Sometimes you have to put yourself in a traveler’s shoes to understand the challenges they face. Why is understanding a traveler’s challenges so important as a tour or activity operator? The more you really know about your customer and their wants and needs, the better you can serve them, and the better you can serve them, the more you can profit!
I recently returned from a 10-day vacation in France, a country I have never been to. We booked our trip in January, which gave us just over six months to research our destinations and plan our day-to-day itinerary.
We went through a travel agency to book our trip, and our travel agency worked with a tour operator to come up with a suggested itinerary based on the destinations we wanted to go to. But we still needed to familiarize ourselves with the region, the restaurants, and the attractions available. I spent all of August looking through Tripadvisor and Pinterest to see what the must-see attractions were. The research phase was exhausting and never-ending. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to plan, and we ended up keeping our days fairly ‘open’ so that we could plan for activities once we arrived in our destination.
This is common practice for travelers: 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination. We had a general idea of the things we wanted to do each day, but the details were completely unplanned prior to our arrival. Looking back now, I wish I had done things differently. But I believe the reason travelers hold off on booking activities is because of the lack of helpful and convincing content available in the planning phase.
So on that note, here are my takeaways as both a traveler and a marketer, traveling abroad and looking for unique experiences:
1. GET VISIBLE
During my research phase, I relied oh-so-heavily on Google (and Google Places), Tripadvisor, Pinterest, and Instagram. I can’t tell you how many times I searched for “things to do” in the regions we were visiting. I had organized lists in Dropbox to share with my husband, I had ‘favorites’ on Tripadvisor, and I had even created a pin board of all the ‘top things to do’ from Pinterest. Yes, the tour operator provided us with itineraries, but they were based around sightseeing, and we were looking for authentic, culturally immersive experiences.
So if you offer travelers a unique experience but are having trouble coming up on the first page of Google, take to Tripadvisor, Pinterest and Instagram. These platforms are 100% free for you and they put you in front of millions of potential customers.
I can’t stress enough how valuable online “guides” and itineraries were during our planning phase. I would highly recommend YOU create a helpful downloadable guide that includes your own tour/activity alongside other experiences you think your ideal customer would enjoy. Promote this guide on every social network you can, and be sure to include a CTA (Call To Action) that gets the traveler to take the next step towards becoming your customer. It’s content like this that has the potential to go viral. Just take a look at the pin above: it’s been re-pinned 7,000 times, and will continue to impress upon hundreds of thousands of people as time goes on.
2. BE REMARKABLE
During my research, both before and during our travels, I never felt that the excursions and activities I was reading about were worth my time. Time is such a precious thing when you only have a few days to explore. From the brochures that I read and the websites I scoured, nothing spoke to my desires. I would have paid a lot of money for something remarkable, an experience that opened my eyes to this new part of the world I was exploring. But almost everything felt very 1-dimensional or lackluster. It was a rare occurrence that something got me jumping off my very comfortable lounge chair to say, “we have to do this!!!”
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is extremely enhanced during our travels. I may not ever make it back to France in my life (although I hope I do) so I need to make sure I get to experience it to the fullest. Capitalize on those feelings while communicating about your experience and you will create a sense of urgency so strong that you’ll never be without a long line of customers at your door ever again.
If you’ve been in business for just 3 days or 30 years, there are always opportunities to improve an experience and make it remarkable. It starts with figuring out what makes your customers’ above and beyond excited, and bringing that to your tour/activity. Sometimes you have to look at your business linearly to come up with appealing additions.
3. APPEASE THEIR APPREHENSIONS
When I finally found something that I thought might be interesting, I started backpedaling. “Would this really be worth it? I only have so many hours to explore this destination, so why should I spend it doing this?” To appease any buyer apprehensions, here are a few things I wish the tour and activity websites would have addressed or included:
- The logistics: How much time out of my schedule do I need to reserve for this activity? How much time is spent ‘doing’ versus waiting around or in transit? How easily accessible is this? How do you make this as easy to access and as stress-free as possible? I am on vacation, after all 😉
- Why THIS experience? One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not competing against other activities similar to yours; you’re competing against every possible business that can take a potential customer away from you. If I want to plan a fun afternoon between the hours of 2-5pm, I’m looking at the destination as a whole and asking myself “what is a must-see or must-do before I leave?”
- Videos that showed what the experience was really like.
- Custom/luxury options: Not everyone likes traveling in groups. Not everyone wants to fend for themselves for food. Not everyone wants fill in the blank! Point is, people with money are willing to pay for customized experiences.
And what made it even more difficult was the fact that we were not fluent speakers of the native language. Many of the websites on mobile did not have English versions, and even more of them did not mention if the services were English (or other language) friendly. IF you want to attract people speaking another language to your experience, let them know that someone who speaks their language will be able to answer all of their questions. That assurance would have made things a lot easier in our travels.
So there you have it. If you have traveled somewhere recently, you may be able to relate a lot to this. Traveling isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it is one of the most rewarding. Remember that as you market your experience, regardless of your demographic. Remember that time is the most valuable assets people have, and 99% of travelers are going to appreciate someone making their research and planning job easier.