What's Old Is New Again: Selling the Return Visit to Travelers
By Babs Harrison, Managing director of Phoenix based Babs Harrison and Partners
Just maybe the most exciting 2019 trend for travel marketers may be the growing belief that today's travelers want - really want - to come back again to a destination they have visited. Call today's travel trend the Deeper Dive because that is exactly what a lot of travelers - in all generations - want. They are tired of superficiality, of always pursuing the new (yet another shiny object) and instead they want to go deep in a city or region or country or, sometimes, simply a neighborhood that holds appeal for them.
The Gillick article is about his love for Japan - he's been 18 times in 14 years. Personally I've been to France more times than I can count, ditto India, also Africa, and I'd like to be able to say that about Bali, Berlin, and Greece.
There just are places that draw us back for encore visits and, as travel marketers, we need to cease the quest for what's new and instead focus on what's cool, what's enriching, what's compelling, and what don't ordinary tourists see and do but aficionados will want to know about.
New often just is tiresome in its superficiality. What's old frequently in fact has passed the test of time and it thrills now, just as it did in 1919. Maybe earlier.
Of course with this reality in mind, pursuing a strategy of upping the number of repeat visitors entails a two track marketing-PR campaign where one track seeks to attract first-time visitors (most of whom will want to explore the "greatest hits" that are the staples of guidebooks and most travel articles). On your first visit to Paris you must go to the Louvre, Notre Dame, walk along the Seine, see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and probably eat at a few of the places called out in Hemingway's "Moveable Feast."
On your second visit - well, you've done all those first visit to-dos (note: the Louvre is worth revisiting on every trip, just as the Prado is in Madrid and the Met in NYC). What now? That's where the individual traveler's distinct, personal tastes kick in and so we can also say that this new phase of travel truly ups the ante for personalization of experiences. It is easy to talk about them - who in travel isn't right now? - but it is much harder to truly deliver those unique, captivating moments that this traveler craves.
This is the second track of hotel marketing that PR now need also to pursue: finding ways to present - with excitement and flourishes - the history and traditions that make a destination, a country, a hotel or resort special.
The way to win repeat guests is to be able to double down on delivering personalized experiences that will work for this guest. And potential guests need to know that this is on offer.
Not easy to deliver this personalization for each guest. But it can be done.
For marketers and PR the challenge is getting out a stream of information that highlights the many distinctive features of the destination. More is better. This also means tapping into influencers, academics, travel writers, whoever can help tell the story of the riches that can be mined by curious repeat visitors.
Remember the famous Samuel Johnson quotation: "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
The same can be said of Paris. Rome. Delhi. Bali. New York City. The list goes on and, yes, all warrant repeat visits.
A quick six-day visit to Bali is akin to reading a condensed book version of Moby Dick. You might get the plot but what have you missed? A lot.
But for many travelers that short intro trip whets the appetite for a banquet of delights in a longer return visit - and possibly many more such visits.
They may not know exactly what to do however. That's where our jobs start.
Remember this: it doesn't have to be new to sell. In fact it just may be a lot easier to sell a repeat visit to a traveler who spent a too quick day or three in a prime destination. They got a sample, now they want the full treatment.
They will come if we tell them what we have. The job is ours to do.