At RocketRez, we are big movie fans.   

The 1990’s were arguably the peak decade for cultural impact of blockbuster theatrical releases. Big movie stars commanded 20 million dollar paydays, endorsements, and late night talk show segments. Several of the biggest stars transcended acting to gain worldwide celebrity status.

Here are a few high-performing 90’s theatrical releases by tickets sold:

These movie stars had enormous celebrity influence and could command large endorsement deals as a spokesperson for a brand.

Expanding Reach 

Flash forward to the year 2021, and we are seeing a major shift in popular media.

Though it may be tough to admit, the biggest stars in the world are growing their following on social media channels – interacting directly with their fans. The reliance on big studio production and expensive distribution of content is slowly eroding. The next Will Smith may not be an action movie star in the traditional sense, but rather a popular creator on Instagram, Youtube or TikTok. 

The reach these social channels provide a popular star is stunning. For example, sixteen-year-old TikTok star Charli D’Amelio has 115.7 million followers on TikTok. To put that in context, just shy of 100 million people watched the 2020 Superbowl, one of the most watched in history. 

Social Savvy  

Understanding the nuances of social channels is very important for modern performers – and can be very profitable.  

In this tremendous New York Times profile, we learn that Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ music video was created with the goal of giving fans a good “blank canvas” to make their own memes. Using lots of sparse background and silly dance moves, anyone with a basic photo or video editing understanding could let their imagination run wild.  

This was an effective strategy. The video has over 1.5 billion views on Youtube, enough to join the top 100 most viewed clips in the site’s history.  

Tours and Attractions

As these examples show, modern artists are able to gain a larger following, faster than ever before, by adapting to the style of the emerging social media platforms. Tour and Attraction operators should be aware that this is where your target market is living. People love to share their activities and interests with their friends and get to be the star of the show. 

How can you as a business tap into this trend?  Does it require putting together a big budget for paid ad placements? Does it require an expensive contract with an social media influencer?

We believe the best opportunity is to let your customers expand your social media presence.

Tours and Attractions are highly visual experiences that lend themselves to great photos. Much like Drake – they are a great “blank canvas” to showcase your customers’ creativity. If customers feel that they are a part of the process, they are more likely to share their creation with their social networks. This is a tremendous opportunity for free marketing exposure.   

A modern photo solution at your attraction can equip you with the tools you need to turn your own customers into content creators.  

User Generated Content 

The idea we’re talking about today is known as user generated content, which has been defined as:

Any content—text, videos, images, reviews, etc.—created by people, rather than brands. Brands will often share UGC on their own social media accounts, website, and other marketing channels. 

Consumers today have a high bar for authenticity – which is reflected in the following statistics:

  • Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.  
  • A full 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 70 percent trust online consumer opinions.  
  • Nearly 80 percent of people say UGC has a high impact on their purchasing decisions.  

How to Increase Engagement and Revenue from UGC 

Make it look great  

In the age of iPhone, the expectations for photo quality are very high. It’s imperative your photos are displayed in high-resolution. If you are going to include branding, like a logo or watermark – you want to make sure it is minimal. Special effects like a green screen or superimposed graphic can also add to the appeal of the photo. 

Make it easy  

First, it must be easy to access, store and purchase the photo. A frustrating checkout experience can turn away even the most enthusiastic customers.  Second, it must be easy to upload to a social media site. Removing all friction to uploading helps to encourage more sharing.

Create a hashtag 

There are countless examples of fun business hashtags that caught on with a large audience. While this is more art than science, it is worth the effort of experimentation in several ways. First, a hashtag batches photos under one heading in your social media dashboard, so you can see and connect with the customers who have used it. Second, it drives people to your page who are curious what the hashtag is about, which can lead to increased conversions.

Include an offer

Finally, a foolproof way to drive engagement is to include an offer. Offering a free photo is a big incentive to drive more photo sharing on social. A prize entry or giveaway can also drive additional business to your attraction.

The trend of user generated content is a large opportunity for Tours and Attractions, but requires a shift in industry thinking from traditional ways to monetize photos. Taking cues from today’s media superstars can help illustrate the surprising outcomes that may happen if you let your customers become the stars of the show.

Book a demo to see how RocketRez customers are increasing revenue and reducing management time spent with RocketPhoto.  

Much has been written about Online Travel Agencies and the role they play in referring demand to Tours and Attractions businesses. But how does this truly work?

In his article on Aggregation Theory, Ben Thompson remarks on the rise of the internet giving way to a new type of company supply chain:

First, the Internet has made distribution (of digital goods) free, neutralizing the advantage that pre-Internet distributors leveraged to integrate with suppliers. Secondly, the Internet has made transaction costs zero, making it viable for a distributor to integrate forward with end users/consumers at scale.

This created the rise of Aggregator businesses, which possess the following characteristics:

Direct Relationship with Users

The Aggregator business is the one that the customer ultimately interacts with. You may read an article written by a reporter, but you find it through searching a topic on Google. You may eat food from a restaurant, but you ordered it through the “local deals” tab on Doordash. The curation the platform provides adds enough value to you that you prefer to interact with it, rather than directly with the supplier of your product.

Zero Marginal Costs For Serving Users

The platform does not incur the incremental costs of increasing customers, so it is able to serve many more than a traditional business. Google does not hire writers, and Doordash does not order ingredients and set up a kitchen. They have no incentive to vertically integrate to production, but rather capture demand in enormous volumes and distribute it accordingly.

Demand-driven Multi-sided Networks with Decreasing Acquisition Costs

Stay with me here. The more people searching on Google, the more content will be written, the better Google will get, leading more people to search on Google. There is a reinforcing loop that benefits consumers and producers that the Aggregator moderates.

In the Tours and Attractions industry, the Aggregator businesses are Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs). They wield a large influence over bookings across several categories of activities. While very similar by nature, each major OTA has certain strengths and weaknesses. Identifying a good fit can help you make the most of your OTA relationships and focus on one suited to your business and marketing style.

Top OTAs in Tours and Attractions.

Expedia Local Expert 

Expedia is one of the largest OTAs in the world for a variety of bookings including flights, hotels and, more recently, the Local Expert division – focusing on activities.  As a trusted brand, Expedia is a tremendous vehicle to get in front of a large base of customers – but does charge accordingly with a heavy commission price tag on each booking of 20%-40%.  

When marketing travel, tourism and experiences, targeting the right customers at the right time is of paramount importance – and companies with a wealth of customer data rule this game. Expedia boasts 112 million unique monthly site visits and over 68 million email subscribers across all ad products. Based on the breadth of the platform, you can be confident that any ad spend that goes to Expedia will go to a robust and targeted advertising platform with support for audience insights, social media and reporting.  

Get Your Guide 

Expedia Group is the large conglomerate that covers many different booking functions. By contrast, Get Your Guide is the specialized company operating specifically in Tours and Attractions as the main competitor to Viator. While it does not have quite the same reach as its larger competitor it boasts an impressive year-over-year growth rate and a tremendous mobile experience – making it an attractive alternative. 

Being a newer company with a mobile-first design orientation has allowed Get Your Guide to build a large presence on photo heavy mobile apps like Instagram. Advertising direct-to-consumer on Instagram via Facebook ads can become prohibitively expensive for an individual tour operator. Get Your Guide is a great way to build a presence with younger travelers on the platform at a 20%-30% commission rate.  

Viator 

In software, it pays to be early. Viator was one of the earliest OTAs on the internet (launching in 1995) and was rewarded with an acquisition offer from the juggernaut TripAdvisor to the tune of $200 million. As such, Viator benefits immensely from the data and network associated with the TripAdvisor name.  

Search Engine Optimization is highly competitive in all travel and tourism and, when combined, Viator and TripAdvisor have some unique advantages. First, they are two of the longest running websites in the space and as such have a compounding advantage of seniority to rank highly in Google’s search ranking preferences. Secondly, the sheer volume of user generated content from TripAdvisor’s long history of reviews creates a large online footprint, so listings are more easily found. In SEO, the group seems to have a durable competitive advantage in organic search.  

Klook 

When entering a crowded software space, it helps to have tremendous financial backing to splash out into a large addressable market. Hong Kong based Klook has done just that, raising several massive venture capital financing rounds that allowed them to achieve red-hot growth in Asia and set the stage for a growing expansion into North America.  

Like Get Your Guide, Klook came about in the age of mobile apps and has a uniquely strong Partner App for all things Activity Bookings Management. This has a great application in Reputation Management, where consistent monitoring and speedy replies can make a world of difference. Partners can get SMS push notifications when a customer makes a booking or leaves a review and allows you to publish an instant reply. 

Understanding the nuances of each platform and using an effective Channel Management software can make sure you make the most of your OTA integrations.

.

The challenges of the past year brought to light the importance of a balanced distribution strategy for tour and attraction companies. Many operators who relied too heavily on third party channels, such as OTAs, found it difficult to pivot during the pandemic. Conversely, those tour and attraction brands that owned their customer data via direct acquisition had an easier time promoting socially distant options like virtual tours and experiences. 

Now that the worst is behind the tourism industry, all signs point to a very strong spring and summer season. According to TripAdvisor, 67% of Americans are planning at least one trip this summer. As tour and attraction businesses begin their recovery, and consumers actively seek out your products and experiences, customer acquisition and distribution should be top of mind. 

Maybe your company already has a robust direct digital marketing strategy or perhaps you’re looking to develop one.  

Below, we’ve provided a roadmap for how to think about your direct acquisition strategy, beginning with organic channels as your foundation. 

Building your direct strategy

Many tour and attraction companies tend to favor paid channels, such as Google and Facebook ads. These platforms are relatively easy to set up and can provide immediate results. But results and ROI are two different things. If not carefully managed, paid advertising can quickly exhaust a marketing budget, leaving you with no scalable direct acquisition strategy. Companies then turn to and rely on third party distribution, which applies downward pressure on margins and profitability. 

This is not to say that paid digital does not have a place in your strategy. It most certainly does and we’ll touch on this in more detail below. However, for many companies, establishing a strong foundation built on organic channels provides a more sustainable strategy for long term growth. 

Here are some organic areas to focus on as well as actionable tips to implement immediately.

SEO

The world of SEO and optimization is vast. However, there are some relatively low effort actions you can take immediately to give your web pages the best chance of ranking highly in search results.

  1. Optimize your metadata

Metadata for SEO are elements such as title tags and meta descriptions. They tell Google, and users, what your page is all about. Be sure to use high value keywords in your title tag. Keyword usage is not required for meta descriptions, as they have no direct impact on rankings. However, a well-written meta description means a higher click through rate (CTR). 

Anatomy of an organic search result

  1. Prioritize mobile

Google now officially prioritizes your site’s mobile pages over desktop. This means if you have a fully responsive and lightning fast mobile experience, you stand a better chance of ranking highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). To get an idea of what Google thinks of your mobile experience, log into Google Search Console, find Experience and then Mobile Useability on the left hand menu. 

If you see all green, that’s good! If your site returns errors, such as text that is too small, you’ll be able to see those details below the graph. 

  1. Check your core web vitals  

Equally important as mobile experience is the new Google Core Web Vitals, which are part of your overall page experience signals. Beginning June 2021, Google will start to factor in areas such as largest contentful paint (LCP), first input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS) into their algorithm. 

That’s a lot of acronyms, but don’t fret! 

LCP measures how quickly a page loads. FID measures how quickly that page is interactive, and CLS shows how quickly the page stabilizes. 

Again, all of this wonderful feedback on your site can be found in Google Search Console under Experiences–>Core Web Vitals. 

  1. Know your keywords, and track them 

Yes, keywords still matter. No, you shouldn’t be blindly stuffing them into your content.

You likely already have a top keyword list. If not, this is a great place to start. Check to see what keywords your web pages are already ranking for. Then use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze the gaps between your current keyword rankings and other high volume keywords relevant to your products. 

Weave these terms naturally into your page content (more on this below). Finally, use a tool like Wincher to track your keywords and rankings over time to measure success. 

Content marketing

You can’t talk about SEO without also including content marketing. While content can take many different forms — podcasts, video, infographics — focusing on your blog can be a great way to engage your audience and increase organic traffic. 

Here’s a couple ways to make the most of your content marketing efforts:

  1. Make a plan 

A steady stream of valuable content is a great way to scale and engage inbound leads. Take a proactive approach to your content and create a simple calendar, with article topics and titles. Start with three months and build it from there. Every business is different, but it is recommended to publish fresh content at least every two weeks. 

  1. Write for humans, not Google 

This tip cannot be emphasized enough. Yes, it’s a good idea to have top keywords in mind when writing new content. But write naturally as you would want to read an article. Remember that you can use variations of the same word or term — Google is smart enough to understand synonyms and user intent. For example, if you’re an aquarium and are writing the article 10 Stunning Facts About the Great White Shark, Google knows that great white and white shark, are the same animal. 

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

So you’ve published a blog article and are ranking on page 1 and getting tons of organic traffic. Congrats! But, your work doesn’t end here. Double down on this topic and translate that valuable written content into an infographic, short video, or a series of Instagram stories. It’s all about showing your customers, and Google, that your brand is an expert on specific topics. Oftentimes, this can be accomplished by simply repurposing high performing content.

The role of paid

As mentioned earlier, paid marketing channels like Google Ads and Facebook should be part of any balanced direct marketing strategy. Knowing how to deploy these channels is key. 

Look at Google Ads as a supplemental channel to acquire traffic on terms where you aren’t currently ranking organically. If you’re tracking your top keywords as suggested above, this should be an easy exercise. Look for those top keywords that are commercially relevant for your business, but where your organic search result position is not high enough to acquire meaningful traffic. 

Take those keywords and use a tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush, or Google Keyword Planner to get an idea of search volume and approximate CPC (cost per click). 

Then set up your Google Ads campaign using tightly structured ad groups, with no more than 15 keywords per group. Remember to always A/B test ad copy to find the best performing ad. 

And don’t forget that you can integrate your Google Ads account with RocketRez to seamlessly track conversions as they occur. 

For tours and activities brands with limited budgets, consider using Facebook Ads to build your database. 

To capture customer emails, design an easy-to-enter promotion or contest. Make the offer something simple to understand, but hard to resist — like free entry to your attraction or an exclusive experience not available to the general public. Drive users to a dedicated landing page and only ask for minimal personal details, such as first name and email address.

Bringing it all together

There’s an old SEO joke that goes something like: the best time to start your SEO strategy is yesterday. The second best time is today.

While it does take some effort to build a sustainable direct acquisition channel, it is well worth the time in the long run. Knowing that your business has a proven and scalable way to attract customers means decreasing the leverage that third party OTAs might have over your sales and distribution model.  


Jared Alster is cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer at Wildebeest, a digital strategy and brand marketing agency focused on growing tourism and technology companies.

 

Common Automations:

  • Booking flows
  • Price changes
  • Customer outreach (SMS, Email, WhatsApp)
  • Automatic reporting
  • Refunding or Store Credit
  • Membership renewals
  • Departure cancellations

Software Automations for Tours and Attractions 

Automation is the act of increasing efficiency by performing routine tasks with technology. The implication for businesses is that skilled humans will have more time to perform value added services as routine tasks are automated.

We are currently in the golden age of automation, as software-as-a-service business models are deploying custom B2B software at an incredible rate of growth. At RocketRez, we have spent over a decade examining processes from all types of Tours and Attractions businesses and building tools to increase output through automation.

It is a useful exercise to examine the flow of all processes and functions performed in your business by people and assess which can be improved by technology. What processes are most important to your customer’s experience? What processes does a human being add value to beyond a machine? What processes can a machine perform better?

Here are our suggestions for functions that can be automated to increase revenue and reduce costs for Tour and Attraction businesses.

Forms and Waivers 

Many Tour and Attraction operators must cover their bases of liability by taking a waiver when there is an element of risk to customers – such as a boat tour or amusement park ride. This is a case where automation not only eliminates the human error of taking and collecting paper forms and signatures, but also improves customer experience through “on-your-time” signing with convenient email documentation.

Another form of customer information is collecting reviews and surveys, which is never an easy task. Customers in an involved experience like a Tour or Attraction can be difficult to corral for a round of questions, to the point that it is highly effective to send them an automated email to collect information after the fact. Net Promoter Scores are a very effective measurement of customer success and can do wonders for understanding your customers and how to improve your offering. In addition, a high NPS score can be used as a marketing tool, as hospitality businesses are judged largely based on customer reviews.

Automation tools are particularly adept at performing functions that require collecting and documenting information from many different people and can provide an immediate boost in staff capacity and organization in a Tour or Attraction setting.

Analytics 

A company with as many moving parts as a theme park, zoo or aquarium is tracking many inputs to understand the health of their organization. In many mid-market operations, it is common to track metrics with a set of different spreadsheets and software that does not communicate with each other. Garnering useful information about your business can be difficult in this scenario as it requires a human to clean, sort and present data between departments.

All-in-one enterprise software provides a large advantage by automating these human functions into instant reports, dashboards and downloadable spreadsheets. The effect of having your data visualized simply, and shared easily, is that all managers across different departments can now easily adopt a data driven decision making process.

The result of enabling and upskilling teams to make better decisions by department is often an improved bottom line for the company.

Sales and Marketing 

The most powerful automation that modern businesses are experiencing is the ability to sell products and services direct to customers online. In the early days of the internet, this was a cumbersome process that required technical ability to perform effectively. In the current era, it is simple and inexpensive to launch a fully functional website, send invoices and take payments.

Automating online sales allows for significant advantages over a human interaction in that the system can run 24/7. Tours and Attractions companies with streamlined online sales are at an advantage when it comes to vacation booking, running on different time zones and impulse upsell purchases which all add up to a meaningful increase in revenue. Referrals through OTA’s and booking agents are also seamless from a customer’s perspective.

Sales and Marketing teams can also meaningfully increase their close rate and capacity by automating documentation and follow up cadences using a Customer Relationship Management system. These are particularly effective for budgeting and revenue forecasting, as a simple graphical representation of expected revenue at each stage in your pipeline is readily available to all stakeholders.

RocketRez Top Automations  

RocketRez powers the online booking and ticketing for many boat and car tours across the world. Tour operators need many touchpoints with customers before and after they are on their tour, thus rely on email and SMS automations that are easily coded into your sales process using an “if this, then that” automation trigger.

Sending customers a series of Trip Reminder emails allows customers a last chance to cancel their trip (allowing you to fill their seat) putting you in control of “no-shows”, remind customers of any documentation or requirements they must bring and give them a chance to follow your email list or social media accounts.

Many RocketRez customers have a retail store or gift shop that drives significant revenue with upsell purchases through the RocketRez Web Engine. Equipped with all the best tools of modern eCommerce, RocketRez customers enjoy the Cart Abandonment automated email that sends a reminder to customers to finish the online purchase they previously began. Online customers get distracted easily – thus it is imperative to ensure a smooth buying experience and additional touchpoints to convert all customers who have interest.

Harnessing the power of automation can super-charge your business and empower your people with a reasonable up-front investment. 

Social Distancing is often regarded as a negative development for customer experience. However, as travel and tourism begin to roar back, it is worthwhile to note that a host of future opportunities also come with the changes made to accommodate new rules.

In many ways, the social distancing era has accelerated technological trends that have been years in the making, increasing convenience and automation across many traditionally manual industries. You may recall that Amazon Go was released to great fanfare when it introduced no-checkout grocery services in 2018 – now virtually every business around the world has been forced to adopt contactless processes that seemed like “luxury tech” in a pre-COVID world.

Why has Amazon, the world’s most customer centric company, been investing in this technology for years? We believe there are areas of the contactless experience that meaningfully increase customer satisfaction and will remain for the long term.

Below is a list of the key products Tours and Attractions are using in the COVID-19 technological overhaul – and the key benefits they may offer going forward.

Digital Check-In

Tremendous opportunities arise from the trend that customers are more willing than ever to fulfill many routine business functions through self-serve tools. Re-imagining bookings and check-in experience in a socially distanced world illuminated that customers have always been happy to avoid lineups and tight, packed spaces.

Implementing booking software for your business allows you to capture value in new ways to maximize this opportunity. Digital booking makes it easier to forecast demand, fill in a cancelled ticket and track and communicate with customers in an automated way.

While many businesses provide a large value-add in personal experiences, it is worthwhile to examine if you could meaningfully improve your efficiency in these routine functions through automation.

Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering 

Food and beverage purchases are a big driver of revenue – and are traditionally a difficult area to manage customer experience. In the context of many Tours and Attractions, drinks and meals are gathered “on-the-go”, as opposed to a seated dining experience, which naturally lends itself to mobile ordering.

If you are looking for inspiration, take a lesson from Disney World. With a new mobile app, guests can choose their order, place it in the queue and pick it up at a time that is convenient for them. This is a tremendous value-add for guests that are trying to manage sightseeing with their kids and the inevitable time delays that come with it.

Key Benefits 

  • Accommodate more customers with less staff
  • Fill cancellations
  • Avoid customer discomfort in lineups
  • Lead capture and customer contact
  • Contactless Payment

Contactless Payment 

The financial technology space has been abuzz about RFID technology and how it improves customer ease and security in payments for years – and in 2020 it came front and center. From a customer perspective, the simple tap payment of cards is now accepted as the norm, and technology has reached a mature point where tools like Apple or Google Pay are becoming more widely used and trusted.

QR codes (otherwise known as quick response) are a simple way to engage customers with contactless tech – typically sending them to a promotion, landing page or location with a special offer. QR codes are highly customizable to your unique offer, making them effective in driving additional revenue from purchases.

From a business perspective, it is interesting to note that new payment tools tend to increase customer spending through ease of use. They also reduce all types of error, lineups and labour cost involved in managing payments at a traditional till. Many Tours and Attractions have been adopting RFID wristbands that can be loaded with funds or linked to a customer account for frictionless payment.

The magnitude and importance of the payments space ensures that payment providers will always be innovating new ways to make payments cheaper, faster and more secure. Staying on top of trends and applying creativity will present opportunities for your business going forward.

Key benefits 

  • Increased spending 
  • Better customer experience 
  • Reduced costs and bottlenecks from payments 

Calling it your “online reputation” really is redundant. Your online reputation simply is your reputation. In the digital era, nothing is protecting you from criticism anymore.

— Neil Patel  

It is common knowledge that good customer reviews are good for business, but managing your reviews is an art unto itself.  

Reputation Management in 2021 is a live, dynamic and omni-channel discipline. In a world that is fully connected and personalized through social media, careful maintenance of the appropriate channels can lead to great business outcomes and drive real trust from consumers. In Tours and Attractions, where customers are generally looking for a fun and safe family outing, trust is paramount to success.  

Consider the following points from a recent TripAdvisor survey

  • 79% of travelers said personalized responses from owners make reviews more useful, highlighting the importance of management responses. 
  • 89% of travelers said a thoughtful response to a negative review improved their impression of a business, showing the effectiveness of owners responding to all types of reviews.
     
  • 84% of travellers said polite and respectful response from business owners is important to them when reading reviews, and as a result, they plan a better trip.

Here are our top tips to maximize your business’s reputation: 

Monitor all outlets where your customers may be speaking about you. 

The key places to look will be your Google reviews, your Facebook page and any other Third-Party sites or Forums that you belong to. In a business driving a high volume of customers daily, it is important to have an employee with strong writing ability block time to scan and respond to comments regularly. 

TIP: For a business with large visibility – set a Google Alert to track your business name. This way you will be fully aware of online discussions about your business that have scaled beyond a single review.  

Maintain a consistent voice 

Social media is a tremendous tool to fully express yourself as a business. The opportunity goes beyond repeating your mission and vision – you can truly create a personality for your brand to attract like-minded customers. Some companies strive to convey calm competence in dealing with complex issues, some aim to provide laughs and fun to guests of all types.  

There are many examples of companies successfully employing different brand identities through social media, but you cannot be all things to all people. Take the time to reverse engineer how you will speak based on who you would like to speak to in order to find and attract your most high value audience.  

TIP: During the inevitable trial and error of developing your brand voice, analytics found on your Tours and Attractions software dashboard can help your team identify what messages are driving engagement and visitors.  

Address negativity head on 

It has been reported that 97% of consumers who read business reviews also read the business’s responses to those reviews. Shift your mindset of a negative review from a problem to an opportunity to show how adept you are at rectifying customer complaints. In many cases, a speedy acknowledgement of the problem, an apology and an appropriate offer to reimburse the client for their troubles can be even more effective than yet another good review.  

When it comes to online reviews the unfortunate truth is that praise is generally silent while criticism is loud. Employing best practices in reputation management can allow you to use this to your advantage.  

At the end of the day – you can’t please everyone. No business today is completely shielded from unwarranted negative feedback, and no team is immune to honest mistakes. It is always better to take the high road – the above principles can serve as guideposts to building a culture of accountability in your customer experience efforts.  

“You can get everything in life you want  by helping other people get what they want” 

 — Zig Ziglar 

Let’s take a quick trip back to the year 2000. Imagine you are an entrepreneur looking to sell an item online. Your to do list would include: 

  •  Hiring a designer to build out your brand and a developer to code your website, on call to maintain any bugs or fixes at a high hourly rate.
  • Setting up a merchant account at a bank and going through the complicated process to authorize online transactions, with a separate Point of Sale till.  
  • Building out automations for order confirmation, account and password changes, text message updates and other customer communications. 

Flash forward to 2021 and, thanks to Software-as-a-Service business models, a bundle of these services can be purchased and implemented easily. This allows businesses of all sizes to offer world class applications at an affordable rate and, in most cases, minimal computer programming knowledge is required.  

Welcome to the platform and API economy, where companies build roads, not cars.  

RocketRez is the first full service platform specifically designed for Tours and Attractions. We aim to stay behind the scenes taking care of all the technological infrastructure to free you to do what you do best, run your business.  

The Tours and Attractions industry has a very specific and diverse set of needs and here at RocketRez, we have spent nearly a decade bundling them together into one efficient operating system.  We believe there are six key ways switching to our platform can supercharge your revenue.  

The Six Pillars of the Platform Advantage 

Living in the Cloud 

Much has been written about the business benefits of switching to cloud computing.  Big benefits like reduced cost, increased security of sensitive data and flexibility to deploy and scale brand new functions are well known.  

However, as a business operator, the main benefit of a cloud platform is simple and accessible collaboration in real time across all functional areas of your business. The ability to create a “shared brain” and communicate asynchronously builds a compound effect on the efficiency of your organization. Having a live, central operating system acts as a force multiplier for your judgement and decisions.  

Centralized Reporting 

With central cloud architecture, information is inputted from all employees and customers of your business from all different areas of sales, marketing, HR, operations and more. Rocket Rez is the funnel that cleans and sorts all of this random data into usable information to help you manage your business better.  

Some customers derive revenue from a host of sources including retail merchandise, private tours, memberships, events and more. Consolidating your P/L to one solution that handles revenue, COGS and taxes in a dynamic application saves hours of manual labour and streamlines management functions.

Built for YOUR Niche 

Enterprise software managed in a cloud environment is effectively a blank canvas for our artists (also known as computer programmers) to paint on. As such, this is not out of the box, one size fits none software that you decide to adopt then fit your operations around – it has been carefully honed after years of experimentation in the Tours and Attractions space.  

Should you have an idea about how your software can run better, in a way that is unique to your business, we pride ourselves on developing and deploying the custom computer code to make it a reality. 

Learn how a long time Rocket Rez customer was able to do 65% more business with 55% less staff with a custom solution.  

Integrations 

In an enterprise software environment with complex functions to master, self-awareness is key. We know our circle of competence and will never spend resources to develop a function that already has a world class solution available. Doing so would take time and money away from what we do best. 

As such we pride ourselves on a best in class partner ecosystem of seamless integrations with like-minded business. We consider this a win-win strategy for everyone involved.  

Open Source 

Enterprise customers often have a high quality team of designers, developers and product people that bring their own unique style to the table. They have built your brand, website and Point-of-Sale systems from the ground up. We do not interfere with that process, but rather we are happy to lift the curtain to our code to allow your people to do what they do best. In the past it was common to keep the secrets behind closed doors, but we believe collaboration makes everyone better. The goal is a true, long lasting partnership. 

The function by which this happens is known as an API (Application Programming Interface) which allows you to seamlessly link your front end solution to our back end solution, removing the need for a complex development project and allowing you a “plug and play” a great user experience. 

Community 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a platform is a living and breathing entity that continues to be updated. We have people working full time to take suggestions from customers, create educational materials for your team and encourage collaboration and community forums for other RocketRez users to share their best practices. This will be a core focus of the business in the coming years and strengthen the ecosystem for everyone in Tours and Attractions.  

We encourage you to sign up for our newsletter to receive tips and tricks from industry experts.  

At the end of the day, Tours and Attractions create immense value for individuals and families around the world and we simply want to enable it.

We are here to serve you, and it is an honour.  

Timeless ways to get local customers to your Tour or Attraction

In 2020 the world of Tours and Attractions was forced to deal with a major wave of COVID related shutdowns and unexpected new rules to navigate. The challenge spurred ingenuity and creative problem solving among business owners to make sure they made the most of the unforeseen circumstances. We have now reached a point where early stage reopening is on the horizon. 

As lockdown restrictions gradually begin to ease, many believe that a New Roaring Twenties will soon be upon us, bringing with it a wave of customers eager for art, culture, food and all forms of public entertainment. Knowing that reopening will be done in stages and all modes of travel have reduced drastically, strategies for attracting and maintaining local customers have come front and center for Tour and Attraction operators. 

To take a page from the Jeff Bezos playbook; in times of immense change it can often be helpful to remember core customer principles that will always remain the same. Throughout history customers have desired fun and memorable group experiences, a sense of community and affordable entertainment. 

We have dug through the archives to examine some timeless sales and marketing strategies for businesses whose target customer is primarily local visitors; namely restaurants, retail and local sports. This can serve as a refresher as you look to put together a reopening strategy, and allow you to draw specific connections to the target audience of your tour or attraction. 

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to the previous Roaring Twenties. 

Restaurants

Perhaps the most timeless attraction in the world is a night out for a high quality dining experience. It would be fair to call restaurants the “original content marketers”, as there is a long history of creative communications meant to drive local loyalty in a highly competitive space. Let’s examine a few hallmarks of restaurant marketing strategy to drive local visitors:

Visual Content

The Roaring Twenties in Europe featured Michelin Star restaurants with engaging designs in the handbook.

From the days of the original Michelin reviews, the most engaging tactic of a restaurant has always been to create highly visual content that appeals to customer senses. 

Translate this tactic to your Tour or Attraction – what sensory experience would you like to convey to the audience? Is it the excitement of an amusement park, or a great family outing with the kids at the Zoo? With modern Tour and Attraction marketing tools, it is easier than ever to distribute quality photo and video content to your target audience.

User generated content is all the rage currently, and for good reason. The added virality and social proof that comes with visual content created and shared by happy customers is one of the highest return on investment advertising methods available. In the same way modern restaurants encourage users to share pictures of their meal to their personal social media profiles, think of ways you can let your happy customers get the word out about your attraction.

For more information on photo management for tours and attractions see this handy guide:

Discounts and Promotions

Who doesn’t love a great deal? Offering a discount or promotion is a tried and true method to drive orders and reservations for a restaurant, and the same methods apply to a Tour or Attraction. 

When setting up a promotion it’s important to mind your profit margin. Even if your coupon has customers running through the doors, it can end up being a losing strategy should costs outweigh revenue. Effective ways to ensure this include volume pricing, like a family deal or a free item with purchase, 

Modern ticketing and reservation software allows you to set up fully customized coupons to drive demand and maintain your P/L, which is invaluable in this day and age when customers purchase through multiple mediums and product lines. 

Retail

The retail industry is particularly adept at delivering high volumes of local foot traffic to their stores, and relies on getting an “on the spot”  impulse in potential customers. Take a few timeless tips from the giants of retail: 

Retail giant JC Penney has been known to spend lavishly on print ads in the previous roaring twenties.


Traditional (Offline) Advertising

It is well known that there has been a large shift to digital advertising in recent years. However, when targeting a local market, there may still be great opportunities with offline strategies. Television, newspaper and signage placements are vivid mediums seen by lots of people and are particularly local in nature. 

Taking out an ad in your local paper or doing a quick spot on local television or radio is still an effective way to reach this particular target audience – and can be very cost effective in an era where these mediums are looking to boost their ad revenue. 

Rewards

Retail outlets have the difficult task of boosting repeat purchases with a local base of customers despite lots of competition. Volume discounts, tracked rewards programs and free items for high volume customers have long been a staple of the retail business. 

Customer Loyalty Programs are a highly effective means of not only ensuring local customers visit your tour and attraction, but make it a regular part of their entertainment routine (and bring their friends and family!).


Retail strategies translate well to tours and attractions, however their effectiveness lies in building the correct target market strategy. Modern, all-in-one software solutions can often analyze your sales and marketing channels to help identify key demographics that you can build a profitable membership or annual pass promotion around. When you have truly honed in on your high revenue customer persona, it is much easier to target them in your local media.

Sports

Sports teams rely on drawing large local crowds for in-person ticket revenue to sustain their operations, and historically have developed master skills at instilling hometown pride. Take a few tips from your local sports team: 

Sports teams have always gone to great lengths to tie their brand to a fun atmosphere.

Sponsor/Partnerships

Of all industries in the world, professional sports teams have mastered the product partnership. From Coca Cola to Budweiser, iconic brands have been built on the back of marketing campaigns built around a fun and inspiring family event at the game cheering on the home team. 

Extrapolating this to your tour and attraction, are there local brands that you can partner with to benefit from the association? On a smaller scale, sponsoring a recreational sports team or a beloved business or charity can do wonders for your brand and create a win-win scenario. 

Your local government is an underutilized resource that can help you roll out an exciting initiative. Tourism boards are on the hunt for ways to increase awareness of local events and culture and many have done an excellent job of branding themselves. Reach out to a representative at the applicable board to see if there are any ways your attraction can join one of their initiatives and catch on to the hometown pride. 

Omni-Channel Management

The New Roaring Twenties are a very exciting time for tours and attractions, as timeless strategies that have delivered happiness to customers for a hundred years are meeting the scale and efficient operations that modern technology adds to your business. 

Omni-channel Commerce is a term that tends to be used in a Retail context, however we believe the overarching idea of multiple points of contact with customers, both digital and in person, will be the future of Tours and Attraction system management as well. 

We are optimistic for the future, and hope you are too.

Offer photos to customers

Offering photos is still a lucrative upsell, even in 2021! Through our RocketPhoto platform you can add digital photo packages or print.

On average you can increase the per passenger revenue by 20%!

Get your retail online!

Have a gift shop at your tour or attraction?  Get your merchandise online! With RocketRez you can load all of your retail and tours online. Customers can add retail items while booking their tour. Your customers can bundle tour tickets with retail items.

Increase your AOV! (Average order value)

Time to start Cross Selling + Up Selling!

Cross selling and upselling are a key way that operators can add ancillary revenue. You are booking customers direct on your website or at your ticket office, why not offer them additional things to do in town?

You can easily load partner product inventory in RocketRez or work with us to show you how to facilitate cross selling.

Upselling is a MUST do! Options include upgrades to VIP seating, Food and Beverage packages, Retail items, a second experience on your tour or in your attraction.

Take a look at how Xtreme Xperience, a RocketRez customer, upsells in their web engine.

Work with more OTA’s & Distributors

This is a hotly contested topic and it is up to the individual set of needs for your business whether or not it makes sense. One cannot deny that having these big marketing budgets working for you to drive more customers to you is a good thing. Now more than ever it is easier to work with more OTA’s.

Proceed with caution and watch your volumes/margins.

Our Channel Manager is integrated to over 60 of the top OTA’s and distributors around the world. Read more about channel management here

Go Private

Due to covid and increased awareness of crowds, travelers are more than ever attracted to private tours and small group activities.

Where possible, try to flip the high volume/low cost model of 2019 (pre-covid) to a High cost/ low volume model. Build high touch, private group experiences. Don’t be afraid to charge the right amount for these! Private tours are very popular and the most searched term in our space right now!

Check out this great article on Forbes to gain some additional insights.

Presell Food & Beverage Packages

If your tour or attraction offers food and beverage, a quick win for you is too add food and beverage packages. RocketRez gives you to the tools easily build a package of food and drinks to offer online ahead of time.

This allows you to manage inventory ahead, guarantee additional revenue and prepare the cafes/galleys with the proper order levels.

Focus on Local

Locals have become one of the best markets for tour companies, almost overnight. Some quick tips to attract locals.

  • Arrange your website to attract locals.
  • Look for advertising opportunities in local sites, radio, news and deal sites.
  • Include your location in Keyword search! You want to show up when locals google “Things to do in {insert your city}”

Offer Memberships or Multi use Passes

Focusing on repeat customers is the most cost effective path to additional revenue. Pass programs or memberships to your product is a great way to sell into your current customer base.

RocketRez offers a membership module that allows you to easily offer customers a multi-use pass with tons of flexibility and usage parameters. Assign specialty rates, discounts, gifts and more to encourage your guests to visit regularly

Launch Holiday Promotions now!

People are pre-purchasing experiences now for the whole year ahead. Get your website loaded with all of your holiday experiences now and start taking bookings.

Many of our operators have seen success with this. Take a look at BB Riverboats, another RocketRez customer. They have preloaded 3 holiday tours already for the year and are taking bookings!

Whether we like it or not, virtual conferences are the new normal.

At Rocket Rez, we miss in-person conferences. Getting to see our customers face-to-face, the occasional morning rush to make the first session (after being out way too late the night before), and laughing about great memories are all great parts of our industry culture.

One day we will get back to in-person conferences, but until then we still need to meet and connect. In the past 12 months we have attended 8 Virtual Conferences.

Through them all we have begun to learn some tricks that help make the best out your investment in attending.

Here is our list to make the most out of them.

  1. Use a calendar link to schedule meetings
  2. Schedule time for breaks
  3. Bring your team
  4. Go to the virtual happy hours
  5. Prep your tech
  6. Turn your camera on
  7. Keep hydrated
  8. Dress for virtual success
  9. Bring paper

1. Use a calendar link to schedule meetings

If you make a calendar link, you can send it to people you want to meet with and they will be able to book time with the open availability you have designated. It is a great timesaver, avoiding the back and forth of emailing available times between multiple parties.

Calendly offers an easy-to-use, free version to connect to your calendar.

2. Schedule time for breaks

Each show will have an agenda that often includes a block of free time between sessions.

In some ways, virtual conferences can be just as tiring as in person conferences. Scheduling time to take a mental and physical break is a really good idea! Being in front of your screen for long periods of time can be tough on your eyes.

Go for a small walk and get your body moving between sessions. This could also be a good time to connect with your team midday on how things are going.

3. Bring your team

Virtually, of course. Just like in-person conferences, we suggest you go to sessions with your key team members. You each may recall different pieces of the session and it helps to know you’re going “together.”

Make plans to catch up and discuss keynote sessions with your coworkers, or message them throughout about points you found interesting. Have your company chat open, be it slack, teams, zoom chat or skype. Talking in real-time is helpful to keep the dialogue as you would at in-person conferences.

It can also be great to reconvene with your team at the end of each day to review key meetings and takeaways.

4. Go to Virtual Happy Hours

Grab a cocktail/beer/wine and connect with others from the industry. It isn’t the same as in person, but in some ways it can be better.

We have had lots of fun going to these and have made some great new connections (not to mention the cost savings!).

5. Prep and know your tech

Here is a suggested pre-show checklist:

  • Familiarize yourself with the platform that the conference is hosted on. In most cases, Zoom is used.
  • Choose a quiet and bright spot in case you end up on camera and chatting.
  • Test your video settings – (Zoom tutorial).
  • Check mic settings (Zoom tutorial).
  • Use the emojis, otherwise it can feel like a one way conversation.

6. Turn Camera ON

It can be hard to connect with someone when we can’t see them. If you are comfortable and it is permitted, it is highly recommended to go on camera.

7. Keep Hydrated and Energized

Keep water and your favorite caffeinated drinks nearby. Take moments to stretch. This will help keep you focused and energized.

8. Dress for Virtual Success

This one goes for working from home in general. According to a study performed by psychological scientists at Northridge, Columbia and California State University, our clothing has an impact on our thoughts and our ability to think in an abstract manner. It affects not only how others perceive us, but how we perceive ourselves.

Likewise, according to a study published in the Human Resource Development Quarterly, “Respondents felt most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire. Significant two-way interactions were found between dress preference and mode of dress worn on self-perceptions of productivity, trustworthiness, creativity, and friendliness.”

9. Bring Paper

Taking notes on paper will help you concentrate while the sessions are going. It seems obvious, but keeping you off your mouse and keyboard will help you focus and grab key points better.