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.