Opting for a Co-Op
A chamber of commerce leader with limited advertising budget for a new travel program might feel overwhelmed when trying to market its tour to the community. However, tour operators like Image Tours will partner with travel planners and travel agents to split the cost of advertising their tour in the local newspaper.
“We have a program that’s proven to bring new customers to your business; and by the way, we’ll pay for half of it,” said Justin Osbon, sales director for Image Tours. “It brings new clients to their business, who buy this one tour then turn around and buy three or four or five more tours.”
Founded in The Netherlands in 1939, Image Tours has developed a successful business hosting tours throughout Europe for Americans from its office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company started its advertising program in the early 1990s and now reaches nearly 200 papers across the country.
Tour operators can arrange customized ads for the specifications needed in print publications, which can vary. Some loyalty group travel planners might also seek ads for their company’s personal publications, such as a general alumni newsletter. Tour operators can hand these types of ads over to travel planners as well.
D.I.Y. Marketing Expertise
Gorgeous flyers, postcards and print ads can’t sell trips by themselves. Travel planners should see these materials as tools they can learn how to use for maximum effect.
Tour operators like Collette want to help planners use these materials, as well as teach them other general marketing knowledge that may make the difference between a canceled tour and a sold-out tour.
“We put a lot of effort into training group leaders,” said Mirando. “We hold monthly webinars to educate group travel planners on destinations and ways to promote their trips with topics like social marketing for businesses. Our webinar team does a really great job.”
Anytime a travel planner books a trip with Collette, the tour operator sends the planner the Group Travel Promoting Guide for tips on effective ways to sell group travel. The guide offers a timeline with which steps to take as the trip date approaches. For example, the prepromotion section details what planners should accomplish 18 to 10 months before departure.
Tour operator marketing help doesn’t stop there. Companies like Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours will even send a representative to personally sell tours to group members. Often planners will host promotional events where a presentation can be seen in person or streamed online.
“My favorite way of helping a group market their trip is by coming down and doing a presentation,” said Lubchansky. “I meet folks face-to-face to get them excited about the trip, allay their fears and answer their questions. It’s a great business we’re in. We sell people dreams rather than something they have to have, like insurance.”
Even the best flyer can’t capture the excitement of someone who loves travel and wants to share that enthusiasm.