Ireland is an expensive country to live in, so you can only imagine how expensive it is as a holiday destination. What can businesses do to ensure that customers receive value for money on their holiday to Ireland?
After the past couple of days amidst the St.Patrick’s day festivities we have seen tens of thousands of holiday makers flying in to Irish airports to travel to cities and towns all around the country to witness and experience our national holiday. In recent years we have seen St.Patrick’s Day go from being a one day occasion to nearly a week long event with various things popping up all over the country on the run up to the 17th of March.
This is the result of the very clever national marketing campaign strategically put together by the St.Patrick’s Festival team, lead by CEO Susan Kirby. The campaign strategically uses seasonality and regional locations to encourage visitors to every corner of the country. Including the newly-launched Hidden Heartlands, which links The Wild Atlantic Way with The Ancient East.
The holiday seasons are being extended beyond the obvious summer months in order to make Ireland a more desirable destination all year round. Festivals such as “May the Fourth Be With You” witch takes place in Kerry each year, and a clear focus on the corporate MICE ( Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events ) market is extensive. It is certainly paying off, as the results show. Last year Ireland had 9.6 million international visitors and 9.8 million domestic “staycationers”. Spending a combined total of €7.8 billion, contributing towards the employment of 260,000 people.
First, there are a few obstacles to overcome. Brexit being an obvious one that is likely to effect the number of visitors from Britain & Northern Ireland. Airbnb is also a big threat to the traditional hospitality industry and accommodation providers. However, one of our biggest challenges to overcome as a nation is our pricing, as we are perceived to be quite expensive. It’s thought that as a nation we charge premium prices compared to other lower-cost destinations. Charging premium prices is okay provided the customers get a premium experience to match those prices. Think about it, imagine you own a business and charge premium prices for a poor customer experience. Where does that leave you? Against a very competitive market and rising customer expectations, it’s something worth keeping an eye out for.
There are a number of ideas up for debate in order to reverse the growing negativity about value for money in Ireland, that can totally be amended and altered under our control.
1 Refresh the customer experience in your own business.
Before the tourist season begins it’s important for business owners to stand back and analyse their own business through the eyes of a visitor. Customers will judge a business based on the ‘product/service’, the ‘place’ and of course the ‘people’. We need to observe our services objectively with no bias and really observe what is aiding the business and what is hindering your business from success. Is your 5 Star Hotel being held back by a 3 Star receptionist? Is the standard of the food in your restaurant acceptable for the prices that you are charging your customers? Is your taxi clean and comfortable?
2 Embrace ‘destination thinking’ by engaging with your local tourism associations.
Be generous and think beyond your own business. Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor and see things through their point of view. For example, imagine a visitor coming to experience The Wild Atlantic Way. It’s likely that they have conducted some form of online booking ahead of time, they arrive at the destination, they experience our transport systems and infrastructure, they arrive at their accommodation forming their first impressions, they check in, they experience the dining/bar facilities, the entertainment and so on until it’s time for their departure. Consider where your business fits in to that chain and how can you improve the over all customer experience.
3 Look at how we as independent business-owners can work together in our local area to promote our town.
Work with neighboring businesses. In destinations where tourism is a large majority of the annual income it’s important to work with other local businesses rather than compete. Are your visitors getting a consistent premium experience in all moments of truth or are they getting mix messages from the locality? Consider what you can do in order to play a crucial role in ensuring that the customer experience in your over all destination is premium.
Allow Customers the Last Word
There are three factors that seem to be common to most businesses.
First and foremost, you want customers to buy from you or experience your service immediately. Secondly, you want them to return to your business in the future creating repeat customers. Thirdly, and vital in a world where review sites have huge influence. You want your customers to recommend your business to their friends.
It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that research shows that the single most significant driver of those three outcomes is the quality of the experience that the customers have.
Business owners need to start asking themselves the question: “As a stand-alone business, would my customers recommend me to their friends?”
Let’s not seek to cast judgement on others until we get our own premises in order first.
This is just an outline of some suggestions that might be worth taking into consideration if we want our businesses to thrive this tourist season. This does not mean that we all have to be four and five star establishments when it comes to our product offering or premises. However, if we want to be authentic to our reputation for ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’, then we should encourage our people to be the very best that they can be in their interactions with guests to our country.