Cultivating Community to Drive Future Demand
The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently published an article "3 Tips to Emerge Stronger", highlighting market diversification, building relationships and loyalty amongst customers and reducing costs as three strategies for tourism businesses as they move through and beyond the COVID crisis. Over the past 4 weeks, I’ve been observing the practices employed by the Bike Hotel Belvedere in Riccione, Italy to reconnect with their past guests, strengthen relationships and grow the desire to visit again in the future. For those looking for best practices in cultivating community and fostering loyalty amongst guests that translates into repeat visitors year after year, Marina Pasquini (photo right) - the hotel’s owner - and her staff, truly demonstrate leadership in the tourism industry. Here are three ways that they have been connecting with and engaging past and potential visitors to stay top of mind as a destination for future travel plans. 1) Private Facebook group for past guests: I had the good fortune of spending a week at the Hotel Belvedere in May 2019. Shortly after departure, I received an email inviting me to be part of the private Facebook group where Marina, her staff, her guides and other former guests are able to connect, share photos and stay apprised of upcoming events and specials. As Italy shifted into lockdown, and the hotel closed, the hundreds of posts, photos and messages shared by guests within this 2,800+ member group, expressing concern for Marina, her family and the Hotel’s staff, is a testament to the strength and authenticity of the community that has been created. 2) Live-streamed Zoom and Facebook chats between guests and staff: Annually, the hotel hosts a Bella in Sella week where like-minded women can find their tribe and join together for some great cycling and activities. During COVID-19, while the hotel is closed, Marina and her staff have been hosting live-stream events online. The online Bella in Sella event drew a crowd of 30-40 women, all wearing their Hotel Belvedere cycling jerseys, some riding their trainers, and joining together to enjoy each other’s company to feel the Belvedere spirit virtually! 3) Ride with the guides on Zwift: With the hotel closed and guests missing out on their cycling vacations, a weekly ride with the hotel’s bike guides is being offered on Zwift, a popular online platform for social rides and races from indoor cycling trainers. These events give the former guests and guides a chance to train, race, socialize and celebrate together in a virtual environment - last week's ride attracted 47 participants!
We know that the cost of acquiring a new visitor greatly exceeds the cost of re-inviting an existing one. And once the COVID travel restrictions lift, we know that the competition to attract visitors to our destinations and businesses is going to be stiff. In just 4 weeks in April, Hotel Belvedere’s online engagement from their 17 posts, 3 events and invitation for guests to share their memories, resulted in over 2,400 likes, 270 photos uploaded and 1,030 comments, all exuding enthusiasm to return to the Hotel Belvedere as soon as possible. Are you engaging your past visitors meaningfully to drive future demand for your business and destination? If not, what can you do now to cultivate interest amongst your community to visit later?