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I previously wrote an article on ‘Why your tourism company should have an email list(opens in a new tab)’ which has become more and more relevant given the situation we find ourselves in. Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to grow relationships with their captive audience. Once your lead is ready to book their tour or activity, who to book with should be a foregone conclusion.

So, your question is ‘how do I set up & grow my mailing list?’. Glad you asked!

Step 1: Identify your ideal customer

Building your mailing list starts in exactly the same place as developing a tour or activity. This isn’t purely a numbers game; it’s about deciding who you want to communicate with. Using Tourism Tiger as an example, we build websites for tour and activity operators so we want our mailing list to be full of our ideal customers – that is to say, tour and activity operators like you.

Step 2: Give them a compelling reason to sign up.

This step gets missed all too often. “Sign up for future updates” is an uninspiring message to carry on a website and, in most cases, your visitor will dismiss it as irrelevant to them. Give them something of value in exchange for their email address. For example, if you’re operating wine tours and your target audience is ‘wine novices’ then a PDF of “A Free Beginners Guide To Wine Tasting” would be a start. Or if your audience is younger then change your language: “Look Like a Pro When Tasting Wine – Free Guide”. It doesn’t only have to be written content, you could offer a free audio guide or an instructional video. This is a great opportunity for you to showcase your expertise and gain trust while generating leads. Another tip is to either make your content timeless or ensure you have enough time to update it when necessary: “Carnival in Rio: FREE guide to the best blocos!” is great but it means you’re going to have to be ready to switch out or update regularly.

Step 3: Hide the content

Whether you created a video, PDF or an audio file, upload the content to a hidden location where it won’t be stumbled across. What’s the point in someone exchanging their email address for an article that’s available on your website for everyone? YouTube offers the option of making videos ‘unsearchable’ when uploading and PDFs can be uploaded into websites as ‘media’ with their own links generated. This means that Google won’t accidentally give your content away for free.

Step 4: Set up your email account

Once you know who your ideal customer is, and you’ve got the content you want to offer, go ahead and create an account with an email marketing service. Mail Chimp(opens in a new tab) offers a free beginner account, but there’s plenty of other options out there. Choose the one that’s right for you and set up your first list. Once you have your account activated, find your API key and insert it into your website. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry- your email service provider will have tutorials.

Step 5: Write your first email

The idea is that once your visitor hands over their email address, they receive what they signed up for. Setting up an automated email makes the process speedy and seamless. Aside from including the link to your content, this is a great opportunity to communicate ‘personally’ with your lead. Try to include a reason for them to respond and create a friendly dialogue. Be sure that you write this email with the same tone(opens in a new tab) that you use for your website, social media, and other communications.

Step 6: Integrate into your website

You can use widgets or pop-ups provided by your email marketing service or, if you want something more in keeping with the rest of your website, set up an integration with your forms. We use Gravity Forms linked to our ActiveCampaign account on our Tourism Tiger website. Make sure your offer is visible without distracting from your main value proposition.

Step 7: Leverage your base

Now that you’ve got them signed up, don’t just stop there. Send updates when you add new tours, create one-off events or post new content to your blog. Follow up with special offers or campaigns where available. Remember to keep this content relevant to your audience and maintain balance with your own agenda. Check your mail analytics – which headlines get the most opens? Which links generate the most clicks? Which offers create the most business? Find what works and do more of it.

Additional Steps

Share links to your special content signup page on other channels like social media – always in exchange for emails. Feel free to create different content in exchange for Facebook likes or Instagram follows but refrain from ‘selling at different prices’. Most email marketing services allow you to set up automation chains so if you have more materials to give away that can add additional value then go ahead and create multi-email automations. Be careful not to tip the balance into spam though.



Ensure that you’re complying with GDPR and other regulations. An email double opt-in is essential and you must give the option to unsubscribe in all of the emails you send. Your email service provider will be able to give you more information.

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