The guest reviews culture: why your customers play a major role in the travel PR strategy

In the last decade and a bit, we’ve seen a major boom in the popularity of online travel reviews. In line with the brave new world of the ‘sharing economy’, guest review form part of the online opinion sharing that is very much commonplace.

Guest reviews - go get ‘em

Affecting the hospitality and travel sectors majorly, reviewing culture has been both friend and foe to many businesses. For hoteliers and holiday rental companies, the likes of TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and Feefo can be pivotal in how accommodation is perceived beyond the photos and before a guest even steps over the threshold.

As peak summer season looms, there’s no better time to get your guest review strategy sorted.

Customer service and expectations

Travel reviews typically reflect the level and quality of service received by a guest. Delivering flawless customer service isn’t just good business sense. It should play a major role in your travel PR and brand reputation strategies too. If you can nail the ‘excellent service’ aspect and develop a third party review strategy, it should be very easy to benefit from guest reviews and really reap the rewards.  

But it doesn’t always come down to service. There will always be that 10% that will baffle you with their feedback, however hard you try. A customer’s expectations are individual and highly subjective. You can but do your very best, decipher what you can from the poorest of feedback and take the rest on the chin, and move on!

Here are a few of our pearls of travel PR wisdom when implementing a third party guest review strategy:

1. Ask your customers for reviews

Sorry for being so basic on this first point, but we have a motto here: “don’t ask, don’t get”. This is particularly pertinent to guest reviews. Not every guest will leave one, so if you really want them get out there and ask for them. It’s important to encourage reviews.

Even if you fear someone leaving a negative review, it’s necessary to understand the reasons why in order to act on them and avoid receiving the same feedback twice. Briefing staff to encourage positive feedback on review sites is important in order to gather any praise, suggestions or constructive criticism in writing.

Many travel or hospitality companies find it helpful to implement a post-visit email process in order to generate more online reviews.

2. Be aware of all the review sites

Make sure you’re aware of who is talking about you and where. It’s easy to focus on TripAdvisor as it’s arguably the most popular site, but don’t neglect the likes of Feefo, Reviewcentre, Trustpilot, Facebook, Google Business and any other third party booking site that your guest may have booked through.

The key is to understand where your customers are most likely to be hanging out online, and tailoring your guest reviews and travel PR strategy accordingly.

3. Don’t ignore negative reviews

Ignoring negative reviews is a bit like saying ‘no comment’ in a crisis management situation. In fact, it’s often worth applying a crisis management strategy to negative online reviews. It’s important to tackle the issue head on by acknowledging and apologising first, then outline how any issues will be rectified moving forward.

Inevitably, there are a number of reviewers who will leave bad reviews just for the sake of it and some whose claims you may deem unfair. But whatever you do, always resist the temptation for a Basil-Fawlty-esque rash response. Naturally, the attitude of ‘customer is always right’ is desirable default setting, but equally don't be afraid to (diplomatically and effectively) point out where expectations and reality were far removed from each other.

Just remember that in this digital age, your customers can influence your brand reputation more than you'd sometimes like. Hence the need for a customer centric communications strategy. 

4. Respond to guest reviews

You’ve gone to the effort of asking guests to review their experience at your venue, so keep the conversation going and honour their goodwill with a response of your own. Positive or negative, respond in a brief yet appropriate manner for the angle of review they’ve left and your brand’s tone of voice. Be consistent without being repetitive.

This is the kind of admin task that’s worth allocating diary time to, so you know it’ll get done. It might even be worth rotating the task between staff so that the team as a whole gets full exposure to guest reviews.

If you’d like to have a chat about online reputation management, a communications strategy for your business, or to discuss your travel PR let’s talk.


My work experience week at Coconut PR - Isabella

Work experience. Most of us dread it. Weeks of nagging from teachers about finding a placement, getting forms signed, actually going to the placement. Actually, it all happened so quickly. Many of us do work experience at the beginning of our GCSEs just to get a feel of the workplace, most having no clue as to what they want to do in the future. So to be doing work experience in my final year of college, I knew that it had to be something that would be productive but also beneficial to me. With my interest in marketing growing, I ended up exploring my options. And that’s how I ended up at Coconut PR.

Having friends who have graduated and are working in their graduate jobs, I always wondered how they can do Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. It was definitely something that I wasn’t looking forward to when I thought about life after university.

Monday morning at 9am I was greeted by a friendly face, Kate the director. Being quite nervous, I wasn’t expecting to be made to feel welcome and comfortable so quickly. Having done work experience twice before, I realised that a recurring question asked by the placement provider is what do you hope to get out of your work experience week? In the past, I’d make up some rubbish about wanting to know what the work place is like. But I remembered that in a few years to come, I will have to face the workplace, whether I want to or not. So for this reason I had mentally prepared myself before arriving, to have a positive mindset but to also make sure that I get the most out of my week at Coconut PR. Leaving the office everyday with something that I didn’t know before, accompanied by a smile on my face, I finally understood why people love their jobs and how they’re able to wake up at 7am everyday. When you enjoy it, it is worth it.


Many of us will see our favourite celebrities tweet something outrageous and the first thing we’ll think about is where is their PR team and what are they doing? This was me. I only knew/thought about PR in regard to celebrities and people of status. However, after a tour of the bright and welcoming office, Kate told me about PR and what Coconut PR does as a business, focusing on travel and hospitality. This opened a whole new world to me, which came with thousands of questions, which were happily answered by Tom as well. Having started a small business where I design logos, content for social media and other marketing resources, to now learn that PR does involve having control over social media and the content that is published about a business, really fascinated me. Being someone who enjoys writing, I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to do some research, write a few blogs and create social media plans that would be examples of what is posted on the clients’ websites. Previous work experience placements involved sitting at a desk doing nothing or simply stacking shelves, but not learning anything, so this was something completely new to me.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re supposed to ask questions, but you didn’t have anything to ask? Well that wasn’t me during my week of work experience (for once). Throughout the week questions kept popping up in my head and I knew that I had to ask them all. Luckily Kate and Tom always answered my questions. Being able to ask questions and have them answered by some of the best in their industry was really a privilege. I even took some notes because I learnt so much, which would be valuable to me and a lot of people around me who have started small businesses. There is so much more to PR than what I knew and I am so glad to have done work experience at Coconut PR. From someone who really did not want to do work experience this year, I have come out of it being very pleased.

A week of learning, observations being made, lots of questions asked and plenty of laughter. Sounds like a pretty fantastic work experience, right? I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Coconut PR and I’m grateful to the team for giving me this opportunity, but for also sharing their expertise and wisdom to enhance my knowledge in regard to the PR industry.

Internships and work experience in Oxfordshire

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I still don't know the answer to that question, if it's any consolation. I'm not entirely sure the work experience placements I did at school and uni really helped steer me on this either, but they did provide useful insight into what other people did day in day out, Monday to Friday. Can't say it inspired me all that much though!

Work experience in marketing and PR

Here at Coconut we welcome school and college students for a week at a time to experience what working life is like, with us anyway. You'll be treated like any other member of the team. That means you'll have a laptop, you'll asked to contribute to team tasks, to planning and creative ideas, to research for media pitches, to content for client websites, blogs and news outlets. We won't ask you to make the tea, but we will expect you to make yourself at home and part of the team, so if you're thirsty feel free to ask anyone else if they'd like a drink too. 

We'll sign your timesheet, tick boxes for your tutors and give you feedback on your work. We'll also ask you to write about your time with us, so that other future work placement students can hear how it was, from the horse's mouth. We might even invite you back!

Read what Isabella had to say about work experience at Coconut

PR and communications internships

Does your university course require you to complete an internship as part of your degree? Or have you already graduated and are looking for a paid internship to help bolster your CV?

Either way, an internship at Coconut PR will put you at the coalface of modern day PR. We're a boutique PR and communications agency in South Oxfordshire specialising in travel and hospitality. That means we have clients including accommodation providers, restaurants, hotels, bars and drinks products. 

There is no typical day in the non-stop world of PR. But our interns work as part of the team, learning on the job, liaising with the media, with bloggers and with clients. You'll need an enthusiasm for sharing the love, whether that's a knack for crafting kooky social media content, researching and drafting articles and blog posts, or a having a creative way with the dullest of concepts. Just like our work experience students, if you make the odd cup of tea or introduce us to a new band, Netflix series or the hottest thing in digital marketing - you'll build team bridges quickly.  

What will you get out of an internship in Oxfordshire?

Business doesn't happen out in the sticks, does it? Sorry to be the bearer of groundbreaking news, but we work for clients nationwide and the fact we're based 20 minutes from Oxford city centre is neither here nor there. Our Oxford clients love our Oxford knowledge and experience. And our other clients (in London, East Anglia, Sussex, Cornwall and France) don't mind that we have a gorgeous little office on a green business park in rural Oxfordshire, because it means we don't bump up their fees to cover our London office overheads. 

Rural businesses might not have an artisan coffee shop downstairs, or a cool after work bar next door, but we still do outstanding work for our clients (fuelled by our very own proper bean-to-cup coffee machine, so there) and have a good time while doing it. 

For a real insight into an internship with us talk to Tom - that's how his career at Coconut started and he's still here.

Apply for an internship

If you'd like to apply for an internship drop me a line

What's likely to sway me that you're the right person for the job? A go-get-em attitude, a genuine interest in digital PR and comms, an insight into what you could bring to the team and to our clients. Over to you...

How to engage with your social media followers

There are five things worth knowing about social media marketing:

  1. It is an effective marketing channel for your business if applied strategically
  2. One size does not fit all
  3. It is at least as time consuming, if not more so, than the other marketing activity you're doing
  4. Social media is not free (it never was)
  5. Content is king

In other words, if you're still sceptical about the social media marketing opportunity for business growth, let's see if we can overcome that hurdle. As 'social' as social media networking first began, and while the personable traits apply to business pages as much as to personal pages, only tackle social media for your brand with a business head on.

Social media strategy

What is it that you're trying to achieve from social media activity? You might be trying to reach an existing audience with an extension of your messaging to reinforce your brand, product or service. You might also be trying to reach a new and wider audience. Ultimately, you should be striving for results that support your bottom line: hotel bookings, restaurant bookings, accommodation enquiries, product purchases. 

What social media activity also provides is an opportunity to nurture an audience. You can achieve this through publishing content on your channels that is both fascinating and entertaining as well as useful. Don't think about what you want to say about yourself, when structuring your social media content strategy. Think about what your audience might benefit from knowing that you can provide them with. 

A strategy for each social media channel

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more. Which social media channels you create a business account for depends on who you're trying to reach. Facebook may have started in university halls but it's increasingly a domain for a maturer audience (think 25-65). Instagram, on the contrary, has a more compact demographic peaking in the mid thirties. While the stats say that Twitter's user base is quite young, it perhaps starts younger than Facebook and doesn't age quite so well. Snapchat (as long as it may last) is very much a teens and twenties playground. Pinterest is a female-heavy platform (25-55) and used by many as a search engine in its own right. LinkedIn on the other hand is designed for anyone in employment - you're online CV and your business's opportunity to talk business.

Beyond demographics, consider what each platform's users are doing in each platform. Why do they login or open the app? What are they looking for? Who or what do they want to interact with? What's the likelihood they'll engage and share the content versus simply browse through it?

With a bit of research and some similar insight into the leanings of your existing customer base, you can begin. 

Investing resource in social media activity

When I first created social media accounts for a business in the mid-noughties, we did it because we spotted a digital marketing opportunity early on. But it was very much something I did on the side, on top of my other responsibilities. Nowadays, armed with a social media strategy aligned to business objectives and your marketing goals, you need dedicated social media resource. If you don't have that expertise or resource in-house, don't worry. For some of our clients, social media is what we do.

In the last 10-12 years social media has changed. In a customer-centric business, social media (especially Facebook) is also a customer service channel. For many businesses that applies to Twitter too. You have to be prepared for that in terms of resource (time spent, availability of someone to interact and their ability to suitably respond).

You wouldn't scrimp on your ecommerce, so why scrimp on your customer facing interactions?

Social media budget

The greatest ever misconception about having a Facebook business page? That it doesn't cost anything. First up it requires resource and time, in-house or retained, that head appears in your budget somewhere. And we've already said this is not a 'while you're there' task. 

Most pertinently as we drive head first into 2018, social media has evolved significantly since first concepts. Having been stormed by brands in endeavours to reach customers and generate digital word of mouth marketing, the platforms have (mostly) figured out how to monetise that. 

Facebook was once known as the poor man's Google Adwords. It's still a much cheaper cost per acquisition (CPA) for most businesses compared to bidding for top spot on Google against your competitors. But Facebook is also an algorithm, ever evolving and increasingly expensive for advertisers. Mark Zuckerburg's most recent announcement about the changes to the news feed and what that'll mean for brands will ensure that.

That resource we talked about is also responsible for boosting posts, creating Facebook ads, managing social media budget and monitoring CPA and outcomes.

You don't have to spend heaps to see success. You are going to have to test what works and what doesn't. Social media paid advertising budgets are only going to increase.

Content is king - an honest cliche 

Most people hate that phrase nowadays - yet more marketing jargon that's been overhyped and badly executed. Well, unfortunately, is still holds true. But it's not alone. Timing plays a pretty big part in its effectiveness. Oh and so does that thing we talked about above: budget. 

If we go back to the crux of what social media networking is all about, we'll find social interaction. This is played out through visuals (still and moving), in-the-moment access, humour and fascinating facts.

Whether or not people interact comes down to whether or not it makes them feel a range of emotions: warm and fuzzy (emotive content), chuckling and cheered (funny or entertaining content), first-to-know (breaking news or live content), enlightened (subtly educational content).

Simple, huh?!

We manage social media accounts for clients for travel, hotel, restaurants and drinks brands. If you want to explore this further, let's chat.

Repurposing blog content - why and how

A while ago you wrote some great content or blog posts for your website. Since then, Google's algorithm has had a shake up, you've added an SEO plugin to your blog and then got distracted by something more pressing. 

Sound familiar? No need to fret.

Repurposing blog content is a thing. It's also fairly well regarded in the eyes (or spiders) of search engines. 

What are the benefits of repurposing old content?

  1. resurface your most popular content
  2. gain greater traction with your audience on your expert topic
  3. reach new audiences 

For longstanding visitors to your website or fans of your social media profiles, your most popular blog posts might already be well known. But what about new website visitors and new customer prospects? How would they find your best / most expert / most useful tips and advice without searching long and hard for it? (NB the average internet is not going to do that). 

Resurfacing your best performing (attracts most traffic from search engines or drives most bookings) will help reassert your brand's expertise on a topic, which in turn leads to greater traction with your target audience and a way to hook new customers.

How to repurpose blog content

There are myriad ways to take existing blog content and inject new life into it and/or generate fresh content from existing content on the same topic. Here's a starter for ten on doing just that so that your approach is both varied and interesting while adding value to your audience and your search rankings.

Take a listicle and create individual posts about each point

Turn your list into cornerstone content for a series of posts on an area of expertise. Cornerstone content is a search engine optimisation term for the primary piece of content on a topic. From there you can create sub-content (also known as 'child' pieces to your 'mother' content). These are often more detailed specifics while the original listicle acts as a summary or overview of a topic.

Create a summary post for a group of related posts

Flipping the previous idea on its head, if you've got a bank of detailed pieces, create a summary post for your audience to start from. Consider your content a funnel that your reader journeys through to understand more. Most web users start by skimming and only linger when they find what they're looking for, so starting with an overview article that links to the more detailed posts as well as to pages of your site where they can book/purchase/enquire it a more positive user experience.

Create a video using blog content

If your blog content has strong visuals, graphics or even video snippets already in it, creating a video version of that content is straightforward because many of the components already exist. Create a brief storyboard for the flow of the video (your blog post subheadings might be the prompts for each section of the board), craft a script (for voiceover and/or subtitles), select a licence-free soundtrack and choose your software. We're currently fans of Lumen5.

Create a slideshare

Longstanding slideshare software is freely available online for quick and easy conversion of your existing content and graphics into a digital slide deck. It's a bit old school in some respects but still prevalent as a B2B marketing tactic and for effective delivery of 'how to' content.

Create an infographic

With free tools like Canva, you don't need to be an expert graphic designer to whip up quick graphics and infographics. It'll doubtless take you longer than a skilled graphic designer - they're worth their weight if you can afford one. But if you can prevent yourself from getting distracted by the plethora of templates, fonts and colours, you'll discover a great way to deliver your existing content in a succinct and easy-on-the-eye format. Infographics also act as a download for new visitors to your website and are often used as a tool of data capture. 

Create a Pinterest ‘instructographic’

Not unlike an infographic, but specifically designed in Pinterest format (Canva can help with this too) and with a Pinterest audience in mind. Pinterest has even produce a how to video of its own to help users create these.

Start afresh acknowledging the original

If things have moved on a fair amount since you first wrote about a particular topic, it's probably best to write a brand new blog post on the subject. Publish a new, more current article on the same topic with a note about the post’s origins. If you want to demonstrate the longevity of your expertise, perhaps keep the original live and linked to from the new one (obviously clearly marked as 'once upon a time').

Create an email series

Where you've got a blog post that's a listicle or a series of posts on a single topic, would these be useful pointers for your email marketing database to know about? Blog content served up via email often acts as perfect nurture content, i.e. a way to communicate with your customer base in a non-salesy, value added fashion. 

You could create a daily/weekly email series using one point from each post or list as the brief email. This is particularly good for tip/advice sharing when a person is new to your list. Alternatively, add an information only email to your newsletter plan and give your readers a break from the upsell once in a while.

Write that ebook/pdf download

Always dream of authoring a title? Self-publishing is prolific these days, but what we're talking about here is taking that blog post series and turning it into a pdf. In a totally quick and dirty fashion, do that, add in some relevant non-copyrighted images, calls to action, a front cover and publishing details and then get your web guys to create a url for it. This is a much used data capture tactic whereby a user provides their email address in return for access to the download. Don't forget to ask them if they want to opt in to future marketing emails from you or risk getting your wrists slapped. 

Record a podcast

Generally speaking you're either an aural or a visual absorber of information. Yet in content terms, with the exception of audio books, those who prefer to listen and learn tend to get forgotten. Not everyone wants to read stuff. Tap in to that aural audience by turning your blog content into a podcast or series of podcasts.

Film your content

Whether it's you or someone else in your business who's more comfortable in front of the camera, express your knowledge personally through the medium of film. These days, it really doesn't take much more than a smart phone on a stable selfie stick stand and a well lit room to provide your studio setting. If your audience is heavy in its usage of social media channels, you might want to consider launching your film content through a device such as Facebook Live. If you keep the videos brief (30-60 seconds) you'll improve audience engagement and also create content perfect for your social media channels (and their algorithms love video right now, so you'll probably benefit from increased reach compared to your static posts too).

Turn individual tips and stats into individual social posts

This is either a light bulb or a no s*** Sherlock moment. Your blog content is natural content for you to be sharing on your social media channels, but stop a second a look at the specifics of the content. Take a bullet point, stat or opinion and use it as your actual social media post content, and add a relevant image to pack a punch. Not all social media posts need to nor should include a link, some should simply nurture your audience by reinforcing you know what you're talking about and know what it is they want to hear.

Link to blog posts from your customer newsletters

Your blog audience won't necessarily be the same as your email newsletter audience. In fact never assume that your audience is all in one place or marketing channel. Even if your promotional emails include a reference to your blog it will alert your email recipients to the existence of this content on your site. They might look at it now, or it might remind them when you send that nurture newsletter in a few weeks time.

If you're a hotel, restaurant, holiday company or group of hospitality venues and like the ideal of this but don't have the time or resource to execute it, let's chat

Reputation management: it's how you tell your story

Earlier this year I was asked to comment on the preposterous action being taken by easyJet on some flights. The dreadful deed? Cabin crew were taking hand luggage off passengers just as they were about to board their flight. 

This week I have been asked to comment on the news that easyJet has launched its "hands-free" luggage service whereby you can check your cabin luggage into the hold for £4 each way. 

PR stunt or customer listening?

A cynic would call this a PR stunt. Those more generous at offering benefit of the doubt might give them a pat on the back for flipping a negative story on its head into something positive. The use of the incremental revenue employee to provide comment on the news could even be argued as this being a purely operational decision. 

So which is it?

Burying bad news

If you check out the news results on Google for a search related to easyJet and hand luggage, you'll find a healthy stream of largely (early days) positive news stories about the story.

Adjust that search to find news about the kerfuffle about hand luggage and the hold earlier in the year and you'll struggle to find much. 

Albeit a tad delayed what they've achieved, despite a rather public spat with Daniella Westbrook about this exact issue, is that they've pretty much buried bad news. 

Time's a great healer

The problem: too many passengers are trying to travel with only hand luggage, to avoid hold luggage fees and waiting at bag collection carousels.

The big issue: there simply isn't enough space in the cabin to stow bag for every passenger in the overhead lockers (especially not when we're talking pull along suitcases).

The short term view: take bags off passengers at the gate at which point they have no choice (quite likely they'll have no insurance for what's in their hand luggage either, but that's another story). You'll take a thwack to your reputation, but what the hell, they'll come back for more and they'll learn for next time. Won't they...

The long game: develop a strategy that communicates an opportunity upfront to customers (via the media), gives them choices (buy hold space or risk having it taken away) and provides an accessible/affordable solution with 'added' benefits (apparently having less luggage will make security processing quicker and airport transition quicker). The outcome: a hands-free luggage option.

The art of storytelling. Or is it spin?

A good news story not only broadcasts or launches the new product or service, it also qualifies its creation. What easyJet has succeeded in doing here is both - hence why it made headlines and became a topic for debate today.

If they achieve any incremental revenue as a result, well done them.

Call it a win-win.

Tomorrow's chip paper

To anyone familiar with flying with low cost carriers, when this story broke in February this wasn't news. There were plenty of disgruntled passengers out there happy to share their stories. It turned out that having your hand luggage taken off you at the gate was fairly common practice, especially if you were towards the back of the queue. I saw it first hand on my way back from Malaga with easyJet in February. 

And some would argue that the story ran for a while and, as with most news in our rapidly revolving world, died a death a few days later. They used to call it tomorrow's chip paper. But despite the pace of news nowadays, the legacy of a story remains online, largely. So to a brand that has reputation management as marketing metric or objective, there's only one option: to replace the bad with good.

While, since then, it hasn't fascinated news or travel editors, it has continued to irritate customers. Which means it will continue to be corrosive for the brand's reputation unless they find a solution.

Quite the turnaround

It's taken them about six months to deliver this idea from corridor conversation (or creative scrum) to a PR-able story, but they've hit the headlines all the same. 

Turns out it was only easyJet. According to an online article in The Sun, Ryanair was playing the baddie too. So what will they do now...

What's lurking in your brand's closet?

It's hard to write a crisis comms strategy when you're on the inside. Trust me, I've been there.

I've also handled my fair share of journalists thrusting customer complaint letters down the phone or through email demanding an immediate response. It ain't pretty, but the more prepared you are, the less you'll panic and the greater chance you'll have of resolving the situation quickly and without too much noise.

Scenario planning forces you to face the possibilities of worst case scenarios that could result in the media hearing about and publishing a story relating to your company's involvement in 'a situation'. It isn't easy because few like to admit or look for those possibilities. 

If you need an objective perspective and are serious about crisis comms planning, let's talk.

What is the future for coastal tourism in Britain?

When the sun shines in Britain, we rush to the seaside like it might dry up before the day is out. We love the British coastline so much that we're prepared to sit in horrendous traffic jams to get there. And in our race to paddle in the sea, us Brits have acquired a fairly poor stereotype of forgetting to apply sunscreen.

However, the British weather and our haste to visit the coast when the climate is most favourable to being scantily clad does have another reality. In the main, we're not the greatest patrons of our coastal towns and resorts when the weather ain't so fine. 

So, what is the future for coastal tourism in Britain?

That very question is what spurred the inaugural Coastal Tourism Forum organised by the National Coastal Tourism Academy last September. It springs to mind now as BBC Breakfast's theme this week is what we love about the coast.  

A conglomeration of tourism academics, industry analysts, regional DMOs, council staff and BID team members brought stats, facts and vision to a hopeful and occasionally desperate forum of peers. 

Once the survey findings, small print powerpoints and excessively academic spiels had stirred the air, the guts of the day drew in. The reality of the morning's fanfares when succinctly formed on paper were thus...

The vision for Britain's coastline

If a vision is to be achievable it needs to be realistic. That, nodded the heads in the room, was largely the case with this hypothesis. It needed some tweaks of expectation. For example, why aim for world class service, when just good (read: better) British service would do? Who will lead a coastal tourism strategy? And how will it be funded at a regional level? 

The questions remain unanswered.

Depending on the part you play in the tourism industry, you'll have heard, retweeted or regurgitated the positively prosperous domestic tourism stats spewed from any and every travel company desperate to make a go of post-referendum socio-economics.

What's British tourism got going for it?

Perhaps, in the room I saw everything that's right and everything that's wrong with British tourism, but certainly clarification for why it's going to be an uphill battle. Too many cooks agreeing with a macro vision yet tied to their own micro objectives. 

There were certainly too many suits and corporate dresses in a room discussing travel. Maybe I've worked on the fluffy or tech side of the industry for too long but the fit felt odd. And while clearly a lot of passion and focus exists, some things just aren't academic, they're organic and dynamic. And that's why it's the entrepreneurs and the boutique tourism niches that are disrupting the industry and attracting consumers by volume. In much the same way they attract media attention. 

Travel - a disparate industry

Councils and DMOs are lacking funding and, for me, a sense of on-the-ground customer requirements for what makes them visit a destination. I couldn't believe I got caught up in a conversation about town centre signage! What's the point of signposting if what is being signposted has no brand value or promotion? Signs have little purpose if people don't know to come in the first place.

The travel and tourism industry is as disparate as they come. The traditional travel agency model still survives, just. Tour operators have boutique offices or are online behemoths. The cruise industry is evolving apace with customer expectations but still invests immense amounts on print advertising. In some quarters, travel businesses are selling to other travel businesses still as well as going direct to consumers. Aggregators continue to pop up to help one-stop shops achieve more air time. The sharing economy has given us all more than enough to think about. And social media has redefined the meaning of consumer choice. 

What's your coastal tourism story?

So how do you get your brand seen and heard nowadays without big budgets or huge resource?

Wherever you're allocating your hard invested cash, consider this: your brand, your message, your solution to the customer's problem needs to reach more than once for them to consider looking your way.

In fact, Google travel trend data suggests that a consumer can be exposed to a brand at least 12 times before deciding to actually book with that company. 

You don't need a full time team and a full on budget to achieve this. A smart thinking, holistic communications strategy will do the trick. And as you test and toss different ideas across a well-considered spectrum of marketing channels, you'll learn what works and how best to convert your customers.

For a more in-depth communications strategy conversation and to get your story heard, let's talk.  

Monarch: is there a travel company with a better brand reputation?

Monarch airlines brand reputation

Monarch has had the travel industry and its customers in a tizz since the end of September. The stalwart of low cost flights and cheap package holidays had a wobble of the financial variety. The timing of events tallied to the renewal of its ATOL certification (Air Travel Organisers Licence) and another holiday company appeared destined for the travel brand bench in the sky.

Speculation has never been so subdued

Yet for once, we saw an industry and a consumer base rally around this much loved household name. ATOL led the charge with its 12 day licence extension. The industry followed with its genuine support for Monarch CEO Andrew Swaffield. Consumer fears were allayed by proactive investment talks and forthcoming communications from the business.

As we waited with baited breath for news from down-to-the-wire talks, there was more hope in the air than has been sensed in the industry for many a month.

In 48 years of trading, Monarch has taken most of us somewhere in Europe. It has carved out niches. It has faced adversity. It has risen again and again. It’s about to do that all again.

Us Brits have a soft spot for a battler

You see Monarch hasn’t glided through the last few years with a silver spoon in its proverbial mouth. Its P&L has demonstrated more ups and downs than the average school kids yo-yo. But it’s a business that in the last two years has had the financial and strategic backing of a business saving investor (Greybull Capital).

During that young tenureship Greybull has proven its worth by bringing Monarch back into the profitable black. While it did so with some significantly difficult adjustments to its model and staff structure, it did it with grace and aplomb. The outcome: a robustly intact brand reputation and loyal customer following.

The reservists hate a bragger

Now Monarch won’t blow your socks off with its marketing. It’s unlikely to win any awards for brand innovations. If it did, I can’t imagine it shouting about them overtly. But Monarch is a pretty sound example of how sticking to what you know and doing it well, can curate a loyal following.

Since introducing the Monarch blog in 2011, they’ve maintained open communication with their customers. From their blog you’ll find the latest flight routes, destination inspiration and behind the scenes insight as well as their latest news and press statements.

Monarch’s social media activity has that pleasant, easy-on-the-eye look, feel and tone to it too. What’s not to like.

And Monarch’s handling of recent events has taken a similar tone and strategy - open and informative as and when was possible and appropriate. Because Monarch doesn’t do shock tactics and sensationalism, its customers and peers gave the brand the time it needed to come to a resolution they all hoped for and expected. This time around it worked.

A case in point for the travel industry

However, Monarch’s brush with ATOL retirement and financial obscurity naturally raises the questions how and why did this happen. The difficult trading conditions created by terrorism, the Brexit vote and weaker Pound have all contributed to a challenging 2016 for tour operators, accommodation providers and the aviation industry. For Monarch in particular it prevented them from selling holidays to Egypt - a significant proportion of their business - and impacted sales of package holidays to Turkey.

To weather this unpredictable storm, Monarch needs a cash injection to continue the roll out of its efficiency strategy and the economies of scale that will come from having a new fleet of more efficient planes.

But Monarch isn’t alone in this challenge. To put an appropriately positive spin on things, the travel industry is dynamic and constantly evolving. The agility required of travel brands in the current climate will continue to be tested in 2017. The brand loyalty accrued by Monarch in the last 48 years and bolstered by its digital marketing strategy will be the envy of many a travel company.

What shape is your brand reputation in?

How do your customers think of you? What do you do in the name of customer loyalty to drive repeat business? How would your customers and industry peers react if your business found itself in a similar situation? 

Whatever you do, if you think you could do it better, let’s talk.