Developing Tours to Keep Guests Longer
Surviving in a highly competitive market, with pressures of alternative accommodation options has meant that many caravan parks are looking for ways in which they can add value to the their guests stay and experience in the park. Many parks are looking beyond the basic provision of accommodation facilities to ensure that added value is offered keeping guests longer. One of these initiatives is the organising and setting up of local town and regional tours.
Its all about the Experience
Your guests are travelling and enjoying their holidays to enjoy what is different from their daily routine. Too often we let guest’s keep travelling through or let them go off and do their own thing without providing some guidance to them when it comes to local attractions etc. We may overload them with local brochures etc that may just land up in the bin most of the time. Nothing adds more value than a tour arranged and run by a local who can take them into their world. At the end of the day it’s about that personal engagement, sharing experiences and local knowledge. The memories and experiences you share is gold! Engaging with guests also builds a relationship, trust and friendship.
Running tours is Beneficial
Setting up and running a tour in your area can be very beneficial for you, your business and the local community. Tours will ensure guests stay in your park longer and increases your exposure and revenue, as well as that of the local community. Not every park may have the opportunity to run tours, however, never underestimate what your town and region can offer the city folk. What you take for granted, many townsfolk could find interesting and even intriguing. Beyond the experiences your guests have, the visit to your park also becomes a talking point on their travels. They become your ‘word of mouth’ as they continue their journey!
A tour has the added benefit to you to UP-SELL! You can up-sell by encouraging guests to do more activities in the area, encourage other tours in the area, suggest drives and other sites in the area, mention special meal offerings at the pub during the week and much more. All these are encouraging the guest to extend their stay and increase your occupancy and revenue.
Running the tours every 2nd or 3rd day also helps in holding guests in the park for the next tour.
Know your Town and Region
Your local town or area has a history and much to see and do. Take the time to investigate and explore all the possible areas of interest around you. Speak to locals and those with a love of history. Engage with locals who have lived in the town a long time to pick up on anecdotal stories. You will start building up a host of stories and anecdotes that you can use. Visit sites and locations in and around town to discover more about them. If the town has a story that is unique or different, build a tour around that. Consider the local landscape, geology, river systems, farming and more. People love to see and experience country and farming life. If you are in a cotton area, set up a tour to the local cotton gin or if in a dairy area, talk to local farmers about visiting a farm and seeing life from their perspective. Do a tour of the local town taking in historic and geographical sites. Capitalise on what is unique and different about your town or region. Does your town experience flooding, bushfires etc. Talk about these experiences and how the town overcame these events.
Your knowledge and experience is your point of difference. Never take what you know for granted. What you think is normal can be of interest to a visitor to your town. Your guest wants to experience life in a different place - your town or region.
“Know a little about a lot, not a lot about a few things!” Graham Reid
Focus on your Audience
Your audience are on your tour because they want to experience ‘your life’! The guest wants to get to know you! Be personable and friendly and engage with them. Their questions will build your knowledge. Tell a story - they will love to hear where you are from and what experiences you have had.
“Don’t talk about what you don’t know!” Graham Reid.
When sharing local anecdotes and stories, be sure you say nothing derogatory or gossip about any person or business in town, that you are not willing to say to that person face to face. Word gets around quickly in a small town, and reputations can be damaged very quickly!
Watch your audience when you share your stories. Body language says a lot about what interests people and what is ‘boring’ or ‘uninteresting’! Make a note of the good and not so good elements of your presentation, and refine your story!
Charging for the Tour
Charging for tours is a personal consideration. Is the tour costing you? Are their administrative or insurance costs to consider? Are you running a vehicle? Is the tour costing you in terms of staff or time? Some feel the up-sell is sufficient reward from a free tour. Others feel that charging determines the perceived value of the tour. A lot depends on what you get from charging for a tour. On a personal note I think a nominal fee is not bad as it determines the value of the service. Key here is not overcharging as this may not deliver the outcome you are trying to achieve. You may decide to only charge for those people who are not residents in your park. This can be a value add to guests who stay with you, that you are offering them a FREE tour valued at say $10 per person.
Tools of the trade
If you are running a bus tour, be sure you have all the required accreditation and approvals for your tour and vehicle. If inactive for a period, deregister the vehicle to save on costs. Be sure the vehicle meets all the required insurance and safety requirements, for example fitted step, fire extinguisher, etc. Preferably have seats that do not have high backrests as this limits the view the guests have out the windows.
Have a good lapel microphone and speakers so all guests can hear your presentation. Once you have a routine, this can be transferred onto a CD that can be replayed while travelling. When using your PA system, be aware that listening may be difficult. Do not talk fast, but rather be clear and succinct.
Time for tours
Depending on what you are aiming to achieve keep the tour to around 60-90 minutes. Limit the opportunity for guests to get off the bus as it becomes a challenge to get them back on the bus again. Ensure public toilets are on your route.
Leveraging other Accommodation Businesses
Offer your tour to other Accommodation businesses in town such as motels and caravan parks. The latter may not be as forthcoming, however, what you are doing is helping them increase their guest occupancy, while also making the guests aware of your services (maybe for next time they are travelling through). Motel owners will be more forthcoming with guests. A positive engagement with another park may provide support in busy times where you can share overflow guests.
Refining your tour and leveraging local businesses
If you are just getting started, invite some locals on the tour, to provide experiences and insights and correct your story if need be. This is a great way to gain additional support from locals and local businesses.
On the tour
When you start off, welcome all guests. Invite questions after the tour as you may cover their answers during your presentation. Run a safety check regarding the bus (if you are using one), running through emergency exits, fire extinguisher, steps, first aid kit and more. Give a brief overview of tour and timing.
Before you end the tour, stop before getting to the park, to thank the guests for their attention. Field any further questions and ‘up-sell’ any offers, activities, tours etc you may have available.
I trust you have found this overview of use to you and your park and that you can leverage this opportunity to get more people in your park to stay longer.
I wanted to especially thank Graham Reid of Charleville Bush Caravan Park, QLD for his experiences and insights in contributing to this blog. Graham provides some great advice on what should be considered when setting up tours. Graham has had many years experience in this area both locally and across Outback Australia. For more on Graham and his tours visit www.charlevillecaravanpark.com.au and www.travelwest.com.au.
Have you any experiences in running tours? If you have any thoughts and ideas, we would love to get your feedback.
Take Care and Safe Travels