The Art of Packaging – Part 2: Attractions and Activities

In my role at St Clair Beach Resort I am often asked how attractions and activities can gain more business through accommodation providers. In this blog post I use Dunedin and one particular business in Dunedin as a case study to look at how packaging can encourage accommodation providers to sell your product.

Dunedin has a wide and diverse offering of attractions and tours available to visitors, with so much to see and do. Having such a broad variety does have its down fall however, with many visitors staying only one or two nights, often people are unsure how to spend their short time. Members of the St Clair Beach Resort reception team regularly get asked what the ‘must do’s’ are for Dunedin – a hard question to answer with such a broad range of product. A question made easier through those businesses that package – and package well.

A product that the reception team have no problem in selling is Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours. John and Jenny Milburn, the owners of the Monarch have packaged a number of tour itineraries based around their core product – a cruise on the m.v. Monarch.

Yes, there are plenty of other good tour companies in Dunedin working with multiple products – so why have I highlighted Monarch as a good example? A professional operation, good products and a good reputation is always a good start, however I feel that there is a number of other reason’s why our reception team reaches for the Monarch leaflet first.

Range

As someone selling an attraction or tour, you don’t want to overwhelm the person with too much information at once. Often you don’t have too much time with the guest, but within this short time you want to ensure that they are going to get the best out of their experience. The last thing the guest wants is to be given too many options, but at the same time they want good recommendations.

Monarch offer four different tour packages, with an array of additional options including trips to a number of other notable attractions in the city. Whether the guest is looking to see Albatross or Penguins, visit Larnach Castle, check out the world’s steepest street, see the sights of the city or all of the above – an option is available right there in that three-fold brochure.

This makes the brochure a high contender when you are picking up just two or three for the guest to peruse.

Consistency & Regularity

When recommending a trip or tour, the last thing you want is a last minute cancellation, or any uncertainty that the tour will be available. Guest satisfaction is everything, no one wants something out of their control to impede on their guests enjoyment. Having to reach into a filing cabinet or log-on to a website to find out what days the tour is running is also very frustrating, often putting off the seller yet again.

As a consumer I understand the disappointment of unclear operating times and last minute cancellations only too well. A recent experience of this kind was late last year, when my partner and I stayed on Stewart Island. Like many tourists we had checked out all the activity websites before we departed and planned to book on arrival, only to find that all the tours had minimum numbers that were not going to be fulfilled at that time of year – resulting in a very quiet and disappointing three days for us.

Again, on this section the Monarch scores full points. They run multiple trips a day, everyday, with no risk of cancellation.

Ease

After you’ve made your recommendation and convinced the person that the trip or tour is right for them, you have to seal the deal as quickly as possible. All to often I see agents or sellers of product spend a cringe worthy amount of time explaining the logistics of travel and parking, followed by a root around in their draw for ten minutes trying to find a dusty voucher book which leads on to a phone call and another 5 minutes of writing the ticket out. The easier you can make the booking process for the agent, the more likely the sale and ultimately the better it is for you.

A few things that you can do to speed this up:

  • Online availability and instant confirmation set-up through a channel manager is by far the quickest and easiest way for an agent to book. At St Clair Beach Resort we have recently signed up with Whyte Water for the RTBS system who promote an easy to use booking system for accommodation providers, avoiding telephone calls and voucher writing – an all round winner.
  • Until you have this set up try having a quick phone option clearly displayed on your correspondence to your agents that tells them which option to choose on the phone, rather than hearing the 21 options.
  • Send out availability for your attraction/tours to accommodation providers by email regularly. You should make sure it is going to reception to ensure it doesn’t just get deleted. (This will also help keep your product fresh in the minds of your agents. You can also fill distressed inventory through special offers.)
  • If you are sticking with voucher books, make sure these are small and easy to complete.

The Monarch are currently investigating real time booking systems, however their current system is still straight forward with their leaflets giving clear information about pick up times and directions, leaving only a short phone call and voucher completion. No issue with explaining parking as with each of the packages we promote the guest will be picked up and returned to the hotel door for no extra cost.

Commission and worth the up-sell

As an agent or on-seller of tourism product, you will of course want to know that the activity or attraction offers commission. If you are the person selling the attraction or activity you will want it to be worth your while selling the product – in other words that the value of the ticket is a good amount. Like many accommodation operators, St Clair Beach Resort offers its reception staff an incentive in the way of commission. One of the main reason they’re encourage to sell a Monarch package is because they know the commission on a $100 or $200 package is quite considerable and hence worth their while spending the time recommending and up-selling to the guest.

Since being here in New Zealand, I have spoken to many smaller operators who find it difficult to attract the business of accommodation agents or information centre’s. For many the problem will be their low ticket cost, packaging with other attractions or transport companies often helps increase business in this case – although it must be remembered that you might have to give better discount to the company pulling the package together to make it worth their while.

Packaging and building in an allowance for commission of your product is the key, without the relevant incentive it is very hard to on-sell your product.

I hope you found this blog post useful and as always please feel free to leave your own experiences or any comments. Make sure you rate the blog so I know whether you found it helpful. If you did – retweet it, to share it with others.

3 Comments

  1. John Milburn February 28, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    James–once again you have come up with some great,easily understood and practical advice.Of course it is wonderful that you have mentioned our business so favourably but the real cudos must go to you.You have the ability to look at the tourism/visitor industry with a new and fresh approach and have brought the professionalism that you demonstrate in running the St Clair Beach Resort to providing real and useful assistance to the wider industry.Thankyou.

  2. Craig February 28, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    James, great blog! Hopefully some of the rest of the industry in Dunedin and New Zealand can learn a little something from your fresh view on the industry in Dunedin. Hopefully it encourages a few of the other operators to work together, it can only be beneficial to the city. All the best.

  3. Dawn March 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Your post contains a wealth of information that the smaller operator can act upon.

    I found myself mentally ticking off points as to whether we do or don’t do them. A few things for immediate implementation.

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