Tour Operator Insight: How a Human-Centric Approach to Email Marketing Generated $30,000 in 2 Months
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“What I really like about 10x Tourism is that you guys are really flexible. It doesn’t feel like you’re just an agency performing a task, but you’re our partner and we go through things together.”
The Problem: Overcoming the Challenges of a Pandemic
“Once we felt there was receptivity, we called up you guys, and said okay let’s turn on the spigot, and let’s see what happens.”
Todd Starnes, owner of cycling tour operator Bicycle Adventures makes sure his team peddles the extra mile for their guests. Providing bucket list experiences on the most beautiful touring roads. Additionally, handpicking the best places to eat and drink along the way. Bicycle Adventures runs tours in the US as well as internationally in destinations such as Croatia, Taiwan, and New Zealand to name a few.
Beyond this Todd also runs many other travel businesses across the Pacific Northwest of the USA. Sacred Rides is another tour operator that utilises the Get More Bookings® system. All-in-all, Todd has been working with 10x Tourism for nearly 6 years. It’s a relationship that continues to grow, producing more results each time.
This is due to the flexibility that 10x Tourism offers its partners. Something that Todd sees as a necessity to his workflow and approach to business. Now more than ever due to the pandemic.
Back in March 2020, Todd chose to put the safety of his customers and teams first by shutting down all tour operations. Todd noted that unlike the recession in 2008, the pandemic had an instant impact on business decisions. Todd had to urgently cut outgoing costs and streamline operations. Unfortunately, this involved letting go of staff, and cancelling leases where possible.
“At that time, we had tours happening in New Zealand and Central America, at that point, we were shutting things down and sending people home.”
One of the many things 10x Tourism did to help its partners through the pandemic was giving them the option to pause campaigns. This allowed Todd to quickly conserve whilst having a long-term strategy in place with the Get More Bookings® system.
Todd compares this approach to a spigot, allowing him to turn on and off when he needs to. It’s crucial for 10x Tourism that tour operators like Todd’s view the Get More Bookings® system as a long-term solution. Therefore, flexibility and understanding are key to a successful strategy that benefits everyone.
“What I really like about 10x Tourism is that I have this spigot to turn on and off based on whatever is going on cash flow wise. It was the perfect way to get back to it.”
The Solution: Taking a Human-Centric Approach to Email Marketing
“Let’s get excited about what we can do, rather than what we can’t do.”
When the industry didn’t revive as soon as some expected, it caused concern for Bicycle Adventures. Todd valued the small wins of having a modest number of tours able to run in May and June, but it wasn’t enough to be sustainable.
Todd initially had held back on advertising and email marketing. However, come August Bicycle Adventures saw a slight uplift in organic leads. This was on account of travellers feeling safer to travel again. This uplift prompted Todd to ‘turn the spigot on’ as it were. Setting the Get More Bookings® wheels back in motion to maximise results.
10x Tourism works on the 3% rule, meaning 97% of site visitors aren’t looking to buy. This makes for expensive and empty traffic. Instead of generating thousands of these low-quality leads, the Get More Bookings sales system targets the 3% looking to buy.
“What I really like about 10x Tourism is that I have this spigot to turn on and off based on whatever is going on cash flow wise, it was the perfect way to get back to it”
“First of all, we wanted to sell tours, but we wanted our guests to start communicating with us again.”
While selling tours was the ultimate goal for Todd, opening up a dialogue was the first port of call to regain confidence. Getting potential (and returning) customers excited about trip-planning again, and providing valuable content to build trust, educating leads until they’re ready to buy.
It was crucial for 10x Tourism to communicate the in-depth knowledge and breadth of experience Bicycle Adventures has to offer, after 35 years in the business.
The automated 6-part email course, created by 10x Tourism’s expert copywriting team, gives Todd the platform to educate his leads. Using 10x Tourism’s done-for-you services, Todd could confidently take a hands-off approach.
10x Tourism’s human-centric approach to email marketing is one of the most effective strategies for tour operators because it’s automated and value-driven. This lets tour operators sell as if in a 1-to-1 situation – but at scale.
To compliment this, Bicycle Adventures also utilises 10x Tourism’s conversational marketing technology, which automatically manages the flow of enquiries made through the site – even outside of business hours. This saves countless hours of manual handling whilst maintaining that human-centric approach.
Opening a dialogue with leads also enables Todd to gauge the appetite of his target market. Gathering data on their tour preferences, in order to make effective business decisions for the future.
“This really helped us in terms of what tours to promote, and how far we should promote tours.”
The Results: A Communications Strategy That Generated $30,000 in Bookings
“There’s a lot of momentum…We set our expectations pretty low, we said if we can get back to 50% in 2021, and 75% in 2022, and get back to 100% in 2023, that to me would be a success. We’re now at 75% this year, to me we’re a year ahead of where I thought we’d be”
By October, advertising and email marketing campaigns were running again under the Get More Bookings® sales system. These campaigns are important in retaining a warm relationship with leads, keeping Bicycle Adventures at the top of their mind.
Despite a tough climate, the momentum from leads emerged. Bicycle Adventures generated more than $30,000 in bookings during November and December 2020 – using the Get More Bookings system. Continuing with a human-centric approach to lead-generation, Bicycle Adventures then saw an increase of 300 leads in January 2021. A number of these expected to turn into bookings for Q4 2021.
“We’re getting the leads, it’s up to us to close them.”
Looking ahead there are bookings in place for May and June, but the bulk of the bookings are for the peak season in July, August, and September. Todd is confident most tours for August and September will be booked up.
His advice to other ambitious tour operators is to keep an open dialogue with customers as the main priority. Bicycle adventures are fortunate enough to have a strong base of retained customers, as a result of how communicative they are using the Get More Bookings system. Their customers know when they do eventually book, it will be with Bicycle Adventures whether it be 2021, 2022, or even 2023.
“We got a number of comments from guests that really appreciated the amount of effort that went into changing processes and communicating our processes.”
Building Back Profitability by Focusing on Domestic Tourism
“In this environment little wins matter.”
Pivoting to domestic tourism has been a short-term strategy welcomed by many. Throughout the pandemic, Bicycle Adventures have had the advantage of being perfectly positioned geographically. Already operating in states such as Arizona and Idaho where travel restrictions are more relaxed.
The few bookings Bicycle Adventures received in May were from travellers who were driving to the tour destinations. Now, with air travel on the uptake, and COVID vaccine programs in place, more of these out-of-state travellers are booking tours.
“In May, the only people we were getting on tours were people who could drive. Now I think the airlines have done a really good job of promoting safety, and now we’re seeing guests coming from all over.”
Todd expresses that due to rapid covid vaccine programs, many customers are calling the Bicycle Adventure team to book tours. He also believes that there is an element of travellers taking control of their own destiny.
Bicycle Adventures also benefits from being an adventure tour operator, one of the predicted travel trends for 2021. These types of tours are predominantly outside in rural areas where people generally feel safer.
“Yes, we were really fortunate in the months of Aug, September, and October we just happened to be running tours in states with loose covid rules. In Idaho and Arizona, we were able to run some tours, running in rural areas so people felt it was safe.”
Remaining Flexible to Regain Travellers Confidence
“I think that we’ve been very open about our COVID procedures”
Bicycle Adventures have always put customer safety first. This being proven by their base of loyal evangelist customers who rebook tours on a bi-annual basis. The email-marketing campaign 10x Tourism executes for Todd reflects this focus, answering frequently asked questions and safety concerns.
Todd implemented 10x Tourism’s free fill-in-the-blanks flexible booking policy template to reassure customers that they would not lose out due to unforeseen circumstances. Todd has kept this policy in place throughout the pandemic and sees no reason for abandoning it while the industry is still in recovery mode.
“We’ve always had safety as a number one concern, our guests have always known that pre covid and post covid we’ve had their best interests in mind.”
Todd noted there have been push-backs from lodges on occasion when implementing a flexible booking policy. 10x Tourism advises that the best course of action is to continue to negotiate for your customers or be prepared to change suppliers. For Todd, remaining flexible for customers in times of crisis is essential for regaining confidence amongst travellers. Building back those relationships is part of a long-term strategy, that in time, garners measurable results.
Whilst it became evident to Todd that some of his competitors were ignoring social distancing recommendations, Bicycle Adventures and Sacred Rides went the extra distance. Adapting every tour to meet each customer’s safety needs. Most travellers who book tours with Bicycle Adventures belong to the 50+ demographic, making it essential that Todd’s team has effective COVID safe procedures in place.
As a result of implementing new COVID safety procedures, Todd expressed that some tours even got better. Looking at the silver-linings, the pandemic forced tours into the open more than they had ever been. Customers enjoyed sharing meals out in nature, instead of inside restaurants that sometimes took away the authenticity of cycling tours.
“I think some of our tours got better. We weren’t eating in restaurants anymore…it was really more about getting away, getting in nature and sharing a meal with friends.”
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