“Please, can we go back?”

By | October 16th, 2010

When Kathy Potvin told her grandson she was considering breaking a tradition of visiting Ocean Park, Maine, last summer, the 7-year-old protested.

“But we’ve always gone there,” he told Potvin, a librarian from Nashua, N.H. “He said, ‘Please, can we go back?’ ”

Her family had returned to the same hotel every year since her grandson was 18 months old. She couldn’t say “no.”

“He spent almost an hour in the car on the way up, talking about going to Snail Rocks, catching crabs, walking to the ice cream store, feeding the seagulls, riding his boogie board, going to Chicago Dogs,” she recalled. “Honestly, I was thrilled. It’s those kind of traditions and memory buildings that is a huge part of the appeal of the same old, same old, and make us behave like Capistrano Swallows.”

This is the time of year when most winter vacations are booked, and Christmas and New Year’s getaways tend to be repeats like the Potvins’ — a trip to a favorite mountain resort or a city near family.

Redundancy has a lot of value, both for travelers and for the travel business.

Visit. Have fun. Repeat.
“People want a sure thing,” said Anne Campbell, a travel expert who edits the site Shipcriticblog.com. “They want to know where they’re going, they want something safe and easy that they like. Repeat customers are important to the travel industry, too.”

Repeat business is critically important to the travel industry, particularly to hotels. It’s difficult to quantify how essential repeat customers are, but a recent survey of spa hotels found that more than three-quarters of all visitors were repeat guests. In other words, if people didn’t return, occupancy rates would drop faster than a hot stone falling off massage table. Some hotels might go out of business.

Related story:   We never asked for travel insurance — can we get our money back?

“At a time like this, repeat guests are very special,” said Robert Mandelbaum, the director of research information services at PKF Hospitality Research in Atlanta. “They’re the base of your business, from a hotel’s point of view.”

But other than more personalized service, and the health of the travel industry, what’s in it for you?

A study conducted by the University of North Carolina found repeat vacationers benefit in several ways:

• The odds that they’ll have an “unsatisfactory experience” are lower.

• They’re more likely to find “their kind of people” when they get there.

• There’s an emotional attachment to the place.

• They’re able to experience aspects of a destination they may have missed the last time they were there.

Put another way, if they had fun last time, they’re more likely to have fun next time.

Dig deeper
If vacations are about discovery, then repeat vacations are about going more than skin-deep.

Visitors can learn a lot by getting someone who knows the area to show them around. A Los Angeles Times reporter recently took the “insider” tour of Oahu from Jorge Garcia, an actor on the hit television show, “Lost.” The tour included some stops even some Hawaiians may not visit, like Kualoa Ranch.