Travel Like a Local: How Tour Operators Can Make the Most of This Trend
A lot of tourists want to experience a city as a local would.
People are looking for unusual parts and move away from the crowded attractions that everyone knows about. They want to feel the atmosphere, the vibe of a city, so they can create a truly memorable experience.
After all, that’s the big idea behind companies like Airbnb.
And we’ve known this for a while. It’s no secret that people are hungry for customized local experiences.
A quick search on Google Trends to measure the popularity of the term “like a local” returns the following graph:
So the trend is clearly growing and looks like it’s here to stay.
However, tour businesses still largely focus on popular attractions, giving way to emerging competitors that take advantage of the opportunity.
For example, this social enterprise trains homeless people to become tour guides so they can show the “hidden” parts of a city to willing tourists.
And there are dozens of specialized websites that connect travelers with local tour guides (which we’ll explore later).
So the demand for these unconventional tours is there. Now, how can you as a tour operator make the most of it? This is the topic that we’ll cover today.
Ready? Let’s go.
1. Optimize your offers for people who want to travel like a local
Step one is to tailor at least one tour for the “travel like a local” market. This means designing a route that explores the niche and less popular places to hang out. But you also need to take other details into account.
Depending on your situation, there are several things to keep in mind here:
- Food & Drink – people often want to make friends with locals, not tourists. So avoid the international bars and restaurants in favor of places where natives hang out. This is also a chance to experience the local cuisine and national drinks.
- Sightseeing – instead of going to the famous attractions everyone knows about, why not take people to explore the “hidden gems” around your city? To get inspiration, try the USE-IT maps where you can find niche local attractions for modern travelers.
- Shopping – the big brands are available everywhere. But your local shops for traditional clothing and accessories aren’t. If people want a shopping break, try to show them the places where traditional garments are sold – that’s something that will remind them of their stay in your country for years to come.
- Accommodation– if you organize hotel reservations for your tour, you can try and rent a home instead. This will showcase some of the local interior practices and appeal to the “travel like a local” market.
- Customs and phrases – in addition to your standard reading materials, you can include some relevant customs about how people interact with each other. It’s also a good idea to add common phrases like “hello”, “thank you” and so on.
- Seasonality – unconventional tourists often travel during low season. So you should take into account the weather conditions and related details when designing your offers.
- Free time – if the tour permits, allow a good amount of free time for people to explore and wander around as they wish.
2. Update your website and marketing collateral
Now that you have a relevant tour, it’s time to include it in your marketing.
Start with your key distribution channels – whether it’s your website, social media profiles, sales agents, print materials, review platforms, or any advertising you do.
When the time is right, blast out an email to your list so they know you’ve added a new offer.
In addition, consider creating a launch event with an official start date and prizes. You can get some more inspiration for launching a new tour in our article about how to start a tour company.
3. Meet demand in the right places
Okay, so now you have a tailored offer and your customers know about it. But in many cases, people who want to travel like a local purchase from specialized websites for local tour guides. In order to meet demand at the right time and place, consider getting listed on these alternative platforms.
Here are some places to start with:
- Travel Local
- City Unscripted
- Tours By Locals
- Like A Local
- Who’s My Guide
In addition, you can find more places to list your tours in our dedicated article about the top online travel agencies.
Whether it’s just a trend or here to stay, the “travel like a local” movement is a big opportunity for tour companies.
To take advantage of it, it’s important to design a route with all the necessary attributes relevant to this market.
Next, add your new offer to your main distribution channels like your website and social media accounts.
Finally, meet demand at marketplaces such as Rent-a-guide and Tours By Locals. These specialized websites will get you in front of the right new customers quickly.
While it seems simple, you will need to put in a lot of effort and planning to make this a success. But knowing these three steps is a good start to preparing your business for this growing market segment.
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