So you've been running your tour and activity company for almost a decade now and you're doing pretty well. You've not folded, you get a steady stream of customers, you've got a great team and you've learnt to deal with the influx over the high season.
But you're beginning to wonder "What next?" Perhaps it's time to expand and grow your business, but how?
Here's how: Get your operations in order and work on a game plan to make this the best season ever.
1. Plan a promotional campaign
You already know when the high-season kicks in and when tourists will start filling up the streets in your city. Plot these dates on a calendar and plan a promotional campaign a few weeks beforehand to encourage as many advanced bookings as possible. Take into account special events that might be happening in your destination and decide if you want to participate in those as well.
Use well-tested with high ROI to jump start your campaigns. Contact out to old customers via email, use social media and review sites to reach new ones, and print out fliers and brochures to pass out to your partners. Experiment with other advertising channels like Facebook and Google AdWords.
Use a calendar tool like Google Calendar to have an overview of when you want to launch your campaigns and what needs to be done beforehand. Include the smaller tasks and set deadlines for things that need to be done to before you can launch your campaign.
Example: Pre-season promotional campaign on social media with 10% discount.
2. Make plans for last-minute deals too
Although you want to encourage as many advanced bookings as possible, you also want to get those last few seats booked up for each tour to cover your fixed overheads. This is where having effective distribution channels can help tremendously.
You can consider promoting your products on sites like LastMinute.com or Viator. Having a live inventory will keep you updated with your latest availabilities and a Channel Manager can help you promote your tours and activities seamlessly across different distribution platforms.
3. Get your customers excited about the upcoming season
As for customers who have already booked with you, get them excited for their upcoming experience by sending them pre-trip emails. You can remind them about the details of their booking, what they need to bring and other logistical details like where the meeting point is.
Save more time and energy by automating the entire process while maintaining top-notch service.
Tip: Generate word of mouth before customers arrive at your destination
Send previous customers discount codes for them to pass on to friends and family who might be heading to your destination. This is a fantastic way to get noticed before people even arrive at your destination.
4. Use events to attract more walk-ins
Our recent research on Distribution Trends found that tour and activity operators receive a little over half of their bookings online (53%), meaning that the other half of their customers still prefer to book in person. The problem here is that it can be difficult to get noticed when your competitors are probably doing the same thing.
One way to stand out from the crowd is by hosting your own events or sponsoring an event, depending on your available resources of course. The events you host or sponsor don't always have to be huge, they just need to attract the audience. Plus, you could also collaborate with another local company to create a unique experience and attract the customers you want.
Take Bastimentos Alive as an example. They threw barbeques when they first started to build their reputation.
"I began charging people what other boat tour operators were charging, $35 per customer, and offered something extra. I threw in a barbeque at the end of each tour to build my reputation. And soon enough, people started talking about Bastimentos Alive."
Use these events to attract more walk-in customers and secure your bookings on the spot with a Point-Of-Sale Desk. Make your customer experience an enjoyable one from the beginning - accept cash and card payments with a Mobile Card Reader.
5. Plan which distribution channels to focus on
Assuming that you already focus on your company's website, social media channels and review pages, the next thing you need to focus on are your distribution strategies via Online Travel Agents (OTAs).
These platforms will give you more exposure because they receive a lot more traffic compared to your website. This is mainly because they have a larger online presence and more in-depth expertise. In return, they expect quite a large commission, ranging between 15% - 20%.
From our research, we found that 3 is the optimum number of OTAs to work with. As part of your preparation for the high season, make sure that you've signed up to distribute your tours with the top OTAs for your vertical or region. Save time doing this with a Channel Manager so that you don't have to manually enter your availabilities and adjust spreadsheets.
Tip: Partner with a local company to promote your tours to a larger audience.
Leverage off each others' audience and customer base by promoting and cross-selling complementary products. You could even bundle your offers together to create a unique package.
6. Stay organised
Staying organised is crucial for you to stay on top of things during the high season and should also be the main focus of your game plan. How do you plan to keep track of your bookings from all your distribution channels, manage your resources (i.e. guides, equipment, accommodation), paperwork like memos, invoices, receipts and bills, and keeping up with day-to-day operations while executing your marketing strategies?
Set up systems and processes to help you streamline your management and reduce time spend on admin. You could use a tour operator management tool like TrekkSoft to help you manage your inventory, bookings, equipment, resources and a whole lot more. Start saving time on mundane admin tasks and start growing your business.
I would recommend researching on a software solution that fits your business' needs and signing up for a free trial if it's available.
A reminder for you to stay in tip-top shape during the high season
- Don't miss out on valuable bookings, allocate more resources for your more popular products.
- Get enough rest.
- Prepare ample marketing collateral like T-shirts, umbrellas, signages, brochures and stickers for your team to use or give away.
- Make space to adapt and modify your strategy and plans, while keeping in mind your business goals.
- Publish on your social media accounts during the high season. Your guides can take turns to do this.
Any other tips for tour and activity operators to make this upcoming high-season awesome? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.