VISITOR EXPERIENCE DESIGN DEEP DIVE:
TOURISM INDUSTRY WRITTEN BY TIM KNITTEL
DEVELOPING TOURISM INDUSTRYDISTILLERY RELATIONSHIPS FOR MUTUAL VALUE
n this new world of the modern spirits industry, distilleries — and sometimes even non-distillery brand locations — have become tourist attractions. It’s a shift in thinking, from just the basics of providing hospitality for guests, to generating value via retail sales and brand awareness, onto ultimately being a location worthy of travel and global interest. While the visitor categories of consumer and industry professionals (like distributors, bartenders and liquor store employees) have a direct relationship with your brand and products, tourism businesses and organizations have a relationship with your location and experience offering. This is an important distinction because tour operators (which bring in groups) and destination management organizations (which bring in media) are not themselves the participants in your distillery’s visitor experience, rather they are the hosts of those guests. As a result, the value you can provide to them is different than that you provide to visitors and this requires a difference in planning and function on your part. Correctly tailoring your value creation for these groups in turn translates to greater numbers of consumers visiting your distillery and discovering your brand and products.
TOUR OPERATORS For our purposes, we’ll define a tour operator as any entity that organizes groups and brings them to your distillery. There are various levels of tour operators from companies offering regular public tours making a stop, to bespoke/boutique companies providing custom excursions to corporate event planners looking for team outings. Regardless of those details, these folks are all the organizers, but not themselves the visitors. Having tour operators bring visitors to you is almost like free marketing. It’s not actually free in that you’ll need to invest in slightly different management infrastructure plus the time to build relationships, but the payoff is a steady stream of tour tickets, gift shop sales, and brand engagement. For a tour operator, their goal is to provide an experience received positively by their guests within a budget. There are many factors that influence the final itinerary and chosen destinations such as distance and travel time, costs, experience match to specific guests, etc. Some of those factors are not within your control but many are. First, a tour operator needs to feel comfortable that the destination (that’s you) can be trusted to provide a professionally-managed experience. At a minimum, tours must start and end on time so there’s no disruption to a carefully curated itinerary. On top of that, quick responsiveness to inquiries and flexibility in the face of change will enhance the trust. These elements create the foundation and are the minimum necessary to build relationships with tour operators. Once trust is in place, your visitor program can create additional value for a tour operator through experience delivered and price charged. Remember that the best outcome for a tour operator is for their guest to believe that they made a good decision entrusting their time and money to that tour operator. It’s fine to offer your standard experience to tour groups if it’s of high enough quality, however, offering an “exclusive” experience makes both the guest and the operator feel special. Obviously, this is difficult if the group is having a tour mixed with general visitors and an isolated experience requires more overhead on your part, so there’s a balance point at which it makes the exclusive worthwhile. One strategy is to develop an “exclusive” experience and offer it to all tour operators. This can involve simple elements like having a brief personal welcome by your staff on their bus or custom signage welcoming that operator and specific group. Exclusives can scale up to dedicated tour guides, alternate tour paths, access to limited edition products, etc. Specialty ticket pricing can be used to create value for the tour operator as well. By offering a discount, the tour operators can pass along your fees and make a margin; consider setting your default ticket price with this in mind. Alternately, maintaining pricing but offering a greeting cocktail, keepsake gift, or coupon for the gift shop for tour operator guests can create a similar value (be sure to confirm that local and state regulations allow this before offering any of these perks).
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