The local experience trend means many tourists now want to travel like locals, and to immerse themselves in the culture, traditions, and language of a place. As more and more people grow tired of resorts and standard vacations, there has been a shift towards wanting to see the “real” side of the destinations they visit. And this is a trend that is only going to continue growing. One way tour operators can tap into this market and meet this growing demand is through offering authentic tours and experiences. It’s time to move away from cookie cutter tours, and to show visitors what it is like to be a local in their chosen destination.
So, as a tour operator, how can you do that?
Go off the beaten path
One of the biggest mistakes tour operators make is ONLY taking their guests to attractions and landmarks that they could visit themselves. Offering sightseeing experiences is fine, and in some cases exactly what your target market is looking for, but people who want unique experiences tend not to care about tourist traps. Some tour operators might also take these travelers to international restaurants. Again, this is completely fine if it is what your customer is looking for, but the type of traveler that is interested in a local experience doesn’t want or need that. Instead, find a place where the locals eat and take your travelers there. The food will be more authentic and they might even get the opportunity to speak to some of the locals, which is exactly the type of experience many guests now expect.
Remember, it’s all about experiences, so as an extra bonus why not offer a local cooking class, dance class, or even give them a quick language lesson? These are the types of experiences that guests remember, and that make your company stand out from the crowd.
Update your marketing
Since your offerings now incorporate more local experiences, you’ll have to update your marketing efforts to reflect that. You should start with your most used marketing channel, whether it’s your website, social media platforms, or any other channel. Keep in mind that authentic, local experiences take a bit longer to create as you have to think outside of the box, but they are well worth it. And after putting so much effort into creating unique experiences for your guests you’ll need an awesome online presence to match.
First and foremost, use strong images to showcase your offerings. People should be able to see what they will experience and great images certainly help sell a destination. You can also shoot short videos of guests enjoying your experiences as a way to truly bring your travelers a piece of your destination.
Another great tip is to implement different marketing strategies across your various platforms. Social media can be hugely beneficial as a branding tool, whether your platform of choice is Instagram or Facebook. While you can certainly spend too much time divided between different platforms, the ideal situation is that you choose a couple and do them well. Keep them updated with your latest news, blog posts, reviews, images etc. According to Sally Elton, a travel blogger at LastMinuteWriting and DraftBeyond, “you have to work on all fronts to get some real engagement. Display an offer on your website, share about it on social media many times in many different ways, inform people through email and brochures, your sales agents and so on”.
Be in the right place
People who like to travel like locals and truly experience a destination often purchase their tours from specialized websites. As this can be the first place they look for trips, this is where you have to be if you want to capture their interest. So, seek out specialized websites where you can advertise your offers. For this to work you need a clear understanding of your target audience and their needs/interests. Some tour operators do not want to go through the research process, instead choosing to advertise on every site and platform they can find. Keep in mind that this can waste a lot of your valuable time and cost you more money than expected.
Tour operators need to realize the potential that exists within the experience market and how they can utilize it for their own benefit. People are tired of mass tourism and they want real, local experiences when traveling. The above guidelines are a great place to start if you want to tap into this market and benefit from this new trend. No matter the type of tour business you run, if you craft a unique experience, have a solid online presence, and know where to find your customers you’re already ahead of the rest.
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