Whether you're a seasonal tour operator or run a business that offers activities year-round, you may not have a lot of time or resources to focus on marketing—especially during peak season. While you may be able to generate more revenue by hiring more guides, expanding your line, or offering premium services to a niche market, there are other ways to make extra money on the side while supporting your core business efforts.
Here are seven ways tour and activity operators can make more money—in any season:
#1: Sell instant digital photos.
Many tour and activity merchants already sell photo packages as part of the experience. But you could take it further by offering instant downloads of professional images that the customer can purchase on a per-photo basis to upload to Facebook, Instagram, or other social sites with ease.
Creating the option to buy a single image at a time can speed up the checkout process and reduce buyer hesitation. Consider that many customers may be eager to pay $0.99 or $1.99 for a single high-quality image that captures a great moment right now—instead of going through an entire album later.
Give your customers full access to the gallery of images immediately after the experience is over so they can review it on their smartphones, make their selection, and upload the captured moment to their favorite social sites right away. It's a fun way to share their experience with friends and family, and can help you generate a quick sale with little effort.
New Zealand bungee company AJ Hackett, for example, has a station of computer monitors at their office for customers to view their photos right after their jump. Customers simply enter a special photo code to view the images, and since they all have to return to the office to pick up their bags before they leave, the timing is perfect. Customers can also view their photos online if they decide to order later.
#2: Maintain a blog
Even though you're in the business of selling and delivering interesting, unique, and unforgettable experiences to your customers, you can maintain their interest or pique a potential customer's interest with high-quality content on your website. Make an extended effort to develop content about different locations that your tour guides are experts in, and illustrate the experience a customer may have with high-quality digital images that you post. The goal is to tell interesting stories surrounding the experiences you already offer.
Play with a theme, like the content on www.12hrs.net, where visitors can go on an in-depth, 12-hour virtual tour with carefully-curated photographs and commentary about different destinations along the way. Or keep things simple with a blog that talks about how to make the most of an experience, like these tips for first-time scuba divers.
Fortunately, you don't need any web development or design experience to launch a blog. Western Prince Cruises keeps a simple one about whale-watching, filled with pictures and behind-the-scenes experiences from various trips. Navitat also has a site about its zip line tours, along with industry news.
You can also sell digital products like podcasts, e-books, or downloadable guides directly from the site.Wayde's World Hawaii has uploaded free podcasts on its website, but a business could certainly sell its own content. As your readership grows, you may even be able to earn residual income by running ads.
#3: Self-publish books.
Tour and activity operators have valuable insider knowledge about particular destinations and sites they work in. Consider publishing e-books that provide useful information such as travel tips and seasonal activities that a traveler can access on their smartphone or tablet. These shorter mini-guides can be priced much lower than other books on the market for a quick download. Look at these Kindle travel guides for inspiration.
Take advantage of self-publishing tools like Amazon's CreateSpace. These tools can help you create and upload books to print-on-demand and places them for sale on Amazon's network, where you'll earn a percentage of each sale. Whether you publish a single book or a whole series, these books can provide detailed maps, resources for travelers, photographs, and insider tips about a particular destination. Promote these on your website and take advantage of Amazon's marketing services to help generate passive income in any season.
#4: Partner with local businesses.
When it's slow season and you have more time to shift your focus on branding and marketing, consider reaching out to local businesses that complement yours to co-market various tours. Since partnering with bigger chains and brands have challenging approval processes, target smaller businesses instead.
Reach out to some of the busier boutique hotels and independently-owned properties, including bed and breakfasts, vacation home rental companies, and smaller motels to see if they're interested in referring business to you. In return, you could offer to recommend them to your customers, or even add their name and logo to your marketing materials as a "preferred" hotel. Some businesses could be interested in sharing a percentage of revenue for each referred customer that gets booked, and you could offer a similar deal to them. At the very least, stay in touch with the concierges on staff so they can recommend your business to their guests.
#5: Host workshops and events.
You're likely an expert in your activity, so establish yourself as an authority in your industry with educational events geared toward aspiring tour and activity operators, or other hospitality professionals.Hosting a seminar onsite can also be a great way to introduce more industry professionals to your business. You could sponsor training events for aspiring tour guides or activity operators, create workshops on how to build a tour business, and participate in other informational sessions that can expand your network.
Even though some attendees may be your competitors, the information you share doesn't need to be tied to your core business operations. Focus more on general tips and insights about the industry and talk about co-marketing ideas to encourage dialogue at the event.
#6: Offer immediate discounts on future bookings.
Encouraging satisfied customers to book their next experience on the same day of their visit can help you book up that calendar—much faster than trying to reach out to the customer at a later date. Consider offering an attractive discount on all bookings confirmed that same day so that you can generate repeat business with very little effort.
Remember that the customer is already in a positive and comfortable mindset after completing the activity. This is a perfect time to encourage them to come back. Think about different ways to pitch this idea to your customer, like sending an email with the information shortly after the tour is complete, or simply encouraging guides to mention the discount as the experience comes to an end.
#7: Sell packaged content.
If you have specialized knowledge about a certain destination that would be valuable to fellow tour operators or high-quality photographs that could be used as stock photos, consider selling packaged material in the form of digital content like e-books, downloadable PDFs, or MP3s. There may be a hungry market for podcasts and virtual tours that you haven't tapped into yet, whether they're prospective customers or armchair travelers. You could develop content in a variety of formats to entertain and educate while also marketing your business.
For example, a museum tour guide might sell a walking tour podcast of a certain museum, or a zip line tour operator may offer high-quality digital images of various shots around a popular destination. An experienced boat tour operator could publish an e-book on starting a boating tour business, or downloadable guides about maintaining and repairing boats.
There are countless ways to create revenue streams outside of just direct bookings. Use these tips as a guide to find new ways to help generate more revenue each season.
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