Appealing to the Local Booker
Travel is an exciting and ever-evolving industry and those are just some of the many reasons those of us in the industry were initially drawn to the work in the first place. From emerging travel trends like solo travel to hybrid business-leisure “bleisure” tourism the dynamism and the opportunity to define your path have usually proven exciting. As we are all acutely aware travel trends have quickly changed in the midst of the current novel coronavirus outbreak and it’s probable that it will take time for travel, particularly international travel, to fully bounce back.
Traditional travel has often been associated with planning an extended vacation or venturing to far-away destinations while exploring our own cities and towns isn’t always top of mind in terms of checking off bucket-list experiences. However even before the novel coronavirus changed the way we think about travel, staying local was emerging as a new travel trend, and it will only become more relevant and important in 2020 and beyond. In the months to come these hometown holidays, affectionately referred to as “staycations”, offer new opportunities for both travelers and tour operators alike.
As we band together FareHarbor is here to provide you with as many resources as possible to help build up and sustain a thriving industry. Keep reading to learn more about local travel and how to drive bookings from local customers.
Reasons to Travel Locally
For the traveler, local vacations are a great way to take some time off, explore something new and not break the bank while doing so. The average cost of a vacation (including airfare, transportation, meals, and other spending) is $1,180 per person (American Express). Staycations are also a great option when rates of international travel to your city are dropping or are limited.
Outside of crisis times one of the biggest reasons people travel locally is to avoid paying huge fees for hotels and airfare. Staying in the area also allows people to cut out vacation-based spending entirely, or at least pare it down significantly since they are less likely to purchase items like souvenirs and postcards. Extremely budget-conscious people might even choose to eat meals at home before heading out to do whatever tour or activity they booked, further cutting down on costs. Plus, without the need to rent a car or arrange transportation, that slightly pricier tour or activity suddenly seems splurge-worthy for area residents.
Another driver of local travel is not having to use precious vacation days. While an international trip generally requires the traveler to request additional days off from work just for flights, local travel lets the person make the most of their vacation time in as few days as they’d like. They can book an escape room in the evening after a day at work or plan a kayak tour on a Saturday morning without having to spend Friday night in a hotel near the destination.
Pro-tip: Local activities are particularly appealing to families with small children. Planning a tour or activity in the area means that the whole family is familiar with their surroundings and doesn’t have to worry about coordinating schedules, waiting long hours in airports, or keeping kids entertained on a long flight or car ride.
Ways to Appeal to Local Bookers
There is a lot of appeal to traveling locally so it’s time to take a look at your business and think about your local bookers (and how to get more!). Even if you operate out of a popular destination for out-of-state or international guests, it is always good to have a tailored plan in place for your locals.
Get Creative With Your Tours
Consider what tours or products you can create in order to attract more locals. They can be entirely new offerings or modifications on a current offering. For example, if you generally offer only multi-day tours consider offering a single-day tour for locals. Do you rely on segways to show people around your city? Perhaps offer a bike tour for locals where they can bring their own bike along. Put together a self-guided tour that covers your city’s off the beaten path highlights that would appeal to a local who lives every day experiencing the city’s major tourist destinations. Consider offering “local only” tours and create an experience where guests are encouraged to share their stories and share hidden gems with other locals – a discussion about where to get the best slice of pizza or a debate about the best sunset cocktail spot is bound to arise!
Help your local guests feel like they’re on an exciting vacation right in their hometown by combining your tour or activity with other local experiences. Partnering with businesses in your area is a great way to market your tours and activities as part of one entire experience. It also increases exposure for your business since local partners will mention your tours and activities on their websites and in marketing materials.
For example, bundle your offerings with things like discounts to other businesses, restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, and other products. Think about activities that complement yours. Perhaps you run food tours and know of a brewery that gives beer tours. If you run a snorkeling tour refer your guests to the local jet-ski rental company, and have them do the same for you. Your guests will appreciate your suggestions as you help to provide them with a more complete experience.
You can even partner with local accommodations to offer discounts on hotel rooms or home rentals. According to home rental company VRBO, the majority of their bookings in urban markets come from people renting a home within their hometown. For staycationers, just getting out of the house and booking an accommodation nearby offers a change of scenery and helps them make the most of their local vacation.
Remember that working with local businesses helps boost the economy in your area, meaning more customers overall. This is more important than ever right now as meaningful partnerships with your competitors will lift everyone in the industry up.
Discounts for Locals
It’s important to appeal to people who are looking for a fun activity for a weekend or evening, even if they aren’t participating in a full-blown staycation. Offer discounts that locals can redeem when booking one of your tours. Reach out to locals in your email list or use your FareHarbor Reports to find people who have booked with you in the past.
Pro-tip: Make an offer they can’t refuse by using language like “locals only,” “special price for locals,” and other wording that directly targets people in your area.
Share the discount on social media and email or create a banner on your website that locals can click to complete a booking. Better yet, offer a friends-and-family promo code that tour guests can share with other locals after participating in one of your tours or activities.
Be Present In The Community
The best way to get noticed within your community is to be an active participant in local happenings and show that you support the local economy.
When it is safe to do so again, consider sponsoring an event like a concert or festival to boost your recognition with residents who might not have heard of your company. This could be getting your logo and branding on signs, flyers, and other items at the event, or even setting up a booth and talking to people about your tours.
Increase local marketing efforts by advertising your tours and activities around town. Consider posting flyers in popular places like restaurants, bars, parks, bus stations and stops, and other businesses. Take out advertisements in local publications and boost your local SEO by listing your tours and activities on online directories.
When things normalize explore the idea of proximity marketing, a marketing strategy that uses text messages and push notifications to send information about your business (as well as discounts and promo codes) to people who are geographically close to your location. Proximity marketing is so useful because it creates a more relevant and personalized customer experience and allows you to reach your customer at the right place, at the right time.
Take It Digital
Particularly in the current climate, you must use digital marketing efforts to appeal to the locals in your community. Use social media to build brand trust. Show your expertise in posts and live feeds. Connect with others and share stories and tips. Email locals who have booked with you before and encourage them to do so again when they can.
Stick With It
Whether your business is being affected by a decrease in international travel or you just want to diversify your client base, appealing to local bookers is a great way to create variety in your marketing strategy and turn area guests into repeat bookers, and even into friends.
The changes we are currently faced with can feel overwhelming and the path forward uncertain. Now is the time to lift each other up, to support each other, and to develop and deepen our connections with our local communities. Please reach out to FareHabor Support with anything you might need and don’t forget to stay up to date with other industry trends and local marketing strategies.