The Basics of Creating, Marketing and Selling your First Travel Experience

Reading time:
5 minutes, 23 seconds

We will walk you through what you need to consider, including keyword research and demand analysis, to determine what kinds of experiences sell best.

Whether you are dipping your toe into content creation for travel or are a seasoned pro, we hope you walk away with some great tools to turbocharge your business.

The state of Travel

Let's talk a little bit about what we're hearing in the market from travellers and operators such as yourself. So pre-pandemic, 2019:

Experiences were already on the rise, but it's certainly accelerated over the last two and a half years. Tours and activities, museums, multiday products, and experiences are the fastest-growing categories.

And it's probably not surprising to many of you.

I certainly think that travellers over the last five years have come to appreciate that even if there's a beautiful property hotel or vacation rental, even if they have the best way flight experience, it's often not enough to make the trip perfect - It’s what they do when they get there.

And so experiences are starting to coalesce as this growing travel category.

Food and Beverage Tour Bookings

Everything from the cooking class at the Nona and Nichols to wine tours, beer-tasting tours, and pizza tours – Just in the United States has grown nearly 60%. And we’re also seeing this trend in Asia, parts of Latin America and around the world. So, we expect those numbers to be kind of on par in those regions as well.

Secondary Marketings and Satellite Cities have a supply gap

The biggest opportunity is potentially called secondary markets and satellite cities. So here you would be thinking Newark, New Jersey versus Manhattan, think Hamilton, Ontario versus Toronto, Bristol versus London and those secondary markets and cities that are not the primary hub that typically gets travel volumes.

Why do they have a huge opportunity because there's a huge gap in supply in those markets?

More travellers are renting cars and are going further away from the hub system. If you're in one of those secondary markets or satellite cities, it's an excellent opportunity to fill in supply.

Travellers are still cost-conscientious. Travellers still want something compatible. They still want things that are safe but are interested in things that look a bit adventurous. So those things that have always been constant in our industry continue to be constant. However, these are some of the trends that we're starting to see in the market.

How do we connect with those travellers?

Travellers are looking for many things that can be boiled down to three categories, and so they're looking for unique products.

Whilst we love the good folks at TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor is the site where 60% of travel experiences get booked. It's a great repository, you can easily list your tour there, however, increasingly travellers are looking for something that they feel is more unique, and it's rare.

And so if you can, if you know you have a unique and distinct product. Do you have access to a building no one else has? Is your expertise unusual or allows you to talk on different topics? This is the information that resonates with the market.

Provide clarity to your audience

Make sure to list and display your information clearly and answer key questions. It can be everything from what you need on tour, how you get to the tour, and where you get access to it on tour.

Secondly, include information on your background and the reputation of the person delivering or creating the tour to build trust with the audience. Increasingly travellers are looking for a high level of service and knowledge, even on a one-hour experience.

Finally, traveller demand for conscientious and sustainable travel is growing, albeit slowly. Increasingly you're going to find that travellers are asking questions through a lens of sustainability. Are you creating threads that have sustainability at the forefront, or are you talking about sustainability? However, you choose to define it, making sure that you put that first in the foreground about the new market and talk about your experience because travellers are looking for it, and they wanna be able to find it easily.

So those are some of the things that will kind of set you apart when you're starting to put together your experience.

Where do you start?

So we always recommend if you're looking to create a new travel experience, or study an area you're passionate about, right? Use this passion area.

Do you have a passion for helping your families in this example? Use passion to fill those gaps.

So think about that gap in the secondary market selling but how do you use this passion to attract people to that particular kind of work? This might be a family recipe that goes back generations and could start a virtual cooking class.

There are many platforms, zoom included, that it was very easy for you to facilitate these can be pre-recorded or self-guided classes. Leverage your knowledge as a local, so looking at non-tourist areas in your backyard that you know that if tourists kind of weren't given the Insight track, allowing them through a self-guided tour to explore lesser-known areas.

We worked with photographers who have taken their photography workshops and converted them into photography tours and now sell those through Airbnb.

And then, for those of you who come to us and you have existing content, a blog, a podcaster etc., you’ve done most of the hard work, right? You figure out what content you're passionate about. You've articulated it in whatever medium you're doing today, and it really will help our team translate that into a tour.

So you know what resonates with the audience

You have built an audience that I would bet would love to experience a tour with you leveraging your expertise. And so it's really about making sure that we can work with you to figure out how to price your tour, how to title it, take your content and convert it in such a way that it will do well in the tourism sector.

Download your Get Started Tour handout here.

Let's talk a little bit about the basics of creating the tour, as we talked about a little bit about what's happening in trends today in the sector.

Pick up your address, and be very specific. I wouldn't say New York City, I would say the Bronx or Brooklyn or even specific neighbourhood clearance. So I guess what we're going to be getting from right here would be the tour of Manhattan. That's a different story than what people might expect from other travellers during the tour.

So are you going to offer to pick people up? Are you going to say, “meet at this subway stop” where you give them a specific viewpoint?

What are the meeting instructions, right? If they're going to a hotel lobby, where should they go inside and sit by the bed couch after meeting at the subway stop? Should they go get insight into the Northwest entrance? Try to be as specific as possible when you're working with partners like Airbnb or TripAdvisor

What is the primary language of the tour?

This doesn't need to be the language that is spoken locally, you might be in Thailand and deliver in English.

Whether it's live virtual, asynchronous, or that's all fine and what language are they coming to receive your content? If you are comfortable in the second, third or fourth language, please do list those next two sections that make or break the marketing side of your tour.

What is your tour name?

It can be tempting to think of fun things that are more jargon or made-up words, I would refrain from using overly complex words.

The first 20 words should tell the guests everything they need to know, it should say it's a tour through Brooklyn on electric bikes. We want to communicate enough that it's crystal clear what they're getting.

Tour Descriptions

Now let’s look at Tour Summaries:

  1. You want to limit yourself to no more than 100 words, which tells your reader what they’re going to do with some highlights.
  2. Indicate how we're getting around: Walking, biking, Bus etc
  3. Give me some indication of the difficulty, especially for walking or hiking.
  4. Indicate any accessibility issues, such as stairs without lift options or restaurants without wheelchair access etc.
  5. Don't tell me everything, you want to keep some surprises to yourself. You want to give them enough of a description so that if they're wondering if they're going to see big touristy highlights.

Booking window

How close to the tourists are tempting to this is important. If you're happy, guests can book this morning for this afternoon. You might say something like “Oh yeah, I just need four hours' notice”. But if this is something you're doing in addition to perhaps a full-time job, you need a week's notice.

So giving some thought to how close can you make a final booking.

Cancellation policy

Do you want folks to have at least 24 hours' notice? This is something you can define yourself.

Typically it's 48 to 24 hours for a half-day or day tour. However, if you host a tour that involves more moving parts or multi-day like a Safari or cycling tour then you may want to set a 7-14 day cancellation period with the deposit as non-refundable to cover the upfront costs associated with the tour such as access tickets or non-refundable room reservations.

Currency - Do you want to charge USD despite not being united states? This could be important, especially as currency fluctuations are happening more frequently.

And then the last two are their small boxes, but they're the big decision points:

Capacity - is how many guests you want to host on your tour. And with this one, I tend to say if you're new to hosting travellers, I would start with a smaller number just to get comfortable managing a group; six people is a good round number.

And once you get comfortable managing the logistics of the tour, but also hosting six people, you can dial it up it's always better to add more people to the tour than feel like you're overwhelmed with eight or 10 or 12.

Price - You can approach this in two ways:

  1. Start from the ground up. Make a list of all your costs, for example, three restaurants per person, then we typically recommend adding a 20 to 30% margin to pay yourself pay your sales and marketing,
  2. Or I would say the other way to kind of try and be like this is to look at comparables in your city or your region. Obviously, you want to go check it to make sure it covers your costs, but generally speaking, either of those two as a starting point we'll get to a sense of, okay, is your price well calibrated?

The good news is we have a lot of data on prices. So we would recommend you enter a cost and we can help you understand if it is too low or too high.

Marketing your tour

Marketing tourism and travel are quite complex. But I would say you're going to feel overwhelmed with things like SEO and paid.

Our heavy, heavy recommendations that you don't need to spend at the beginning.

If you can be conscientious about who your audience is and what’s on your website, the blogs that’ll speak to your buyer persona, and what’s on your social media - Then you shouldn't have to spend money on Google ads or SEO. There will come a time when you might want to consider paid or specialist services, but in the beginning, you should not need to do that.

SEO for Tour Operators

So for those of you who are less familiar with SEO or you've been too shy to ask, which is okay.

SEO stands for search engine optimization.

Download your guide - This guide is a quick, step-by-step content guide on how you can improve the visibility of your experience website.

And this is the process of improving your website and content from your pictures, your blogs, your bonus page, your FAQ page, and everything behind-the-scenes on your website.

It's a process of improving everything to boost how visible you are on things like Google, bing, yahoo and other search platforms. So the more fine-tuned your website is to your audience, the higher up in the search results you will appear for that user's results.

When you're starting with a new experience or a new product, it's very easy to start getting different traction for free. So what you want to do is think about the content on your website through the lens of the sales funnel.

And so, on the left, you'll see the sales funnel; these are all the stages that I go through when we consider a purchase, whether we're buying a cup of coffee or a flight around the world, right?

When we're buying a coffee, we go through the stages very quickly. But when we're buying a flight or thinking of going on a safari, we go through the stages, months, if not years.

And so if I'm thinking of buying Safari, when I go to the safari company's website, I need to be able to engage with content that answers all of these questions. As the purchaser, go through this funnel and as I do, I get more comfortable with this tour/trip purchase.

Awareness stage

Awareness is at the top, you want to have things on your website, and things on your social media that answer my basic questions.

  • When should I go on safari?
  • What should I wear?
  • What can I expect to see if I go to Safari in South Africa versus in Kenya?

Then when I come back to that website, you give me more content, such as a download guide to what to pack and how we want to travel to South Africa.

In addition, you want to build my trust through the following content

  • Tell me about your company
  • Show me pictures of customers and tell me testimonials of those customers.
  • Give me an FAQ page
  • Blog content
  • Give me some reviews and testimonial videos

Hopefully, if you've done all that and that customer continues to come back to your website, not only have you fine-tuned your SEO, but you're also getting customers who have built a high trust with you and will eventually purchase.

You want to think of your SEO on your website as building a house brick by brick, and it's going to appreciate and grow over time. Now a word of warning, people who say they can fix your SEO in certain days or even weeks, need to be avoided. SEO is a long but rewarding process. There are no quick fixes.

Looking for a tour booking software for your experiences? Extend your distribution with indie Travel marketplace and manage all your bookings in one place. Try for free today or contact us now for a demo.

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