Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Story of Bill, Gary, and Jane

Bill runs Trinity Escape, a small cottage property on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. He offers a dozen oceanfront cottages from June through September. He is usually booked solid in July and August.

Bill has had a website for four years that was built by his brother-in-law. He cannot update it himself so every 4-6 months Bill pays to make any changes that are needed. He receives about 30 email and phone inquiries per week, but this number has dropped off over the past year or two, even though travelers are already starting to plan their summer vacations.

One such traveler is Jane from Calgary who has just clicked onto Bill’s website. Jane is flying home in the summer to visit her family and is planning a girl’s weekend away with her sisters. She went online and Googled "cottages for rent in Newfoundland" but found no good results. She then Googled "tourism Newfoundland" and found a list of properties on the provincial tourism website, which she is going through one at a time.

Jane likes the location on the ocean and the cottages look comfortable. She needs to bring her sister’s dog but it takes her awhile to find the policy information. It’s a bit ambiguous as to which cottages will allow dogs but she is willing to take a chance. The cottage fits her budget and she is ready to book. After scanning around for online booking, she realizes Bill doesn’t offer it. Jane hits the "back" button and returns to the provincial tourism website. She may be back if she doesn’t find another property that is suitable -- and if she remembers the site.

Jane clicks the next link in the list and she arrives at the site of Gary’s Oceanside Cottages, 25 km down the road from Bill’s. Jane quickly finds an ideal cottage. She stares in awe at a photo of the sun setting over the ocean, as seen from the deck of the cottage, and salivates at the homemade raspberry scones, crème fraiche and coffee that are delivered each morning. She sees that the cottage is available when she is visiting. Jane is sold and clicks the Book this Cottage button adjacent to the room description. Jane is so excited she calls her sisters

Gary is relaxing by the pool at his condo in Bradenton, FL. He spent the day deep sea fishing. He checks his email and sees that cottage 8 was booked online for a 2-night package in the second week in June. That brings his occupancy for that month up to 74%. He sends Jane a short email to thank her for her business and asks if they have any special requirements for their breakfast or her sister’s dog.

Its mid-June and Bill is shaking his head. For the first time in 20 years he still has vacancies for July. He looks around his property – his gardens are in full bloom and the new dock he built over the winter is just waiting for visitors to launch the kayaks. "Maybe I should lower my rates and put an ad in the paper?" he asks himself.

What do you think?
Do you think an Ad in the newspaper is going to do anything for Bill's occupancy rates?

You know what I think - I think that Bill should have taken the Tourism Technology Website Mentoring Session from myself, and updated his site. Even just a few updates/changes may have prompted Jane to perhaps reserve by phone, and would not have cost Bill a lot of money.

Call me to book your session.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Creating links both real and virtual

The following content is taken from the March 2009 enRoute magazine which I read on a recent Air Canada flight to Toronto.

Travel is a social activity. You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. On a business trip, you hang out at your hotel bar and meet others doing the same thing. You strike up a conversation. Sometimes, you stay in touch. Every business trip is really a trip to meet someone.

So it’s not really surprising that the social aspect of travel has morphed into social networking. Sites like FlyerTalk are not just message boards about airlines and airports but also places where people “meet” and talk and, eventually, socialize.

The endless number of applications built around travel speaks to our desire to see the world or, if we can’t, to experience it vicariously through others. What these sites do is something many are calling “intelligent networking.” Our business trips are often networking opportunities, and the Internet has allowed us to network without leaving our desks.

On Twitter anyone who is thinking about travelling announces it to the world. The “tweets” come in waves when someone is actually on the road; it’s almost as if you’re travelling with them, and, in a sense, you are. From Twitter you can link to a site where you’ve uploaded your photos, so your followers can see what you’re talking about.

Go to Flickr, another photo-sharing site, and you can sort through millions of vacation photos from all over the world.

Why are we doing this?

Well, what’s the first thing you ask when meeting someone who’s been away?
How was the trip?

Because travel is social. You want to know the story. Watching others travel allows us to construct our own stories in our minds. Every traveller has something to relate, no matter how mundane the reason for travel, and every anecdote has the potential to illuminate and entertain.

And if this social travel allows me to grow my network and even wins me new business? Well, that’s about as intelligent as networking gets.