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Preparing for Budget-Conscious Travelers in 2020 & Beyond

Last updated on January 8, 2021
11 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Understand the ways travelers are planning to reduce spending
  • Tips on how to modify tours and appeal to budget-savvy travelers
  • Easy ways to include value-adds to your existing tours

Skill Level

All Skill Levels

The economic implications of the pandemic have inevitably had an impact on the travel and tourism industry, but there’s one thing we can be sure of — people still want to travel. However, travelers will be more budget-conscious in the coming months and potentially even years, balancing the desire to get out and explore with the need to be more conservative with their finances. According to a new study by Brand USA (May 2020) where they surveyed travelers from 11 countries, 20% to 30% of those who plan to travel internationally in the next year expect to spend less on their trips.

Tighter budgets mean that travelers will be carefully watching their spending, and tours and activities are one of the top three areas where they plan to cut costs (Brand USA). This means that tour and activity operators must think of creative ways to entice travelers to book with them – whether it’s by offering discounted prices, new tour types, or tour bundles that save travelers money in the long run. While all tour and activity operators are looking for ways to increase revenue to recover from this challenging time, it’s important to also keep in mind how travelers plan to spend their money on vacation and cater to their budgets to attract a wider range of customers. This guide will explore some ideas on how you can appeal to budget-conscious travelers, without undervaluing your experiences. 

a close up of a logoEarly Bird & Off-Season Specials

A morning tour or activity is ideal for many reasons — for the traveler it usually means you can beat the crowds, you can avoid the hottest hours of the day during the summer, you have a full day ahead to continue to enjoy your destination after your tour, and best of all, you can save a little money! Early bird specials are a great way to attract customers looking to spend less on their experience by taking an early tour at a discounted price. It’s also ideal for tour operators because it allows you to engage with guests who prefer this option, but still allows you to offer your regular tour rates throughout the rest of the day. Consider adding an earlier tour time than normal, reducing the price of your first tour of the day, or creating a promo code for early birds so they can save on their tour. 

Similar to early-bird specials, if your business is in its off-season, promote cheaper, off-season pricing for tour guests who choose to book a tour or activity during this less popular time. Highlight the fact that your tours will likely not reach full capacity or that the areas you visit will be less crowded than usual, making this a great time to visit.

a close up of a logoGroup or Family Discounts 

Large group discounts are another common offer in the tourism industry, but now could be time to reduce the minimum number of passengers required to qualify for a group deal. Depending on your tour’s overhead, consider allowing groups of family and friends from 4-10 people to qualify for group pricing.  Given the many health and safety policies that businesses are putting in place to address traveler’s concerns, it’s likely that travelers will want to take private tours with only the members in their group, or with one other small group (think: two families of four together). By appealing to both their pocket and their safety by keeping groups small, you could bring in more business. 

Pro tip: It is important to not undervalue your experiences with deep discounts. Pitch a small family group discount – say, for a family of four – as a private tour for the cost of a regular tour. That way you can still charge the normal rate per tour guest, and people perceive (and experience) added value by having a private or small group experience.

a close up of a logoCreate an Abridged Tour 

Maybe your best-selling tour is four hours long and stops at a variety of iconic locations in your city – it may not feasible to reduce the price because you need to take into account gas for transportation, entry fees to any attractions, snacks and beverages, and other related expenses. Consider whether it makes sense to shorten the tour time and reduce the price to attract budget-conscious travelers. One option is to create an abridged version of your tour, stopping at only select attractions. Another option is to visit all regularly planned attractions, but where it’s possible to maintain the quality of the experience, explore from the periphery rather than have to pay entry fees.  

If you regularly use a bus, van, or another type of vehicle for your tour, this typically incurs quite a few costs, from gas to maintenance and more. If it’s possible in your area, consider whether you could offer a walking tour that covers a shorter walkable distance than what you explore on your vehicle-based tours to save money. Pass these savings onto your customers by offering a less expensive option that will still give them a taste of the great experiences you offer!

a close up of a logoAdd Transportation

On the other hand, if your business is not located in a particularly walkable area, adding transportation to your tours could draw in customers who are looking to save money by avoiding taxis or rideshares. If your tours are in a fairly secluded area or your office is not easy to reach by public transportation, a complimentary or budget-friendly pick-up and drop-off option could help customers choose to book with you over the competition. Make sure to clearly state that transportation is complimentary and is a new service – this adds value to your tour and justifies keeping the ticket price at regular rates. 

a close up of a logoOffer Bundles with Local Businesses

Another area where travelers plan to save money is food and dining, so bundling meals with your tours could be attractive to travelers looking for a deal on their fun experiences and meals for the day! You could work with local businesses to offer discounts at their restaurants for your guests, encouraging people to visit them for lunch or dinner after their tour. If you offer full-day tours, explore whether a local business can provide meals for the tour at a reduced price. Another option is to work local offerings into your experiences — for example, you might include a beer tasting at a local brewery at the end of your bike tours. There are many ways to work with local businesses to offer discounts to your customers, and the best part is you all benefit from increased business and exposure to new customers. 

What Do Budget-Conscious Travelers Want?

Beyond the above ideas for reaching budget-conscious travelers, keep in mind that these travelers often look for creative ways to travel and participate in activities that are important to them. They also like to be informed about the location they’re visiting. Your website can be a useful resource for their travel research, prompting them to book a tour or activity with your business. Use these tips to think like a budget-conscious traveler.

  • Budget-conscious travelers may want to visit a location close to home, especially during the pandemic when flying isn’t as safe. Brush up on ways to market to your local communities to reach budget travelers in their vacation planning phase.
  • These travelers tend to plan their trips ahead of time in order to narrow down the list of things they want to do while traveling and to get the best deals. When thinking about appealing to budget-conscious bookers, don’t focus so much on last-minute bookings. Instead, spend time getting to know your audience and widening your digital marketing reach to get your tours and activities in front of as many eyes as possible. 
  • People traveling on a budget often want to visit off-the-beaten-path locations that are cheaper than popular tourist spots (or better yet, free!). Write a blog post or create an info page on your website with a list of free or low-cost attractions in your area (and be sure to promote any of your currently offered discounts). Include keywords for budget-conscious travel, cheap travel, free attractions, etc.
  • Travelers with a tight budget want flexible cancellation or rescheduling fees so they don’t have to worry about losing money in case their plans change. Make your cancellation policy clear and easy to find on your website, and highlight your flexible policies to promote bookings during COVID-19.
  • Budget-conscious travelers do extensive research and want to know everything they can about a specific location so they know what to expect in terms of how much they’ll have to spend. Be a resource for these planners by offering lots of information about your area in the form of blog posts, informational pages on your website, links to local accommodations, and more. People who see how much time you’ve put into your website content and how much you know about the area will feel confident booking with your business.

Travelers may be cutting costs in the coming year, but they still want to enjoy unique experiences at their chosen destinations, whether they are near or far from their homes. By creating extra value for guests, or offering lower-cost options for your experiences, you’ll give your business a better chance of attracting budget-savvy travelers. As our industry shifts and adapts, it’s more important than ever to be flexible and innovative. Explore our guides for industry insights and travel trends, like the return of the road trip!

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