When Patsy Meiser of Harmony Travel first started using tour operators, she only used them to craft itineraries for her travel group. But when it came to promoting the tour, she hesitated to contact her tour operator, Globus.
“I didn’t use their marketing department the first year or two because I felt that I might be asking too much,” said Meiser. “Foolish me. Globus has been a huge part of Harmony Travel’s success the past three years and will be for the three tours planned for 2016.”
You may feel, as many travel planners do, that the job of promoting tours falls in your lap. However, partnering with a tour operator can lead to professional marketing assistance that is not only beneficial but also free. Today’s tour operators customize promotional help for travel planners with personalized tours and marketing tools both online and off.
See It to Sell It
Word of mouth remains one of the most powerful weapons a travel planner can use to sell a trip. Listening to someone describe a recent zip-lining excursion is always more interesting and compelling than reading about it.
That is why familiarization tours (FAMs) remain a great way to sell a destination. Tour operators are often glad to send you on one of their trips so you can come back home and convey the experience like nothing else can.
“We truly believe that on-tour experiences are a great way to experience a destination and really get to know the product and the company that offers the tour,” said Dan Sullivan Jr., CEO and president of Collette. “It provides that personal connection and allows for a group leader to talk honestly and openly about the tour itinerary.”
This knowledge of the tour can help when a potential traveler presents a concern about a certain trip’s safety or difficulty.
For example, a group member might worry that your next trip to Costa Rica will involve too much walking. After going on the trip yourself, you can honestly say how much walking is involved by recounting your firsthand experience.
Enthusiasm can also sell a tour like nothing else can. Telling a group about how your eyes filled up with tears when you first beheld the Grand Canyon will make your members yearn for the same moment.
Choose Your Own Marketing Tools
If you can’t get your face in front of your group members, a stellar picture can also quickly catch their attention. Instead of using your personal photos, which may be dark or out of focus, ask your tour operator for access to one of its high-resolution, professionally shot images.
“Globus sends me beautifully prepared colored fliers to mail out or hand out,” said Meiser. “They’ve sent me quality pictures to use on Facebook, Twitter and email groups. Quality is much better than homemade.”
High-quality photography and well-crafted fliers not only draw the eye but also send a message of professionalism that can reassure your group members. In travel, like everything else, first impressions matter. So your dark photo of the inside of Notre Dame will not be near as convincing as a stunning image taken by a trained photographer.
You can choose what types of promotional materials will best serve your purposes. If all you need are some high-resolution images, many tour operators offer photo libraries for you to pick from. Or let the tour operator do all the work and have customized flyers, postcards and emails sent.
Tour operators like Collette offer additional options, such as large posters, Web links for social media distribution, marketing-themed webinars and even copy for any advertising you might need.
If you feel additional aid might still benefit the number of passengers on your tour, some tour operators like Collette will even come to you in person.
“We provide slideshow presentations to any interested travel planners,” said Sullivan. “This involves a one-on-one interaction with a sales manager who travels to the area of the group to answer questions and speak about both the company as well as the destination that the group leader has chosen.”
Every travel group is different. Some barely pay any attention to their computers, and other barely pay any attention to their mail.
To ensure that your group receives the type of marketing materials you need, many tour operators are developing online promotional tools for group leaders. Globus has recently released the My Group Vacation Page tool for all group travel planners.
The personalized Web page allows you to upload the details of your tour with a Web link to send to potential travelers.
“My Group Vacation Page has an online flier that would have the itinerary information and any information the group leader would need to help advertise the trip to their members,” said Mindy Alexander, director of groups and emerging markets for the Globus Family of Brands. “We try to have answers on it to any questions they would have, such as air costs and transfer information. It is all of our marketing tools at their fingertips.”
Travel planners can upload their logos, write special notes to their travelers, include reservation information and receive alerts when someone is ready to sign up for the trip. You can link to the page using social media or emails for your tech-savvy travelers.
Marketing tools, such as Globus’ Group Travel Video, can also serve you well after the trip. This online service has an app that the passengers can use to upload pictures from their phones to a sharing site. Globus takes the photos and creates a DVD video slideshow for each of the passengers.
“Group leaders report that the DVDs are great things to distribute at a post-tour picture party,” said Alexander. “It seals the deal, ensuring passengers make a deposit right then and there for the next tour.”