Overall, the Dutch leisure sector has performed strongly over 2013, and the prospects for 2014 are sunny as well. With the crisis easing, consumer confidence has improved, and the prognoses for disposable income and consumption look brighter than a year ago.
In order to fully seize new opportunities, leisure businesses should not only use the internet as a distribution channel, but also as a way to make the sector more transparent, improve their image and respond to customer needs. Authenticity and perception are the key words in this connection. These are the conclusions of ABN AMRO’s 2014 sector update 'Visie op Leisure', which was published today.
Hotels double their sales growth
In 2013, the hotel sector realised sales growth of 2.8% - double the 2012 figure. Total sales in 2013 are estimated at €3.8 billion. In ABN AMRO’s view, main contributors to performance were the higher number of foreign tourists and a trend among Dutch consumers to go on vacation in their own country. Foreign tourists booked nearly 15% more nights than they did in 2012. This growth mainly benefits hotels – especially in Amsterdam – but also boosts the recreational accommodation sector. In 2012, vacation parks saw the number of overnight stays grow by 17.5%. More than a quarter of these were booked by foreign tourists. Restaurants did good business in 2013 as well, with total sales amounting to €3.7 billion. Sales growth levelled off to 2.4% though, as compared to the 3.2% seen in 2012. According to ABN AMRO, however, restaurants have entirely offset the decline in sales during 2008-2010.
Leisure businesses are enhancing their image online
The leisure sector could use internet and social media to make itself more transparent and to improve their brand perception. The rise in online reviews makes this even more of a key point, in ABN AMRO’s view. Equally important is developing a social media strategy to foster a positive image. More than half of consumers booking hotel rooms online refuse to consider hotels lacking recent, public reviews. This clearly demonstrates the importance of webcare. Not only will that help build trust among customers, it could also be used to experiment with things like targeted promotions. Meanwhile there is still a large group of travellers who are loyal to the offline channel. They prefer direct interaction with, and the service of, physical travel agencies.
Positive customer perception is key
ABN AMRO expects technological innovation involving big data and dynamic pricing to become key drivers for the leisure industry players. That will increase their ability to tap into customer demands and optimise their margins. "Internet and mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, are gaining prevalence. In the US leisure sector, over a quarter of all online transactions is made on mobile devices. Besides, internet is a popular source of inspiration, where customers can easily and quickly gather information and compare alternatives. Meanwhile, sellers are using big data to personalise their range and to provide tailored offers. Also, they use dynamic pricing to achieve the best mix of capacity utilisation and sales," says ABN AMRO’s Sector Banker Leisure Stef Driessen. The 'customers' preferences are being influenced by social trends, with a focus on authenticity and perception. Market players can play into that in all kinds of ways, ranging from a treehouse vacation to a sporty stay in a holiday park or a few weeks of total relaxation. It is up to leisure entrepreneurs to sense what the customer would like, and then develop a matching range of options.