Who are our visitors? What experiences do they want, what information do they need, and how can we ensure that we meet their needs, now and in the future?
1. What Experiences do Visitors Want?
Explorers and Experiences
More and more, visitors are seeking experiences, they see themselves as explorers, not tourists. Consequently, the tourism offering has to correspond to visitor expectations for those seeking authentic experiences, unique experiences, and businesses have to manage customer expectations.
More than ever, tourism businesses need to stay on top of trends and find effective ways to engage and listen closely to what their visitors want, in order to build a longer-term relationship of loyalty and positive engagement with them.
Research shows that scenery and landscape, food and drink and getting away from it all are the top reasons for visiting the area, with younger travellers and Millennials seeking experiences which include eco-tourism, festivals and events and getting together with friends and family. Walking and sightseeing are still top activities – food and drink activities have increased by 29% since 2011 (to 2015) – food and drink is a key component of the visitor experience
Reasons for Visiting*
- The main motivations visitors to the area gave for visiting the Loch Lomond Trossachs National Park was for its scenery and landscape (78% of visitors, 2015).
- Almost half of visitors were drawn to get away from it all (48%) also a key driver for the younger age-group (18-34, 2017/2018) – an important motivator for this area, more than most others in Scotland.
- Another important reason to visit was the history and culture of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (35% of visitors).
- Exploring local food and drink has experienced the biggest growth since 2011, up 29% in 2015.
- Since 2011 the gender split has moved to more women (55%) than men visiting (45%).
- The proportion of young people visiting the Park has increased by 5%. (2011-2015)
- Over one third of Millennial visitors to Scotland used social media to plan their holidays.
- Around two-fifths visited a historic house, stately home or castle; and a similar proportion mentioned shopping as an important activity in this area.
- Just under a quarter (23%) said they had visited an aquarium, zoo, safari park or nature reserve – a higher proportion than for most other regions.
- Visitors to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park were more likely than those in other parts of Scotland to have camped (18%) or stayed in glamping accommodation (4%).
*Based on VS Regional Visitor Survey 2016 & Loch Lomond Trossachs National Park Visitor Survey 2015.
Along with your own customer data, use the visitor insights available to you to inform your business strategy, marketing and promotional activities and to improve how you target new visitors.
Further information and resources
Read the associated Visitor Surveys in full here.
2. What Information are Visitors Looking for?
Make for a Memorable Stay
When planning a trip, from a day out to a week or longer away, visitors need different kinds of information to ensure they get the best from their travel experience.
Travel and tourism information on destinations tends to be present in multiple sources and forms, from websites, apps and social media to print, reviews, video and Visitor Information Centres. Decide what's best for your visitors depending on how they communicate with you. Print, social media, app?
Bringing information together in relevant, accessible formats really helps visitors to plan a memorable stay and make the most of their experience of the destination.
The following information would be important to visitors:
- Places to stay, visit and eat including Green and Pet-Friendly too
- Key information for where to shop, for example supermarkets, banks, medical, safety information and emergency contacts
- Activities to see and do – for couples, families, children, groups, independent travellers
- Specific interest – weddings, events, festivals, venues, incentives, business, spa, health
- Food and drink experiences – farmers markets, local producers, food tours, ways to experience via accommodation, foraging, trails.
- Attractions to visit
- Guided and self-guided trails and routes
- Getting around: Walking and cycling routes and maps, Waterbus and Rail timetables
- Car parks and parking
- Camping information
- Opening times
- Seasonal information, things to do on rainy days
- Special offers and promotions
- Public transport times, timetables and routes /connections
- Combined interests, such as wildlife and history on the same walk or trail
- Safety information
- Weather forecasts
Providing essential information in advance to your visitors before they arrive, such as insider tips and information on where to shop, eat and visit will raise expectations and help them plan their trip activities before they arrive, such as booking restaurants and attraction tickets.
3. When and Where to Share information
How can sense of place help travellers at each stage of their journey?
When to Share
Google's 5 Stages of travel charts the traveller's journey through dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Think how you can use sense of place to enrich your visitors' experience at all stages of this journey: For example:
1. Dreaming and Planning
- Respond to their enquiries on social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Share great guest experiences in social media posts and video clips, and highlighting excellent customer reviews
- Instant messaging information in social media or messaging apps such as Whatsapp (becoming more commonplace)
- Post useful, relevant and key information about what you offer on your website, blogs and social media
- Share offers and promotions via e-newsletters to your customer database, via social media and other tourism networks
- Email useful information and customer reviews when sending booking information
- Provide links to all your social media channels, useful blog posts and more
- Link to What's on in the destination on good local websites - highlight events, festivals and relevant dates for visitors
- Offer tailored recommendations for places to eat, things to do, where to shop local, etc
- If you have one, link to your dedicated smartphone app
3. Experiencing - Make it easy once visitors have arrived
- If you have it, signpost to your dedicated app containing key information for guests.
- Offer ways for visitors to share their experiences via social media and make them visible, on your website, in print.
- Invite guests and visitors to join your online community or one which is relevant for visitors in your area, to connect with others
- Leave welcome packs in rooms or post information in relevant areas in your properties and venues
4. Sharing - during the trip and post-trip
- Ensure visitors have all the relevant links to provide you with a great review of their stay/experience/purchase
- Request feed-back via a survey, feedback form, social media, or via your own booking platform
- Invite your guests to sign up for your newsletters and if relevant, to join a referral scheme
- Give guests good reasons to share their experiences and return!
Ways to Share
- Use great, authentic photos of your property, food and drink, tours, experiences to showcase what you do and provide a fantastic “shop window” to potential guests and visitors. Examples: Ardoch, East Cambusmoon, Scotland’s Wild, Lodge on Loch Lomond food on Instagram
- Encourage your visitors/guests to share their experiences and recommendations via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and/or review via TripAdvisor and other feedback formats
- Create a Twitter list of local attractions, shops, restaurants, places to visit
- Share recommendations via Instagram and Facebook and tag local businesses
- Use dedicated hashtags which your visitors can follow and use to share their own experiences, such as #lovelochlomond
- Build "social proof" in Google search and make customer reviews visible on your digital channels including the home page of your website
- Use video and testimonials to show potential visitors what the area is like, what visitors enjoy doing, and get a sense of the experience
- Create Top Ten blogs for visitors about the area – top ten things to see and do, places to eat, things to do on a rainy day etc
- Collect and display local information for guests on where to shop, eat, local walks and tours, etc – in physical forms in your venue but also available digitally, via downloads, apps, etc. Access leaflets and printed info from Visitor Information Centres and digital information from the local destination organisation website or local businesses’ websites/social channels such as Facebook – often a great source of the most up to date information.
- Tailor recommendations for different types of visitors – families, couples, independent travellers, pet friendly, etc.
- Put together your own ideas for trails and itineraries or tap into what’s already out there, such as a walking trail, or food and drink trail.
- Promote local guides, tours, services which you know are of high quality or have great reviews.
- Partner with like-minded businesses to create offers and added value for your guests, or unique experiences which they can only access when staying with you, or eating and drinking with you.
- Showcase local food and drink, arts and crafts, signpost to local markets and festivals and events
- Share stories of local history and heritage, stories about the place your guests are staying in
- Offer visitors inside knowledge, such as where they can find hidden gems or get off the beaten track – local walks, special viewpoints, etc
- Offer ways to help visitors and guests to connect with the local community, or take part in events which would allow them to be part of the local community during their stay.
Digital Tourism Scotland, Business Gateway and Google's Digital Garage offer valuable sources of help to tourism businesses wishing to develop digital and social media activities, through low-cost and free workshops.
4. The Evolving Visitor
Managing expectations for different people, from different places
Significant demographic changes mean that our visitors are evolving throughout the world. We need to adapt to their needs and also stay competitive against other destinations.
Ageing populations will bring more older and disabled visitors, fewer couples having children may mean more couples travelling. (A projected one in three Europeans will belong to the age band 60+ by 2025). Accessibility for older travellers and those facing mobility or other physical challenges is an important component of the visitor landscape which destinations must respond to imaginatively and practically.
A growing number of visitors from China, India, the Middle East and South East Asia are travelling to Europe in large groups but also in couples or travelling alone. Millennials and Gen Z are the fastest growing customer segment in the tourism industry, expected to represent 50% of all travellers by 2025. Irrespective of their demographic, visitors are seeking a high and personal level of hospitality, and this expectation is growing.
What does this mean for tourism businesses?
What does this mean for businesses? We have to be aware of and care about what good customer service ‘looks like’ for different people from different places. There are also important considerations in terms of energy consumption, sustainability, green tourism particularly for the accommodation sector, and in terms of responsible travel and accessible tourism.
The UK tourism survey reported that tourism parties in which at least one member had a disability contributed approximately £1.3 billion to Scotland’s economy. There are clear opportunities and challenges in working to make accessible and inclusive tourism integral to the visitor experience and the destination rather than "in addition to".
Source: Megatrends Impacting on Scottish Tourism to 2025 - Euromonitor
86% of seniors make return visits, making them loyal customers. VisitScotland's Inclusive Tourism Toolkit has lots of practical steps you can take to make your business more inclusive for visitors. Check out the toolkit and best practice guides via the links above.