For the last 7 months I’ve been working on the ground in a tourism business – overseeing the tourism marketing for a major tourism attraction. It’s been a while since I’ve worked in a product. It was nice to be back at the coalface of the industry – I had a lot of fun and achieved some amazing things.

It also gave me an insight into what tourism businesses deal with everyday and just how many balls there are to juggle in a successful tourism business.

I had a large team to work with, but that isn’t the reality most tourism businesses.

What did my experience teach me? And how can it help you in your business?

Strategy is everything.

You know the saying – “if you don’t know where you are going how will you know when you get there” that’s why you need a strategy. Strategy gives you focus.

It is essential to have a strategy in place so that you are clear on; what you are working towards, how you will get there and the resources (both people & dollars) you have to do it.

A strategy is the roadmap for your business, it drives the activities that you should be doing and perhaps more importantly the ones that you shouldn’t.

If you have a clear strategy in place, it makes it easier to say no to those opportunities that come across your desk (and wow is there a lot of them) that aren’t right for you.

When you have a clear focus it’s easier to say “Thanks, but we aren’t doing any print advertising at the moment we are focusing on digital content” or “Yes, Indonesia is growing market, just not one that is a priority for us this year”

A strategy gives you focus and when everyone is focused on achieving the same things, you can do a whole lot more! Yet, so many businesses I speak to don’t have one, they are just going with the flow.

Please make some time to put a strategy together for your business – it doesn’t have to be big and complicated, keeping it simple usually works best. If you don’t know where to start, get in touch.

Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise

 Having a strategy will help you to do this. Get really clear on the most important activities for your business – what is going to give you the most bang for your buck and get you more bums on beds (or seats).

There are so many opportunities out there, building your strategy forces you to priorities and focus on the top things that you want to achieve in the next 12 months – I’d suggest no more than 5 key objectives.

You need to prioritise your activities and also your resources, both people and dollars. Be realistic about what you can achieve with the team and budgets that you have.

You can’t do it all, so being clear on your priorities is super important.

Work in Partnership

 Partnerships are important for any business, it could be product partners, marketing partners or distribution partners – the right ones will help you to grow!

Working with complimentary tourism business can enhance your product offering and your guests experience. It is also a great way to maximise your marketing dollars and grow your business. There are lots of simple things you could do:

  • Create a saleable package with other operators. Accommodation could combine with attractions and restaurants or a number of attractions could create a package together
  • Bundle together with other businesses in your destination to cross promote products and experiences
  • Create suggested itineraries for you ideal customers to make it easy for them to find the best things to do
  • Promote other businesses through your social media posts and website

What about marketing partnerships, think outside the tourism industry. What other products and services are your customers buying? How can you work with these products and services to extend your marketing reach? You could:

  • Provide a special offer to their customers
  • Run a competition
  • Create an exclusive event

Get creative and think about what partnerships could work for you.

Then there’s distribution partners – booking agents, visitor information centres and inbound tour operators. Working with distributors is essential to extending your reach and growing your business.

The biggest objection I hear to working with distribution partners is the commission that you need to pay; yes it could be up to 30%. Tourism businesses need to start looking at commissions as a marketing cost – one that you only pay when a customer actually walks in your door!

Think about some partners that you could work with in your business, and then make the first move, reach out to them and suggest ways that you could work together.

Build Relationships

 The tourism industry really is all about relationships. After quite a few years out of the game, it was like coming home going to industry events and seeing all the same faces, some are still in the same places, others are not. Relationships that I had built in the past were invaluable to the successes I achieved over the past 7 months.

The first relationship you will want to build is with your tourism organisations. Tourism Australia, state, regional and local tourism organisations have plenty of opportunities, there are so many simple things that you can do which can make a big difference to your business – to make the most of them, they need to know about you.

Don’t assume tourism organisations know about your product, you need to be proactive and tell them!

Get in touch with them to discuss how you can best work with them. Start with your local tourism organisation first (& don’t forget your Visitor Information Centre)

Keep on learning

 No matter how long you have been in the industry, there is still more to learn.

What travellers were looking for 5 or 10 years ago is different to what they are looking for today. They are becoming more sophisticated and looking for different experiences. You will need to do some research to understand todays and then review your product to make sure your product meets the needs of today’s traveller. Tourism Australia’s research page is a great place to start.

Marketing is constantly changing, especially in the online world. As tourism marketers we need to be across the changes and embracing new technologies that will help us to attract more of our ideal customers.

International markets are changing – hello China! The growth potential from China is huge, but it’s not a market for everyone. If you do choose to enter the Chinese market, you need to understand what Chinese visitors are looking for and adapt your product to meet their needs (Destination NSW has a great toolkit to help with that)

Tourism Organisations & your Tourism Industry Council care an amazing resource for helping you to enhance your knowledge. Sign up to Tourism Australia’s Essentials Newsletter and your state tourism organisations industry newsletter, attend tourism conference, workshops and webinars and network with other operators.

Keep up to date with the latest marketing tools online and offline, look outside the tourism industry for inspiration and ideas.

Remember you don’t need to doing them all, just the ones that work best for you (come back to your your strategy).

So where do you start?

Get your strategy in place, prioritise your tasks and stay focused. Then get to work building partnerships and leveraging relationships with your tourism organisations.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of business and feel like your not getting anywhere. It’s important to make time to stop review your strategy and reflect on what you have achieved. Celebrate wins in your business as you go, big and small, make sure you share them with your team and most importantly make sure you have fun!

Now I’d like to hear from you. What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your tourism business, what do you struggle with, what tools do you need to help you?

Drop me an email and let me know.