As winter approaches and many in the Northern Hemisphere tourism industry face the low season, it is a good time to look ahead and see if you could potentially future-proof your tour operation to generate revenue all-year-round by expanding your business options.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at some ideas, including those from some of the tour operators we have built websites for, to present examples of how to expand your business. Each option won’t apply to everyone, but we hope you find something useful or inspirational for your tour business.
One service that people will always be on the lookout for year-round is food. Having a restaurant or takeaway/delivery service on-site gives you the opportunity to connect more with locals and keeps your business operational through all seasons so you’re not reliant on tourists from afar at peak times.
Smooth Rapids in Tennessee is a great example of how having a restaurant on-site means they can compensate for the understandable downturn in interest in kayaking in winter, and focus their operation on delivering meals to their local population throughout the cooler months. This also helps to keep their name in people’s minds during low season and stay engaged with their local community – in turn making it easier to market come spring.
The other advantage of having a restaurant, and perhaps space around it, is the fact you can host special events such as wedding receptions and parties for other special or festive occasions. It also leads to those locals potentially giving your other services a go no matter what time of year.
Another potential way to grow your business is to invest in accommodation. This can be a great way to entice guests to book with you for something other than your primary tours or services. Once they are staying with you, it is the perfect chance to nudge them in the direction of your tours.
Far Flung Outdoors based in Big Bend National Park in Texas love to highlight their remoteness, so providing lodging means they can promise a true getaway. This leads to drawing people in from all over the country and further afield to their exclusive lodging. Once there, many guests soon have the desire to book the various tour offerings and experiences that Far Flung expertly provide, for example, their Jeep tours and river trips.
The aforementioned Smooth Rapids also provide somewhere to stay for those who are looking for camping, or even a glamping experience. RV spots and standard tent camping spots as well as Airbnb cabins and tents are all on offer on their extensive site. They remain open during the low season and kayaking is also available through the winter, unless the weather dictates otherwise on a particular day.
Another option is to partner up. This is especially useful for small business owners that don’t have the capital or capacity to provide their own accommodation options in their respective area, but wish to partner with hotels and other accommodation providers to offer guests an exclusive list of options. This is a service that can be offered on your website as Maurigold Tours have done. Having this type of partnership enables you to potentially gain visitors already in the area and are looking for a recommended tour from their hotel or host.
During the pandemic, we saw restrictions put in place across the world, especially to stop people from gathering. For a tour operator, this wasn’t a good scenario. This meant that tour operators had to look at ways of diversifying their tours and services so they could still be operational. Scaling down tour numbers to still offer tours physically in some locations was one option, but for others no tour groups of any size were allowed.
This meant we saw a rise in the number of tour operators offering virtual tours out of necessity. This also led to some interesting innovation and expansion within the niche market itself. A fantastic example of this within our website portfolio is Insight Cities. Insight Cities offer educational tours across Central Europe where guests can participate in the virtual tours live with up to 100 people/devices at a very affordable price, or in private (priced much higher for exclusivity), meaning they can ask questions as if they were present in person on the tour. You can find out more about their experience of setting up virtual tours here.
Rentals and Other Services
Whether you’re based in an urban centre or further afield, you can provide a number of useful services including rentals throughout the year. If you can’t run tours in the off-season, then maybe consider renting out your equipment rather than have it sit dormant for months. Bicycle rentals, ski accessories, and kayaking equipment are all examples of inventory we see rented out across tour industry websites. If you have sufficient space, you could also become a storage hub for others looking to safely store their gear and equipment from the elements in the winter months.
Sell Your Current Inventory
On the face of it, this may not seem like a mode of expansion, but selling your inventory to invest in better and more modern equipment is a must for many. For both trust and thrill, many customers will want to know that they will be using up-to-date equipment that looks new, is safe and well-maintained before they book a tour or rent equipment from you.
Many states in the US require by law tour businesses to only offer rental equipment that is no more than two years old. As long as you have your equipment well maintained, there is the opportunity to sell it on as many kayaking and ski companies do to keep the revenue ticking over during the low season. Kayak Hudson is a great example of such a practice because each year they sell off their inventory to help fund the next wave of required equipment . Their latest sale included kayaks, paddleboards, PFDs, paddles and other accessories.
As we have discovered, there are many ways to expand your business to help you generate revenue twelve months a year. We wish you the best of luck whatever you decide is best for your tour business.
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