Let’s take this opportunity to get back to basics.
Many tour operators are relying too heavily on third-parties for bookings, rather than having their own online presence. Despite increasing competitiveness in the tours and activities marketplace, the key is to creatively use content to engage with your targeted audience.
Here are my five marketing tips for tour operators.
It amazes me that tour operators do not have a presence on YouTube because it’s the perfect platform to inspire people to book a tour with your business. After Google search, it is the 2nd largest search engine online with over 1 billion users – yes, it’s a huge platform.
The hurdle that many businesses fall at, is that they assume you need to create professional quality video, and believe me, viewers on this platform do not expect that – what works is raw content with stories told by a person that the audience can relate to.
Here’s what I would do if I was responsible for marketing a tour operator on YouTube.
Create a YouTube channel, add channel art, create links to your website and social networks. Get out your camera (I use an iPhone 7 and Canon G7X Mark II) and go out with one of your tour guides to capture the experiences of the day.
If your company is not based where the tours take place, then work with the tour guides and video creators who are visiting the area. Read my article on how to optimise videos on YouTube. Then think about the content you could create.
Inspire through your content
As I mentioned above, a video is a great way to inspire people to book with your tour operator but do not forget that a high percentage of your audience is also inspired by photos on social networks like Instagram and Pinterest.
Many consumers also like to read list style posts on things to do and see in the places that they are travelling to. It’s important you grab their interest during the trip planning stage so your business is at the forefront of their minds.
Creating a content plan is vital to make sure that you attract your audience at the peak times of the year. If you have tours that take place during a specific month, you need to plan your content in advance so that it is published at the stage when people start to search for those type of tours.
Timing is essential – it might take a few weeks for the search engines to pick up the content so do not publish at the last minute.
Far too many tour operators have an ‘About Us’ page with a paragraph or two about the company, and that’s it. Tell your audience about you, your tour guides, their names, what are they experienced in, are they multilingual?
One of the main reasons why tour operators receive return customers is because of the personalised service they received. Tell your story: why did you create the tour operator, what are you passionate about, why should people book a tour with your company?
Put a face to a name, and don’t hide the behind the screen.
When you communicate with your audience, talk to them by using their first name, be friendly and approachable. Get personal and this will help build trust in your company so that consumers feel comfortable booking a tour with you.
Hook customers with special offers
Your email list is the tool that will unlock bookings because you’re communicating with past customers and people who have shown an interest in booking a tour through your company. To hook potential customers into your email list you need to incentivise them by offering special offers, exclusive content, and discounts.
The mistake a lot of tour operators make when creating an email list, is to simply offer ‘updates’. That is not going to motivate potential customers to sign up – the content needs to add value to their lives, be it helping them save money, or assisting them with the planning of their trip.
Another mistake is not sending emails email frequently, to the point people unsubscribe because they cannot remember signing up. Be consistent, add value (I felt the need to mention that twice!) to their lives and grow that email list, today.
Make sure that the visitor can see the email form on all of the popular areas of your website, especially “above the fold” which basically means they can see it without having to scroll down the page.
Include a link to your sign up page in emails and social media – just promote it and tell them why they should sign up.
Share your knowledge: Be the trusted expert
Become the trusted expert in your niche – if you run tours for people interested in hiking, then become the expert in this field. Write about hiking, whenever any news comes up about this niche, then write about it on your blog – add your opinions, advice.
Be the person that travel journalists call upon when they are writing a story about hiking.
There’s nothing wrong with calling yourself an expert because at the end of the day what you want to prove to people is that you know what you are talking about, and this will help you attract media attention, which in turn will help you market your tour operator.
Being quoted in newspapers, interviewed on Radio & TV, will also help build trust in your company, so make sure that you highlight this exposure on your website, and share on social networks.
If you would like to read more marketing tips like this then please sign up to the Hive, a free learning resource for tourism businesses who need help growing their audience.