“Navigating the Crisis as a Small Resort in Australia”: Josephina McDonald – Show Notes
- Name: Adam Stoker
- Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
- Favorite Destination: Fiji
- Dream Destination: New Zealand
- Name: Josephina McDonald
- Position: Owner/Operator of Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park
- Favorite Destination: Jordan
- Dream Destination: Netherlands on a bike tour through Holland from the south to the north
“Navigating the Crisis as a Small Resort in Australia” – Show Notes and Highlights
- Josephina and her husband are business owners of Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, which is a caravan park in Grampians National Park in Australia. Halls Gap is a small town of 420 locals, and the park has 60 acres and some lakeside property for visitors to enjoy.
- She made her way into the tourism industry by completing a bachelor’s degree in social work, traveling a lot after college, and ended up in Australia where she met her husband. After three months, she was engaged and after eight months, she emigrated to the country where she and her husband managed a golf club together before finding the caravan park that they bought and have run together for eight years.
Getting into the Tourism Industry
- After buying the caravan park, Josephina started looking at it from a consumer point of view. She went to the visitor’s center and couldn’t find much information about Halls Gap so she decided to start creating materials to make a strong brand. She didn’t even understand that she was really in the tourism industry until she was in it.
- In creating a strong brand, she has adapted her whole strategy around sharing information with her customers in a customized, accessible, and tailored way.
Treating her Product like a Destination
- Josephina has worked hard to make the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park a great place to stay.
- As she has worked to help her own business and the overall destination area of Grampians, she has often asked herself, “Am I working for Grampians’ tourism or am I an owner/operator of a product?” In the end, it doesn’t matter what the answer is because a good market for the Grampians, is a good experience for the guests both in her park and outside of it.
- Over seven years, the business was brought to 82% occupancy because she was showing how a young couple could work hard, put in the sweat, equity, and focus to build their park and make it the best it could be.
- Josephina hardly did any marketing in the beginning stages. What she did was logical — she posted occasionally on social media to show the building process and the additions they made. She was talking to people and helping them have the best experience they could. When she cut back her personal hours at the park onsite, she started putting personal highlights in the newsletter so customers could still feel like they had access to her. Soon, she started personally asking for reviews and recommendations because people loved it so much. That helped even more.
- COVID-19 obviously altered things. When it was announced their caravan park could re-open, Josephina was getting endless calls for reservations. People said they hoped to finally get a reservation after their time of closure from COVID-19 because they knew there would be openings. Could they finally come and stay there? This only helps, because when people come once, they always want to come back.
- Even though there’s a new normal with restrictions, cleanliness and safety rules and more to consider, the reaction of visitors is what can cause a positive or negative experience for other travelers.
A Mood-based Itinerary Planner
- Remembering back to her childhood, there were quizzes where you could mark how you were feeling or a trait about yourself as A, B, C, or D. Then, at the end of the quiz, you would add up your score and see what the most A’s meant and so on. Josephina wants to make an itinerary planner like this. Are you traveling alone? With family, friends? Are you in the mood for something actively adventurous or calm and observative, maybe? Then, at the end of the quiz, the visitor would get an emailed, customized itinerary for their next trip.
In the end, Josephina said to experience as many products as you can. As soon as you have your own experience, you can invite others to do the same. Invest time each week into experiencing your region from the visitor’s perspective.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast