As we shift from a service economy to one focusing on experiences the tourism industry has the opportunity to connect with customers on a new level. Instead of promoting the same old tourism services to a blanket audience and competing on price, tourism providers can now create unique experiences that compete on value. A unique tourism experience isn’t something that can be built in a day and it requires hard work and an understanding of your resources and your customer’s needs. Here are the eight essential steps to take when creating a tourism experience.
- Get to Know Your Customers.
If you don’t know who your customers are or what they want for an experience it’s difficult to even get started crafting a successful package. Knowing your target customers profile of likes and dislikes can help focus in on what types of experiences they would be interested in. Customer profiles can be developed by simply surveying your current customers or by looking at your local tourism market research to gain a better understanding of who is visiting your region. Using either method allows you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and craft a better experience that meets or exceeds their expectations.
Now that you know who you are serving and who you could be serving its time to find out what will make our experience special.
- What is Going to Make Your Experience Special?
If you create an experience that can be copied by anyone you will be competing for customers on price alone. Understanding what makes your experience special adds value that cannot be copied so easily. Take a look at your community or region and think about what makes it special or unique? Who or what makes people want to visit your location? Are there some lesser known hot spots like restaurants or hiking paths that are only known to locals? Does your area have a historic industry that might allow you to partner with a non-traditional tourism business?
A great example of this would be the Kennebec historic log drives or ice harvesting business. Is there a local carpenter that uses reclaimed wood from those historic drives or someone who can bring the history to life and really engage your audience? Try to balance physical and emotional elements that can give your customers a well-rounded journey.
- What Type of Experience Fit Best With Your Business?
Now that you know what makes you special it’s time to refine your options. What elements of your community fit best with your already existing business? Is there a certain experience package that you could develop that fits or adds value to something you already offer? Start by grouping like experiences together under broad titles like outdoor adventures, reliving local history, or eating your way through Southern Maine. Start to think about what customers will leave your experience feeling and how they can share their experience with others. Will they write a review on Tripadvisor or will the share a video or their journey on Facebook for everyone to see?
- Plan Your Experience Program or Package!
Now that you know everything you can offer it’s time to plan what you are actually going to offer customers. Try to build your experience around a story or theme that fits with local attitudes. This will give your customers a consistent message throughout their journey. Now that you have a theme or story determine what the core elements or the experience will be. These elements should be the major focus of the program that customers cannot miss!
After you’ve determined your core elements develop a detailed plan that includes where guests will go and what they will do as well as all key players who will be guides or storytellers involved. Make sure you plan activities that will engage customers and immerse them in the story more than a demonstration would.
Ensure that for each step of the journey you have a contingency plan in place so the whole experience does not unravel if one thing falls through.
- Find your partners, suppliers, and staff!
With every element of your experience planned it’s time to find the people who are going to make this dream a reality! Find businesses and suppliers who will be your key partners in delivering this experience. This could be partnering with a hotel to use a dining room or a paddleboard rental to get equipment for an on the water tour.
When hiring your staff make sure each employee is ready to help deliver every element of the experience so the customer gets a cohesive message. Make sure each staff member knows their part in delivering the experience and how they fit into the big picture. Develop a detailed strict for each part of the customer’s journey but allow for flexibility so customer don’t feel rushed or miss out. Make sure you train each employee thoroughly and work out any kinks before real customers book. This may take a few dry runs with friends or family members at little or no cost to make sure everything is working efficiently.
- Find Your Place in The Market and Determine Your Price!
To determine your price you have to find your place in the market. Determine if you are offering this to domestic tourist, international tourist, or both. You should also decide if this is a niche experience or something that everyone wants to do. Answering these questions will help you define your experience and find its place in the market.
Once you know your place in the market it’s time to decide on your selling price. Understanding what similar experiences in your market are priced at will ensure you do not underprice.
It might be hard in the beginning to determine the value so it’s okay to set an exact profit margin and develop the price that way. Test prices and find what one works best in your market or perhaps develop different price levels for customers who might only want and value parts of the experience.
- Market Your Experience.
Market your experience on the best channels to reach your target customers. This will require the development of a detailed marketing plan for each channel you plan to use. Be aware of what customer are saying about your business and change marketing plans accordingly.
Look to your local chamber of commerce or state tourism organization for opportunities to market. Maine has two great websites https://www.mainetourism.com & https://visitmaine.com that cater to tourist and can help you market you experience
- Deliver and Evaluate Using Feedback.
Deliver your experience and be ready to reevaluate the experience from yours and the customer’s mindset. Continue to identify ways to better the experience from feedback from customers as well as key partners. Use both of these methods to fine-tune your experience and make it the best in the market!
Now it’s time to go through these steps to create your own unique experience that customer will book in a heartbeat!