There’s no doubt about it, 2011 will be a tough year for businesses across the UK. With government cutbacks and talks of a double-dip recession, consumer confidence and spending looks set to remain low. 
However, despite the downturn, I believe that the year ahead presents some major opportunities for the travel and tourism sectors.

 

Firstly, as consumers cut back on their daily and weekly luxuries, the focus on the annual holiday will become even stronger. Rather than spreading their spending over a number of smaller treats, customers are far more likely to save their income for something more worthwhile such as a holiday or travel experience. In the current climate, people are working harder and faster than ever. This, along with a somewhat gloomy outlook for next year, will only accentuate the importance of taking some time away from daily routines, enjoying a change of scenery and having a milestone to look forward to. As such, the holiday will become an even more sacred experience; one to savour and invest in.

I see a real opportunity for luxury travel brands to step forward and speak out to their customers. Though the recession has had an impact on the majority of UK consumers, there’s still a large market of more affluent holidaymakers that are seeking a high-end, luxury experience. And, as a travel operator you need to demonstrate that you can cater for this market.

At Leger Holidays, we recently took one of our luxury Silver Service coaches on a tour around the UK in order to show holidaymakers exactly what luxury coaching had to offer. The tour was a fantastic success with consumers and we were delighted with the volume of interest and bookings we took from those who experienced the coaches first hand.

We were particularly interested to see that the majority of these bookings were made for higher value and longer duration holidays. More and more of our customers are now upgrading to Silver Service and eight out of ten customers will then re-book this product again in the future. For me, this backs up our predictions for 2011 and shows that holidaymakers are still willing to spend more for a quality product they can really look forward to and enjoy.

Adding value to your products is yet another way to stand out in the recession. Customers are far savvier in today’s market and they will seek, and expect to find, a product that gives them extra bang for their buck. By giving away a free drink at dinner or an extra night in a hotel, you will open yourself up to a new market of price-conscious customers. What’s more, by showing that you understand value for money, you’re sure to engage with any current or relapsed customers too.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to survive in this market it’s imperative to invest in a strong marketing strategy. Take the opportunity to shout about your products and show your customers, partners and agents exactly what you can offer. When experiencing more challenging climates, it’s extremely tempting to reduce your marketing activity to save money. However, I personally believe that this could have a disastrous effect on your bottom line. In order to keep sales and bookings coming through the door, you need to position yourself at the front of your customers’ minds with the relevant products and messages.

To summarise, I believe that the opportunities for the travel and tourism sector are still out there and, if anything, the public’s appetite for an escape or retreat is stronger than ever. Our industry has always been very resilient with a strong ability to adapt to consumer’s need. And, in my mind, there’s no reason why 2011 should be any different.