Sunday, January 8, 2012

Some New Year's Resolutions for Tourism Partners

It is a week or so into the new year but certainly not too late to still make New Year's resolutions. I've made a few professional and personal ones over the holidays to start out the new year with some new fire in my soul. On the personal side, I've been watching my diet, watching the number of lattes I buy each week and hitting the gym with a little more regularity. Professionally, I've been absorbing a lot of new information on reinventing myself, managing in changing times, learning new efficiencies to tackle my growing portfolio and vowing to make more time to reach out to my partners.

There's a number of resolutions everyone in the tourism industry should be considering too. They're all pretty universal and I suggest them as a way to create a road map for the coming year. I like "road map" rather than "blueprint" because along they way, you may find a scenic detour worth or needing consideration that gets you to where you still ultimately want to be.

You should start the year with a fresh mind. Take a look at 2011 and think about what went really well and what didn't. Don't dwell on the business decisions that came up short on expectations but reflect on them and the changes you'll make. Was it a campaign that fizzled, a sudden demographic change in your clientele that caught you off guard or a pesky HR issue you struggled to address constructively? Failures and shortcomings are a part of business everyday. Learning from them makes the successes sweeter.

Get to know your Customer a Little better. Whether its the loyal customer coming back every year or understanding the new consumer needs, get to know what they want, their values, their budgets, their vacation habits, where they live and what they do, how they seek a new experience and what keeps them loyal to you. Spend time with your existing clients to build relationships that translate into improved loyalty. Chat with them, get to understand what they love about your business, what suggestions or comments they have for you and their back grounds. It could be as simple as sending your client a birthday card but they'll be more likely to remember you when booking their future trip.

Get to know your ROI. Return on Investment. Whether its capital improvements to your attraction or property to improve yield or your marketing strategy, it's critical to understand how its driving new business and new revenue to you. A big mistake that a lot of businesses make is not knowing how to invest their marketing budget to reach their client most effectively. The old "spray and pray" tactic of hitting as broad a generic audience as possible doesn't work anymore. Its a crowded advertising marketplace and there are a lot of other competing for your client. This is the next extension of getting to know your client base and selecting the media channels that to speak to them more directly.

The critical element of understanding the return on this investment can come in many forms and is pretty easy to do. Track web referrals to your site. (and if you say you don't have a website, put the "for sale" sign up now.) Ask your leads and eventual clients where they discovered you and analyse the financial foot print they leave with you. From there, you'll have a better idea of what media to ditch and what media to expand.

Start Building Partnerships. Your competition isn't the lodge or attraction across the street. Its one of the thousands of jurisdictions around the globe on line competing for your guest. Its critical to present the community and region in a unified plan to maximize reach and its critical for individual tourism partners to cross promote one another. Creating partnerships, creating mutual understanding of one another's contribution to the city and regional tourism economy provides more opportunities for visitors to explore and stay longer. Its an opportunity for hotel properties to work together to bid on larger conferences or sport tourism events, restaurants grouping together to market with critical mass or events partnering together to promote the city as THE festival destination, it just makes good business sense.

Make this the year to expand networks. It could be an extension of building partnerships but its a simple as creating an environment of mutual learning. No one in the industry is a guru. Everyone has their strengths, everyone has learned from mistakes and everyone has found successes. Learn and share from one another. It doesn't mean giving up the competitive secrets but it doesn't have to be. The more tourism partners that are doing well within a particular destination, the higher the reputation of the entire destination. Everybody wins when everybody is working at their best.

Make this the year to understand engage social media like never before. I might be beating a dead horse here but probably not. This is the new platform to reach new consumers, build relationships with existing ones and understand consumer demographics like never before. Take the time to understand and engage in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter (not nearly enough businesses use this one), Youtube, Sprouter, LinkedIn. Bear in mind that these platforms are not static and are always changing. you have to continuously monitor and reinvent them. I will readily admit that I know that one all too well and this year, even we're re engineering the ones we once lead with but need some reinvestment in time and energy.

Invest more in your people. Tourism is still an industry of personal contact. Having well trained, knowledgeable, valued and happy employees is good for the bottom line. Perhaps its investing in training for them, acknowledging their contribution to your operation through positive reinforcement and ensuring they have the tools to meet your client's expectations. Make this they year to communicate more with your staff so they understand their role in the organization, the vision, expectation and values. Staff that feel connected are going to be happier, take more ownerships and likely stay around longer. When everyone in the organization is rowing together, good things happen.

Learn something new every day. Wake up every morning and view your business with fresh eyes. Tackle a problem that's been hindering your confidence level, learn a new business practice, learn how to fix things yourself around your business, understand how tourism policy works in your jurisdiction or understand emerging consumer trends. It can be anything but go home at the end of the day just a little smarter than when you started.

I could keep going but these are a few of the big things tourism industry partners can grab onto and apply to their own organizations. They're easy, they're achievable and they're often result in tangible benefits.

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