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10 Things Successful Tourism Operators Do Differently

By Rebecca White
Published on March 1, 2018

Running a profitable tourism business is hard.

In my 19 years in the industry I have seen the full range of tourism business successes and failures.

There are those tourism businesses who are unfortunately no longer in business. No longer sharing their awesome part of their world with visitors.

This isn’t due to lack of a great product, but usually due to lack of customer demand for their product or service or not being able to charge enough to remain profitable.

On the flip side, there are the successful tourism businesses who are thriving today.

By successful and thriving I mean they are able to support their families and staff with a good income and running a business they love.

Of those who are successful, following are 10 traits which I have found are common with each of these businesses.

1. Spend time working ON their business

Successful tourism businesses, especially those who are owner/operators, make sure they spend time to working ON their business, not just IN the business of looking after their guests. They make time to:

  • Develop and review their marketing plan. They know where they are going and how they will get there, and then make it happen and adjust their goals as needed.
  • Build and manage a team, either staff or external contractors, to deliver their vision and amazing product.
  • Building in-person relationship building with influencers (see point #10).
  • Systemise operational tasks.
  • They review and reajust their marketing activities

2. They understand their ideal customers.

Successful tourism businesses are focused only on attracting their most profitable, ideal customers. They don’t try to be all things to all people.

They can tell you exactly who their Ideal Customer is (or are) and can describe them to you as a single person.

They can tell you what they are interested in, how their tourism experiences meets their needs, what they value, where they spend time online and offline, what their values are, what their challenges are.

They then use their ideal customers as a lens for their product development guiding the rest of their marketing decisions.

They evolve their product based on their ideal customers current and future needs.

3. They don’t compete on price

Those most successful tourism businesses are often are more expensive than their competitors in their product category (be it backpacker accommodation to tours to hire vehicles).

They can charge more as their tourism experience is exactly what their ideal customers are looking for (or didn’t know they were looking for!) and by exceeding their customers expectations.

They achieve premium pricing by clearly communicating what value they can offer their ideal customers, what sort of experience they can expect and what makes them unique to all their other competitors. They show this to their customers through happy customer testimonials, great photos and clear and consistent branding

4. Consumer-direct booking focus

They know their greatest profits come from customers who book direct, not those who book through a third party distributor.

They focus on building an email database, sharing relevant content on social media and email and investing in a visually-inspiring, seo & mobile optimised, online-bookable website.

They ONLY work with travel distribution partners, such as wholesalers, inbound and online travel agents if they have large amount of units to sell in their business and/or they are aligned to how their ideal customers prefer to purchase their travel experiences.

5. Understand what influences their customers

They know the most powerful marketing of their tourism experience is what others say about them.  They know the easiest way to create positive word of mouth around their business is to offer a product that their ideal customers loves and want to rave about.

They have clear brand values and deliver on their promise to their customers every, single time.

They encourage their happy customers to become advocates for them on TripAdvisor and Social Media.

They rarely invest in paid advertising as they know there are more effective uses of their precious marketing dollars. They only ever consider paying for advertising, unless it is highly targeted to their ideal customers.

6. They offer an exceptional experience

They know that by offering an exceptional experience that meets or exceeds the needs of their Ideal Customer, they will have an army of happy customers as part of their marketing team, such as helping reduce decision overwhelm as one example.

As well as offering an amazing experience, they also know how to help build anticipation before travel and help leverage their happy customers amazing testimonials after travel.

7. Willing to say “no”.

On a daily basis tourism businesses are approached with a great new “marketing opportunity” daily. New website distribution platforms, paid advertising opportunities (magazine, print, online), search engine optimisation specialists and even trade or media famils.

Successful tourism businesses happily say no to these opportunities unless they are directly aligned with attracting more of their ideal customers to their businesses and influences their Ideal Customer’s Purchase Journey.

8. Committed to creating content

They see the value that content creation can play in attracting more ideal customers to their business.

They are committed to regularly creating and sharing content on the the digital channels that their Ideal Customer hang out on.

They are sharing visual stories on social media and their website blog and are seeing improved SEO results, social media engagement and ultimately increased customers enquiries and bookings as a result.

9. Invest in their website

They see their website is the centrepiece of their business success, and are willing to invest regularly to keep it updated.

They know it is their 24/7 booking agent and business development manager and the time and $$ invested in it will pay them back in spades.

They spend time learning how to optimise it for search, creating content for their blog and working with web partners or staff to keep their website optimised (including for mobile) and performing well.

10. Build relationships with influencers

They build relationships with partners who influence their Ideal Customers.

These could include their local Visitor Information Centre, Destination Marketing Organsiations, Tourism Industry Councils, other Tourism Businesses and relevant Trade and Media organisations.

From there, they leverage any opportunities that come their way from these partners.

They don’t expect opportunities to be handed to them on a plate, but will proactively pursue opportunities if they are aligned with helping them find more of their ideal customers.

Over to you

Are there any others traits of successful tourism businesses we could add to the list?


This blog post was first published in early 2015 and updated in March 2018.

 

Rebecca White

Rebecca is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. Rebecca loves working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies. Her specialty areas are tourism marketing strategy, visitor servicing, visitor engagement, social media, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing & blogging.

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  1. Pelly on at

    Hi Rebecca. I have been one of your presentations and I am absolutely sold on what you do. Some of your suggestions have been followed up and we know that the bottom line is improving because of the action taken around the info given out at Mt. Barker last year. I will also be passing your contact details on to the relevant people at The Campbelltown Council in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs as we have bought a business that is on their Food Trail and the connection could lead to monumental forward movement for all involved.
    Thanks a million for the blog. It is invaluable and I will pass it on to others. All the best. Pelly

    • Hi Pelly, thanks so much for your lovely feedback, and so glad to see you are getting results in your business! Thanks for the referral to Campbelltown Council, their Food Trail is a great product to be a part of! All the best, and no doubt see you round at another industry event soon. Cheers, Rebecca

  2. Aby Mathew on at

    Hai Rebecca
    Your article was very informative.i will try your suggestion for the betterment of my starting tourism business

    • Glad you found it helpful Aby. Good luck with starting your tourism business!

  3. Mark Lybeer on at

    Thanks for the pointers!

    I like the attitude behind the article, Thanks

  4. Thandeka Ntlaba on at

    Hi Rebecca

    I’ve just started a tourism business company. I would like you to be my mentor in order for the business to be a success.

    Hope to get a positive response.

    Regards

  5. Virgil Ratliff on at

    Love reading this article. The things mentioned above are truly from one who had experienced and expert on the subject. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Prashant kataria on at

    Nice blog thanks a lot for the sharing rebeccamam

  7. Pabel on at

    The aforementioned strategies and habits are really effective to get the name of your tourism business out there. But, I’d like to add one more suggestion that are proven and successfully being used by many small tourism businesses.
    1. YouTube
    In this age of internet, almost everyone checks out YouTube before getting their luggage packed for a vacation. And you can hook these see-before-visit vacationers with a video they would like to see. Note that a normal commercial can not help you get the attention of these vacationers.
    Hope it helps. 🙂

    • Hi Pabel, yes good tip re YouTube. Tourism brands who engage with YouTube effectively will also see positive results. As well as being the second largest search engine after Google, Youtube is also owned by Google, so it is also really important for organic search results as well as inspiring customers with potential experiences they can enjoy.

  8. Ram on at

    Hi Rebecca,
    Its really nice article. I will implement all your suggestions to improve my tourism business.
    You have explained all the challenges simple and understanding manner.
    http://www.visitingspots.com

  9. Pamela on at

    Hello Rebecca.

    I like your article i would like to grow my company i believe there so many things that i would need to learn from you can you email me?

    • Hi Pamela, glad the article was helpful. The main way we can help you is via our Tourism Marketing Academy + Mastermind which is currently enrolling, and we have helped students in Africa before. So have a read through all the information on the program at https://www.tourismeschool.com/omp, and see if it might fit for your business.

  10. Ernest Lugalla on at

    Hi Rebecca, Thank you for the article found it explaining everything we have to focus and implement on our business. Great job thank you will keep following you. Ahsante

    • Thanks that’s of help Ernest, good luck with implementing in your business.

  11. Charles Okurmu on at

    Rebecca thank you so much for these information, am in the process of opening up a Tour company, this piece of information has helped to guide me on what to do, i will help to share with my colleagues. such information s are rare to get in my country Uganda. will keep reading this over and over.Thank so much!!

  12. Azooz on at

    Brilliant summary for sustaining your touristic business.
    Really helped me in running and expanding my Beach lodge by the red sea of Egypt.
    Thanks a lot Rebecca!

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