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Think like a tourist to attract new customers for your business
  • 24 September 2018
  • Rebecca Delaney

Think like a tourist to attract new customers for your business

The kids are back in school and the summer crowds have thinned, but fall is right around the corner and there are plenty of destinations that attract out-of-town visitors year-round.

And while they’re often blamed for extra traffic and crowding up restaurants and beaches, if you are lucky enough to live in a popular tourist destination, tourists can also be the lifeblood of businesses big and small. The average tourist spends $144 each day according to a study by a personal finance website. Make your small business more tourist-friendly to help bring in some of those tourism dollars by trying these three ideas.

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1. Get out of town

Take a trip—anywhere. It doesn’t have to be an exotic location or somewhere far away. A day trip will suffice, but get out of town and become a tourist for a day or two. Take specific and extensive notes about what you like and don’t like while you are traveling. How was the customer service when you checked into your lodging? Were you able to find a map of local tourist attractions and events? Did the local coffee shop have free Wifi? Was that Pina colada strong enough? It's all in the name of research. Keep a list of everything that annoyed and delighted you. If you’re traveling with family or friends, ask for their input as well. Chances are, some items on your list are gripes that tourists to your town have too. When you return home, work to design your business to address these issues to ensure all visitors are welcome and taken care of.

2. Act like a tourist in your own town

Once you get home, your vacation isn’t over. Take another day to pretend you’re a visitor in your own town. Often, when you live somewhere you don’t take full advantage of all that the city or town has to offer, especially if you’re busy running your own business. Now is your chance.

Take a tour of historic landmarks, visit museums, go to the beach, or go for a hike on a well-known trail. Just like your trip out of town, a “visit” in your own city can provide valuable insight to what tourists experience. Strike up a conversation with the people who work on the front lines, such as the tour bus operators, the waitstaff at busy restaurants, and the kids scooping ice cream. What are the questions they get asked all the time? What do tourists seem most interested in? What are the most common complaints they hear?

This type of detective work can provide you with important knowledge into what tourists are looking for. Again, use this insight to create your marketing and business approach to attract tourists to your business.

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3. Partner with your Office of Travel & Tourism

Contact your area's Office of Travel & Tourism and try to collaborate as much as possible. Find out if there are specific initiatives they’re planning to pursue in the near future. For example, perhaps the Tourism Office is planning to position your area as a leader in environmental tourism, a family vacation destination, or as the place to go for spa weekends and ladies' get-away? This could help you mold your business plan to better cater to these travelers. Coordinate your marketing plan as much as possible and your business could be in an ideal position to attract more tourists when the Office of Travel & Tourism rolls out its plan to potential vacationers.

Take a couple of days off and act like a tourist. It's tough work, but someone has to do it. Think of the travel as a perk of owning your own business. And it’s not all rest and relaxation. You are conducting valuable market research that can pay off in attracting more revenue for your business and having some fun in the process.

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