Tour operator marketing strategy
Marketing, Tour Operators

The tour operators’ guide to creating an exciting marketing strategy

Are you a tour operator that is struggling to generate leads?

In an industry as dynamic and competitive as tourism, creating an exciting marketing strategy is crucial for gaining and retaining clients.

Tour operator marketing might seem like a daunting task, but we are here to guide you and to share our top tips on how to make the most out of marketing and develop a strategy that is guaranteed to attract customers.

Why is Marketing Important for Tour Operators?

We all know that marketing is a crucial element of any successful business, and for tour operators, doing business in a market as saturated as travel makes it difficult to stand out against the vast array of competitors.

The tours and activities sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, and our current crisis has greatly impacted where, how and why we travel. As the industry begins to recover, what better time to optimise your marketing strategy than now?

tour operators marketing

Types of Marketing

There are various types of marketing that you can incorporate into your strategy. Here are just some of the ways that you can entice prospective customers:

  • Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful tourism marketing tools and allows you to engage and communicate with a wide audience with little investment. Today, consumers use social media at every stage of travel; research shows that 55% of travellers like social media pages related to trips they are planning, and many more are likely to post images or videos of their travel experiences. 

86% of consumers stated that they became interested in a destination after seeing user-generated content, and brands can also utilise platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to share this content in order to inspire potential customers.

  • Paid Marketing

Paid advertisements are an extremely effective form of marketing, offering a high return on investment and the guarantee that your company’s message will be seen by its target audience. 

Digital advertising platforms such as Google and Facebook ads have the power to target specific consumer groups based on criteria such as location, interests, search terms and previous purchases and can then direct traffic to your landing page.

  • Email Marketing

Email marketing may be one of the oldest forms of digital marketing, but it is still one of the most effective ways to promote your business, develop a relationship with customers and increase brand loyalty.

It also offers an incredibly high return on investment (ROI), and can be used to update potential or previous customers on special deals, promotions or upcoming tours and activities.

  • Word of Mouth

Have you ever travelled to a specific destination, stayed at a specific hotel or eaten at a specific restaurant based on online reviews or recommendations from family and friends? Word of mouth marketing is a wonderful tool in the tourism industry, and you can leverage this by encouraging your customers to leave ratings on trusted sites such as TripAdvisor. 

  • Content

Content marketing involves the creation of relevant, valuable and inspiring content such as photos and videos as well as articles, blog posts and destination guides in order to attract and engage your target audience. High quality content is a key element of any successful marketing strategy, and written content should focus on utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) to help drive traffic to your website and increase bookings. 

types of marketing for tour operators

Outbound vs Inbound

Outbound marketing aims to reach out to consumers with a specific message, whereas inbound marketing focuses on creating and publishing content that will draw customers in.

In the tourism industry, traditional outbound marketing such as advertisements are a great way to reach a wide audience, however, the use of inbound marketing is on the rise.

Today’s tech-savvy consumers are now more likely than ever to seek out information, and according to PhocusWire, 80% of so-called ‘next-gen’ travellers begin by planning and researching their trips online using online travel agencies, review sites and brand websites as well as social media, blogs and video platforms like YouTube.

Inbound marketing is a great way to attract consumers who are already actively searching for your services, and according to Doxee, an excellent inbound marketing strategy consists of 4 main steps:

  • Attract

Attract and engage your target audience with compelling social media content and SEO optimised blog posts in the hope that they will become customers. 

  • Convert

Initiate contact with potential customers to understand exactly what they’re looking for. At this stage, you can provide valuable and informative content in exchange for customer details such as an email address or telephone number.

  • Close

Utilise targeted communications such as email marketing to convert leads into customers. 

  • Delight 

Nurture your relationship with the customer and create brand trust and loyalty by continuing to engage and provide useful content as well as news, promotions and offers. 

Audience Research

As the tourism market is highly unique, dynamic and competitive, it is crucial that you conduct effective research before you begin to develop a marketing campaign. Due to the immense changes in the industry over the past year, it is now more important than ever to gather information about your customers and competitors.

Regiondo suggests first defining your customer profile, your company’s major competitors and the size of the market before gathering qualitative or quantitative data using focus groups, online reviews, interviews and surveys. Once you have enough data, this can be analysed, reviewed and integrated into your marketing strategy.

Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Creating a strategic marketing plan is a task that takes both time and practice. An article by Peek identified some of the common marketing mistakes that tour operators should avoid, and we are here to share them with you.

  • Not regularly updating your website

It is essential for tour operators to have an attractive, informative and up-to-date website. Not only is your website often the first point of contact with potential customers, it is also a way for them to book your tours and activities. 

  • Too much focus on competitors

What makes your tours special?

Rather than focusing on beating the prices of your competitors, you should aim to promote the value and experience of your own offerings.

  • Lacking consistency on social media

With social media, consistency is key. PhocusWire states that adaptable and digitally focused businesses are the most likely to succeed after the current crisis, and now is the perfect time to focus on creating harmonious, attractive and engaging content on your company’s digital platforms. 

  • Not following up with customers 

As we discussed in our article “Automation versus Personalisation”, a personalised customer experience is highly important in the tourism industry. Today’s consumer expects a high level of personalised service, both before, during and after their trip.

  • Disregarding the value of email marketing

As we already discussed, email marketing can be a highly effective tool for tour operators. An article by Epsilon explains that email marketing is flexible, offering marketers a way to rapidly respond to changes in the market or industry while keeping customers informed and retaining a personal touch. 

  • Not promoting online booking services

Online bookings have increased exponentially over the past year and a half, and this trend is only set to continue. If you offer online booking services, be sure to make it clear to customers where and how they can book. 

  • Neglecting past customers

Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer, and although many of your clients may be one-time-only, don’t miss out on the opportunity to nurture relationships with past customers that could turn into regular visitors.

  • Ignoring negative reviews

Research has shown that reviews play an essential part in the booking decisions of 83% of consumers. Let’s be honest, negative criticism never feels good, but by responding to negative feedback and aiming to rectify the situation you can show customers that you care about their experience. 

  • Constantly trying to sell

While it is important to promote your tours and activities, consumers don’t want to feel like they are being bombarded by advertisements all of the time. Making an effort to share content that not only focuses on sales will result in more loyal customers. 

Should I use a CRM?

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, is an important part of any marketing strategy. While it might not be necessary for all businesses, within the tour operator sector a CRM tool offers an array of benefits.

Travel Market Report explains that by using a good CRM tool you can efficiently collect invaluable information on customers and business prospects, allowing you to foster better relationships, offer more personalised services and, ultimately, increase sales.

The Winning Strategy

Although tourism companies have seen an upturn in bookings as travel begins to bounce back, travellers are still wary of changing rules and restrictions. More than 70% of travellers now expect information about rebooking and cancellations to be provided before booking, and it is clear that the future of travel marketing should aim to foster brand loyalty, trust and affinity.

A consistent, integrated and engaging strategy is key to the growth and success of your tour operator. Be sure to set clear objectives and attainable goals, proactively conduct market research and stay up-to-date with the latest travel trends in order to plan and adapt your strategy accordingly.

marketing strategy for tour operators

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