Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday Travel Takes $4 Billion Hit

Are you staying home this holiday season? According to a recent poll by Maritz Research Hospitality Group -- you are!

For the past few years, it's been my pleasure to interview Rick Garlick, senior director of consulting and strategic implementation, at Maritz Research. They do an annual poll -- and have done one for a decade now -- about holiday travel plans. Though we have weathered 911, high gas prices, economic sluggishness, and other ailments in the past, it seems that this year these woes have finally taken their toll on Americans and we're staying home, traveling less, and spending less on hospitality this holiday season.

"Holiday travel has been remarkably reslilient," said Garlick. "This year for the first time in a decade we're seeing a drop in travel and spending." And while that drop is only 3%, it equates to a whopping $4.05 billion less spent this holiday season, mostly in airfare. When asked what people are going to do this year, 80% of them said they're going to stay home with family or friends.

Click here to listen to my podcast interview with Rick.

Okay, so what does this mean for your non profit? I asked Rick what marketers should do as they head into the holiday season to mitigate the loss of revenue in the travel and hospitality sector and his advice is OH SO RELEVANT to all of us I thought I'd pass it along to you.

1. Understand what your brand stands for and target a particular type of customer. This seems like common sense, but isn't often common practice. Many non profits try to be all things to all people (especially in their fundraising efforts) and end up communicating a generic, vanilla, and so-so message. Knowing who you are and who you serve means also knowing who you are not and clearly defining and drawing those boundaries. It's okay to say no as a non profit, and the first place we need to say no is in our brands.

2. Add value.
Good advice but this also can be poorly executed. The knee jerk reaction to this means cut prices or lower access costs. Not a good idea -- and most experts agree. Adding value does not always mean reducing costs. It means adding value through HIGH VALUE experiences (read my entries here, here, and here).

3. Be original. (this is my idea, not Rick's)
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said it best, "You don't want to be considered the best at what you do. You want to be the only one doing what you do." As a non profit are you essential? Are you critical? If you're not there, does another organization just pick up after you or are you so unique and special that important needs go unmet? Work on your compelling, credible, unique contribution and market that year-round. Your essentiality (nice new word, huh!) will help to mitigate any down turn.

Would you add to this list?

-- David Kinard, PCM

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