How to become a (more) successful tour operator?
One thing that’s certain in business, is that you should always be open to improve. You might think you don’t need to become a more successful tour operator. However, we believe there’s always room for improvement.
So, what is a successful tour operator? We define a successful tour operator as a business that:
- Offers unique travel experiences
- Is good for the planet and local communities
- Retains repeat customers
- Engages happy employees
- Is profitable
Be inspired by the following 10 tips to help you become a more successful tour operator.
In this article
1. Add value to your business
First things first, to improve your business strategy we strongly advise you to use the sustainable business model canvas. This model will be of great value to help you establish value for your own business, while creating the best tours for your customers.
Also, it’s a great way to help you rethink your business strategy. By completing the sustainable business model canvas you’ll improve the focus and clarity of your business goals. It allows you to zoom in on what’s actually important.
Keep in mind the following four aspects to add value to your business:
- Build your business on a mission
- Create actual value with your business
- Focus on a niche market
- Never stop developing your business
2. Target your ideal customer
You can only be successful as a tour operator if you manage to attract your ideal target group. An easy way to identify who your target group really is, is by creating a buyer persona. Your buyer persona is a blueprint of your ideal customer that supports you to pinpoint their characteristics. The better you understand your customer, the faster your business will grow.
Create a first draft of your buyer persona by writing down your ideal customers’ characteristics such as:
- Country of origin
- Type of travel they like
- Their interests
- Kind of experiences they look for
- Travel construction (with partner/alone/family)
- Social media activity
3. Offer unique experiences
Once you’ve identified your ideal target group, it’s time to tailor your tourism experiences accordingly. Make sure they meet the current needs of travellers, while being good for the planet and its people.
Due to COVID 19, the tourism industry has been on hold. However, as soon as things slowly turn back to normal, people’s urge to travel will increase as well! Consider the next key elements when developing new tourism experiences:
- Off the beaten track
- Slow Travel
- Less frequent but longer travel
- Local travel
- Good travel
- Self-guided travel
- Personal and flexible
4. Increase customer loyalty
Although it will be some time before people start travelling again in the same rate as before, you should consider working on customer loyalty. It’s easier to convince a current customer to return, than convincing someone who has no experience with your business.
Loyal customers promote your business better than any marketing campaign will. 7 ways to turn customers into fans are to:
- Deliver excellent customer service
- Tailor your products to your ideal customer
- Set clear expectations for your customers
- Reward your customers and show them you care
- Ask for feedback and act upon it
- Ensure a committed team of employees
- Be transparent and show responsibility
5. Improve employee satisfactions
You can’t be a successful tour operator if you have dissatisfied employees. Research shows that satisfied employees are about 20% more productive, which means it’s not only in their best interest to work on employee satisfaction.
The following 7 guidelines will help you improve the satisfaction, engagement and commitment rate of your employees:
- Create a clear and inspiring purpose
- Offer good employment conditions and benefits
- Facilitate good internal communication
- Give them a say
- Offer development opportunities
- Share successes
- Create a happy workplace
6. Consider good tourism
One thing that connects all of the before mentioned tips is ‘good tourism’. We consider good tourism a must in this sensitive industry we call tourism. Tourism can bring both positive and negative effects to a destination. However, if done right, tourism is in the position to create a better life for everyone at the destination, the traveller included.
To make the term ‘good tourism’ more practical, we’ve put together a list of key elements to implement in your business. It’s all about finding the right way and balance for your own business, destination, local stakeholders and customers.
- Travel off the beaten track
- Support the local economy
- Create local employment opportunities
- Develop culture community-based tourism
- Raise awareness among travellers
- Conserve natural assets and environment
- Ensure animal welfare
- Lower your carbon footprint
- Say no to single-use plastic
7. Grow your online presence with content marketing
Now that you’ve established your ideal target group and started developing new tourism experiences, you should empower this by working on your online presence. Content marketing is an excellent way to build your online brand.
Simply put, content marketing is a marketing strategy in which valuable, relevant and consistent content is distributed to reach your target group. It’s a long-term strategy that doesn’t always show results right from the start. However, if done consistently, content marketing can definitively help improve your business. Benefits of content marketing are:
- Ranks your website higher in Google
- Grows your social media accounts
- Increases your sales
8. Promote your content with email marketing
An easy and fairly inexpensive way to promote your newly written content is email marketing. Email still is one of the most effective ways to reach your target group. One perk that places email marketing above some other forms of marketing, is that your mailing list already expressed interest in your business, one way or another.
They might be current customers or have signed up to your mailing list after reading your content on your website. A few tips to increase the number of subscribers to your list are:
- Place a sign-up form on display
- Offer value to your visitors
- Build a landing page
9. Use social media to interact with travellers
Of course, we wouldn’t forget about social media to promote your content. This however, is not the only way to use your social media. Communication is a two-way street and as a tour operator you definitely don’t want to be the business that only posts on social media to promote their own business.
First of all, you need to be aware of how travellers use social media before, during and after their trip. Use this information to integrate the following tips in your social media strategy:
- Choose your social media platforms wisely
- Be available for communication and support
- Invite travellers to share and tag your business
- Respond to travellers’ posts and tags
- Ask for reviews and respond to them
10. Analyse your data
Lastly, and probably most unexcitedly, it’s important to analyse your data. Website, search engine and social media data can help you gain insight in how effective your marketing strategy actually is. By analysing your data, you gain insights such as:
- On what keywords Google shows your website
- Which keywords receive clicks and on what position in Google are you shown
- How many visits your website gets and where your visitors are from
- In what way visitors engage with your content
- Through which channels visitors reach your website
Google actually offers quite a few free tools to help you better analyse your data. The following tools combined give you a broad view of your data:
Are you a successful tour operator in practice?
Learning from the past and from others increases the chances of success in the future. Are you a tour operator who has implemented any of our above tips? Comment on this article describing your good practice. We’re very curious to hear what tip you implemented and how it made you a better tour operator!
This information is very interesting and well detailed. From my experience, use of social media and data analysis are the most effective tips that have helped me most. When the pandemic is at bay, all roads will lead to Uganda. Alps Trendy Safaris will always be the best choice for travellers to Uganda and Rwanda.
Hi Bitesi Tarasis,
Thanks for your reply. We’re glad to hear you found our tips helpful! Hope better times for tourism in Uganda will come soon =)
Thanks very much for your tips. I hope to success in my tourism
Good to hear you liked our tips. Hope they’ll help you in your success!
I am just on the start , the information up there is great and very helpful, though it only applies to established companies already and not starting ones
Thanks for your comment! Actually we’ve tried to write the tips for all kinds of tour operators, both established and starting businesses. Is there anything specific we can help you with?