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Published by Nicole Kow | Sep 23, 2016 | | 4 MIN READ

Spotlight on Segway City Tours Belgium, the largest segway company in the country

Founded by three partners Christophe Tassenon, Wim Lefebre and Erny Van de Woestyne who met at a networking event, Segway City Tours Belgium is the largest segway tour operator in Belgium. For this article, I interviewed one of the co-founders, Christophe, who tells me about his experience prior to starting the company, the business itself and what it's like to run a tour business in the 21st century. 

Having prior experience as the main distributor for segways in Belgium, Christophe entered the tour and activity sector with a wealth of experience under his belt. His deep knowledge of the product also stemmed from working with partners overseas and observing what they were doing with their segways, taking note of the successful strategies he came across. 


What makes the company so special?

"Segway City Tours Belgium operates in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels, possessing the largest fleet of segways in Brussels. We're not you typical segway tour company. We try to mix it up and make it fun by letting guests try out a segway, most of them for the first time." 

"We started in Antwerp, then in Ghent 3 months later, and finally in Brussels 6 months after that. We chose to start in Antwerp because it is the hottest location in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and there are a lot of tourists from Germany who visit. Plus, it had a lot more sights and attractions to show off as well."

"We turn each destination inside out, by sharing unique insider stories about the city, its top sights and attractions. We want to have fun with our customers, whether they are other travellers or other business professionals." 

Excuse me? Segway tours for business professionals? 

Apart from their most popular segway city tour where customers are brought to popular sights and attractions around the city, the company also offers tailor made tours, where a lot more time and energy goes into planning the tour for the customer. 

Team building activities are also offered to businesses, and the team learns how to use a segway to navigate around a city. It's fun and puts an interesting spin on traditional team building activities. 


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Thinking beyond the billboard

If you have a quick browse through the company's websites (they have one for each city, all supported by TrekkSoft of course), you'll find that they also offer segway marketing services


Think of it like a billboard on wheels, a segway billboard.

The company rents out fully customised segways to other businesses, as a unique and eye-catching way to promote their brands. These segways are available for events, conferences or just around the city.

"The service is offered to some of our partners. "Some" because it takes the right company with the right vision to understand this marketing strategy."

Although this service has only just been introduced, Christophe explained that he always saw a potential for it. He told me that some companies even get their own employees, instead of hiring external promoters, to ride around on these customised segways. Talk about one heck of a team building activity. 


What challenges do they continue to face two years on?

"When we first started, we had to look for the right people who could create and execute the kind of tours we had in mind. Once we had that settled, the next challenge was to get that information online."

"To date, online visibility remains our greatest challenge. We want to make sure people know about us and that they can find us whenever they want to."

"We invested a lot of time on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Viator, making sure that these platforms were regularly monitored and updated. We also made sure that our sites are smartphone friendly so that customers can find out about our tours on any device."

Christophe briefly mentioned the violent event in Brussels, which I was hesitant to bring up. "Business has dropped dramatically since March, as did all tourism businesses in the country. We suffered a 50% decrease in bookings. But it is finally picking up, slowly."

Marketing through the noise
Being the largest segway tour operator in Belgium definitely has its perks, like turning up number one on Google's search engine results page. 
As part of their marketing strategy, the company also focuses on SEO and advertises to customers via Google AdWords, Facebook advertising. They also use email marketing to tell customers about special events or exclusive tours they might be offering. 
"For customers who have sent us enquiries about our services, we have a 24-hour reply policy. We also ensure that all calls we receive are answered. Over time, we found a lot of questions being repeated again and again, like "What time do you start?" or "How many people can your tours accommodate?" We began putting this information on our website, along with the descriptions of our tours."
At the moment, the only OTA they work with is Viator. They also work with a lot of tour operators that focus on B2B products like their team building packages. "This direct line of communication makes it easy for us to customise packages that suit their team's needs and wants." 

How does TrekkSoft help your business grow? 
The company began with a contact form as a simple booking solution, confirming bookings via email. The whole process became very tedious very quickly, especially when 90% of our bookings came to us online. "So, an automated booking solution was always in the plan."
"We also found that there was always a problem of customers showing up and some not showing up, which obviously affected our profits. To reduce this risk, we made our customers pay before they arrived at the destination. Prior to signing up with TrekkSoft, we made customers pay via bank transfers, PayPal or cash."
"I heard about TrekkSoft long before I started this business, mainly from other tour and activity companies."

I contacted TrekkSoft a few months ago, got a reply on the same day and then set up a phone call a few hours later. We want to move quickly and we found that your system (and team) can move quickly with us.

"With our regular tours taken care of by an automated booking solution, we are able to focus on creating customised tours for business professionals, who are our bigger spenders." 

Any advice to share with other tour and activity operators? 

Depending on the activity or tour you provide, focus on the market you want to serve and focus on the service you provide. Be clear on how your product serves that target market. Bring that message online and work hard to get good visibility.  

Finally, nothing beats good service. Deliver good service and the price you charge becomes negligible.

What did you think of this business strategy for segway tour operators? Let us know in the comments below. 
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Nicole Kow
Published 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.
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