Save our Summer – Marketing Strategy for Attracting Visitors this Summer

15 June 2023

Thoughts by our CEO, Anthony Rawlins

How was your May half-term?

From our discussions with many UK attractions over the last few days, it's clear there's been a mixed bag.

One attraction in Cornwall has experienced its worst visitor numbers for May, in almost 10 years, whilst another similar attraction grew revenue by £70,000. Word on the street is that it's essential for many of us to have a strong summer this year.

Why is Summer so important this year?

I believe this Autumn and Winter will be one of the most difficult periods I've seen in my 20 years in the industry, simply because of the unpredictability of people's financial situations.

To ensure attractions and destinations have a good summer this year, I think there's one dominant marketing strategy that needs to be deployed rapidly by UK attractions and destinations to attract visitors. Oh, and just to highlight the urgency of how fast you should act, Summer will be over in about 12 weeks.

For many attractions, summer is an essential time of year for visitor numbers and revenue, but this year the conditions seem even more acute.

Firstly, we're still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Many UK attractions are still at around 80% of pre-pandemic visitor numbers, so there's a revenue shortfall to fill.

Secondly, while things might seem financially challenging for consumers right now, it's going to get worse when we move into Autumn, as focus switches to the festive period. Christmas is expensive for many, from buying presents to food and drink, to parties, so Autumn is a time of conserving and saving, but knowing you're going to end up spending a lot of money. This can have a significant impact on visitation from September to November, and subsequently from December to February.

Booking > Visiting

A recent conversation with the Directors of Airbnb and EasyJet both highlighted that the typical time between purchase and travel, which was 3 months, is now down to three weeks. 

Our client DFDS, the world's leading ferry operator, and the insights we've gathered for this sector suggest that for ferries, booking periods have been reduced from four months to four weeks. 

Photo by iSAW Company
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

What does this mean?  

Many people are still on the fence about their holiday plans. Two weeks ago 38% of the UK population had not yet booked their summer holiday. Many people are delaying, and this provides an opportunity.

When people decide on the destination they are visiting, they then progress into more specific planning of the activities they will do in location. The good news therefore, is that with such a compressed booking > visiting timeframe, attractions still have time to make this their best summer ever.

Front of mind - Now

Photo by Markus Winkler

This should be a combined campaign, highly targeted, highly compelling, on specific channels, that delivers immediate results. The separate strands of activity should connect, driving towards the same objective.

The specific messaging you deliver on these channels needs to be carefully considered, with a sense of urgency around 'visiting now', and highlighting 'value' as a day out or experience.

And to build confidence and secure summer visitors now, you could provide a small discount/incentive when booked before 1st July.

Finally, as mentioned, whilst running creative, compelling advertising on Google, Bing, Facebook and Instagram - this should be connected with a process of capturing potential visitors' email addresses.

These email addresses, are a great source for future marketing, but will also enable you to reduce digital advertising costs and/or improve advertising effectiveness in Autumn / Winter.

Attractions who want to have a fantastic summer, should be front of mind with their desired audiences - right now. And the very best way for attractions to achieve this, is to immediately begin to plan and execute a tactical 'visit now' digital advertising campaign.

More specifically, we're suggesting highly targeted paid search advertising, focussed on intent-driven 'things to do' terms, run in parallel with image and video-based content on Instagram and Facebook, whilst also ensuring an additional objective of acquiring prospect email addresses.

Photo by Richard Stachmann

Launch now

Your 'Visit Now' campaign needs to be running from now (or early July at the latest) until mid August to capitalise on incoming tourism to your region.

And the good news is, that with the channels and activities I've suggested, this can be launched incredibly quickly - and can deliver rapid results.

We started working with an attraction in the middle of April, implementing exactly the activities I've described, and their May visitor numbers were 37% above forecasted levels.

You still have time to save your summer, Don't leave your visitor numbers to chance - be immediate, be compelling and good luck.

Anthony Rawlins, Navigate CEO

I’ve spent the last 18 years honing my marketing and strategic skills in the travel, tourism and experience sectors. As an entrepreneur, I’ve also created several other companies to make the most of opportunities I see in our industry and the wider world of business.

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