While the U.S. economy continues to see positive signs of growth, consumer spending in one sector is booming – tourism.
Consider the facts – spending by international travelers to and within the U.S. increased 10.5 percent in 2012 (source: U.S Travel Association). Travel also continues to lead export growth, accounting for a 23 percent rise in U.S. exports. Home grown tourism is also experiencing a surge, with more and more Americans opting to take “staycations” – enjoying recreational and entertainment options closer to home – as opposed to hitting the roads and skies.
The forecast is good too. The Department of Commerce predicts that the U.S. can expect a 3.6 to 4.3 percent average annual growth in travel and tourism over the next four years.
To further spur tourism in the U.S., the federal government has set a goal of increasing American jobs by attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021, bringing an estimated $250 billion per year into the U.S. (read the National Tourism and Travel Strategy for more information).
This all represents a unique opportunity for the U.S. tourist industry and the businesses that underpin it. So what can your small business do to take advantage of this uptick in tourism? Here are eight marketing and management tips to help you get ready for the 2013 tourist season!
1. Make it Easy for Tourists to Come Back to Their Favorite Spots
Start with a plan to reach your low hanging fruit – repeat visitors. The best way to do this is to stay in touch with them all year round with special offers, email marketing and social media updates. Let them know what plans you have for the tourist season this year, any upgrades you’ve made to your business and so on. If the summer is your peak season, then fall, winter and even early spring should be your busiest marketing seasons.
These articles offer some useful tips for staying in touch with customers:
- 6 Ways to Get more from Your Email Marketing Efforts
- Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start
2. Staycationers – How to Attract These Lucrative Tourists
Just as you want to reach out to travelers and tourists from out of town, don’t forget to focus some of your marketing and advertising efforts closer to home. Be persuasive in your benefit statements. For example:
- Explain what differentiates you – Are you family/pet friendly? Do you stock/grow local products? How easy is it to get to you? Do repeat visitors receive any special discounts?
- Source local – Even if you don’t grow or produce your own products, look for ways to integrate local produce into your business so that customers get a real flavor of what your community offers and the dollars stay local. Ask fellow businesses to reciprocate too.
- Team up with complementary businesses to cross-promote and market your businesses – with something for everyone, tourists might be more likely to make the trip to your community and stay for a while! Get some tips for doing this in this blog from Rieva Lesonsky: Forget Competition it’s Time for Co-Opetition.
- Cash in on what your region has to offer – Is your region known for its wine or green credentials? Are there certain certifications that you can seek out to help promote your business?
- Develop messages and advertising that targets larger groups – Can you handle bus tours or school field trips? Any incentives or package deals for larger groups or families?
- Remind visitors that they will save money on gas, lodging, airfare and even time by vacationing near home.
- Get Involved in Local Events/Festivals – Community fairs, farmers markets, sponsored sports events and concerts offer great opportunities to reach locals and tourists alike. Read guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky’s: Marketing Your Business with Events and Sponsoring or Hosting an Event – 6 Ways to Maximize your Return.
3. Use Location-Based Services to Attract Passersby
Don’t forget to take advantage of mobile technology. Promoting your small business to tourists who might be passing by using mobile apps isn’t that difficult. Groupon, Living Social, FourSquare and ThinkNear, among others, let you post information about your latest offers and limited-time deals to consumers within a certain distance of your business. You can also schedule deals so they get delivered during key hours. Keep your Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages and other online listings up to date too.
4. Take Your Business on the Road
If the best way to reach tourists is to take your business on the road, a concession stand or a booth at a craft or community fair is a great opportunity to bring in extra dollars and spread the word. These articles offer some advice:
- Starting a Mobile Food Concession Business
- Payments On the Go – Turning Your Mobile Device Into a Cash Register
5. Become a National Park Concession Business
Did you know there are opportunities for small businesses in national parks? Food, lodging, tours, whitewater rafting, boating, and many other recreational activities and amenities in more than 100 national parks are managed by private businesses under contract to the National Park Service. The services, provided by more than 600 concessioners, gross more than $1 billion every year and provide jobs for more than 25,000 people peak season. Every year, the Park Service issues prospectuses that detail these business opportunities; it also publishes notices at www.fedbizopps.gov. Many of these opportunities are smaller operations featuring unique recreation activities.
6. Need Short-Term Capital?
Seasonal businesses often have to pour capital into business improvements, marketing, inventory and staff long before they can expect to make a profit. If you don’t have sufficient cash flow or funds to prepare your business for the 2013 tourist season, you may want to consider a short-term loan or line of credit. SBA’s CAPLines Program, for example, provides advances against inventory needs and accounts receivable to help you weather seasonal sales. Read more and talk to your regional SBA Office for more information.
7. Plan Your Seasonal Work Force
If your business counts on the summer season or tourist trade, then start planning your seasonal workforce now. If you’re new to this process or have questions about hiring and compensating seasonal workers (for example, do you need to pay unemployment taxes for seasonal workers?), check out this blog – 5 Things to Know Now about Hiring Temporary or Seasonal Workers – for tips on hiring and working with seasonal workers within the law.
8. Partner with Local Business Groups
Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and local tourism associations or sector organizations that promote clusters of businesses in the same business sector such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators, B&B’s, camp grounds and so on. Many of these offer small businesses an opportunity to participate in their targeted and collective approach to seasonal marketing.
What are you going to do to boost your revenues this tourist season? Leave a comment below!