All eyes on summer

The Memorial Day long weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer. And so, as the sun returns and the land turns verdant, it is time once again to look towards this season to see where we might boost sales.

Not to be exclusionary, the Canadian equivalent of this holiday is Victoria Day, the U.K. has its Spring Bank Holiday and many other European countries have their own public holidays around this time, such as Ascension Day (while some might even point to the internationally celebrated May 1st Labor Day as the first turn towards summer). Regardless of the exact holiday date, what’s significant about this late-May shift is that if you haven’t started putting the gears of your summer promotion slate in place, now is the time. And the clock is ticking!

Every one of your competitors will be running some sort of promotion or package during this high tide for leisure travel, and you must as well. In terms of generating an undeniable sales boost, it really comes down to what you do to stand out from the pack. I’m not talking about channel distribution or how you advertise your promotion, but the meat — what you offer.

As I’ve argued in the past regarding my qualms with the OTAs, you shouldn’t aim to compete solely on price discounts or meal vouchers, as this will commoditize your product. Instead, this summer I want you to strive to create promotions that focus on the journey and a rich guest experience. This way you are offering a point of differentiation that is unique to your region and your property.

Whereas before you would rely on pamphlets, brochures, apps, websites, your concierge and front desk staffers to guide guests, the goal for this summer’s slate is to make a guest’s vacation as carefree as possible. Packaging means pre-planning and pre-arranging — within reason, of course — so you eliminate anxiety and boredom.

Think of it like a prix fixe dinner. All you need to know is the time of your reservation and the cost. Then when you arrive at the restaurant, the itinerary is all laid out on one simple sheet of paper. But there are options within each category — choice of three different appetizers, four mains and two desserts.

Now apply this categories-and-options model to make something of a “prix fixe vacation.” I’m trying not to allude to the term “all-inclusive” here, as this concept has a few key distinctions. Imagine a package where you offer a two-night stay with one complimentary “day of adventure” including lunch and dinner as well as a selection of afternoon activities to do between the prix fixe meals (guest’s choice of visiting local attractions, wine or brewery tour, hiking, bird watching, guided shopping excursion, fishing trip, historical jaunt, surfing and so on — whatever your area does best).

What are your ideas?