Over the years, we've learnt a lot about what businesses do to get more bookings. That's why we decided to compile a list of ways tour and activity operators can grow their business.
From networking to keeping a happy headquarters, here are 100 ways that tour and activity providers can grow their business.
It's good practice to review your goals and plans.
Your business strategy is a crucial part of your business as you strive to improve and compete in the market.
- Review your business' annual, monthly and weekly goals. Will these goals bring you success?
- Review your measures for success. Do these metrics actually contribute to your long-term success?
- Examine your sales performance. How can you optimise your sales channels to maximise profits?
- Write up your marketing strategy.
- Segment your customers. Are you attracting the right people to your business?
- Analyse your business' data to inform your plans. (Get tips about data collection for operators here.)
- Don't forget to research your competition. Sign up for a tour or activity run by your competitor and take notes.
Explore business partnerships
Partnering with other businesses can be a great way for your to reach a larger market without the added workload. Here are some partnerships you could explore.
- Create a partnership presentation to share with potential partners.
- Email travel agents abroad to ask if they would like to promote your services.
- Apply to online marketplaces like Klook and Musement to have your products listed on their websites. Not sure where to start? Download our free OTA guide.
- Reach out to other tour companies you would like to collaborate with. You can partner with companies in other destinations who offer the same type of experience you provide, or work with companies you provide trips that compliment your services.
- Work with your local or regional DMOs or DMCs to increase exposure.
- Partner with local hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops and stores. Have them hand out free guides or discount vouchers for your tours.
- Partner with a travel blogger. Work with them to create a bespoke once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
- Review your contracts with existing partnerships.
Create and participate in networking opportunities
Networking events are a perfect way to get your company's name out there. You have the opportunity to make strong connections with your local community and create good press for your business.
- Offer discounts to local business owners and their family members.
- Work with a charity auction. You can donate a few free passes for your tour or activity to a charity auction. Not only will you help raise money for a good cause, you'll create some positive buzz in the community.
- Organise a barbecue one weekend and invite previous customers to show your appreciation.
- Or throw a party and invite everyone! It could become the talk of the town and build up word of mouth.
- Sponsor a local sports team. From junior football to a high school basketball team, there's bound to be a few community or school sports teams that you can help sponsor for a season. Donate money to their uniforms or equipment and they'll promote your company's name all season long.
- Sponsor a local awards ceremony. In addition to the sports team, you can sponsor an awards ceremony. Especially one that is closely associate with recreation and the travel industry.
- Speak at a local school. Do you remember how many guest speakers there were at your university or trade school? There's a reason. Schools like to keep a strong link with businesses, so consider offering yourself as a speaker.
- Teach a class or a workshop. Do you have an eye for travel photography? Are you an expert with the financial side of business? Then hold a workshop or teach a class! You can do this locally or even online through a site like CreativeLive.
- Attend some networking events. Both online and in person.
- Attend a conference. You can go as a visitor or set up shop as an exhibitor. We attend ITB and WTM each year and make incredible connections every time.
Start with your customer communication
There is a lot you can do to improve your business but we believe that everything starts with a happy customer.
- Be friendly. First and foremost, your attitude towards customers should always be positive and friendly.
- Personalise emails to customers - always address them by their first names.
- Share pictures from the tour or activity with your customers via email.
- Follow up on every lead. Remember that guy you talked to at a barbecue last weekend? He said he wanted to book a tour. Get in touch with him! Maybe it'll work out, maybe it won't, but don't forget to follow up every time.
- Send post-trip emails to ask customers for feedback on your tour. You'd be amazed at how willing customers are to share their feedback with you, especially when you've reached out to them directly.
- Ask for testimonials. With the email feedback, ask your customer if it would be alright to use their positive words as a testimonial on your website or promotional material.
- Try to get a few video testimonials from customers. A good review on TripAdvisor is great, but video testimonials really sell the entire experience.
- Make the most of your email signatures by linking to your website and social media channels.
- Create a newsletter. Use it to inform readers of any interesting things happening with the company and to share promotional updates.
- Send exclusive offers to your customers. Do something to sweeten the deal for customers - whether it's a loyalty program or a special newsletter list.
- Review all the automated communication that is sent to customers, for example your booking confirmation emails, trip tickets and trip reminders.
Focus on your website
Your website is often where customers make their first impressions. Build a good one that is full of relevant information, creative content, and a way for customers to book their trips.
- Give your website a quick health check.
- Simplify administration with a booking system that does all the administration for you.
- Already have a booking system? Run a full booking test.
- Update the content on your site and optimise it for SEO.
- Look at other websites for inspiration.
- Start a blog.
- Make sure your website is easy to use on cell phones and other mobile devices.
- Translate your website content if your tours are run in multiple languages.
- Make sure all your links work.
- Be original on your 404-page. Sometimes things don't work as planned. Instead of leaving potential customers with a boring page, this is an opportunity to do something memorable. Be funny, be interesting, be informative, but above all, be original. Here's some great 404-page inspiration.
- Give customers a great reason to book directly from you rather than with a reseller (so you save on the commission).
Social media & review sites
Social media is the best place to promote your business. Nearly everyone has an account, you can speak to customers directly, reach hundreds of thousands of people with one post, and it's free.
- Your business has a Facebook page, right? If not, here's your friendly reminder to go sign up.
- If you haven't already, sign up for Twitter and Instagram. It's where all the action happens.
- Search for popular tourism hashtags and join the conversations there.
- Follow relevant accounts and share their posts with your followers.
- Integrate your social media channels onto your website and into your marketing plan.
- Create a hashtag for your company.
- Use that hashtag along with other relevant ones.
- Geo-tag your posts on social media.
- Encourage customers to share pictures from your tours on social media and tag your company.
- Host a photo contest on Instagram. Offer a free tour to the winner.
- Remind customers to leave you a review on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Google or any other review platform of your choice.
- Update your listing on these review sites.
Advertising, press and promotion
- Create a press kit. Your business needs a proper press kit that includes information about your business and yourself for journalists.
- Place an advertisement in your local newspaper.
- Use Facebook advertising.
- T-shirts. You've gotta have t-shirts.
- Write a guest post on a relevant website
- Keep business cards with you at all times. You never know who you'll meet or the random connections there are to be made in daily life. Never be caught without something that can easily be share with others about your business.
- Start a podcast. This could be about your business, or it could just be something fun and travel-themed. We like Tourprenuer.
- Connect in online groups. There are loads of Facebook, LinkedIn and even Reddit groups where people are free to promote their tours and activities. Why not drop into a few forums today?
- Write for a travel publication.
- Run FAM trips.
Reward your best customers
Customers love it when they feel appreciated. There are plenty of little things you can do to make sure they know how much their business means to you.
- Give discount codes to customers to share with their friends, like Uber does.
- Hand out free bottles of water. Make sure they're printed with your company logo on them.
- Give them exclusive offers in advance.
- Send them handwritten 'thank you' cards.
- Create a referral program for customers. Offer a free tour or activity for those who recommend your business to a friend.
- Organise discounts for business partners.
- Send Christmas/holiday gifts.
- Give away free merchandise to random customers.
- Give out free rentals to past customers as a seasonal promotion.
- Offer a free picnic during an outdoor event.
A great starting point for improvement comes from the things you're able to do for yourself. That includes planning, organising, and education.
- Attend a conference relevant to your business.
- Sign up for a webinar to help you market, sell, or create better tours.
- Sign up for a free online course. Check out our free Tour & Activity Business School with industry experts.
- Organise your schedule to prepare for your busiest season.
- Download a free ebook for tour and activity operators to brush up your marketing skills.
- Meet up with the team lead of a similar company and learn from each other.
- Look into a mentoring program.
- Work on crafting better content.
- Work on your skills as a guide.
Not everything in your business has to do with socialising and crunching numbers. There are a lot of ways your creative skills can help you market and run your business more efficiently.
- Create free destination guides to capture the attention of potential customers.
- Bring in a professional photographer to take pictures of the highlights of your tour or activity for your website.
- Offer your own photography services. If you're not ready to hire a photographer, work on your own skills and take the images yourself. We've created a free photography guide to help you polish up your photo skills.
- Offer exclusive videos from each tour.
- Redesign your website. We've got tips to help you improve booking conversion rates.
- Find your niche. Maybe you're a kayaking tour, but have you engaged much with the communities who are looking for that? Try to engage in some adventure travel forums and other established communities.
- Create a series of infographics. Have fun with them, building them around fun facts about your tour or activity.
- Create a slideshow to host on your website.
- Advertise your business on blogs. Look for influential travel bloggers that are connected to your niche.
Reward your team
Having friendly, knowledgeable guides is key to running an efficient tour business. They work hard to keep customers happy and make your company look good. Here are some thoughtful ways to reward them for the time and effort they put in.
- Host company events, like a Team Week where everyone comes together to have fun and make memories as a team. Give them free passes to an exciting activity, host a few lunches or dinners, and encourage everybody to get involved.
- Reward your guides with the occasional beer after work.
- Serve tea and coffee in the office.
- Offer employees growth opportunities. It shows them you value their time and efforts for your company. Ask them if there's any specific opportunity they'd like to pursue on the job this year. This will look different for every company, depending on size and resources available.
- Offer snacks and other refreshments during working hours.
- Write positive LinkedIn referrals for your employees.
- Make a point to mention their highlights. It shows the entire team that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.
- Pay your guides fairly and on time.
- Give them personal time off.
- Have regular check-ins with guides to understand how their tours are going.
Last but not least, the best way to grow your business is to create a great experience for your customers!