6 growth opportunities for tour operators

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Here are six steps that tour and activity providers can take to grow their businesses.

1. Ask searching question about your business

When times are good and revenue is flowing you may not have the time or inclination to ask searching questions about your identity or your exact position in the marketplace. But every now and then it is useful to pause and take stock of your goals and plans.

  • What exactly is it that you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • Has your business achieved what you wanted it to achieve?
  • What are your values?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Considering the honest answers to these questions will help you re-position and strengthen your business.

Review your key performance indicators. Are these the correct metrics for you to be measuring your long-term success?

Take a close look at your sales performance. How can you improve the performance of your individual sales channels to boost your profits?

2. Strengthen your business partnerships and professional alliances

Forming partnerships with other businesses enables you to reach a larger market without greatly adding to your workload.

Look at striking up partnerships with local hotels, restaurants, cafés and shops. You could put your name, logo, contact details (plus a special offer or reward incentive) onto coffee cups or food cartons. Working with leisure venues where people are relaxing and perhaps thinking about their next holiday could have positive results for you.

Keep in touch with your local and regional Destination Management Organization (DMO) and keep them informed about your business.

Reach out to other tour operators as well. You can partner with companies that offer similar packages to you but cover different destinations, or work with companies that compliment your services in other ways.

Consider becoming a member of a professional organization. For example, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) acts as a unified voice to promote the interests of tour operators, educate the industry and protect the traveling public. Professional associations can be important sources of market information and provide useful networking opportunities.

3. Attend and create networking events

Networking gives you the opportunity to connect with your local community and promote your business directly. Working with local charities, sponsoring awards or sports teams, hosting events, barbecues and parties are all great ways of telling people about the services you provide and gaining new customers.

Attend industry conferences either as a visitor or an exhibitor. Conferences and trade fairs are excellent ways to make new connections and grow your business.

Schools, colleges and universities are always in need of visiting speakers and they want to establish strong links with the business world.

Are you still in touch with your former teachers and lecturers? Go and give a talk about the travel industry and your company. You could alternatively hold a workshop or teach a class about one of your areas of expertise such as digital marketing or finance. This is a great way of attracting potential new team members and raising awareness of your business amongst local families.

Keep in mind that prospective clients are literally everywhere. Whether you are visiting your hairdresser or dentist, be sure to have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready i.e. a 30-second persuasive introduction to your business and your services.

4. Get creative with your digital comms

Social media is the best place for you to create a community and promote your business. If you haven’t already, sign up for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Create a hashtag for your company and encourage clients to post photos from your tours and activities and include your company tag. You could hold a best photo competition to encourage posts on Instagram with a free tour for the winner.

Keep your audience informed with blogs and enewsletters full of useful and interesting updates about what you are doing and what is happening in the wider travel industry. Use video via your own YouTube channel to showcase your product. Fuel your audience’s dreams of travel and holidays.

Encourage customers to leave reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Google and keep your business listings updated on these sites. Your Google My Business profile is especially important as this is now the primary place where the public will go for information about you. Google now accounts for more online reviews than TripAdvisor or Booking.com

5. Improve your website

Even if you think your website is the very best it can be, the rate of tech development today means there’s always room for improvement. Research new IT solutions that can automate admin and other online processes for you.

Do everything in your power to drive more visitors to your website. Test and monitor your sales conversion rates and run a full test on your booking system.

Look at your competitor’s websites for inspiration. If you haven’t already, start a blog.

Collect emails and phone numbers and consider what you can give your customers in return: special discounts or a free destination eguide.

All of your online traffic is measurable so check which of your blogs or social media posts are most successful and adjust your marketing accordingly.

6. Find new markets and adapt to change

Keep track of the latest market intelligence and at the same time review your previous marketing campaigns. Find out what has and hasn’t worked over the past couple of years and look at what your rivals have done successfully too.

Redefine and accurately segment your current customer base and identify potential new markets. For example, domestic packages reachable by car, pristine scenery, good-quality air, outdoor activities, and low volumes of people could be a new growth market for you. Targeted advertising campaigns will then increase your returns.