Why Now Is the Time for Travel Companies to Turn to Their Domestic Market

Frida Kops   ● 6 min read
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As I see it, there are two schools of thought floating around the tour operator community at the moment: 

  1. Hold out for international travel to resume into some kind of ‘new normal’; or
  2. Turn to their domestic market and neighbouring countries in order to secure bookings sooner rather than later.

But when it comes to local marketing, does this sound like you?

“Locals don’t want a tour guide.”

“Locals won’t pay my rates.”

If you make the decision to play the long game and hold out for international travel, it’s looking likely that the travel industry won’t see a full recovery until 2024. That’s a very long game indeed.

And with consumer travel preferences leaning towards road trips rather than air travel (which is expected to thrive as slow travel picks up momentum), it may be a smart move to change your mindset and think creatively about how you can target the local and neighbouring traveller.

This article demonstrates why now is the time for travel companies to turn to their domestic market by taking a look at how hotels, tours, activities and attractions in Japan have adapted their business models and marketing strategies for their local market.

The strong recovery of domestic travel has meant that the sector has rebounded to almost 2019 levels” – Kenichiro Sakamizu, CTO, Veltra

Highlights from the article:

  • Think like travel company, Veltra, and work “aggressively to develop new products with partners.” Could you work with another local tour operator to create something enticing for locals?
  • Develop a real-time destination dashboard that provides travellers with local information detailing what measures are happening in your area. This could include safety measures of other businesses that your customer may visit (i.e. restaurants).
  • Utilise online planning tools to target those coming from neighbouring countries to help them plan their road trip.  

Have you adapted your business model to your domestic market?

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Here’s last week’s…

With uncertainty still surrounding the safety of air travel and government imposed quarantine rules for travellers returning home, it’s unsurprising that local tourism is gaining in popularity. Those who would typically choose international destinations are preferring to stay local or branch off to neighbouring countries that are easily accessible by car or rail. I delve into further evidence for why now is the time for travel companies to turn to their domestic market and neighbouring countries.

Let’s get started.

Photo by veerasak Piyawatanakul from Pexels

Here's this week's roundup:

Ready for Check-In? Lessons From the German Travel Recovery

Source: McKinsey

Germany has been used as a reference point to observe early patterns of our recovering market due to its position as the largest European and third-largest global international travel market. It’s also commonly viewed as being at the forefront of the recovery curve. 

In this report, McKinsey identifies 8 important travel trends. One being that for the first time online searches for domestic travel is 36% higher than searches for international travel. 

And another being that when looking at domestic travel, travellers are turning to coastal, mountain and other nature-focused local destinations.

Lockdown ‘Has Boosted Demand for Sustainable Travel’

According to Exodus Travel’s head of sustainability and community, Kasia Morgan, consumer mindset has shifted such that the demand for sustainable travel still remains high, even with the challenges that covid-19 poses. 

Understandably, compromises will need to be made, especially in terms of single use plastic due to new safety measures, but what tour operators can control is how they are disposed of. 

I encourage you to watch the 23 min webcast for further discussion of sustainability issues and guidance for the industry. 

Other guests on the webcast include Megan Parkinson of Latin America Travel Association and Veronika Blach for the Tui Care Foundation.

Why Rail Holidays in Europe Could Soon Be on the Up

Source: TTG Media

Granted this article focuses on Europe but I found it telling that consumer behaviour has now shifted in favour of rail travel. I believe this is for a combination of reasons: 

  • Travellers are choosing to prioritise sustainable transport options
  • Longer trips to embrace a slower pace of travel is gaining in popularity (trend #6 from the above article)
  • It feels safer to stay closer to home in case of illness or unforeseen government announcements of travel corridor closures.
  • Social distancing measures can be more easily adhered to on a train over air travel because there is more space to stand and move between carriages.

Europe isn’t the only region with excellent rail links. They exist all over the world, such as Japan, South Africa, United States, India, and New Zealand. With this in mind, could you use rail travel as a route to encourage domestic and neighbouring travellers to plan their trip with you?

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Here are my top-tip articles:

How to Start a Collective of Local Experiences

Source: CheckFront

If you’ve ever thought about joining forces with other tour operators then this interview will give you: 

  • An understanding of the benefits of forming your own local tour operator collective
  • How to structure a local collective
  • Insights into initial challenges. 

The interview is with Adam Walker who is a founder of the travel collective, Adventure HUB, and owner of Canmore Cave Tours. What stood out to me is that not only can you benefit from referral commission but you also receive support, a community and an increased presence on social media

Would you consider this for your tour operator business?

Photo courtesy of checkfront.com

Your To-Do List Is, in Fact, Too Long

I read this article earlier in the week and have been implementing Peter Bregman’s strategy ever since. I have to say, it really does work to help you focus and be more productive. 

Here’s a summary of what you need to do: 

  • Write down everything you need to do in list form. This can be as long as you like.
  • Grab yourself a fresh piece of paper and then write down just ONE thing from your list that you want to tick off today. (Tip – break up huge tasks into smaller bite sized pieces)
  • Go back to your long list of tasks and hide it away in a drawer, a cupboard or any place you won’t look at it again until you’ve accomplished your one thing. This means, it’s time to get to work.
  • Once you’ve done your one thing, pick one new thing to write on your “one thing list”.

If you often feel overwhelmed from a long list of tasks, I’d recommend reading this article in full and trying it out for yourself because there’s nothing better than the satisfaction of physically crossing a task off your list, right?

scheduling-tours

Tuning Into Customer Emotional Cues During The Pandemic

Now more than ever I think we could all do with refreshing our minds on how to identify the emotional cues a customer gives. 

Having this ability in your mental toolbox can certainly help take the heat out of a potential customer conflict

And even if you aren’t able to secure bookings right now, this article highlights how your presence is still very much needed. If your customers connect with you, they’ll choose your tour operator business when the time is right for them. 

Here are a few tactics mentioned in the article:

  • Read your customer’s emotional state. Focus on their written, verbal or body language. What words are they choosing to use? React appropriately.
  • Remember to always be a good listener and be kind. You don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes with your customer, they may be financially or mentally impacted by covid-19.
  • If you’re communicating with your customer by email, try adding words of encouragement and positivity. 

Avoid being too “salesy”. Respect your customer’s wishes if they say what you’re offering is not right for them. If possible, recommend another company who might be.

generating ideas for your business


A statistic I found interesting:

46% of all Google searches are local. (99Firms)


A question for you:

Have you pivoted to your local market? What successes and challenges have you faced?

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.

Did you enjoy reading the above?

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