The downturn is changing how business and vacations travelers are making decisions. With economic uncertainty, cautious consumers, and strained personal finances driving leisure choices, owners and operators of small or older resort destinations need to establish a clear competitive position. Travelers might not go as far or as often, but they want value for their time and money – competition is keener than ever.
“Resorts must think creatively about what guests want beyond the basics and address existing resources and operations to accommodate expectations,” said international resort planner Bob Gorman, RLA, FASL, principal at Mahan Rykiel Associates www.mahanrykiel.com. “Major hospitality players, as well as smaller, one-of-a-kind destinations, are focusing on a differentiated ‘guest experience’ to set them apart from the crowd.”
Whether the property is large or small, new or old, strategies for maximizing resources and establishing a competitive position fall into distinct categories that can be employed by nearly any hospitality offering. Gorman shares his 5-E approach – engage, establish, elevate, expand, and encourage.
Engage professionals to produce an experience audit that will help owners understand their strengths and constraints and reveal hidden opportunities. Experienced professionals can quickly analyze a property’s physical and operational situation, marketing position. and image profile to provide a basis for a repositioning strategy.
Establish a differentiated position, a special niche, in the marketplace by identifying missing assets or playing up a unique and authentic angle. Understanding how a property is perceived is a crucial first step toward creating a new “place.” Rate the property against the competition: location and the arrival experience, lodging products, food and beverage quality, and diversity, recreational facilities, amenities and general ambience, meeting and conferencing opportunities, and specialized facilities, etc.
Elevate the e-profile and get noticed. As travelers increasingly turn to the Internet for research and reservations, resorts can create an advantage and clear identity with their websites. A well-designed site entices visitors with products and offerings like customized retail products, special packages, access to events and activities off-site, and member or loyalty programs.
Expand average daily rates with a menu of choices in lodging types; expected and unexpected activities; and beautiful, exceptional settings that will keep guests on site longer. Destination resort destinations have an advantage with a captive audience, but those guests have high expectations.
Encourage repeat visits by providing accommodations, service, and food of the highest quality and value. Combine the “guest experience” with creative programming and special nurturing to bring visitors back again and again.
Competing successfully in today’s resort destination market requires a complete understanding of resources and a clear-eyed evaluation of both the constraints and the opportunities for enhancement. “In this environment, a resort must not only deliver quality and value and but also the opportunity to take home a sixth “E” – a memorable Experience.”