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What can we learn from each other?

What can the western mountain and southeast beach destinations learn from each other?


 

By: Sarah Bradford, Owner Winter Park Lodging Company, Colorado & Trisha Howarth, Resort DOSM, Bald Head Island Limited, N.C.
 

While vacationers the world over seek to experience something that takes them away from their day-to-day routine, something enjoyable and something that will create a long-lasting memory, each destination brings different flavors to life for the traveler.

Speaking with a unique voice, each market capitalizes on its unique merits, inviting guests to visit for a day, week or indefinitely. So with such diverse offerings, what is there to be shared between the Colorado mountain destinations and the Southeast beaches of North Carolina?

For starters,
an informal survey suggested the southeast beach market still favors a main-stay of traditional marketing, a printed rental brochure.
 

Sarah Bradford, Winter Park Lodging Company
Rental brochures range from high-quality glossy magazines featuring full page ads of rental homes, to a simple tri-fold, to a community directory such as Bald Head Island’s Haven. Southeast beach destinations have a variety of reasons for printing rental brochures, from employing a multi-media marketing strategy, to attracting (and keeping) new customers, to satisfying owners who benchmark performance of competitors. Ultimately, the southeast beaches find that sales literature builds loyal customers. While both mountain and beach destinations use Internet marketing extensively, rental brochures tend to be a more common tactical tool along the east coast than in the mountains of Colorado.
Trisha Howarth,
Bald Head Island Limited

One potential reason? Mountain destinations tend to have less brand-loyal customers than those on the southeast coast, who often create traditions at certain beach locations, at certain times and at certain homes. Beach renters will often follow a home from agency to agency, while this is less true of the West Coast mountains where lodges, condominiums and villas are more similar in design and scope. Beach communities often find their clientele waits for the annual rental brochure to be published before booking their vacations, even though the homes and rates have been available online for months. While those in the West may not be in a rush to commit to a rental brochure, east coast managers certainly won’t be giving up this vehicle anytime soon.

Interestingly, however, there are similarities between both areas--therefore, the West may want to consider the East coast-style tried-and-true rental brochure. There is loyalty among ski town travelers, as some families return to the same resort annually. These guests enjoy knowing the slopes and going back to their favorite restaurants, shops and off-hill activities. So, perhaps the rental brochure should be tested by western mountain destinations, as it is especially effective for the older demographic who may be more comfortable with print media vs. seeing photos and details online. The over 60 crowd increasingly serves as the vacation organizer for family trips--even if grandma isn't skiing.

Average length of stay also varies between mountain and beach destinations. With seven night minimums at many east coast beach destinations, the average night stay in the east is closer to six, versus the average stay of four nights for those in the mountains. Perhaps this can be contributed to price sensitivities, as most skiers opt for package deals that include lift tickets. With less historical precedence for weekly stay requirements, the mountain destinations can more easily garnish additional rentals during low-demand periods and have the edge in filling holes during peak season. East coast homeowners are conditioned to rent for weeks at a time, especially in summer season. Rental agencies have had less success in convincing owners that national trends are for travel are shorter, more frequent breaks. Mountain destinations have effectively attracted traditional hotel patrons by reducing minimum night stays and offering last-minute discounts to fill gaps in peak season.

No matter the geography, the beaches and mountains share a concern for adverse weather. From hurricanes to avalanches, rental agencies are no strangers to dealing with the effects of Mother Nature. Both regions must work closely with state officials, the division of travel and tourism, local CVBs and chambers to provide consistent messages when the unexpected happens. Rental agencies in both the mountains and along the beaches will add an adverse weather section to their website which links to local authorities and provides up-to-the-minute news for renters and owners. There are software companies that provide disaster-relief tracking tools that will automatically update renters and homeowners with specific messages about damages and accessibility. Some agencies go the extra mile and send regular updates to their state’s division of travel and tourism to be posted on the state’s website. Working closely with the state and local authority’s takes pre-event communications planning.

Whether a renter prefers skiing with poles or skiing with a rope behind a boat, there are certainly things that the mountain and beach vacation rental management companies can learn from each other.

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