Officially into summer

With Memorial Day hitting this weekend, we now find ourselves unofficially entering the summer travel season. Even though the technical start of summer falls more in line with the solstices and equinoxes that govern over celestial positioning, the long weekend we are confronted with right now serves as a better marker — the weather is amiable, and that extra day off work helps justify a lengthy road trip.

But I’m not here to discuss Memorial Day. I’m here to talk about Memorial Day kicking off a whole season and a paradigm shift in how you do business. What do you have planned for the summer in terms of events, promotions, packages or new amenities? To simplify this a touch, what is your USP for this summer? What’s that one cool thing that will linger in people’s minds and get them talking?

The buzzword I use to distill all this is “glanceability,” describing in an explicit portmanteau not only what a foremost goal should be for your property this season but also the mindset of many consumers looking for a quick summer escape. Basically, if your property is “glanceable,” it means there is some exceptional quality that draws the eyes and makes people curious about what you have to offer.

This is also often explained as an elevator pitch, imagining that you only have the time in an elevator to make an impression on a complete stranger. I place this at around 10 seconds for actual, person-to-person meetings, although I’ve seen some sources go as high as 25 seconds. In this day and age of the Internet and rapidly shrinking attention spans, though, I’d optimistically put a digital elevator pitch at one to four seconds. That’s right — if your hotel or resort doesn’t grab consumers’ attention within milliseconds, you’ve got problems!

If we are to think in terms of milliseconds, then it becomes clear that your pitch to prospective buyers first should be visual, and any text should be brief and to the point. Moreover, unless you are talking serious slashes on your rates (likely cutting into your margins), big numbers in flashing red won’t work either, as the modern consumer is wise to these tricks — they see them all the time and know what’s actually a good deal.

What’s important to remember with glanceability is that a person’s logic centers — that is, higher brain functions — cannot respond within milliseconds to a stimulus. Hence, for something to be glanceable, it must appeal to one’s emotions — the older, primordial parts of the brain. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a direct reflection of this, as images stir up thoughts in our heads long before our conscious interpretative nerve pathways have time to kick in.

As it turns out, your USP is your best shot at making your property glanceable because what’s most unique about your abode is also what others cannot imitate, and therefore it’s something consumers haven’t seen before … or at least very often. So find that extraordinary quality, whatever it is, and express it through vivid photography or snappy headlines.

As for summer itself, start mapping out what to expect week-over-week and month-over-month. What events do you have booked? What are you doing to differentiate incoming leisure and business travelers? What are you doing that’s special for the other long weekends or holidays that fall between now and Labor Day?

Let me leave you with one broad idea I introduced last year around this time — the prix fixe vacation. We are all familiar with the concept of a prix fixe dinner. The psychology behind it is quite simple: give people a few choices within a preset selection so that they can express their individualism while not being overwhelmed by the multitude of true options.

We’ve seen this work on numerous occasions in restaurants, often attached with an easy-to-comprehend price tag to further reduce sales objections. A nice round figure combined with the guided nature of a prix fixe menu can make for an especially carefree experience, which reduces the stress associated with decision-making and enhanced dining overall.

Adapting this concept to a vacation or sightseeing itinerary might include a narrow selection of day trips that mix guided excursions, meals and transportation. 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 (guest’s choice of touring local attractions, winery or brewery tour, nature hike, guided shopping excursion, fishing trip, historical jaunt, surfing and so on — essentially, whatever your area does best).

A model example of this I recently had a chance to explore further is the Fogo Island Inn, which, due to its remote location off the coast of Newfoundland, cannot survive on a laissez faire, let-the-guests-do-whatever-they-want approach. Instead, the property embraces its natural location and has packaged together an assortment of daylong adventures including such esoteric jaunts as iceberg-watching and orientations at local fisheries.

What other examples of prix fixe vacations or prix fixe adventures can you cite? (Hopefully your own property!) Remember that it’s all about maximizing the guest’s journey while also minimizing travel anxiety and creating a rich experience that’s unique to your setting. Best of luck this summer with any and all promotions you run!