Exciting news for any business in the tourism industry: travel is on a steady uptick, as evidenced by the 4.5-percent increase in the rate of outbound trips during the first two quarters of 2014, a number expected to increase again by another 4 to 5-percent this year, according to ITB World Travel Trends Report. In the United States alone, there were 444.5 million domestic business and leisure trips in 2013 and the figure is forecasted to rise to 467.3 million by 2017.
In other words: there's a huge pool of potential customers that just keeps getting deeper. So how do you keep your head above water, and prepare yourself for that new wave of customers? Here are some tips, straight from fellow tour and activity company owners, on how to best handle an increase in customers.
1. Increase the manpower and implement necessary systems
To handle the surge in new customers to her business, Le Diem Huong, Deputy Director of Haivenu Tours-Vietnam, focused in on two hugely important areas of the company: human resources and suppliers. To make sure they were well equipped to handle more customers, they hire new, experienced staffers, while also rearranging current teams to maximize capacity, performance, and overall service. That included implementing an online booking system and tour management software, and assigning supervisors to double check all forms to ensure smooth operations.
Another aspect to maintaining a great customer experience with rising demand: renegotiating with suppliers. Haivenu Tours-Vietnam worked with suppliers to offer more possible destinations so that customers would have more options (and existing tours wouldn't be over-crowded). Says Huong, “Maintaining satisfaction of our customers, despite influx of new ones, required procedures to be implemented strictly. It's a must to never miss an important step or detail."
2. Focus on your core customers
HVM Consulting, a Belgium-based tour agency, owes much of its 25 years of success to the relationships it builds with customers. “The success of HVM Consulting is founded on its personalized relationship with clients and suppliers—we simply build rapport with them in person, listen to their specific needs and requests, and ensure that their trip arrangements correspond to their expectations," says Hans Vanmaele, managing director of HVM Consulting. "Because of this, our best sales people are actually our satisfied clients." A core of their business practices: the Pareto Principle, in which they prioritize and recognize their clients' potential and productivity. "We maintain focus on the 20% of our clients who produce 80% of our sales," says Vanmaele.
3. Match customer requests with complimentary offerings
To increase your revenue per customer, you need an efficient system, in which you offer personalized experiences alongside complementary offerings that will dramatically enhance the over-all experience for the customer.
During the booking process, it's important to learn about each customer as much as possible to provide them their ultimate dream vacation, so ask if they have any specific requests to best prepare prior to their arrival. To achieve this, incorporate segmented email marketing campaigns on each of your website's landing pages, segmenting these visitors based on their previous travel history and upcoming trips. For example, a couple who recently booked a trip to Italy will get a complimentary quick guide to the city they're looking to visit. If your company has local partners in the area, include in special packages and discounts from those partners to sweeten the deal.
While no business would complain about a new influx of customers, it could cause problems if you're not properly prepared. But if you reinforce the systems you have in place, you'll free yourself up to build and maintain relationships with your customers that will keep them coming back.