How to Shift from Feeling Overwhelmed to Focused

Frida Kops   ● 8 min read
This article forms part of a weekly newsletter series that’s sent directly to travel industry professionals every Friday.
Want to be the first to receive it straight to your inbox? 

Is it just me, or do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure on tour operators right now? Be compassionate! Be flexible! Be fun! But don’t forget to be rigorous in your health and safety protocols.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement, then let me say this – you don’t need to be a total nimble ninja. It may not be right for you to create a virtual experience, but that doesn’t mean your tour operator business can’t be better.

My advice is to focus on “evergreen” trends to re-engage your travellers. Think sustainability, wellbeing, and shifting to digital and mobile so you can at least personalise your messaging. These areas were important to your customers in 2019 and still are important to them now. I’ll explore the strategies that don’t require you to turn your tour operator business upside down in order to be better.

Let’s get started.

Here's this week's roundup:

Rethinking Skift’s 2020 Travel Megatrends in a Pandemic World

Source: Skift

Before COVID-19, Skift released its Megatrends Defining Travel in 2020 identifying the leading travel trends for the industry. Then the world was hit by a global pandemic, changing things drastically. Some of those trends still proved to be true, while others have been reversed. 

For example, in December/January, GenZ was considered to be travel’s next big opportunity. Today, all the data indicates that tour operators might find it challenging to attract this generation. The main reasons being the rising unemployment levels and the health crisis.

Another trend that looked promising entering into 2020, was a preference to wellness-themed trips by people aged 50 and above. Currently, this demographic is treated as a vulnerable group due to the pandemic. It doesn’t mean that they will stop travelling but it might take longer for them to resume their trips.

“It’s fair to say that few might’ve predicted the central challenge that tourism marketers would face in 2020: shifting from over-tourism to under-tourism in a matter of weeks.”

Six months ago experts were predicting that long-haul flights would change the way we travel. Needless to say that this trend doesn’t apply anymore. As countries reopen, the industry hopes that people will at least start taking short international flights. 

A trend that has actually become more obvious during the pandemic is that tourism shall shift to protect and not just promote destinations. Previously, tourism boards were focused on boosting tourism numbers which sometimes had a negative impact on the destination itself. 

After COVID-19, we hope that tourist destinations will diversify their approach and realise that local communities should only be benefiting from tourism. 

“Successful destinations in the long term have to work as well for local residents as they do for tourists.”

Have you noticed these trend changes too? 

Which trend did you consider acting on six months ago that you found doesn’t apply now?

Read the full article here.

Adventure Travel Covid-19 Health and Safety Guidelines

Source: ATTA

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic have prepared a set of health and safety guidelines and a risk assessment tool for tour operators who are reopening (more on this below). 

These H&S guidelines were written by the ATTA with three adventure activities in mind: trekking, biking, and rafting, but in my opinion, most of them apply to any tour operator business. By the end of July, there will be seven more guidelines for other adventure activities too.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a roadmap to a safe reopening for the adventure industry by recommending actional steps for tour operators to undertake.

According to the guidelines, tour operators need to monitor, evaluate, and communicate effectively with the following principles being the first to come to mind:

  • Protect the vulnerable
  • Mitigate risks
  • Respond to COVID-19 presence and other emergency situations

“Elimination of risk is not possible. In order for the adventure travel industry to survive there will need to be a shared responsibility that is communicated across all levels of the industry and down to the customer. “

ATTA H&S guidelines identify five strategic goals that tour operator businesses should consider within their activities in relation to COVID-19 risk management.

These goals are:
  1. Create transmission barriers
  2. Enhance sanitation
  3. Promote health screening
  4. Respond promptly
  5. Protect communities

For achieving the above strategic goals tour operators will need to establish a
safety management framework to put in place. That means focusing on risk target areas including tour location screening, accommodation, transportation, and activities equipment.

Read the full article here.

For Travel, Google’s Ad Credit Program Is a Joke

Source: PhocusWire

You might recall that a few months ago, Google pledged to support small travel businesses by issuing advertising credit. Yet it only provided $1,000 ad credit per business – a hugely disproportionate figure to what had already been spent on advertising. 

As a result, Google has faced heavy criticism from tour operators who believe it should be doing much more to support the travel industry.

“The volume of cancellations for us was 100%… The credit was fractions of pennies on the dollar of what we spent with Google that generated conversions.”

– Jared Broach, owner/operator of Nightly Spirits.

In an ongoing online petition, tour operators outlined their opinions on what Google should do to assist the industry.

  • Credit the accounts of all tour and activity operators and all third-party resellers for advertising spend on their platforms for the period of January 15th to March 15th, 2020.
  • Waive the condition that a business must have advertised with Google for ten of twelve months in 2019.
  • Extend the credits through 2021.

If you, too, feel strongly about this, the online petition outlining the steps Google should undertake to show real support can be signed here.

Read the full article here.

Want The 10xpress delivered straight to your inbox?

Don’t miss the important news, reports and case studies in the travel industry!

Join our community of tour operators who are the first to receive this curated quick-to-read email series every Friday in their inbox.

Here's my top-tip articles:

Make It Better, Not Just Safer: The Opportunity to Reinvent Travel

This article from McKinsey highlights that H&S protocols should be implemented in ways that avoid overcomplicating trips. The focus for tour operator businesses ought to be on making travel better, not just safer.

Actually, health and safety protocols constitute just a snippet of changes needed in connection with the current crisis. 

Tour operator businesses can consider three types of interventions to reinvent travel.

  • Meet basic requirements. That’s the first stage, where travel companies need to do everything possible to encourage people to travel again. For tour operators, it means at least having a flexible booking policy and H&S protocols in place.
  • Use the opportunity to differentiate. Your tour operator business can stand out and re-engage with your customers. How? By informing them about recent travel trends, providing an update on restrictions and health status of destinations, answering promptly to their inquiries.
  • Distinctive intervention. You can go even further and offer your audience exceptional travel experiences. Make yourself their number one choice when it comes to booking a trip. 

“Companies will also need to look outside the industry to understand changing consumer expectations. Travellers develop preferences and needs based on their interactions with all companies, not only when they’re on airplanes or in hotels.”

Becoming a better tour operator business doesn’t always require large financial investments. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a customer-centric approach

Keep these three principles in mind while designing new protocols or experiences:


  • Give customers more choices and control. Could your customers customise their itineraries with the help of digital tools, for example?
  • Be human, genuine, and personalise the experience.

“Travel companies now have an opportunity to take this personalisation a step further, but—in a world where formerly welcoming smiles are behind masks—they will need to find new ways to connect.”

  • Listen to customers, follow the latest travel trends, and take an agile approach.

Which initiatives are you and your tour operator business taking to make your customers’ experiences safer and better? 

Read the full article here.

Four New Ways Brands Can Speak Directly to Customers

Source: INC.

While email marketing (when done right) is one of the most effective ways of communication, there are some other options your tour operator business should consider to reach your customers.

Four examples to follow: 

1. Take to SMS text messaging. Interestingly, text messages have a 93% open rate compared to 25% for emails. Try to use a conversational tone in your SMS strategy. They tend to be the most efficient in boosting conversion.

2. Employ seminars and video calls. While most people are online and behind screens these days, seminars and video calls can serve as an effective tool to reach target audiences. Think of leveraging webinars to introduce your tours and destinations and using 1-to-1 video calls with your customers.

Over half of consumers are more likely to repurchase from a company that offers live chat support. (Smart Insights)

3. Incorporate web chat into the sales process. Are you leaving money on the table by failing to add diverse communication channels to your website? According to a study from Forrester, customers were 2.8 times more likely to make a purchase after interacting with webchat. Chatbots can be helpful and time-saving but make sure you have people who are there when customers need them. 

4. Go all-in on customer feedback. I am sure you stay in touch with your customers after they book a tour with you. Ask them for feedback and permission to publish it on your website.

Will you be implementing any of the above? 

Read the full article here.

“In marketing, it’s not always about what you say or how you say it. Quite often, your results are dependent upon using the right communications channels. Reaching your buyers in an easy and convenient manner will ensure that your messages are seen.”

How to Approach Advertising and Marketing During a Recession

The three approaches described below will teach you how to add more value and reposition your tour operator business in such a way that you become recession-proof.

1. Don’t panic. A lot can be said about using a rational approach to the current situation the travel industry is in. Your tour operator business has probably already implemented all the necessary steps in your marketing strategy to stay relevant, but here’s a quick reminder.

A simple checklist:

  • Turn off irrelevant campaigns
  • Shift your brand messaging
  • Cut where it makes sense
  • Create content around lower-cost offerings

2. Provide more value. Show your expertise. You are an expert in your tours, your environment, its history. Think of tips, guides, useful information you can share with your audience that will be beneficial to them. In times of recession, tour operators need to put an even higher value on a great online experience. 

This is a time when our flexibility, innovation, and resilience are truly being tested. As competitors fall due to complacency, ineptitude, and rash reactions, your thoughtful approach will help you avoid common pitfalls and emerge prepared for growth.

3. Reposition for the future. Here are some key steps your tour operator business can adopt to stay well-positioned for economic recovery.

  • Keep on measuring. Constantly monitor your customers’ behaviour and travel trends’ impact.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you developed new products (e.g. virtual tours), it might be a good idea to keep promoting them. Now is the opportunity to innovate and diversify your revenue streams.
  • Invest in growth. As an ambitious tour operator, you’ll already know that investment in such areas as research, marketing, technological development will be crucial for generating sales.

The last piece of advice:

Trust your skills, trust your knowledge, and follow your instinct because, above all, you have it in you to make the best choices for your business.

Read the full article here.

A statistic I found interesting:

Companies who have agile, cross-functional teams that develop and iterate with end-users and deliver seamlessly across touchpoints, outperform their peers by nearly 3:1 in revenue. (McKinsey & Company)

A question for you:

From the above suggestions and “evergreen” trends, which make the most sense for your tour operator business to act on?

Share your thoughts and comments on our Facebook and Linkedin page or drop me an email at [email protected] – I’d love to hear from you.

The 10xpress is a weekly series curated exclusively for travel companies like you

Every week, I provide you with:

  • Reports, opinion, case studies and key findings that directly impact the tours and activities sector.
  • Educational articles to guide you through the changing world of online sales and marketing from industry leaders.
  • Tips and tools on how to improve your tour operator business, generate more sales and make your life easier.
Want The 10xpress delivered straight to your inbox?

Join our community of tour operators who are the first to receive this newsletter series every Friday in their inbox.

You'll Also Like