International Marketing – at Home

This year my extended family decided to gather late in the day on Christmas, instead of the usual first thing in the morning, and my husband and I suddenly realized we had a window of opportunity to take our kids skiing. With recent snowfalls on our mind, we made last-minute hotel reservations for Dec. 23 and 24th, and drove north.

As soon as we got settled into the hotel rooms, our kids wanted to go check out the outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, even though it was now raining. When we got there, I looked around and realized that almost everyone around us was Asian. My kids seemed oblivious, and I wondered if they really were, or if the day we’d spent at a great water park in Singapore last year had somehow made this seem ordinary to them. An American couple in the hot tub looked a little uncomfortable and immediately made eye contact and started up some chit chat with me. Of course, my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked one of my Asian neighbors where they were from? “Boston,” he said, momentarily putting a stop to that line of questions. Were they all together? No, he was here because his parents had organized a family trip. I blundered on, and learned that in fact his family was part of a larger group trip organized to take advantage of discounts offered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, traditionally slow times for ski resorts. I mentioned skiing as a teenager in Japan, and admitted that I still couldn’t distinguish among other Asian languages, and finally pried out that they were Chinese-American. I never did find out what group had organized the trip – is there some sort of Chinese American Society in Boston? Or was it a casual social network?

The next day on the slopes, we discovered that there seemed to be two other organized groups – of Russians and Israelis. Everywhere we went, we heard Chinese, Russian and Hebrew, almost as much as English, with an occasional French Canadian or British accent mixed in! And when I went to take a ski lesson, I realized that many of the instructors on Christmas Day were Jewish, although American. For us, it was a treat to miss the last-minute before Christmas commercial push, and also to be among such a cosmopolitan crowd.

It also got me thinking – how did those groups end up here? Did Sunday River market to immigrant and expatriate communities for the holiday? Or had individual groups discovered the group discount and organized themselves to take advantage of it? One fellow lift-taker told me his group had been coming at this time of year for at least three years, and had been much larger in past years. If Sunday River hadn’t marketed to them, could they?

Could businesses, especially those with a time-sensitive capacity/inventory, improve their yield management by marketing specifically to immigrant groups and expatriate communities at particular times/days? And then provide services by identifying employees who are willing to work on traditional US and/or Christian holidays? This is a particularly acute issue for ski resorts, which have a short operating season and high ongoing costs regardless of the number of customers. Other hospitality businesses — rental cars, airlines, hotels, etc. – might also find an advantage in a similar strategy. Smaller entertainment facilities, such as bowling alleys or skating rinks, might find a little extra revenue by marketing slow times to specific niche communities. Are there other businesses that might benefit from marketing to specific immigrant or expatriate groups to improve yield management?

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