Lifting the curtain on tourism product development

Lifting the curtain on tourism product development

Imagine going to a theatre in any major city and paying for a seat, only to realize you need to write, direct and act in the play to entertain yourself.

Sounds ridiculous!

Now imagine that the theatre promoted itself on web, in print and on social media, without explaining that you were in for a do-it-yourself experience.

Crazy, right?

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This scone was a highlight of the Fab Food Trail walking tour. It melted in my mouth. Quality tourism experiences leave indelible memories that visitors recount to others. Photo: Clark Hoskin

Unfortunately, for many tourism businesses, this is exactly the kind of experience their customers are expected to enjoy – season after season.

And if business seems to be slowing down, many tourism operators will choose to re-design their website or print more brochures.

Wrong again.

Any tourist-oriented business needs to evaluate and, if need be, redesign the customer experience from top to bottom.

In my post 3 qualities needed for tourism success, I explained the basics. Your tourism product needs to be viable, reliable and buyable.

Many organizations choose to skip the last element – the ability to easily purchase your product.

What is tourism product? It is any location, experience or service that attracts tourists. A B&B, a restaurant, a scenic landscape, a campground: these are all tourism products.

So, what’s tourism product development? It is the bundling and monetization of a number of elements to increase the yield in terms of revenues, while respecting your carrying capacity.

Don’t jump to conclusions, thinking that you need to start developing packages with hotels and bus companies. Keep it simple. Just consider moving your current tourism product beyond a passive offering, to something active.

Moving to active tourism offerings is a challenge for some. For a heritage site or park, keeping things maintained within budget is the primary objective. Think how you could increasing the amount of money from an equal number of visitors through the gate so you won’t tax the resources available to serve them.

Let’s lift the curtain on tourism product development to maximize your revenue and minimize costs. To develop good tourism product, treat the process like producing a play.

I am going to compare one of my favourite travel experiences of 2016, Fab Food Trails in Ireland, to theatre production.

Stage (Property / Venue)

The first basic element is the empty stage. It’s your property. In the case of Fab Food Trails, the stage is the streets and small businesses of central Dublin.

Your stage – your business – is an empty experience without a good story, actors who know their lines, and a box office that sells tickets when the customer wants to buy them.

Story or Play (Tour / Experience / Package)

Write the script. What is the nature of the experience? Fab Food Trails offers a two to three hour guided walking tour of ten food stops. You get to meet and talk to chefs, baristas and cheesemongers, among others. You get to experience the neighbourhood culture of Dublin and receive insider knowledge about the flavours and personalities of Ireland’s foodie world.

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Audience (Tourist)

Who is your target market – the clientele who will want to experience this play? For Fab Food Trails, the target audience includes foodies and tourists, mainly mature and Millennial couples, willing to participate in a group experience and stretch their legs.

Actors (Guide / Front Line Staff)

Actors tell the story. They need to know their lines and the part they play. As for most tourism experiences, the property employs a paid or volunteer interpretive guide. Fab Food Trails uses a narrator, a walking-tour guide, pulled from a group of food-oriented people, including writers and journalists, chefs and others. Plus, at each of the ten stops along the way, there are more actors: speakers and presenters at the bakery, pub, outdoor market, cafe, etc. The photo at the top of this post features a worker at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, who educated guests about Irish gouda cheese.

Stage Crew (Other Staff)

Like any quality theatre production, there is a professional support team working in the shadows. For Fab Food Trails, these people include the wait staff, chef and counter workers at the stops, plus the workers creating the food samples. These folks need to be prepared and knowledgeable about what is happening. They don’t need to know the script line-by-line, but they do need to change the set and have the props ready.

Producers (Tourism Business Owners)

Let’s take a reality check. Who’s backing this play? Who’s balancing the books? Without them, the play would not go on. This is the tourism business owner / operator. They oversee all the elements of the business, decide the quality of the product or service, and keep costs under control. For Fab Food Trails, the executive producer is founder Eveleen Coyle. But don’t forget her co-producers: the owners of all the stops along the trail.

Publicist (Marketing Plan)

Rehearsals are going well and dates for performances are arranged. Now to get the word out. This is the marketing plan, the promotional tactics. Theatres use digital, web, print and more to publicize the performances. Fab Food Trails runs a website and leverages the great TripAdvisor reviews (the critics) and awards received to garner attention.

Box Office (Reservation System)

Everyone knows you need to contact the box office to buy a theatre ticket – either online or in person. Where’s your box office? In this day and age, it better be online and easily accessible, 24 hours a day. Fab Food Trails has reservation and payment options available on the front page of their website.

Ticket Price (Experience / Package Price)

Don’t underprice your experience! The theatre producer wouldn’t. They need to pay their costs and make a profit. So do you. Fab Food Trails charges at least €55 ($80 Can) per person to experience their top-notch tour.

What taste does your business leave in the mouth of your customer?

After the show (Word of mouth / Bragging rights)

When the curtain goes down, audience members turn to one another and begin a conversation. Did you enjoy it? What was your favourite part? Along the Fab Food Trail, I learned about the Canadian owner of Camerino’s Bakery, who started her business from scratch based on a passion for baking. We tasted her scones slathered with Irish butter and black-currant jam. It melted in my mouth. For me, that was the most memorable scene in the show. My mouth is watering now. What taste does your business leave in the mouth of your customer?

Now it’s your turn. Take the stage (your venue) and create a production that will sell out.

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Sharon Judd (right) leads a Walk the Crop Tour at Meadow Lynn Farms (Photo: Meadow Lynn Farms)

Own a fruit or vegetable farm? Hold a “walk the crop” night and sample the various varieties. Bring in a real farmer, like Meadow Lynn Farms of Norfolk County does, to animate the experience. Charge a fee.

Operate a campground or nature park? Develop a guided tour where guests gather food from nature to create a meal. Catch fish or forage for mushrooms – such as the annual Mushroom Foray at Long Point Eco-Adventures in Norfolk County. Charge a fee.

Opportunities in tourism have never been more vibrant, and never have your new customers had such high expectations. Prove that you can put on a good show that audiences will rave about and critics will love. If all goes well, profits will follow.

Other reading:

© 2016 Clark Hoskin

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