tasting packages I think obviously would be some, some really nice, very Scottish examples. But you, you need to tell me why now.
Right. So if you don't tell me, why should I come to Scotland now in February. I'm just going to wait and then you always have a situation like I talk to my friends in, you know, in England and I say, I'm going to come to Scotland and they say no, I'm going to wait until later. And then they say, Oh, isn't it too cold now to come? And you're thinking, But actually it's neither a problem if you prepare. but but you guys need to somehow tell me why now. Yeah, I think I really like the way you set out, but that I think every business can think of, like where, what do they have already, you know, and what can they do within their business then these little kind of small presents or incentives, like you said that you can really go out with, but also then kind of that that looking wider.
And I think there's such a fabulous opportunity. And even if it's not the first winter, but, you know, if if more businesses in your destination do that, then then you're building kind of a whole destination to come to. So this is really not just for every individual business, but around working together. And because so important to kind of join together and either develop a product that you can do with your local artists or your local crafts person. But like you said, if I as accommodation provider open, I want to make sure that there's restaurants or other and places open as well for people to enjoy it too.
I loved the Isle of Mull, but I find it very difficult to come in winter for the fear of what I may not be able to do, you know. So, so. So to me, being able to as an accommodation, being able to say to me, your five favorite restaurants are open and you will be able to do all these things or, you know, like these are the best time of year for seeing seals. Okay? Just exactly. And it's so much more about thinking, like you said, it's not just about promoting your business to say, you know, we have five wonderful bedrooms and a lounge.
It's about promoting what else is available in your destination to create that clear idea of what kind of experience they will be having. And I think for a lot of businesses to connect with that local destination management organisation to really find out more about what's going on, connecting with other businesses, having the networking opportunities and find out more. That's, that can be really useful and also provide some ideas of what to do and, you know, and look at those trends in the international markets. There's also international visitors that come in the off season. But understanding your visitor, what's the domestic visitor? And I think clearly that's a great opportunity to to, like you said, experiment.
And it's easy for them to come and maybe try out something new, whereas the international visitors might just come across. Well, you know. it seems to be every one of your businesses has a database, right? But I don't think they're very well used. So very often we send the same message to everybody in your database, and that means you're sending the same message to somebody who comes three times a year, as well as somebody who came once in a lifetime. And they never came back. You know, the person that can once in their life and never come back. Your message has to be we've improved. There's something else to do.
Whereas somebody who comes regularly, their message has to be, we know you well and we know what your preferences are. So, so segment your database and start sending separate messages. If one of you says that's too much effort, then I'll say, sorry, shame on you, you're not RINO. You want somebody else to do all the work for you.
You still have this high season mentality where everything goes and you're not putting in of effort into your marketing. Yeah, like you said. And it's, you know, you have to look at your, your, your audience, who's your audience, what's the message, what's channels are you using kind of building that those digital skills, of course, and looking at what will attract the customer.
Interestingly, as you said, you know that photography piece, I think we see that often, obviously excellent. If somebody can get their own photographer. But as as you mentioned, we obviously have VisitScotland.
so you have access to our digital media library where there's a whole range of autumn, winter, whatever pictures, to get you started and around that. So just looking at the chat and there's some comments and examples but there's also here a comment from that. Some of the biggest issues in December and January is site closures and for planning off season tours. So as we said, the vast majority of Scotland after November closes up. So apart from some of these these winter events, it is probably difficult to plan a tour. So again, the more is open in the off season, the more it would benefit all around.
Now that makes perfect sense, but every single one of us could find reasons why somebody else is doing something that stops me from running my business. That's almost like a bad excuse, isn't it? And, well, let's just focus on the few things that we can do that we can say, okay, with the demand that we've got, with the products that we have, with the collaborations, we can really have, how can I incrementally and marginally improve by 3% days, by 5% that night? And before you realise you're thinking, well, you know, October is not looking so bad and April isn't looking so bad and we've learned something through that. They then will say right, let's now work on November. But there's no point in us saying which is the worst month of the year and then saying, well, I give up because in the worst month of the year I cannot do anything. Yes. And I think, you know, we have so many great examples throughout every month of activities that are happening anyway.
And like we said before, stories to tell, the weather, you know, and things like Burns Night and that are very Scottish and that we can do so. Yeah. And there's that again that clustering of products in a destination in winter and autumn can be really useful.
So again working with the destination wide piece and I know a lot of Historic Scotland properties, the National Trust properties are now open all year round as well. I think is that one of the examples from the National Trust perspective, I mean that you. Just that's like a National Trust properties found it works so well to decorate the house for Christmas. Right. And like it's so obvious now isn't it. But a few years ago nobody was doing that and suddenly you bring customers back. So you are thinking, well, you know, and I've seen pubs decorate the pub for Christmas and their sales goes through the roof.
Right. Or they create cocktails or they say, well, we have a special kind of a winter range of beers. And you may say, well, that feels a little bit too forced.
It's not force. Customers need to be told and they need to remember. How many of you, when you have a customer to visit who you are already marketing for them to come the next time? When you go to the cinema, the first thing before they show your film is show your trailers The next three or four films.
Do you do the equivalent? You don't. You just hope that they've enjoyed themselves and they'll come back at some point with no incentive. Come on, you've got to meet the building.
This is the best moment to show them in six weeks time these other amazing things happening, right? Yeah. And like you said, and especially for a kind of more domestic market where it's easier to come back again and again and you know that they can already think, oh, yeah, that keep looking ahead. And I'm telling you that customers with a lowest carbon footprint for you, you know, some customers are going to be 2 hours away by public transport or by road from at least the Scottish border. Right.
And then, you know, as opposed to customers that will need to fly and will have a massive carbon footprint for every pound they spend at your place. Yeah, definitely. And I think like you said before, it's a really great opportunity to use those customers, but also helps those kind of climate targets. Interesting. We have another comment around tips for Edinburgh.
And obviously Edinburgh has a big winter festival, but Andrew from Camera Obscura. With regards to, you know, even some of those scenes on the Royal Mile that are open all year round, but having an indoor and outdoor view. So, you know, they're very busy weekends, holidays off season and the weekdays are really that off season.
Weekdays are still an opportunity to explore for some attractions. That's it, so there's no reason why your property, particularly if you're in a rural area, you need to have a 30 things to do when it's cold or when it's wet and you need to have them on your website because otherwise customers will stop coming, not because your property is not comfortable. Customers will stop coming because they think there's not going to be anything to do at this time of year. Yeah, and yeah, I think like you said, it's really providing that image of, you know, that experience of that idea of what they could be doing. And interestingly, even that you said one of the museums went to, you know, to what feels initially like an extreme to remove all the kind of objects that would generally attract visitors.
But to really cater to that domestic and the very local actually marketing and kind of creating that community feel. And I know there's kind of that some of the castles, like you said, with the Christmas decorations and having these crafting workshops and knitting and felting, and really attracting locals as well as visitors. Again, that supports that local for the visitor. But also I think it creates a very positive impression and experience for for the community to kind of be, you know, that you're not just as a visitor attraction for people who come and go, but you know, you were a visitor attraction for the local community as well to have that kind of experience.
And you're likely to then have the locals be much more receptive to them. You know, tourists in the high season if they feel like the place actually belongs to them. Yeah, definitely. I know. And then in kind of creating that, you know, that tourism is for them as well and creating that positive benefit for the communities. So that's great.
Also, I see a number of people saying that they couldn't see us, but this is going to be recorded and available afterwards online anyway. So if they actually want to and have a better experience, if it couldn't this time, it is going to be available in due course. Yes, definitely.
So I'm not sure. I think it's a mixed bag of seeing us or not doing this. That's a good thing or a bad thing.
But great. So as far as other. Any other questions? Yes, that's great. There's somebody reaching out to for an accommodation provider that doesn't serve food to kind of connect with other food providers in the area. And so that's always a great opportunity There.
And we will be so if if there's any other are there any other comments or thoughts you think people probably need to be heading off. I will briefly share some slide with some wrap up information that I have because there is a wide I mean, there's a whole lot of information that we just spoke about, but there is a wide range of support available for businesses. And so obviously we have our industry relationship managers as VisitScotland for any businesses. It's kind of your first port of call and they can help with answering any questions, but also sharing what we have available. And then we obviously have Visitscotland.org,
which is our industry facing website. So on that website again, you'll find all sorts of information. We have a responsible tourism pages, so there you will find a wide range of information about the themes I was speaking about beforehand, whether that's inclusion and but also engaging with the community. And we will soon be launching our climate Action Planning Workshop.
I can't seem to find the right slide. And so yes, sorry. So then also what we were talking about before, it's not just you selling immediately directly to the consumer, which is great, but there's also a lot of tourism is interested in this. Sothere's advice on how to create and sell bookable, travel through a variety of channels to the travel trade, the digital media library I mentioned earlier with regards to the images and but also marketing toolkit somehow to sell to the cycling market, the Chinese market, various other toolkits are available, and the research and insights that our team does about knowing your customers, they're really just understanding a little bit better. When are they coming? Where are they coming from? But what are they coming to see and what inspires them? So what are the kind of stories that you can connect with for them? So specifically, we also have a number of digital skills webinars coming up.
As I mentioned, you know, using social media and the wide range of channels that are available to you does use some developing some of those skills and how can you put that to the best effect? So there are some webinars actually with Google coming up, but also with Business Gateway through their Digital Boost program and the broader responsible tourism piece, we are hosting some webinars with Business Energy Scotland to provide businesses advice on energy saving, which is I think at the forefront of all our minds at the moment, but also what funding is available to install and some of the bigger project items and also to train some green champions in your business. I want to say thank you again Xavier. And as you mentioned, tourismexperience.org and people will be able to find a lot of this information. Thanks for having me I hope it was useful.