It's more than likely that you followed your passion when you got into the tour and activities industry. But whether you're in the business of bike tours or the brewery business, your company is just that: a business. While every day is another chance to cash in on more fun and adventure, you're in business to make money. And with tour operators making up $7 billion of the $1.3 trillion travel and tourism industry, there's plenty of money to be had.
But like any growing industry (there are now 2,400 tour operators in the industry), competition is getting tougher. To set yourself up to make the most money possible, follow these eight strategies to boost your success and your bottom line.
1. Don't Compete on Price.
Instead of trying to be the lowest priced tour or activity operator in the market, focus on being the most unique. Do you have exclusive access to a certain area, such as Elite Adventure Tours, a company that has exclusive access to Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate, which has been featured on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Hangover 3? Or do you offer an unusual type of activity, such as Haunts of Mackinac, a company that provides nighttime ghost tours of Mackinac Island? Focus on one thing and maximize your quality. While you should always keep an eye on your competition and understand price ranges for your market, the best way to stand apart is by being different.
2. Generate New Leads Through Content.
Companies with blogs gathered 68% more leads than those without, according to research by HubSpot. But you can't leave your blog stagnant. The study found that blogs start to impact lead growth once they have more than 20 articles posted. Blog posts should be optimized for keywords and include a clear call to action, such as a button that leads the reader to your booking page. Posts that contain those two elements increase conversion rates by 87%, according to HubSpot.
3. Attract Customers By Using Social Media.
B2C businesses using Twitter generate two times more leads than those without a Twitter account, according to HubSpot. Twitter users with several hundred followers had approximately twice as many leads as Twitter users with followers in the double digits. In other words, social media is a great way to attract new customers and engage existing ones—so it should be a priority in your overall marketing efforts.
When posting on social media, make sure you follow the 80/20 rule, posting promotional information just 20% of the time, and offering valuable information, such as tips and industry news, 80% of the time. This approach will make you look like an expert in your field.
4. Form Strategic Partnerships.
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is trying to do everything alone, according to Forbes. You will sell more tours and activities when you partner with other companies and suppliers. For example, add more value by combining offerings with a restaurant or spa. Or create alliances with other businesses and cross-promote your services. Make sure you work out the details in advance on how to price your events. For example, you can each discount your offerings by 10% to 15%, and sell the activity at a flat rate.
5. Invest in Employee Training and Engagement.
Service with a smile isn't just a cliché; it impacts the bottom line. A study done by researchers at Bowling Green University and Penn State University found that customers who were served by smiling employees felt more satisfied by the overall experience and more likely to return. Make sure you properly train employees, even providing scripts to improve their performance. Empower employees to make their own decisions and create an employee culture of fun so the atmosphere spills over into the customer experience. A study by research firm McLean & Company found that organizations with highly engaged employees had an average three-year revenue growth of 20.1%, versus the average 8.9% revenue growth rate.
6. Segment Your Marketing Based On The Time of Year.
Use the season to decide which customer base to target. If you live in an area that has higher bookings during the summer, use this time of year to beef up tourism marketing to out-of-state visitors. Give your information to the concierge at local hotels, distribute information through tourism offices and reach out to influential travel bloggers.
During the off-season, go after locals who are already in the area. Residents can be an often-overlooked source or revenue for travel and tour companies, but this market can be lucrative and recurring. Send a press release offering discounts on group events to your local news stations, advertise in community newspapers, and reach out to local organizations, such as scouts, church groups, and schools.
7. Plan Ahead for Slow Periods.
Based on prior year sales, identify low-demand periods and plan for them. For example, provide discounts on certain days of the week that are traditionally slow. Or fill spots by creating special group bookings that you plan for these off times. You can also use the slow season to work on your marketing. Send emails to customers who visited you asking for a review of your business; 52% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations, according to HubSpot. Or, send an enticing marketing campaign during the winter inviting customers to book their summer travel plans now—92% of vacations are booked at least a month in advance, according to BusinessWire.
8. Focus on Existing Customers.
Small businesses are realizing the impact of existing customers versus new customer acquisition. According to a study by research firm Manta, 61% of small business owners report that more than half of their annual revenue comes from repeat customers. Existing customers spend 67% more than new, according to Inc.com, so increase your emphasis on the customers you have. Collect client details such as email addresses, birthdays, and anniversary dates during booking—and constantly improve the quality of your offerings. Then reach out to customers through strategic email and social media marketing campaigns.
In the increasingly competitive tours and activities market, it pays to focus on the best ways to increase your bottom line. So start hyper-focusing on these tips, whether it's fine-tuning your social media strategy or segmenting by type of year, and you'll see revenues balloon.