Tuesday, 29 March 2011

“The Occasion Marketer” by Rosie Akenhead

By Rosie Akenhead

You can’t blink in London at the moment without seeing Prince William’s and Kate Middleton’s faces splashed all over tacky teacups, snowdomes, aprons and every other piece of tourist junk. It’s seems a fair statement that international tourists are perhaps the target audience for these sales (rather than us Brits). I’ve been contemplating for a while about how this would pan out for the travel industry and british tourism specifically. I have a specific interest in this topic as I live about ten minutes walk from Westminster Abbey. All my friends keep suggesting that I rent my apartment for a vast sum of money while William and Kate walk up the aisle. So I beg to ask the question- is this do-able? And, how are other travel companies preparing for and responding to the surge of interest in the royal wedding?

It makes sense to backtrack a little before throwing ourselves in the deep-end. We know that targeted “event” or “date” marketing works for travel. You only need to ask lastminute.com or Travelzoo about the increasing success of their Valentine break deals to ascertain that. Are “events” becoming more essential (or appealing) for the discening traveller? Is it more important now (with budget and time constraints) to have a REASON to holiday? A Valentine’s break in Venice? To see someone in concert in Moscow? To tie in a holiday with a business trip? A once in a lifetime royal wedding perhaps?

I think our industry marketers speak the answer on this one. How the royal wedding is being presented by travel and accomodation operators is a good indication. Some hotels in the vicinity already have their homepage reservation systems set to the royal wedding dates to facilitate easy booking, and rates start from a high £250 per night (there’s a few happy revenue managers in Westminster I’d bet). However, what are the other options surfacing besides expensive hotels in the area?

Well, the first port of call on google ads is Airbnb (favoured by Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall) which is a mix of Couchsurfer, B&B retailer and TripAdvisor too. It serves to let locals list their spare room (or their whole flat) for free to travellers. Both hosts and the accomdation are rated and reviewed in the same way as most user-generated sites. Hosts choose their rates (loosely based on quality, location and neighbouring apartments costs) and then it’s up to the traveller to pick and choose a bedroom or apartment. 

It’s an interesting idea and it seems perfect for the royal wedding holiday-maker, largely on the basis that Westminster is full (and I mean FULL) of flats and houses that aren’t used on the weekends (politicians and civil servants who leave the city to go to their country pads each weekend). Quite frankly, I’m impressed by AirBNB. I like that the guests are also rated which means they stand to lose out if they behave badly in your home.So- is this is a future trend?  I wait with anticipation to see if this trend develops further as we become more and more fussy about what we want from our holiday break. Will I put my flat up for rent? Watch this space while I decide J

On a different level, VisitLondon aren’t missing a trick with their guides and suggestions for the big weekend. Topics include the places where Kate shops and hangs out. Slightly creepy but there must be a reason why Visitlondon has risen nearly to the top of the Google ranking for the search term “Royal Wedding London”. 

Tripadvisor rightly has it covered too. So what with wedding fever in the air, how are the travel industry feeling about it? Namedly all of us are BORED of it. Kevin May of Tnooz certainly is. So are all of us at EyeforTravel. 

However, besides all the tourist tat on the streets, expensive hotel rates and mindless wedding chat, I think we can conclude two things. Firstly, the royal wedding is (and was always going to be) essentially a good thing for travel: we’re seeing innovative new travel products brought to our attention which may well stick around for the Olympics next year. Secondly I think the royal wedding has reminded marketers of the elusive guest :“the event traveller”: namedly travelling for a purpose not so much for the sake of it. Re-evaluating how we look at these consumers and how we reach them is not a new topic: it’s an old one that needs to be re-looked at.

Comments welcome. I’m @rosieakenhead on twitter.