Ep. 50 — Website Tips for Tour Operators with TourismTiger Founder Matthew Newton

TourismTiger‘s Matt Newton is one of the most experienced and knowledgable people I know when it comes to marketing tours and in today’s episode, he shares some top website tips for tour operators.

His book Sell More Tours (2015) is crammed with online marketing and web site tips for Tour Operators, it was one of the first books I read when I made the transition from hotels to the tour industry.

I was delighted to finally meet Matt at Arival in Orlando and honored that he agreed to sit down for a quick chat to share his knowledge and marketing tips for tour operators.

Matt reveals that in 2009 he was working at a digital marketing agency where he was tasked with managing the tours and hospitality sector.

I had access to 60 analytics accounts that means, right? It was like being inside the Matrix. Can you imagine having, as a tour operator, imagine having the access to the books of 60 operators, seeing how much they pay for every single thing, seeing how much they make for every single thing?

It’s was kind of like that from a marketing perspective, so I learnt very quickly what makes a website effective. For example, what marketing, what SEO tactics work and don’t work and all that sort of stuff.

Matthew Newton, Founder of Tourism Tiger

Online Marketing and Website Tips for Tour Operators based on real-life experience.

I often talk about ’empty suit gurus’ on the podcast, there are plenty of people who masquerade as digital marketing experts and rinse you of your hard-earned cash for little if any return.

Just take a look at Matthew’s experience, in the trenches, on the front lines of online marketing and just look at all that data he was able to study. He is the antithesis of the ’empty suit guru.’

Matt decided to utilize the knowledge and experience he had built up to go it alone and specialize in the tours and activity industry, that led to the birth of his company TourismTiger.

In this quick chat, he shares several website tips for tour operators and also outlines what he thinks is the biggest mistake tour operators make with their websites.

He shares a few nuggets, marketing tips for tour operators, especially when it comes to creating a tour that is not cookie cutter and can’t be compared with anything in the market.

We also discuss the mission behind the Tour Operators United Facebook Group that he set up with Be A Better Guide’s Kelsey Tonner and much more!!

We can’t wait to invite Matt to a future episode of the Tourpreneur Podcast so he can share more knowledge and experience with us. Watch this space.

More about TourismTiger

Our goal is to help your tours or activities business thrive. Given that people book your tours from all over the world, your website is the face of your business. We aim to put your best foot forward, emphasizing the value of your tours and experiences, highlighting what sets your company apart, and presenting it all in a clear, appealing, and user-friendly way. Let us focus on the technical stuff so that you can focus on giving your customers an unforgettable experience.

Matthew Newton, Founder, TourismTiger

This episode and interview of Tourpreneur@Arival is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

Join the Tourpreneur Insiders Facebook Group and grow your business by learning from other tour operators.

Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.

Interview with Matthew Newton, founder of TourismTiger. Full transcript.

Speaker 1:                              Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at checkfront.com.

Speaker 2:                              Welcome to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow Tourpreneuers, sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now, please welcome your host, Shane.

Shane Whaley:                   Welcome to Tourpreneur at Arrival, presented by Checkfront. We are joined by Matthew Newton, a man who wears many hats in our space. Welcome to Tourpreneur.

Matthew Newton:            Thank you.

Shane Whaley:                   First of all, I want to thank you for running an excellent Facebook group that I urge all of our listeners to join up to. How long has that Facebook group been going?

Matthew Newton:            It started about four years ago, Kelsey and I together. It’s grown to about 11,000 operators. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of people who come in there trying to sell stuff, so we’re up to about 2,000 people have been banned actually from the group.

Shane Whaley:                   Really?

Matthew Newton:            Yeah. Lots of people just forget that Facebook is a social network, right? So the idea of Tour Operators United is to come in and share your problems and ask questions and all that sort of stuff, and leave the selling your destination to one side. Most people get it, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah. I learned a lot, because when I joined the group, as I’ve said often on the show, I’ve never run my own tour business, so I’m really curious and very keen to learn about what it’s like on the other side. When I read the questions, the majority of the questions that are posted on your group, I learn a lot from the problems that people are posting, and then the solutions. It’s great to see the community come together offering advice.

Matthew Newton:            There’s a lot of people on there who have very interesting opinions.

Shane Whaley:                   Yes.

Matthew Newton:            Right, and to see people having their assumptions and values challenged, right? So you would have seen the other day on the group, some guy came in complaining about OTAs.

Shane Whaley:                   I saw that. You handled that very well.

Matthew Newton:            And the greediness of OTAs and stuff like that, and having the perspective, the multiple different perspectives on this industry, I’m just like, “Ah, I disagree.” Right?

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah.

Matthew Newton:            And so he had a lot of fire come back his way, and I think it opened his eyes as to, sometimes we fall into lazy assumptions, right? We forget that everyone’s trying to make a go of this industry. Pretty much everyone is passionate about the industry and they really care. Yeah.

Shane Whaley:                   So how long have you been in the tours and activity space for?

Matthew Newton:            Since about 2009 in some way. I used to work for an SEO agency in Australia called ROI, and they’re a generalist agency, but they put me in the tours and hospitality section and that’s how I learned about marketing. I just noticed there was some really specific things that people were doing right and people were doing poorly. One thing that’s amazing, that I didn’t anticipate about working at a marketing agency, is that you have access to… So I was managing 60 accounts at one time, right?

Shane Whaley:                   Wow.

Matthew Newton:            I was thoroughly overloaded, but I had access to 60 analytics accounts that means, right? It was like being inside the Matrix. Can you imagine having, as a tour operator, imagine having the access to the books of 60 operators, seeing how much they pay for every single thing, seeing how much they make for every single thing. It’s was kind of like that from a marketing perspective, so I learnt very quickly what makes a website effective. For example, what marketing, what SEO tactics work and don’t work and all that sort of stuff.

Matthew Newton:            When I finished that, I guess that was the genesis of TourismTiger. I decided to just take all that knowledge and put it into one platform, and that’s how I got started with TourismTiger, which is the website company that I started way back. Yeah, that was the start of my journey.

Shane Whaley:                   Well, TourismTiger, we actually owe a lot of thanks to, because it was an article or a blog post on TourismTiger that was written by Alice of Flying Bike in Ashville, because they worked with you, you built their site and she wrote this article about her first 12 months in business, which was a really fascinating article. And then I called her out of the blue, I said, “I’ve read your blog post, I’ve got this idea for a podcast. Do you think you would listen to it?” And she was very enthusiastic. So had I not read that blog post, you and I probably wouldn’t be sat here chatting about tours and activities on the podcast today.

Matthew Newton:            Some of the highest impact blog posts on TourismTiger’s website, having the blog posts written by tour and activity operators. I don’t think operators themselves realize how valuable their voice is, and that’s part of the reason why I love this show, because it’s too easy. It’s very easy to get someone from Peek to say yes to an interview, right? Because of course they want to promote themselves, you know, we want to promote ourselves everywhere, et cetera, et cetera. But as a tour and activity operator, your voice is insanely valuable.

Matthew Newton:            There’s a blog post, another blog post on TourismTiger which is Multi-Day Tours: How to Get the Elusive First Customers, and I’ve had multiple people I’ve spoken to who just basically ran the playbook in that blog post and it’s changed their lives, and my wife is included in that. So obviously, Alice and Torin, I really appreciate they gave us a really nice shout out on episode one of your podcast too, right?

Shane Whaley:                   Which is the most popular episode. It’s funny-

Matthew Newton:            Yeah, of course.

Shane Whaley:                   Those who aren’t familiar with it, episode one, because everyone goes back to episode one.

Matthew Newton:            Right.

Shane Whaley:                   And it terrifies me because that’s the first go, like the first tour you lead.

Matthew Newton:            It’s like this unfortunate fact of podcasting that episode one is always the most popular one.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah. But they’re great guests, because they are my avatar. When I’m recording the show, that’s who I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about the big massive tour operators out there. I’m thinking about Alice and Torin, or of our other guests that have been on about what problems are they facing, what challenges they’re needing to overcome. And certainly when it comes to marketing, because as you know, there’s so many people out there that I call empty suit gurus who talk the talk but don’t back it up. What I like about TourismTiger, I spoke to several members of your company, that you speak the language of tours and activities, which is quite rare in marketing.

Matthew Newton:            All right. It’s too easy to slip into BS. I kind developed an internal framework of how to communicate in a way that people actually find interesting, and one of the things is be specific, right? Talk about actual relevant problems. A lot of people have a tendency to want to talk about, “Oh, let’s talk about trends with millennials, or trends with Chinese,” and millennials are fantastic, Chinese are great, right? Chinese food’s great, Chinese language is great, Chinese people are great, right? But the reality is a day to day tour and activity operator, they have much more pressing problems then to read about general industry trends. So I think it’s very interesting to stay in touch with people just by talking quite regularly to tour and activity operators.

Shane Whaley:                   Could you share with us, because you obviously look at a lot of tour websites, activity websites, what are some of the mistakes that you see people making when it comes to their websites?

Matthew Newton:            The biggest mistake is mentality. So many of the mistakes that you see are driven from the same core fundamental error of thinking, which is you forget what it’s like to come and look at a company for the first time. I would really encourage people just to get away every now and then and book tours and activities and put yourself, and just pay a lot of attention to how you’re searching, because nearly every website I go to, it’s not ridiculously and clearly obvious what it is they do. So if I go to a tour and activity description page, I should be able to understand everything that’s included and have all of my objections overcome without reading any words on your page, just by looking at your photos.

Matthew Newton:            I don’t want to sit there reading paragraphs of text. Give me, we always call it the snack pack, just give me the basic summary of how much it costs, when does it run, who is it for, what’s included?

Shane Whaley:                   Duration, yeah.

Matthew Newton:            All that stuff.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah.

Matthew Newton:            I always say to people, imagine if you went to search for airfares on expedia.com, and you search and the first thing that comes up is they tell you what the check-in process is going to be like, and they start telling you about the food, and you’re like, “Guy, I don’t care about stuff at this moment. I’m actually just looking for prices, thank you very much.” It’s weird, we understand that fundamentally when it comes to booking an airfare. Booking tours and activities is very similar as well. People have basic filters they need to get through before they’re even willing to invest time into learning about your company.

Shane Whaley:                   What’s the best piece of business advice anyone’s ever given you?

Matthew Newton:            The best business concept that I’ve learned has come from an entrepreneur called Dan Norris, who, he’s written a ton of books, but Josh Oaks is actually someone who’s communicated this in a really great way for the tour and activity space, and that is he learned that business got easy when he finally created a product that was difficult to compare with others, if that makes sense. He says if you have a product where it’s easy to compare apples with apples, you’ve already lost the game.

Matthew Newton:            With my wife’s tour company, she’s seen that, right? She’s put out tours where you can actually Google and compare it to other companies, and then be like, “Oh, why is one $260 a day?” But the ones that have succeeded off the charts for her are the ones where you have no hope of finding another experience like that.

Shane Whaley:                   Like that, yeah.

Matthew Newton:            Yeah, it’s the only one.

Shane Whaley:                   Absolutely.

Matthew Newton:            And as soon as you start being sort of, you know, it’s the purple cow strategy from Seth Godin. It’s one of the fundamental principles of a successful business, is that this is a question of value proposition and whether you have something that genuinely does stand out. The way you can answer that question, you know when you have something that stands out not because you think it does, when the market responds. When marketing suddenly starts feeling really easy, that’s when you know.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah. Brilliant. Well, our time is up, but I feel I can speak to you for a lot longer.

Matthew Newton:            Damn, I talked too much.

Shane Whaley:                   So I’d love for you to come back on the show.

Matthew Newton:            Right, yeah.

Shane Whaley:                   We need to do the full hour with you.

Matthew Newton:            Yeah, it’d be great.

Shane Whaley:                   Fantastic.

Matthew Newton:            Yeah.

Shane Whaley:                   So just for people who aren’t familiar, your Facebook group is called?

Matthew Newton:            Tour Operators United.

Shane Whaley:                   And I will add a link to that in the show notes.

Matthew Newton:            That’d be amazing.

Shane Whaley:                   So we can get people, and I really urge everyone who listens to Tourpreneur to sign up to the Facebook group.

Matthew Newton:            Absolutely.

Shane Whaley:                   A lot of value on that. Just don’t spam your tours and attractions and destinations, right, because Matthew will be after you.

Matthew Newton:            Yeah.

Shane Whaley:                   Thank you.

Matthew Newton:            Thank you very much. Cheers.

Speaker 2:                              Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.