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The impact of the coronavirus in the leisure industry: how do you handle this (online)?

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Lars
20 Mar '20
The coronavirus is currently a the forefront of everyone’s minds; it also holds the world of recreational activities in its grip. We get a lot of questions about the use of marketing, current booking behaviours, cancellations, and advertising budgets. In this blog, we will inform you about booking behaviours and how you can address them with online marketing, right now.

**Why you should continue to invest in marketing now **

Current booking behaviours

The current reality is tough on most recreation companies; statistics show a decline in the number of reservations. When we compare these figures with last year, we see a decrease of no less than 70%. A side note to this is that a majority of the parks with a solid commitment to online marketing peaked earlier this year than last year. We saw a large increase in bookings in December and January, which meant that we could already expect a slight downturn. The trend is that people book earlier (early booking) and later (last minute). Of course, the difference in March would not have been as great as it is at the time of this crisis.

Positive note; last-minute bookings

Holiday parks, usually located in wooded and quiet areas, are doing a bit better. We see that a relative number of last-minute bookings are still being made at these parks. Residents of urban areas now value a holiday home with lots of space and privacy, located in a quiet area. Parks respond to this by offering bicycle rentals, take-away and delivery meals, strict hygiene measures and a potential last-minute discount. Side note: of course the crisis is raging; this is merely a positive observation that holds true for some recreation companies.

Start of the camping season

At recreation companies with a majority of camping offers, we see a wait-and-see attitude from guests. Many questions come through the door regarding reservations that have already been made for the upcoming season. How is rebooking handled? What are the consequences of cancellation? The offer of vouchers with which one can rebook a reservation, without any added charges, is very well-received. A voucher is a unique code that represents an amount of money; this functionality is offered in the Booking Experts system.

Many camping companies do not open their doors until late March or early April, although this has now also come into question. The course of the crisis in the coming weeks will also determine the booking behavior of these organisations. The opening of the camping season has been postponed in some places but has not been cancelled.

Deployment of online marketing during this crisis

Of course, you need to pause your campaigns and marketing activities completely. However, we advise entrepreneurs to continue to invest in marketing right now! Choosing to completely interrupt your marketing will make resumption much more difficult later (see also this article). Therefore, stay visible in an appropriate way, so that the relationship you have built up is not lost and people are able to contact you again after the crisis. Make sure you don't lose sight of (potential) guests!

What you can do right now • Keep your website up to date and inform people about the coronavirus and relevant measures. Place the frequently asked questions online to reduce the pressure at the reception desk; • Stay in touch with your guests via social media and newsletters; • Eliminate uncertainties by communicating transfer guarantees and/or vouchers; • Adjust your communication to the target group and the current situation; • Continue to advertise on social media and in Google Ads, but with realistic budgets. Move budget from lower-performing campaigns to campaigns that still convert viewers to paying customers; • Focus on the last-minute viewfinder and booker, or shift focus to the latter part of this year, depending on your business; • Optimise your current campaigns. How did your ads perform? Make improvements to your Google Ads campaigns, ads and extensions; • Prepare new campaigns for when you go live; • Broaden your focus to website and search engine optimisation (SEO). Take a critical look at existing landing pages but also work on new content; • How is your offer presented to tour operators and affiliate partners?

As a recreation company you can no longer ignore the consequences. Use this period to be visible online with realistic advertising budgets, and ensure sufficient communication with guests to remove any uncertainties.

There are also opportunities for recreation companies in the Netherlands. Plans for a summer holiday abroad could change due to the coronavirus, meaning that people would now rather choose to spend their holidays in their own country. We closely monitor the developments regarding the coronavirus and the online behavior of consumers. Be ready to boost bookings once the worst of the crisis is over and people start booking again!

Do you have any questions or would you like to know more? Do not hesitate to contact us!

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