Why is internet critical to business of a tourist guide? Because most people begin their travel planning online, looking for flights, accommodation, travel insurance, destination review, AND tourist guides. According to the Travel Trust Index Report 2008, 78% of the Americans use the web to make travel decisions and 68% trust the web for travel related advice.
How to let your clients find you on the internet? Here are some suggestions.
Get an email address. This may sound too obvious to miss. But the basic way to promote your business online is allowing your clients to contact by email. Email is instant, convenient and free, especially for overseas clients who are making their initial inquires. It saves them the trouble of time difference or phone costs. When a client emails you, he or she is probably interested in your guiding service. Congratulations! But be careful of the email delivery. Some mail servers are strong in anti-spam, sometime too strong for a tourist guide. Prospect clients, in most cases, are strangers. So make sure you don’t miss any client request in your junk folder or bounced back by your email server. It is better to choose good global suppliers or big local service providers.
Display on a web page. Present your personal information and service on a web page. This is not your own website. It refers to other websites that allow people to create a personal profile page. Your clients may find your page via online search or by referral of friends. It helps to build up trust before further communication. Do pay attention to the relevancy of website where you display your service. You don’t expect people look for tourist guides from a website of IT experts, right? Try searching for websites of tourist guides, local guides association, and tour suppliers. They are highly relevant to your business. Besides, information on these sites is more authentic to travelers. Another option is local classifieds if the majority of your clients are from a certain location. The more relevant, the more clients you would receive.
Create a personal blog. If you are a bit tech-savvy and can spend some time every week, create a blog on your guiding area. You don’t need to write like a professional writer. The content can be as simple as a scenery photo, or a short spot introduction, or your personal recommendations. You are a tourist guide who knows the area well and would like to share it with visitors. Three suggestions if you decide to start a blog. First, give a brief self-introduction and leave your contacts. Remember why you created a blog? To let your clients find you. If you can speak several languages, speak it out in those languages as well. Second, keep it updated. Once a week can be good enough. If people see your post stopped 6 months ago, they would think the information out of date, even though your contacts find you well. Last but not least, keep the comments on and reply to them. The comment field is a great way to get feedback and interact with your blog readers, the possible future clients.
Network with prospect clients. Social networking grows popular at Web 2.0 era. There are now numerous social networking sites, with some specifically for travelers. The challenge lies in finding prospect clients of you from millions of travelers. The downside is time consuming. It is easy to find new people, but takes time to build up and maintain relationship for a real connection. It is up to you how much time you would like to spend on these networking sites.
Build a website. This action requires time and money investment. But you present more professionally with your own website. Your personal background, service provided, client testimonials, blog and others information can all be centralized in one place. Moreover, adding the website to your business card is a good way of promotion.
If you have more budget and higher ambition for your tour guiding business, you can go one step further with paid online marketing. Here are two ways for you to start with – paid search advertisements like Google Adwords, Yahoo Sponsored Search, Microsoft adCenter, and affiliation with relevant travel parties.
Internet is such a big resource that you shall not miss it, even if you only work as a tourist guide in a small town less visited by travelers. Visitors may need your accompany for more local insights. Do present yourself on the internet and let your clients find you for a memorable trip.