By Craig Wareham, UK CEO of Outdooractive (www.outdooractive.com)
During the first lockdown when initially travel was constricted, the use of navigation apps increased as people looked for new places to walk and cycle closer to their homes. Once the restrictions lifted then wider exploration was possible.
Although the media headlines suggested that everyone headed for the same two beaches, a deeper analysis has shown that the top 100 popular walking and cycle routes were actually quite evenly distributed across the country. Also, city walks, reservoirs and urban canals, the grounds of stately homes were all seen as opportunities to get out of the house, by people who wouldn’t previously have enjoyed the out- doors.
It is not a coincidence that many of the best loved routes include a stop for a drink and a bite to eat, and this provides opportunities for entrepreneurs, wanting to take advantage of ‘staycationers’ in 2021.
Here are five ways to take advantage of the new interest in outdoor living.
Offer take-out food and drinks – a picnic hamper suddenly trans- forms a walk into an event. Mid-morning bacon sandwiches or after- noon tea provide an excuse for a detour, end of walk pie and a pint a reason to stay longer. For those not familiar with an area stumbling on a pub providing light food and drink makes the day memorable; worth sharing with friends via social media and word of mouth.
Investigating good walks nearby and linking your venue to these routes or publishing your own on a sharing app or even embedding a map and route on your website or Facebook page are all ways to capture passing trade.
Encourage people to stay more nights – The desire to get away for weekends will be strong in 2021. If you have accommodation and can suggest areas of natural beauty, places to visit close by or a range of walks of different lengths and difficulty, then this creates a reason for people to come for a short break.This can be achieved by linking from your website to online resources that provide walk suggestions search- able by area.
Curate your own experiences – most places have something of historic interest or a regional speciality. Putting something on the menu to celebrate this and creating a virtual sightseeing route that includes some local points of interest, provides a reason to come to your
venue. It doesn’t have to be serious, humour makes something sharable.
Work with others – Many charity events have been cancelled in 2020.A chain of pubs offering accommodation along a long-distance path creates an opportunity to visit an area and complete a challenge. For 2021 small groups might decide to paddle to the source of the Thames or cycle from Lands’ End to John O’Groats to raise money. If you can provide transport for luggage or collect on request from the end of a trek then this could put your venue on the map.
Community activities – people will be looking for entertainment close to home. Serving drinks alongside live entertainment has been allowed even when other activities have been restricted. Mini festivals, street entertainment, outdoor barbeques alongside village fairs, outdoor cinema nights, scavenger hunts with clues – are all activities that require hospitality. It is often difficult for non-locals to know about these events. If you are involved, put signs on major roads with a date and time and the name of your venue well in advance, these may attract passing trade before the event and provide useful profile. Put informa- tion on the community Facebook and encourage your regulars to share.
Examples of using routes and mapping to generate opportunities for hospitality venues.
Top lockdown walks near Coventry:
Gaining mention of café as a point of interest:
Encourage people to stay longer:
Curate your own experiences – tour of Birmingham Canals:
Work with others – the Brakspear Pub has curated a number of local walks that include other venues e.g. Christmas Common: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/source/brakspear-pub- rails/47966996/#dmdtab=oax-tab4
Community activities – Corwen walking festival promotes places to stay and provides a week of walks to encourage people to stay:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Craig Wareham is UK CEO of Outdooractive (www.outdooractive.com). He was co-founder of ViewRanger; its award-winning GPS navigation app offers off-road mapping and route guides via mobile phone.