The staycation boom of recent years means that UK holiday park operators now have access to more potential customers than ever before. This growing market brings extra challenges: how can parks best increase their visibility and rise above the competition? “Now, more than ever, understanding and creating a joined-up marketing approach is vital to your holiday park or campsite’s ongoing success,” says Andrew Hampton, one of the Directors of tourism marketing specialists Pitched. It’s taken as a given in these digital days that at the centre of any integrated marketing strategy is a well-designed website. “As the saying goes, first impressions count,” says Andrew. “Your website will be the first port of call for 99% of your customers, so it not only needs to stand out from the crowd but work seamlessly too – across all devices.” With traffic from mobile devices likely to equate to over 60% of all traffic to a website, Andrew advises his clients to spend more time thinking about the user experience on mobile: “Does the site display properly, is it easy to navigate, can users easily start an online booking, and can they find all the information they need?”
Visual appeal is key in creating a lasting impression on potential customers and authenticity helps to avoid potential pitfalls later. According to Andrew, park operators shouldn’t be tempted to scrimp on imagery and video: “People can spot a stock image from a hundred paces – they want to see pictures of where they will be staying, not something from a magazine shoot in America.” To be effective, websites must not only look good but drive bookings and enquiries. More often than not, customers need a nudge in the right direction and adding high visibility Call To Action (CTA) messages throughout a website helps to get people into the online booking process quicker. Ensuring high visibility of your website means embracing the so-called ‘dark arts’ of SEO and PPC. Nurturing your website with regular, well-considered content as part of aSEO strategy is almost certain to help your organic traffic build over time but PPC can offer quick wins for those with bigger pockets. According to Andrew, PPC can be an effective way to cheat the system and propel your site to the heights of Google but a word of caution… “£100 here and there really isn’t going to cut it. During peak booking periods, park operators must be prepared to spend well over £1,000 a month if they want to get their ads in front of enough eyeballs to have any sort of impact.” Modern technology is continually opening up new marketing channels. According to Industry Expert and Managing Director of Key Digital Agency, David Lakins, Voice is an area that is having a huge impact. Incorporating Voice into your marketing strategy means focusing on two areas: Optimising your website for voice search, and developing your own voice assistants. “Voice searches change how your guests are searching. If your park website is going to answer the natural language questions people now use to search, your content is the first thing that should be reviewed,” explains David. In simple terms, this will mean incorporating longer voice-friendly key phrases and using question phrases in your content, for example, by creating an FAQ page on your website. Most voice searches take place from a mobile device, which gives an even greater reason to ensure your site is optimised for mobile. For David, effective marketing for holiday parks is about “having a strong digital presence - not necessarily being good at everything - but showing your guests that you understand them and the way they want to connect with a park.” Key Digital is at the forefront of looking at ways in which parks can use Voice for connecting with guests - particularly ‘in-stay’.With the popularity of voice control devices increasing in the home, it seems natural that the next step will be their use in holiday accommodation. Last year, Amazon started to trial their new Alexa for Hospitality system and as David says, “Watch this space…” Increasingly, Social Media channels are a vital route to market, as well as a key customer service tool. David believes that “more than anything, parks need to focus their attention on treating social networking as a preferred way to connect with guests.” He recommends looking beyond the three main channels of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keeping an eye on the chosen platforms of the next generation of consumers. David also advises that park operators consider using influencer marketing as part of their content strategy. This means developing “meaningful customer relationships and turning them into park advocates”, as well as building links with existing influencers. Harnessing the power of video is also critical to successfully generating engagement and building followers. For most parks, effective digital marketing means time to call in an expert. According to Smart Marketing’s Caroline Farrar, using an outsourced marketing expert brings “a valuable, outside perspective to your park, leading to fresh ideas and programs that drive results.” Caroline has worked as a Marketing Consultant for Holgates Holiday Park Group (six 5 star parks in North Lancashire and South Cumbria) for the past three years. “Initially, my core focus was on their digital strategy, social channels and a new website build. Now this extends to a monthly, retained service providing marketing support and strategy guidance. Measurability and budget management is also key to this support.” According to Holgate’s owner Michael Holgate, Caroline’s great digital knowledge fills an obvious “skills gap” in their business.With digital activity now accounting for 80% of the Holgate’s marketing budget, tracking and being able to offer a demonstrable return on investment is an important part of Caroline’s remit. A fundamental advantage of digital marketing is the ability to more easily measure success and ROI. Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools, and the good news is it’s free and easy to use! Andrew Hampton says Google Analytics should be “your best friend.” His agency, Pitched, use it on a daily basis. “Once configured, Google Analytics will record everything you need to know,” says Andrew. “From revenue from social media and email campaigns to your PPC performance, this is the place where you can view it all with relative ease.” With this increased, modern focus on digital marketing, it’s important that park operators implementing an integrated marketing strategy don’t ignore offline opportunities such as print (see case study) or more traditional communication channels.
PR may be ‘old-school’ but park owners should not dismiss it. Jon Boston specialises in PR consultancy for holiday parks. The bulk of his work, he says, is helping parks to gain editorial coverage both in print and online, and where possible on television and radio. But he wonders if some parks aren’t missing a trick when it comes to gaining free publicity: “The staycation boom is increasingly putting the spotlight on Britain’s tourism industry, and editors are often keen to feature interesting examples of what accommodation providers are doing to woo new customers,” he says. “Parks have a particularly strong hand to play here because they can usually offer a much more diverse and exciting alternative to more traditional options such as hotels and holiday cottages.” Jon recommends picking up on an interesting news angle that is likely to engage editors, and including quality imagery: “Fielding a good story is important – but just as crucial is supplying a great photograph to go with it.”
Finally, park operators should consider developing partnerships with larger groups to achieve greater economies of scale, or even working with Online Travel Agents (OTAs). David Lakins believes that OTAs are “the biggest threats to parks at the moment” due to the size of their budgets and their powerful marketing spend, which leaves many parks unable to compete. But if you can’t beat them, why not join them? Mara Casadio, Marketing and Content Executive for Pitchup.com, says that OTAs can help parks avoid risk associated with promotional activity since commission is only payable on a successful sale. They can also help parks reach certain customer segments more efficiently. “With international tourists to the UK at an all-time high, parks can target this untapped market via OTAs,” explains Mara. “Pitchup.com is now translated into 16 languages. Nearly 25% of our traffic now comes from outside the UK as a result of media promotion, as well as other international activity including SEO, paid search and newsletters.” Pitchup.com’s investment in their award-winning mobile site means that they have a strong appeal to a younger, international audience who can book in just a couple of minutes, even whilst travelling. Parks are not necessarily investing twice or competing for the same sales lead. Mara explains: “One major group found an overlap of only 3% between their Pitchup customers and their existing customer database.” According to Jon Moxon, Business Development Manager of Hoseasons, the Booking Agent’s size and scale, accommodating over 1.75 million holidaymakers each year, means they can offer “unrivalled access to the UK self-catering market.” Parks can benefit from cutting-edge technological and booking solutions, as well as dynamic pricing software to maximise yield. Jon continues: “As part of the partnership, owners also have a dedicated account manager who draws on a huge bank of expert knowledge and data to provide our partners with the insight they need to best run their businesses.”
The Power Of The Print Brochure
Located near Penzance in West Cornwall, Kenegie Manor offers self-catering cottages, bungalows, apartments and barn conversions. Alongside website development, SEO and PPC services, Pitched also handles the park’s printed material. The annual brochure continues to be a big source of bookings and enquiries. The park also sends out several postcards and mailers to promote offers or to push quieter, shoulder weeks and months. Ed Newbold, owner of Kenegie Manor, says: “Print still has a huge role to play in the industry and, even in this digital world, is a vital part of our overall marketing strategy.” He continues: “In this post GDPR era, where email databases have been reduced, print continues to serve us well. An email can be deleted, easily forgotten or go unnoticed. A brochure will be picked up time and again and serves as a reminder to regular and new guests. Our brochure and mailshots have proven to be not only excellent marketing tools but also an important driver of bookings.”