Group travelers can be a desirable (and profitable) target market to attract to your destination. They are coming to your city to experience your attractions, nightlife, culinary scene, and cultural landmarks, all with the potential to generate many more room nights than individual or family visitors. And presumably since none of them are actually doing the driving and their experience in your destination can be highly curated, they can also be the creators of a treasure trove of user generated content (UGC). So, as a DMO, seeing motorcoaches traversing the streets of your destination should elicit a feeling of accomplishment as a visual sign of your team’s efforts to impact your destination’s economy.
But travel and tour operators responsible for booking these trips are generally relationship based and have to have a pretty high level of trust in your staff to get them to break away from their tried-and-true experiences. So, when they do decide to feature your destination, be sure to roll out the red carpet for them as well as their guests – nothing makes tour operators happier than happy tour guests. But getting them to try your destination means positioning all you have to offer this unique target audience in an attractive way.
Tips on Working With Tour Operators
Here are some tips to entice tour operators to consider your destination as a viable option:
- Build relationships. Tour operators are constantly being approached and recruited by your competitors, and often the difference can be the relationship. A strong business relationship will not happen overnight but is built over time as trust is earned. One way to develop this relationship is to attend the same conferences and trade shows each year and become a familiar tourism partner. Be genuine about your destination’s products and offerings, and connect with them periodically throughout the year. Don’t get discouraged! This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Accommodations for the motorcoach. Some destinations and cities have narrow streets or low bridges. Some restaurants and attractions don’t have parking to efficiently accommodate buses. Some attractions can be filled to capacity when a busload of guests arrives, thus impacting the visitor experience for everyone present. A full-size bus won’t usually fit at your local gas station, so fill-ups may need to happen at a commercial truck stop. And while it’s not pretty to talk about, when the waste tank is full, another location like an RV facility will be required to lighten the load. So, based on the itinerary a motorcoach operator is considering, know the locations of convenient truck stops and RV facilities, in addition to routes and parking lots that are bus-friendly. This will help show the tour and bus operators that you have considered some of the challenges that will arise.
- Find nearby partners. Oftentimes, a group chooses to travel by motorcoach to allow for frequent stops. For them, the journey is the experience. Knowing your counterparts at the cities along major highways from the airport or other feeder markets can make a huge difference. Based on location, some areas are great drive-through destinations. If that’s you, package your proposal with nearby towns with other unique offerings. Is your destination part of a “trail” that might complement other cities or towns and attract similar groups? Together it might set you apart from some of the bigger competition.
- Manage the experience. Once you’ve done the hard work of courting a tour operator (building the relationship and winning them over), it’s worth every ounce of energy to ensure that they (operator and guests) have a great experience in your market by delivering on your promises. Always go a step above. Communicate with stakeholders about a group’s arrival and needs – spread the word that restaurants and attractions need to roll out the red carpet. If the group has a great experience, they will tell others, and the tour operator will want to return with another group!
Motorcoaches in Your Marketing Action Plan
Depending on the market, group and motorcoach tour operators may be one of the primary target groups in your Marketing Action Plan. As you consider them as a target audience that could influence your DMO’s success, let’s look at some key information generally included in their Role in your DMO’s success, their required Belief for you to be able to have them accomplish this role and a few examples of potential communications Processes you can use to reach them.
Motorcoach tour operators as a target audience
- Target: Motorcoach Tour Operators
- Role (generally): Become aware of your destination and its potential as a desirable motorcoach destination, create an itinerary, book trips for groups; generate room nights; encourage extended stays; plan time for groups to dine out, visit attractions, enjoy nightlife, shop; recommend to others in the industry.
- Belief (generally): Groups will be highly satisfied because the destination offers: a variety of venues and accommodations at competitive pricing; numerous dining and entertainment options; a convenient location; cultural attractions; a CVB partner that provides excellent support and added value.
- Process (options to consider): Communications program audit; targeted collateral; dedicated digital marketing strategy (search engine marketing, social media, inbound marketing program, etc.); attending trade shows; direct mail program; content marketing.
The motorcoach market can significantly impact the success of your sales team if handled correctly. While all of our DMO partners wrestle with time constraints and budgetary limitations, having a strategy that is influenced by a formal Marketing Action Plan (MAP) can help ensure you get the most bang for your marketing dollars. But be sure this plan is realistic AND aspirational – if you aspire to generate significant motorcoach tour business BUT it is not possible for whatever reason (the realistic part), then any time or dollars you spend in this area can be a waste of precious marketing resources. The value of the MAP process cannot be understated, as it assists in getting the right message in front of the right target audiences who can make the most impact on your destination’s economy (the ROI of the DMO). If you would like to pursue how a formalized Marketing Action Plan (MAP) could benefit your DMO, download the free resources we’ve created, or contact us directly to discuss how we can facilitate this process for your destination.