Running a tour and activity business can be interesting, not only because you get to frequent stunning sights or engage in thrilling activities, but also because you get to meet people all over the world and give them an experience of a lifetime.
Here are five inbound markets you should expect to book a tour or activity with you in the next few years. In this article, I've provided common travel behaviours for each market and included traveller personas to help you craft a more targetted marketing approach for the upcoming season.
Germany is the 3rd largest inbound market into Ireland, growing nearly 20% between 2010 and 2013. In 2013, it was estimated that 478,000 Germans visited Ireland.
- Highest number of visitors over the summer.
- Typically spend as little as a day or as long as 2 weeks in Ireland.
- Mainly visit Dublin (78%) and the South West (46%) of Ireland.
- Big fans of hiking and walking activities, with 22% of travellers saying they engaged in such an activity.
Research habits: Germans are early planners and organize their trips as early as 10 months or even a year in advance.
Booking habits: They might book as early as 9 months before travel and prefer to book their trips independently and online.
Travel habits: German visitors prefer going to historical areas like castles, cathedrals, heritage centres; as well as cultural places like museums and art galleries. They also enjoy going to Irish pubs to enjoy some live music and a proper pint of Guinness.
- Culturally Curious - These travellers value peace and quiet and a more relaxed pace of life. They also enjoy exploring the coastal areas and the outdoors, and are slightly more active.
- Great Escapers - These travellers enjoy the outdoors a lot more than the Culturally Curious and are especially drawn to rural settings. Needless to say, they aren't as interested in gourmet experiences or cuisines.
- Social Energisers - This type of traveller enjoys quick city breaks and aims to do more than just party the weekend away. German Social Energisers enjoy outdoor activities like cycling and other active ways to be in the nature and landscape. They escape the city to feel a sense of freedom.
Find detailed facts and figures about the German market here.
Head over to this report out what Tourism Ireland is doing to attract this market and how you can work with them too.
France is the 4th largest inbound market with an increase of 23.3% of visitors between 2010 and 2013. Ireland's growth as a holiday destination to the French surpassed the growth of Western Europe by an impressive 9.3%, with a total of 439,000 French visitors in 2013.
- Mainly visit between May-August every year.
- Prefer hiking to other outdoor activities like swimming or fishing.
- More likely to visit coastal towns.
Research habits: French visitors usually make the decision to visit Ireland somewhere between a month to 7 months before departure.
Booking habits: They are also likely to make bookings early on in the year, between January-April of each year, and prefer to do it independently via online platforms.
Travel habits: French visitors are interested in historic attractions like churches, cathedrals, castles, monuments; followed by heritage and art museums and galleries. They are also likely to tour around Ireland to catch a glimpse of the Irish landscape and natural outdoors; or some simply stay in Dublin. Lastly, they too enjoy going to an Irish pub for some live music and a pint of real Guinness.
- Culturally Curious - These travellers like to discover the unknown and are motivated to search for breath-taking beauty and landscape. They are less motivated by socialising and meeting new people.
- Great Escapers - This group is slightly more interested in culture than their German counterparts and desire good food and wine. However, they tend to be less active than average Great Escapers when it comes to the outdoors.
- Social Energisers - A majority of these travellers enjoy taking city breaks in Dublin and will explore a destination close by if there's a promise of stunning natural views. They want to party while on holiday and are less inclined to engage in physical activities.
Head over to this report to find out what Tourism Ireland is doing to attract this market and how you can work with them too.
Between 2000 to 2015, the Spanish inbound market has tripled, with as many as 300,000 Spanish visitors exploring Ireland in 2015.
- Spain is the 5th largest source market for Ireland.
- Spanish travellers typically have very high interest levels in visiting Ireland.
- Air connectivity has grown significantly the past few years, making it easier and cheaper for Spanish tourists to visit Ireland.
Research habits: They rely a lot on word of mouth and will seek out recommendations before going on holiday. They are also heavy social media users and use these platforms to research and find out about destinations.
Booking habits: The Spanish are late bookers with June being the key booking month for travel. They also prefer to book directly with a hotel or tour provider than go through third parties like travel agents, and will do so online.
Purchasing habits: Spaniards are value-conscious and price-sensitive. They respond well to discounts and offers, continually seeking to find the best value. Even while travelling, they are constantly on the lookout for good value for money, which will guide most of their decisions.
Travel habits: Although Spanish travellers are curious, love to explore and seek new experiences, they prefer to do so within their comfort zone and are likely to prefer the easier option.
- Culturally Curious - These travellers want to explore and get a real and authentic sense of a destination. They enjoy visiting historical and cultural attractions and constantly seek experiences that are unique and different from home.
- Social Energisers - Spanish Social Energisers want to explore cities to discover its culture and social offerings, particularly towards the end of the year. Again, they actively seek out unique experiences and want to party it up in cool and trendy areas.
How to approach this market:
- Highlight direct booking options and partner up with local companies to provide good value deals.
- Have your product available on Spanish OTAs such as eDreams, Logitravel, and Rumbo.
- Highlight how ‘easy’ your product is. For instance -- how close it is to Dublin and other cities, provide convenient public transport options, other attractions nearby, and so on.
- Spaniards are motivated and influenced by positive word of mouth so include testimonials and links to reviews and your own social media links as much as possible.
Italian visitor numbers are growing fast thanks to more direct flights. These travellers stay longer and spend more compared to other inbound markets.
- Italians are generally drawn to the iconic and celebrated, therefore tend to keep to a “classic” itinerary.
- They also tend to visit Ireland from January-March and October-December. There was also a whopping 21% of visitors in August.
- 48% of Italian travellers take short holidays in Ireland, only staying between 1 to 5 nights.
Research habits: While 21% of visitors made the decision to visit October-December of the previous year, quite a large portion of visitors only decided to visit Ireland 2 to 3 months before departure. Word of mouth and recommendations by opinion leaders and other Italians are also key to securing their business.
Booking habits: Italians tend to make their bookings around the same time they make the decision to travel. They too, like all other markets, prefer to book their trips independently via online channels.
Travel habits: 70% of Italian visitors say that they visited a local craft or food market, while 59% of them said they had also joined a wine tour. These figures are interesting because they are much higher compared to other markets. We can see how food is important to them as it is telling of the local culture. When they're not eating, they want to meet friendly locals to get to know the local culture better.
How to approach this market:
- Italians prefer not to drive when abroad so be sure to include public transport options in the “getting there” section of your website.
- Like I mentioned earlier, Italians care about their food so make sure yours is not only high quality but also connects the guest to the local culture.
- Tip from Tourism Ireland: "Businesses not on the classic Italian itinerary can position themselves as the doorway to an iconic experience in their region; while businesses on the classic Italian itinerary can 'bundle' with other products in their area, beyond the classic 'must-do' experiences."
Head over to Tourism Ireland's full report for more information about the Italian market.
For more facts and figures, check out this market profile.
"There is somewhere else I would rather go" is a common reason for British travellers overlooking Ireland when planning their vacations. British tourists believe they need a passport to get to Ireland, so it is deemed a foreign destination yet not seen as different enough from domestic locations.
- Majority of travellers visit Ireland between January-March and from October (23%) to December (15%).
- The Brits who do end up visiting Ireland tend to enjoy cultural and historic Irish attractions.
Research habits: Most travellers make the decision to travel between October and December the year before they make their trip.
Booking habits: A majority of travellers make their reservations around the same time they decide to travel. The British are also independent and online bookers.
Travel habits: On average, British travellers do not spend a lot of time in Ireland, with 68% of travellers spending 1-5 nights in Ireland, while 21% spend up to 8 nights. This could be due to the fact that more than half of them are repeat visitors.
- Social Energisers - These travellers are looking for excitement and fun while on holiday. They want to be spontaneous and have unexpected social encounters with locals that may take place on a night out, at a festival, on a unique tour, or some other out-of-the-box experience. They want to be a part of the local scene, if only for a night.
- Culturally Curious - These travellers are looking for authenticity and are happy to go off the beaten track to find it. They want an immersive cultural experience and will happily spend a day exploring historical sites, gardens, parks, galleries, World Heritage sites, literary tours, and so on.
- Great Escapers - British Great Escapers want to move at a relaxing pace, seeking to recharge or reconnect with their families in remote places. They're looking for breath-taking landscapes, fresh and local food, and of course, a good ol' pint of Guinness!
How to reach these markets
In addition to the tips above, there are many unique ways you can approach these markets Here are some basic guidelines you should follow:
- Craft a specific strategy for each market. Now that you know when they're researching and planning their holidays, schedule your marketing campaigns accordingly.
- Encourage early bookers to do so with you by giving them a discount - time it correctly so that you gain more than you "lose".
- Use incredibly precise marketing tools like Facebook and Instagram advertising to target specific markets according to their location or customer persona.
- For non-English speaking markets, translate your content to win them over. Make sure you have guides who can carry out your tours or activities in those languages too.
- Word of mouth is incredibly important - make sure you've got TripAdvisor widgets embedded on your site to display your latest reviews.
- Capture interested audiences and convert them immediately (remember the Italian and British markets?) with an easy-to-use online booking and payment system.
- All markets seem to be moving toward more independent, DIY travel - make sure you're available online and that customers can easily book a tour with you.
- Also make sure that you're on distribution channels that get you in front of the right audience. Use OTAs to get in front of mass and niche markets.
- Read this article to learn about the customer journey, from dreaming to planning, to booking and finally going on a trip.
- Read this article to learn more about customer personas and how you can use them to better understand your customers.
- Download our Marketing Handbook to learn how to distribute your services more effectively.
- Download our Distribution Research Report to learn more about OTAs and what other companies in the industry are doing in terms of distribution.
Got anymore insights into these markets? Let me know in the comments below!