Email Marketing for Tour Operators: The Guide
Communication is key to every Tour Operator to client relationship. Aside from face-to-face engagements, it’s important to build productive and lasting interactions.
You can achieve this by reaching out in a number of ways, but by far the most important communication too to date is email.
Today we’ll look at a few examples of how to attract website visitors on to your email list, what to send them and finally, how to get the most bookings possible from your list in an automated way.
So, let’s get started on how to make your email marketing efforts the best yet!
Attracting subscribers to your list.
Before you can start emailing people and tempting them with tours and services, you have to get them on your list.
I’m sure it goes without saying that these people need to be opt in subscribers and not just a list of emails that you’ve acquired from a source.
So how do you get people to opt in?
The easiest way is to offer website visitors something of value in exchange for sharing their emails with you. You’ll often hear this referred to as a Lead Magnet or Opt In Bribe.
Offering freebies such as destination guides, travel deals, and exclusive offers are a high converting incentive to subscribe right away.
Website visitors download something or get access to something from you after they have typed in their email and added themselves to your list.
This process allows you to follow up in the future with your marketing efforts on the back end of having provided something of value to your new potential customer.
List Building With Not Ready Yet Buttons
Driving traffic to your website is the easy bit, but what happens when people are not ready to book now?
Most tour operators have no way to capture that high percentage of customers that are not ready to buy right now. They leave the website and are gone forever.
As much as 97% of your visitors will leave without completing a booking. Unless you capture and re-market to those warm leads, you are missing out on your best opportunity to convert more lookers to bookers.
Let’s look at some of the typical types of website visitors that you’ll encounter without ever having a conversation.
You website is designed to lead people to “learn more” then “book now.” But what about customers who are nowhere ready to book now regardless of how perfect your website offering is at first sight?
Here are common situations where a visitor is excited by your hotel, tour, vacation package, or activity but can only be convinced to book later?
- The Traditional Traveler: They’ve just started researching for a future trip and need to verify dates and book transportation first.
- The Social Traveler: They wish to think it over and discuss it with family and friends before making a booking decision
- The Budget Traveler: They believe the prices may come down as the date of travel approaches and are willing to wait
- The Organized Traveler: They are actively deciding between two or more top travel opportunities and need more time to decide
- The On-The-Go Traveler: They are browsing travel at work, on a mobile device, or at a place where they cannot securely complete a booking
- The Novice Traveler: They are not confident booking travel online and require assistance from others to proceed.
None of these people are ready to buy from your right now, but they will be in the future IF THEY REMEMBER YOU.
Design a “Not Ready to Book Now” email sign-up form. It can be installed on your website in the sidebar or on your pricing and booking pages.
Remember your goal is to deliver an email newsletter as a reminder to book later. You are not sending a newsletter just for the fun of it!
6 Types Of Emails All Tour Operators Should Be Sending
1. The Welcome email
As a tour or activity provider, you’re probably used to offering a welcome presentation to your customers. This is a time when you let them know what to expect, thank them for their business, and introduce your company.
The welcome email is a digital version of this same concept, it’s an email or a series of emails that you’ll you send when you get a new subscriber on your list.
(Using Marketing Automation, you don’t actually need to send these emails 1 by 1. They are sent out automatically – hands free.)
You can choose the length and which details you’d like to share, but generally, short and to-the-point welcome emails are a good idea.
2. Curated Content
Curated Content emails used to be one of the main reasons subscribers signed up to mailing lists in the first place. These are emails you send to subscribers that are clearly interested in the tour or activity you’re marketing. It can be straightforward and visually similar to a page on your website.
A vacation rental business doesn’t have a huge variety of services. Similar to a tour company, it has a single offer that is made to fit the customer’s interests / needs. A curated email for a tour or activity company might look similar, with a few sections in it for the reader to click through depending on their interests and travel group size.
Curated content is just content that you find or create based around your topic. “10 ways to do XYZ” / “5 Things You Need To Know About ABC” etc.
You can include links to blog posts on other company websites that they might find useful or entertaining. Don’t be afraid to send them to other websites. You’re providing value and will be remembered for this.
3. The Newsletter & Special Announcements
When executed correctly, a newsletter can offer a lot of value to your subscribers. It should get as much attention from you as a blog post on your website would. This means it should be full of useful information, relevant images, and actionable content.
To be honest, to save yourself some time you can just include blog posts from your website and add some subscriber only content to give it that “inner circle” / exclusive feel.
4. Promotions & discounts
Discounts are a great way to bring in new customers and email subscribers. Promotional content is easy to create and doesn’t have to say too much. There are two major goals of promotional emails: to draw in customers that might not have committed to a purchase otherwise, and to build customer loyalty with rewards. I’ll cover this more in depth in the next section of this guide.
5. Booking confirmation
As a tour or activity provider, this will be the email you send most often.
Always include the date, time, and number of guests in the activity. You should also include the starting and ending locations, especially if the tour begins in a different location than its finish.
it’s always nice to make sure your customers feel safe and prepared. While the tour or activity information should be the focus, it’s helpful to include additional information they need to know. Include lists of items customers will want to bring along, information about guided tours such as required wardrobe, and even information about equipment rentals.
6. ‘Thank you’ email
Last, but not least, a proper thank you email can go a long way (You can automate this entire process and still be perceived as a personal gesture).
You’ll want to thank your customers in the booking confirmation email, but for an added layer of authenticity, send your thanks in a post-trip email.
Sending Coupons Via Email:
A lot of businesses owners see coupons as detrimental to their bottom line. However, when you’re focused on developing an effective email marketing strategy, you will find that your bottom line actually increase.
Coupons sent through automated emails are highly effective, because they help to increase your customer base, build loyalty among existing customers, and raise awareness about what your tour company offers.
Let’s start with some coupon ideas:
Off season discounts
Early bird deals
Buy one get one free
Retiree promotions etc
1. Promote Coupons During Low Travel Seasons
Let’s say you offer a sightseeing tour of your area, chances are throughout the busy season you are booked solid with customers paying full price for your tour. But, come the low season, you find it difficult to meet your minimums just to take your vehicle out.
This is the time to promote your coupons for off-season products and rates. You should do this with your own database as well as through coupon websites. This offer will help increase business during a normally quiet time.
Don’t forget to add clear guidelines on what exactly is on offer and how long the offer is valid for to avoid confusion with your customers or subscribers.
2. Go for the Up-sell with a Coupon Promotion
For example, If you are a winery tour company, you might offer customers or subscribers a private tour experience or a group tour booking option.
Once they’ve completed a group tour, send them an email asking for feedback and provide them with a coupon for a discounted private tour on their next visit with you.
Another way to go for the up-sell is to send out a coupon with the booking confirmation email that is sent after a customer uses your online booking system. Chances are the coupon will inspire your customers to spend more cash while actually out on the tour with you — which helps to increase your profits.
3. Raise Awareness and Incentivise Repeat Business
By emailing past customers and offering a discount on a future tour for referring a friend, you will incentivise your clients to do your marketing for you. First and foremost, your customers will be focused on promoting your business in order to get the discount on a future tour or activity. The benefit for you is two-fold: you will gain new customers while also earning repeat business from clients who will be using their referral coupon.
Try to build loyalty with the locals during off season. After all, they’re there all year round and can give you tons of repeat business and free word of mouth marketing.
Coupons can be a great way to drive business to your tour and activity business, especially when these promotions are integrated with your online marketing campaign. Many travellers today are on a budget, and are looking to find the best deals on tours and excursions.