How Campsites Can Use SMS Messaging to Get New Business
Thanks to Brexit, and the economic uncertainty, travel within the country is booming (also known as a ‘staycation’). And many of us are taking to caravans and campervans. In the past five years, campervan sales have increased 50%. If you count caravans and campervans together, sales rose 16% in just the last year.
That means there are thousands of new holiday travellers looking for campsites and holiday parks. How can you attract them to your location? You can reach out to them where they spend much of their time – on their mobiles.
Even on holiday people still bring their mobiles along. They’re great for apps like maps, finding places to eat, or staying in touch with friends or family. According to Hotels.com, 76% of people prefer to bring their mobile on holiday rather than a friend. Despite being on holiday, mobiles are still always at hand.
By using SMS messaging, you can get your offers right in front of them. It can also be a great customer service channel when you provide information they need for their stay.
Examples for Campsites & Touring Parks
What sort of things could you do with SMS messaging? Here are just a few examples:
- Reservation confirmations – Getting a text message that confirms the date, time, duration and cost of a reservation gives travellers the warm fuzzies. Emails aren’t always quick to arrive, but an SMS confirmation is guaranteed to be there in just a few seconds.
- Special rates or deals – Do you have special package deals, or times when you adjust your rates? Let everyone know by sending out a message with the details, or a link to a mobile friendly web page that tells them what they need to know.
- Location information – Does the GPS get a bit wonky in your area? Or is your location hard to find? Tell your guest they can request directions by sending you an SMS message. The reply can be an automated set of directions from a local landmark, or a 2-way chat with your staff guiding them to your location.
- Shuttle service – Do you provide a shuttle or bus service to offsite destinations? Your guests can request pickup by SMS message, or you can send estimated arrival times via SMS to your guests. Either way, there will probably be less waiting for both sides.
- Last minute bookings – The great thing about owning a campervan or caravan is the ability to jump in and go on a quick holiday. Entice people to come stay with you by offering great deals on spaces that would otherwise go empty.
Before you can send any traveller SMS messages, you’ll need to get them to sign up to your list. It probably isn’t as hard as you might think.
Ask current/past visitors to sign up. You probably have the contact information from your current and previous guests. Since they’ve already done business with you, the regulations for electronic communication (SMS or email) say you’re allowed to contact them about similar business. If you’re adding the ability to receive offers via SMS, you can send an email or post to them announcing the new service and instructions on how to sign up.
If you already have their mobile, you can send them an SMS message asking them to opt into your new SMS program. Make the message short and clear. Have them reply YES to sign up, or NO to not. Alternatively let them reply STOP to indicate they want no further messages. If they reply with a YES, then you’ve added them to your list. If they don’t reply, or reply in the negative, be sure you don’t contact them via SMS at that number again (unless they later explicitly opt in).
Once on your list, you can send them a note offering them a discount for every person they refer to you. The guest can simply forward on a message to their contacts, who can then use the link or information in the message to book at your location. People are more likely to trust what their friends tell them than anonymous reviews online. In fact, surveys have shown 92% of people will believe (and prefer) their friends’ recommendations.
Referral marketing is one of the best methods to grow your business, and SMS messaging can make it super easy for you and your guests.
It may sound obvious, but you need to advertise your SMS program and services if you want new people on your list. It’s as simple as adding it to your normal advertising channels:
- Website – You can use banner advertising on your website as well as offering the chance to sign up during registration or booking.
- Printed adverts – Be sure to add your information to any printed adverts you do too. Camping guides, industry magazines, or anywhere else you normally use print are perfect for SMS too.
- Online booking descriptions – If you use an online booking site (or sites), be sure to add your SMS services to the description. It will make you stand out because not everyone is using it (yet), and people will appreciate the convenience it provides.
- Partners – Do you have any partnerships with local attractions, campervan sales companies, or other travel industry businesses? Perhaps you can work advertising your SMS messaging into your current arrangement, so even more people will see your program. [Note: Make sure to get your own opt ins before contacting anyone from a partner’s list].
Motorhome travel and sales are a £500 million market in the UK that is growing in double digits. There are lots of new travellers, and SMS messaging can help campsite and park owners grab their attention – and their business.
Online travel and review sites are great for travellers. They are good for hotels too, but they offer a double edged sword. User reviews are unfiltered – that is the travellers can say whatever they like both good and bad. And managing a bad review can be difficult, but how can SMS help?
Using people’s names in marketing is great. It does provide a certain level of personalisation that can get people more interested in what you’re sending them. Of course in text messaging, you don’t always have the room for a name, your message, and the required opt out information … usually there just isn’t enough room. So how can you make your marketing messages personal?
Sometimes bloggers or journalists get a bit carried away. They see some data or fact, and run off to declare there’s a trend you need to know about. The latest one I’ve seen is all about how to reach the generation of “cashless shoppers”. The argument goes that you need to use SMS messaging to reach customers because they are all shopping online – where you obviously can’t pay in cash.
SMS marketing can be a double-edged sword, which is why it's crucial to ensure that each one of your campaigns is well thought out, immaculately spelt, financially accurate (i.e., the prices listed are correct), and, perhaps most importantly, the time and date is 100% accurate. Only once you have triple-checked each one of the components should you then consider sending out a batch.
“European travel agents don’t like it”. That’s a statement made by one of the gentleman at my table during the mCommerce Summit earlier this month. He is from Cruise America, a successful RV (camper) vacation rental company based in Arizona, but with 123 locations around the US. We were talking about his company and their online and mobile reservation options.
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The recent weather likely has many people thinking about their summer holiday. It's great news for travel agents looking to book ahead for the coming months. If you're a travel agent, SMS messaging is fast becoming a primary way to communicate with your clients.
Your customers are likely thinking about food at certain times of the day, and at those times their phone is almost certainly within arms reach. Using SMS marketing you can time your messages perfectly because you know that the time you send them is the time they get read, usually within 2 minutes.
Now that the peak travel season is over, how can travel agents stay top of mind in their customers? If you look around, you’ll notice everyone seems to have a mobile. That means SMS is the perfect way to reach them and make sure you’re not forgotten.