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The tourism industry is a saturated market. With the influence of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, a hidden gem doesn’t stay secret for long. Whether it’s a tourist destination that is known for a particular activity like diving or snorkelling or a bucket-list location like New York, finding a way to stand out from the crowd as a tour operator can be difficult. The mistake people often make is thinking their business needs to change on a large scale. In reality, when faced with numerous tours offering the same product, a visitor can be persuaded to choose one business over another by a small element.

We’re going to cover a range of ways to help you stand out from your direct competitors, from small-scale solutions to stripping back to the foundations of your business and working out what makes your audience tick.

Is Your Product Unique?

If you’re new to the business, you should start with a unique product – this is not as hard as it sounds. Rather than offering a straightforward wine tour of Napa Valley, add a twist that makes your tours different and memorable. Our friends at Napa Valley Wine Trolley(opens in a new tab) transport their guests from winery to winery in a replica of a San Francisco cable car – this means they provide an entertaining experience for their guests during what is usually the least engaging part of the tour.

Adding a unique twist to your product works just as well for long-standing tour operators and it is much easier to implement than giving your product a complete revamp. As a snorkel tour business in the Dominican Republic, it’s easy to misconceive that there’s no way to differentiate your product from the 6 or 7 competitors nearby. Finding a unique selling point(opens in a new tab) such as being environmentally friendly or having guides with particular areas of expertise like being an oceanographer will set you apart from others selling the same product.

Do your research beforehand and make sure it’s not a variation that everyone is using. The “tour with a local” card has been played by anyone and everyone these days and it’s time to think outside the box. It’s important to look into long-term travel trends when deciding upon an angle for your tour. For example, in a few years, sustainable travel will be expected by the majority of travellers. Even the big brands like IKEA(opens in a new tab) have clued up to the fact that to stay in the game, sustainability is the way forward.

Research Your Competitors

It’s very difficult to be objective about your own business but looking into your competitor’s reviews can offer a new perspective on areas that you can improve in. Pull up the TripAdvisor or Google Reviews pages of 3 or 4 of your closest competitors and make a note of criticisms and praises that appear multiple times. For example, do customers consistently complain about the wait times between stops or are they dissatisfied with the quality of the equipment? Then think about whether these same points can be improved upon in your business or if you do these things well already, make sure to show off about it on your website through testimonials, social media posts, or in your written content.

If you offer a similar product to many other tour operators in the same area, find the silver lining and consider it an advantage that you have more resources for market research. Create a spreadsheet so that you can easily compare elements such as pricing, times, what’s included, etc. It’s a great way to find inspiration for new initiatives and work out where you’re either falling behind or miles ahead of the rest.

Brand Personality

When booking a tour, most people want to know who they’re spending their money with. They don’t want to connect with a faceless business. Showing your personality through your branding could be the tipping point for a potential customer to choose you over your competitors. If you’re offering the same product as everyone else in the area but you can make them laugh with the information on your about us page(opens in a new tab) they will remember you. This is the key example of a small change making a big difference. People don’t want to know the facts about the business, they want to know your story and how you got to where you are. Showing off your fun side doesn’t make you look less professional, it helps you stand out from the crowd.

When considering your brand, there’s also the opportunity to think about whether you are overlooking any specific groups that fit into your audience. Is your topic or destination popular with students – can you offer them a discount? Are your tours wheelchair-friendly? Can you take advantage of your guides’ skills and offer tours in another language?

Content & Online Improvements

Continuing on the topic of your audience, an effective way to stand out from your competitors is finding your SEO niche. At Tourism Tiger, we favour the longtail keyword strategy(opens in a new tab). This means making popular search terms such as “snorkelling tour in the Maldives” more specific (eco snorkelling tour in the Maldives) to attract your niche target market who are searching for a product and ready to buy. Making your keyword strategy more specific will give you access to less competitive keywords and increase your chances of ranking on the desired search engines.

When you create your research spreadsheet, make sure to make note of your competitor’s online presence. Do they have an intuitive, up-to-date website and a smooth booking process? And more importantly, do you? If not, you need to come up with a timeline for putting both these elements in place(opens in a new tab). If you’re selling your products on an OTA, your listing will be surrounded by competitors offering similar experiences  – even the most unique tour offerings can find it hard to stand out in this kind of atmosphere. Having your own website and social media presence makes it easier for potential customers to find you and make a connection with your tours.

Customer Experience

As we mentioned in our post on customer service(opens in a new tab), the customer experience starts the moment the potential customer comes into contact with your brand. Therefore, exceeding expectations at every stage of the customer journey is a guaranteed way to be memorable to customers. By prioritising personalisation you can take your tour to the next level, nothing needs to change apart from the attitude of your staff. In the sales process, find out what interested your guests and then be flexible to cater to their interests.

We’ve shown that standing out from your competitors can be achievable with a few tweaks to your product, content, customer service, or branding. You can choose to put as much effort as you want into differentiating your business but the rewards you will reap will show you the benefits of going the extra mile.

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