The travel buying cycle. Stage #4: Experiencing


Number 4 in the 5 stages of travel has the biggest influence on all of the other stages. If your guests have a fantastic experience during their holiday they will share it – via Facebook, Twitter, review sites, photo-sharing platforms, and by telling their friends and family. In turn this affects your potential future guests when they begin their own journey at the Dreaming stage. They remember what a great time their friend had so maybe they will look for your self-catering accommodation when they are Planning their own holiday, and hopefully when they are Booking as well. They then arrive at the experiencing stage of their own cycle, and then to sharing; and so it goes full circle.

The important thing to remember is that whilst your guests are experiencing their holiday, they will probably be sharing at the same time. And those that aren’t will very likely share their experience in one form or another soon after. So here are our top tips to help make that experience a fantastic one.

1. First impressions count

The Experience starts even before your guests arrive. From the smooth-running of the booking process, to the email confirmation that you send, it all starts to create an impression. To make it an easy experience from the word go, try to cover all angles. What information do people need before the day the holiday starts? Have you provided straightforward directions and a postcode? Do they know what time they can arrive, where to pick up the key, where the closest shop is for supplies and what the opening hours are? Will there be someone available to greet them? Do you provide a welcome hamper or will they need to bring the basics? Have you sent them a list of good local eateries or even better offered to book one for them for their night of arrival?

When they do arrive, does your property look as good as it can? People have booked in good faith that the property looks like it does on your website, so it is important that photos are kept up-to-date. If you redecorate or replace furniture, ensure you post new pictures so the actual experience gets off to a good start with no surprises in store. Critique your property and its environs often by taking a ‘customer journey’ imagining their first impressions as you approach and enter the property and its rooms.

Another reason to make sure it looks as good as possible is because guests will take photos while they are staying. It is more likely that these photos will be posted on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Flickr, than filed away for longevity in a photo album to only be shown to others on rare occasions (if ever). Our photo collections are no longer a private store of memories. Social media has changed that, and it makes you visible to a much larger audience. Make sure that your self-catering accommodation is presented as you would like the world to see it. This is as much a part of managing your online reputation as setting up Google alerts for your property’s name.

2. Be available if needed

Can your guests easily contact you if they need to during their stay? Perhaps they don’t know how to work the heating; what happens if there is a power cut? Is there someone close by that can be contacted so that any unforeseen circumstances can be addressed quickly and efficiently? As well as sharing their photos with their online community, most parties will include at least one person who is active on social media. So if something goes wrong, and is not rectified, someone somewhere will probably be tweeting or posting about it.

Equally if something goes wrong and you impress your guests with your quick-thinking solution this can create a really positive buzz. When we had heavy snow in the UK at the end of March this year I lost count of the number of comments I saw on Facebook and Twitter from delighted guests who experienced some extra special care when they found themselves snowed in. Some had to stay extra days because roads were inaccessible, and from joining the property owners for family meals, to receiving supplies delivered by tractor, help was on hand. The reviews could have been very different if those guests had been left stranded (or felt like they were).

Not everything can be discussed on the doorstep though. You’re unlikely to discuss when bin day is, where the nearest bike service centre or hire outfit is, contact details of vets or doctors etc but this kind of information is very important. A guest information directory is a vital part of your guest communication and, if extra effort is put into it, this can really impress your guests. Welcome dogs? Think pet friendly attractions and pubs with gardens, vet contact details, pet grooming, day-care kennels, make it easy for pet owners to clear up after their dog at your property by providing bags.

3. Share recommendations, advice and information

Prior to arriving, and during their stay, your guests will want to check out the local area and see what there is to do close by. You can make it easy by recommending local attractions, restaurants, cafes or walks:

  • Provide links, contact details, directions and maps on your website.
  • When visitors leave recommendations in your guest book, type them up and share them on your social media as well as on your website.
  • Ask your guests to post their top tips and advice on your Facebook and Twitter pages as well as on review sites.

People trust other people. They will appreciate that comment from a fellow guest telling them about a magical woodland walk they discovered off the beaten track, or that extra special meal they had at that hidden little bistro. It will add to and enhance their holiday experience.   

4. Stay in touch

  • Include clear, visible links to your own social media pages on your website, it will encourage guests to like or follow you from the beginning of their Travel Buying Cycle, and they will be more likely to tag you in photos of your property that they post during the Experiencing and Sharing stages.
  • Add a link to your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages (if you have them) in your email signature. That way from the moment you email booking confirmation to your guests, you can potentially start building the relationship that will lead to the very best customer experience.
  • Tell people about your online platforms the old-fashioned way. Put your Facebook page and Twitter account details in your guest information folder. Don’t miss an opportunity to engage and be social, it’s all about building relationships.
  • Do you send out e-newsletters? Ask your guests to subscribe and encourage feedback. Ultimately feedback makes you aware of what you are doing right, and what could be improved. This is crucial to your guests achieving the optimum experience, helping you stay ahead of the game. These connecting tools make it easier.

Experience really is key. Your guests’ experience with you now will determine if they become repeat visitors; and how they share their experience will determine if their friends and family become your future guests as well.