Travelling is about having fun and experiencing new things. This is why a great tour can be the highlight of a travel experience. Your clients will have a story to tell about the time they jumped out of a plane, went on a guided mountain bike tour, or went on a caving adventure.
People love to travel, and they don't mind spending money when they do it. A recent survey showed that Americans alone will spend over $100 billion on travel this year, with an average of $1,978 spent per person. Fact of the matter is, the opportunity is out there for tour operators to get a piece of this pie. The question is how to capitalize on it.
Let us share 5 recommended things to do when starting a new business or opening a new location.
Build An Effective Web Presence
Your company website will be the headquarters of your online presence. Of course, your website has to be attractive and easy to navigate. Travelers want to be able to book right on the spot so your website should accommodate online bookings. In addition to the convenience for your customers, an online booking system will allow you to be open for business 24 hours a day.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of your website. SEO involves keywords, content, getting links to your site and much more. Good SEO will allow your website to rank highly in search results on Google and other search engines.
In addition to your website itself, you'll want an active social media presence and want to participate in relevant online communities. Start a Facebook business page and keep it up to date. Make sure to post lots of high-resolution images with your customer's smiling faces. If more of your customers are on Instagram, feed that funnel too. With over 500 million users and 4.2 billion likes per day, Instagram is a great place to spread the word about your tour. At the same time, keep up your positive reviews on review sites like TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook. After all, acccording to a recent poll 95% of travellers read reviews
Your web presence, SEO and social media will make up your organic efforts but you'll also want to do some targeted advertising wherever applicable. Facebook ads can be very powerful if used correctly. Combined with Google AdWords, the staple for online advertising, your company should go mainstream within the first year. After you launch, be sure to spend some time picking the right search terms and use Google Analytics to measure how effective your advertising campaigns are. Said otherwise, Facebook and Google have extensive analytics - get to know them.
Email marketing is also very effective and doesn't have to cost anything. Direct communication with customers and suppliers is a must. Make sure to follow up with clients after the tour and ask them for a review. Free email marketing software, like MailChimp will make the process a lot easier.
Build Relationships With The Local Community
Get to know local travel agents and concierges. These people come into contact with lots of travelers looking for new and exciting things to do. You want local hotels and travel agents to recommend your tour to potential customers. Same goes with major local attractions. For example, a resort functions as a local hub for other excursions.
Make connections with your local visitor information center. Information centers are a one-stop shop for local things to do and your local DMO exists to serve you! Make sure they have all the info they need on your tour. Iconic city sights will often have smaller physical information centers but their online presence can also direct traffic to your website.
Get to know other local tour operators. Established tour operators will know the challenges of operating in the local community and therefore their knowledge is extremely valuable. If you're lucky you'll find an experienced tour operator to mentor you. In most cases where you are not in direct competition, synergies can be found in the form of referrals or joint offerings. Think about the best outcome before making any moves.
Test & Take Friends On Your Tours
Before you publicly launch your tour, do some trial runs with friends and family. Build your confidence with people that you know and get as much feedback as you can. Once you can run a tour without any kinks, that’s when you can start taking on the public.
Running "famils" is also a great way to spread the word about your tour. Famil is short for familiarization and involves a free tour given to local journalists and travel industry insiders. If you give a famil to the right people they'll write about your tour and spread the word. Travel journalists and bloggers know a lot about the industry and can provide you with great feedback about your tour.
Requirements for tour operator certification and licensing vary significantly by location. Some countries such as Israel, require a diploma from a two-year mandatory program while others have no regulation at all. Certain cities have municipal bylaws that require certifications. You'll want to check with other local tour operators or your local government office. You can also check with your local DMO for information pertaining to certificates.
In Canada, there is no required certification to become a tour operator but specific activities do require certification. For example, a rock climbing guide or whitewater rafting guide would require a course certification. If you're serving food, providing accommodation, or providing transport there are often additional regulations to be aware of.
Additionally, you may need a special license to transport people in a vehicle. For example, you need a special license to drive a bus or a commercial passenger vehicle. You will want to have liability insurance too. You'll want to be covered in the event that something goes wrong on one of your tours. A minimum of $1 million in liability coverage is recommended.
Start A Blog
Regularly publish content about your tour and activities involved. Why? Because a blog has the potential to dramatically increase your web traffic. Companies that have a blog get 97% more links to their website. It adds content to match queries entered via Google on behalf of customers. The stories will provide an example of what its like to participate in your tour while attracting drops of traffic to your offerings.
Make sure to allow comments on your blog posts so you can communicate with your audience. Usually, when someone asks a question there will be lots of other people wondering the same thing. Comments will naturally provide answers in a personal way. Use your blog to tell the story about your company. Show off your knowledge and experience in the niche that you operate in.
There's nothing easy about building a tour business but the end result will be well worth it. We hope these five recommendations will help jumpstart your business and scale fast. Just remember that there are for more free resources available than you think and there is no need to reinvent the wheel every time. For more information, be sure to check out our other blogs and resources.