So your tour and activity business is thriving. You have multiple locations up and running, a recognizable brand in various markets, and a competent team set up to keep things ticking along at a steady pace. But as executives, there's never a time to rest on your well-earned laurels. There's always something—whether it's smoothing over divots in operations, tinkering your marketing strategy, or brushing up on new demands and trends in your industry—to help both attract more customers to grow your revenues and to improve your reputation.
Whether you oversee kayaking tours at multiple locations, offer sailing tours to the luxury market, or coordinate several themed adventure tours at popular vacation destinations, here are 10 ways travel executives can grow their tour and activity business in any season.
1. Position yourself as an authority in your industry.
Sharing your business knowledge and setting yourself apart from the competition as a leader in the industry can help you increase visibility to potential customers. This might take the form of speaking about the state of travel marketing at a conference or by crafting and sharing blog posts on LinkedIn.
Anybody who searches for the CEO's name or does some basic online research about your company will find a variety of blog posts or media, such as video clips, podcasts, or even self-published books, that demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness. This can be a valuable asset to any CEO looking to expand their reach and build a strong online presence. Customers conducting an online search for the CEO's name are likely to form an opinion based on what they see on the first page of Google search results, and that first page gets 79 percent of all clicks. (We shared several tips on how to develop a stronger online presence in this blog post: How Tour and Activity CEOs Can Be a Trusted Expert in the Industry.)
2. Stay relevant by offering tours aligned with travel trends.
Catering to the needs of today's travelers involve staying abreast of the latest travel trends and travel booking behavior. For example, recent research from Bing reveals how millennial and Baby Boomers are prime markets for experiential and adventure travel. The latest statistics reveal 62 percent of millennials plan shorter trips (five days or fewer), which means many will be interested in single-day or weekend experiences. According to AARP's Travel Research: 2015 Boomer Travel Trends, Boomers and mature travelers are expected to spend $120 billion on leisure travel and 57 percent are doing so to “get away from normal, everyday life."
You can cater to both of these markets by focusing on the experiences you offer and promoting the value of adventurous getaways. To do this effectively, consider modifying your offerings and marketing strategies to communicate the concept of unique—even customizable—experiences. Whether this takes the form of creating and promoting seasonal getaway packages or customized itineraries for single-day visits, the idea is to make your tour or activity an attractive "bucket list" activity for guests with a strong focus on the experience.
3. Expand your marketing reach.
Don't limit your marketing efforts to target customers that are interested in booking a summer vacation or planning an itinerary for the holidays. Some travelers who are already near your property for other reasons—a family reunion, a wedding that demands an extended stay, or even a sightseeing tour of the area—may be seeking out local deals and activities to enhance their trip.
According to a report from Expedia Media Solutions and comScore, mobile bookings account for more than 70 percent of all travel booked, and more than 40 percent of family and luxury travelers turn to their smartphones when searching for last-minute activities during their trip. This means that you can not only market to a traveler during the trip-planning stage, but also tailor your marketing efforts to those who are already at your location.
Have your marketing team come up with creative ideas to position yourself in front of these travelers. This could take the form of local marketing campaigns, connecting with local travel companies that may be able to cross-promote your offerings, or even Facebook advertising and pay-per-click advertising campaigns.
4. Use booking software data and statistics to your advantage.
Statistic Brain reveals more than 57 percent of all travel reservations,including those for tours and activities, are made using the Internet. Another 54 percent of travelers surveyed by Carlson Wagonlit Travel reported that booking online is faster than contacting a travel counselor directly, and 46 percent say booking online is simpler. If you're accommodating for these tech-savvy travelers by offering online booking options through your website, mobile site, and even on your Facebook page, use their data for future marketing campaigns.
For example, if you find that you get an influx of Facebook activity or mobile bookings right around Christmas and New Year's when people are looking for last-minute gift ideas, you may want to promote gift cards and winter getaway packages leading up to prime shopping season. You can also monitor booking trends using the backend of your software program to determine when your peak and slow booking seasons are—and engineer your marketing campaigns around those times to maximize bookings.
5. Create or maintain a customer retention strategy.
In this blog post about ways to grow your business quickly, Siimon Reynolds, a mentor to business leaders around the world, explains that one of the three main areas of business a CEO should focus on is how to get customers to purchase again. If you want to keep your reservations calendars full every season, don't overlook the value of marketing to past customers to encourage them to come back for another experience.
Tap into the database to determine whether the visitor is a return customer, a new customer, and if they have noted that they are celebrating a special occasion or are interested in learning something new by signing up for an introductory class or similar. Encourage staff members to pay attention to these details so they can greet these customers using this knowledge—a birthday greeting upon arrival, asking about the customer's last visit and what they are looking forward to this time, or a complimentary souvenir for those signing up for a class are a few personal touches that can set your company apart from the rest.
You could also use customer data for your email marketing campaigns. Segment your email list by number of visits, age group, or special interests so you can send custom campaigns that encourage the customer to come back. You could reach out to these customers at least once a month to stay in touch, extend a return customer discount, or announce a special offer or last-minute booking special to generate repeat business.
6. Set yourself apart by offering personalized experiences with a personal touch.
An interview with American Express Travel for Travel Market Report reveals more than two-thirds of travel agents surveyed spend the majority of their time creating customized itineraries for travelers that are more than willing to splurge on travel enhancements, such as on-trip activities. Consumers are looking for more personalized tours where they can enjoy a unique experience and are willing to pay for "bragging rights"— experiences that nobody else or very few fellow travelers have had.
Your company can capitalize on these trends by offering special, themed experiences or customization options where the traveler can create their own multi-activity itinerary, take advantage of add-ons such as workshops or classes, and enjoy a more intimate experience with tour guides and fellow travelers.
7. Run website checks regularly to cater to a cross-device world.
If the booking process is compromised because of slow load web page load times or you have a site that is difficult to navigate, you may lose customers without having the chance to introduce yourself.
Consider that your typical traveler isn't only jumping on the web via their desktop computer to research options anymore—many travelers now use their mobile devices, such as a smartphone or iPad, to plan and research their trips. eMarketer reveals six in 10 leisure travelers turn to search engines and book travel across multiple devices these days. Making sure your guests can access a mobile-ready version of your site and even book their reservation using their smartphone or mobile device can keep you one step ahead of your competition.
Testing your site across multiple devices and making sure both your desktop version and mobile version are easy to navigate on all browsers is an important step—especially if you have recently updated your site with new content images, video, or other media. Make sure your web development team and other team members are running tests regularly and reporting any site issues that may be compromising the booking process.
8. Take advantage of paid search advertising opportunities.
Showing up on the top search results is more important than ever since most customers now turn to the web to research options. Search Engine Watch reports on recent studies that indicate 67 percent of the buyer's journey is now done over the web. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising means your ads will run on major search engine results pages and you can fine-tune your efforts to target a certain demographic.
Your online marketing team and online advertising manager should be able to provide reports on keyword data that is bringing traffic to your site and information on PPC advertising options that will perform best based on your goals. Take the time to schedule meetings with this department to determine which ads need to run at any given time, how much of your budget to allocate to paid search, and monitor performance regularly to ensure your ads are getting the clicks you need.
9. Maintain a positive brand reputation online.
What does your company look like to someone who has never visited your website before or knows nothing about you? According to this infographic: “A brand's reputation is recognized as the number one driver for business value." More than two-thirds of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which means any indications of unhappy customers can damage your reputation.
Make sure you have a team or a manager in charge of monitoring your online brand reputation so that appropriate parties can take action immediately. The goal is to quell any negative comments and address low ratings at the earliest opportunity. You can also make sure your company stands apart from the rest by promoting any positive feedback your receive and taking steps to rectify the situation when a customer is unhappy. (We shared some tips on how to handle negative reviews online here.)
10. Boost marketing and advertising efforts in the right seasons.
You probably already have a clear understanding of your travel market's peak and off-peak travel seasons. Consider that many travelers are more likely to book travel a few months before peak season since they are in "buying" or "research" mode. WordStream reports that December through January are the prime months for winter travel and June through August are prime months for summer travel. This means your marketing strategies to target winter and summer travelers may need to be developed and executed at least two to three months before prime travel season. You could create seasonal specials or promote your company and offerings more aggressively during these months to capture the market right around seasonal peaks.
From reaching out to certain travelers with targeted marketing campaigns to maintaining a positive brand reputation online, there are several ways CEOs of tour and activity companies can generate more revenue and improve business operations overall. Use these tips and strategies to boost revenue and build your business steadily throughout the year.