There’s plenty of tours out there that people might describe as ‘really good’.
Tours that leave people ‘happy’.
Tours on which people have a ‘nice’ time.
Tours that create memories that last a couple of days, or a week or two.
If this sounds like your tour, then the questions you need to ask yourself are…
How do you elevate that tour to one that can legitimately be described as world class?
How are you going to set the bar for immersive, ‘one off’ travel experiences?
How do you create a tour that people can’t stop talking about, that builds a network of raving fans and creates a steady stream of 5 star reviews and word of mouth bookings?
How can your tour leave people with memories that’ll likely last them a lifetime?
These, folks, are quite literally the million dollar questions.
In 2010 we came to the conclusion that slow, incremental growth in our tour business wasn’t going to cut it and we made a big decision that ultimately enabled us to 2x our bookings and 2x our revenue in less than 1 year.
That decision was to dramatically improve our guest experience and elevate our tours to another level.
Well, back in 2007 when we started our tour business we created a bunch of private tours:
Amongst others a Melbourne City Sights tour, a Mornington Peninsula Food and Wine tour, a Phillip Island Wildlife tour, and a Great Ocean Road Coastal drive.
These were great tours (they still are). feedback was always really positive and customers were always satisfied.
Being mainly a ‘man with a van’ tour operator at the time and running around 60% of tours myself, I naively believed that the unique selling points in my business were things like: great commentary, immaculate vehicles, relatable, articulate, amusing tours guides, premium viewing options at attractions, meals in the destination’s best restaurants…..
The problem was that there were a bunch of other ‘man with a van’ tour operators running similar tours that had the same beliefs about their unique selling points.
Consequently I came to realise that if I wanted to run high-end private tours, these were not unique selling points at all, these were expectations
So, we decided that if were ever going to enjoy the success that we craved, to build that business, generating that revenue and those profits that we had dreamed of, we needed to overhaul our tours.
We needed to set ourselves apart. We needed to become ‘the only’. We needed to create tours that were loaded with unique features. Tours that were full of immersive, exclusive experiences. Tours that allowed our guests to ‘meet the faces behind the places’, that offered ‘wow’ moments. Tours that gave our guests bragging rights when they returned home. That was our goal.
So how did we do this?
It started with research.
Over a 3-4 month period, we incentivised our tour guides to prepare a brief report after every tour. They were to chat with customers – specifically about the one topic all our guests loved to talk about at length….their favorite destinations and travel moments.
So, throughout the course of the tour, we asked our tour guides to extract information from our guests such as:
What were some of their favorite all time holidays? What made them so great? What were some of the best tours they’d ever done? What made them so amazing? What was on their ‘bucket list’? Why? Tell me some of the most amazing things they’d ever done on a tour. What made it so amazing?
On their way back to the hotel at the end of tour, we suggested they get some feedback on today’s tour. What kind of experiences would have made this tour that you took today even more amazing? What would you be prepared to pay for it IF we could incorporate this kind of experience into the tour?
The information we collated over 3 or 4 months was like gold – a total game changer
…we went back to the drawing board armed with these fascinating insights and turned every one of tours upside down and pulled them apart.
The result? We launched ‘Our Collection of Unforgettable Journeys’ – a collection of ‘one off’ travel experiences, with an emphasis on rolling sleeves up and getting involved, meeting the faces behind the places, touch, tasting, connecting. Tours loaded with ‘wow’ moments, with access to the inaccessible and in many cases experiences that were completely exclusive to us and not available through other channels and on other tours.
From our Melbourne City Sights we created our ‘Day with a Melbourne Foodie’
And our ‘Melbourne After Dark’.
From our Mornington Peninsula Food and Wine Tour we created our ‘Mornington Peninsula Foodies Journey’.
From our Great Ocean Road Coastal Drive, we created our ‘Ultimate Great Ocean Road’:
From our Phillip Island Wildlife tour, we created our ‘Phillip Island Ranger Led Adventure’
We didn’t discard our original range of private tours – we still continued to offer these as ‘entry level’ private tours at a different price point – especially to our direct clients and they still sold really well.
Within a few months of launching this second range of tours, we started to see the breakthrough we had been looking for.
Revenue jumped from $390,000 in 2010 to over $600,000 in 2011 and continued trend upwards, hitting just under $1million in 2013
So many things changed for us once we launched this new range of tours.
Our travel partners started booking their clients on 3 or 4 of our private tours whilst they were in Melbourne, instead of just 1. Tourism organisations and tourism associations started falling over themselves to feature us in campaigns to showcase their destinations. Paid familiarisation opportunities started flooding in. Our referral business boomed, we were featured in brochures…and people just couldn’t stop talking about us.
So…I guess what I’m telling you guys today is that…when we’re growing a tour business, so many of us get caught up focusing on things like SEO and advertising and distribution and social media and so many other things…..however…. if you can get your unique selling points right, if you can nail your guest experience. If you can find a way to be ‘the best’ and/or ‘the only’ then your tour business is going to grow faster than you could have imagined.