Water sports, boat tours, and rentals continue to be an attractive option for tourists and locals in a destination, but it goes without saying that customers are notoriously picky - they want to have the best of the best.
This is highlighted every year during the Interboot and InterDive exhibitions in Friedrichshafen, Germany, during which the boats, yacht charters, equipment and new trends on show always outdo themselves. Each year, water sports and activity providers offer new add-ons and services in order to attract and satisfy new and existing customers.
More and more people are also developing a passion for water sports, from long- and short-term boat and yacht rentals, to water sports activities such as canyoning, rafting, and stand up paddling, to sailing trips and package deals.
In this article we'll share our best tips on how to make your water-based activities, courses, and rentals even more attractive to customers browsing things to do in your destination.
1. Show your customers the availability of your courses and boats
Many tourists will be researching what they can discover in your destination, and there are others who want to know what they can book in advance in their local area. Let these people find everything they need on your website.
Make sure all of your offers are on your website, ideally with appealing images of your activities, courses, or rentals. With an online booking solution, it's much easier to have a great display of all your offers. Your customers will also be able to see your tours, boats and courses with real-time availability and be able to book them easily online at any time of day.
2. Offer equipment rentals for water sports and boats
Do you also rent out boats and equipment? Display these items - alongside their real-time availability - on your website and show how many SUP boards, rowing boats, or any other resource you can lend.
With a POS Desk (point-of-sale desk), your customers have many more options of when and where to book: whether directly at your office, with one of your agents, in the tourist office, or with one of your guides who has access to your system. With a display of the remaining equipment in real-time, you can make your daily business more efficient and never lose oversight.
3. Provide other offers and package deals
There are many ways to market your offers in a memorable and personalized way that distinguishes your business from others and addresses your target groups. For one, you could offer extraordinary dives and underwater shootings. Have you ever thought about providing extra choices for your most water-savvy customers, for example for surfers who want to discover a new bay or surf spot?
You can also enter into partnerships with other providers and sell travel packages. In this way, you're able to expand your own inventory by collaborating with others. For instance, think of customers who have already booked an overnight hotel stay and a candlelight dinner in your destination. Might they also be interested in booking a boat tour or a stand-up paddling course to make their weekend even more memorable?
4. Improve the quality of your partner network
By building partnerships, you can attract more customers and boost sales, so it goes without saying that one of the most important goals for your organization is to improve the quality of your partner network. But always keep in mind that not every partnership can be beneficial for you: you have to be picky and choose only what perfectly fits you in the long-term.
Once you've built these favourable partnerships, make sure they're on your website. Your customers should be able to find not only your own sailing trips, but also the diving tours or boat rentals of your partners. This will allow a visitor to your website to access a much wider range of in-destination activities and see at a glance what they can do.
During a sailing trip, everyone gets a place in the crew - whether they're a beginner or sailing professional. Offer these trips and let the whole group of customers get their money worth and an unforgettable experience, whether they're pulling a sail or diving in secluded bays.
Sailing trips can vary from sports-sailing, fleet racing, or even women-only cruises, but the most important thing is that your customers learn to act on a ship as a team and everyone is responsible for everyone. To teach this, you need an experienced skipper.
6. Offer courses for domestic and foreign sailing
If your customers want to charter one of your boats without a captain on-board, it's important that they have a boat driver license. So why not offer license courses?
Since 2015, boats with up to 15 PS are license-free in Germany (there are some exceptions in the Rhine where only 5 PS are allowed, as well as in the waters around Berlin where you always need a license). While you can learn to drive motor vessels aged 16, for sailboats it's 14, and what license you require depends on the water and the equipment of vessels.
With a domestic boat driver license, it’s possible to sail small boats and large yachts, but you need a sea license to run through open waters. When applying for a license, the tests are divided into a theoretical part and a practical part, although the theoretical part can be done online.
For any sailing boat or motorboat, as well as domestic or foreign sea, it is always advisable to give your customers the right advice so they can choose the right license.
Are you a trainer for domestic or foreign sea driver licenses? Then offer these specific courses on your website, perhaps including a consultation or even the direct dates for the practical part. By doing so, you'll have an additional income source besides your boat rental.
7. Have a trained eye for group skill levels and weather
Before your customers can book a water sport activity or rent a boat, yacht, or SUP board, make sure you're both aware what this means. For activities such as rafting or canyoning, you'll have to distinguish between the total beginners and advanced participants in the group. This means you need guides who are group-oriented and trained to react properly in different situations.
Water sport also depends heavily on external conditions, such as the weather, so a rafting or sailing trip cannot take place every time. A trained look at the sky or a common weather app can help you and your guides to make the right decision.
8. Be present on the social media channels that your customers use
With only a few exceptions, today's traveler can't go on a trip without their smartphone or laptop. They want it to be accessible, no matter where they are, to share their recent travel experiences on social media.
Offer free Wi-Fi access for your customers at your camp and they will be able to promote your water experience on social media. Because the greatest moments are those when you're just back from a rafting trip and full of adrenaline, take a group photo of the experience to act as a momento. If your customers post it on Facebook or Instagram, or add it to a review on TripAdvisor, it’s free marketing for your company.
Many companies are now relying heavily to social media to find and attract their customers, and as customers will reach your company online, a mobile website is crucial. Once you have a mobile-optimized website in place, customize your marketing to the current generation of travelers and post on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook - or the places where your customers spend their time online.
For some ideas of what to share, you could post today's sunrise, a new boat, or a group picture of the last rafting trip.
9. Offer discounts
My final suggestion of how to make your water sports more attractive is to offer special discounts or promotion codes. With discounts for your existing customer base, you can retain your customers and encourage them to book again. Or, you could offer a "word of mouth discount" for customers who recommend you to new potential customers.
For more tips on how to increase bookings online: