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Most travel bookings involve going online. And many tourists are turning to their smartphones(opens in a new tab) to make those bookings.

With these numbers continuing to rise, you shouldn’t question whether or not you should invest in a website for your tour or accommodation business. Instead, you should be wondering what makes a great website and how you can leverage your website to generate more sales.

In this 2-part series, we will walk you through every element you need to ensure that you have a website full of sales-driven content. You’ll also be able to use your website as a tool to reach your targeted audience and get them coming back to actually make bookings.

For now, we’ll start with what underpins any successful tourism website.

Step 1 to creating an effective tourism website: Value Proposition

Why do some tourism businesses have massive success — despite the fact that their marketing is absolutely terrible?

If you’ve been in tourism for longer than 20 minutes, you know the type: the operator who has a website from 1999 but whose hotel is overflowing or whose tours are always packed.

And why is it that so many people with well-built websites come into the market and fade away, never to be seen again?

It’s due to one thing: your value proposition — or should I say — it comes down to an amazing, unique concept.

A business with an amazing concept will always enjoy success, despite their website. Sure, their bad website will probably strip away a bunch of sales, but people will continue to make bookings. Why? Because their unique concept brings people in like moths to a flame. People just can’t help but talk about it. Bloggers just can’t help but write about it. People share it on Facebook — without even having to be prompted!

Take a look at MuseumHack(opens in a new tab) in New York. They were competing with a multitude of other companies and guides that offer museum tours in the city. To rise up the ranks and create a buzz amongst tourists, they wanted to break away from the boringness that museum tours are typically shrouded in. Once they broke away from this key problem that many museum tours face, they saw their business rise astronomically.

MuseumHack didn’t need any special resources — all they needed was a different way of thinking. So how do you come up with your own unique concept?

Check out our tips:

Listen to your customers

Your current customers are your target audience. What did they love? Were they disappointed with anything on the tour? Do they have a great recommendation for your hostel? Or maybe they have a great new tour idea.

Whatever ideas they have, make sure that you are able to receive them with open arms. That means, you should be approachable and make it apparent that you want feedback.

So how can you do that? Well, you can obviously do things the old fashioned way and have a chat with your customers. They’ll really appreciate that you are making the effort to listen to their opinions, and you’ll pick up on a bunch of contextual clues that you would probably miss otherwise.

You should also make sure that you are on any relevant review site, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Hundreds of millions of tourists are turning to these sites to voice their opinions and read reviews of others.

This is actually great news for you because you will not only be able to glean super insightful feedback about your tour or hostel, but you can actually generate more sales if you get decent ratings. (Want to boost your ratings? Check out how to do it here.)

And make your tourism business apparent on social media too — simply use your Facebook status as a gateway to initiate feedback with your customers.

Pro-tip: After tourists have taken your tour or stayed at your hostel, shoot them a quick and personable thank you email. This is a great way of showing your appreciation, and it is also a great excuse to ask for some feedback — just insert a quick link to your primary feedback platform in the email.

Take ideas from your peers

Regardless of if you’re a brand new player in the tourism game or if you’ve been around for a while, you can get some great inspiration from those in a similar field.

So hop onto Viator, TripAdvisor or HostelWorld and check out the cool things that others in the industry are doing. And just don’t stick to perusing around tour and hostels in the New Yorks and Londons of the world — looking further afield can lead to some great inspiration.

Maybe you live in a tropical location that is chock full of companies offering snorkeling and scuba diving tours. It’s going to be difficult to make your tour really stand out.

Well, Under Sea Adventure(opens in a new tab) in Cyprus offers an alternative: sea walking tours! This would be a great way to ensure that your tours will provide guests with a ‘wow factor’ that other ocean-based tours don’t always provide.

Mix and match

Think about two things that everyone loves, put them together and create a tour.

A very common example of this is bike and wine tours (because who doesn’t love riding a bike and going to wineries?).

La Bicicleta Verde(opens in a new tab) has had a huge amount of success selling this kind of tour.

Another hugely popular example of this is pairing hostels up with bars.

The Miami Beach International Hostel(opens in a new tab) took this concept one step further by including an onsite, fully functional club.

This move is surely satiating the needs of all of the party crazed hostel-goers in Miami.

Leverage your location

What makes your location special? If you live in a town entrenched in mystery, try putting a spin on the typical historical tour by turning it into a true crime tour. Or if you live in a location with immense trees, think about using a few to build a skyscraping hostel like Treehouse Nicaragua(opens in a new tab).

Perhaps you live close to a port. In which case, why not buy a houseboat and transform it into a backpackers paradise?

That’s what the owners of the Beagle Houseboat in Amsterdam did, and the tourists seem to love the location of the hostel and overall unique experience.

Pro-tip: Similar to how the Beagle Houseboat provides a fridge full of Heinekens, serve up some local specialties to add an extra bit of charm to your guests overall experience.

Look at the trends going on right now

What kind of tours and activities are people itching to purchase nowadays? What is new and novel?

Segway tours used to be the hottest thing on the block. But now people are flocking to do tours that aren’t for the faint of heart, like ziplining tours. Stand-up paddle board tours(opens in a new tab) are also making a huge splash in coastal towns.

Or better yet, look and see if you can get involved in a trend that is really blowing up right now: escape rooms.

According to The Washington Post(opens in a new tab), humans are hardwired to play games. And while there was a long period where people were gravitating towards solitary video games, we are now craving games with physical and social elements.

Escape rooms have capitalized on this concept and they are now cropping up on every corner of the globe.

Pro-tip: Check out this list to see more unique tour trends all over the globe.

Put a twist on it

Even if you already have a great tour or own a popular hostel, there are ways to make it even better.

Perhaps your tour goes through a formerly war-torn neighborhood. Sign up a gregarious local who has been living there for years and has seen it all. Arrange your guests to have a coffee, tea or even a pint with the neighborhood stalwart.

Putting a bit of extra effort into your guests overall experience will ensure that they’ve had an experience of a lifetime — and they’ll more likely than not gush about their experience all over the web.

A word of warning

Before you go about investing all your hard earned cash on implementing and marketing your great new idea, make sure that you test it out first.

If you are thinking about adding a new tour, try it out on small groups of people. How are they responding? Would they be willing to pay for the tour?

The same can be said for hostels. Do your research and see what kind of hostels and services people respond well to.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, your website is a great wrapper for what’s inside: if people don’t like the heart of the website (the tour or accommodation that you’re actually trying to sell), then you’ll struggle to get bookings regardless of how great your website is.

Similarly, a bad site can kill sales even if you provide the hottest tours or own the trendiest hostel.

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

Read on for part two(opens in a new tab)!

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