How To Grow A Tourism Business With Email

International tourism alone accounts for nearly 30% of worldwide exports, and its share continues to grow. People like to get out and “see the world” (just think about how many times you’ve heard that phrase). In such a lively market, it seems that opportunity must abound. Of course, like any opportunity, not everyone takes advantage of it. Gerry Kerkhof did. And he’s using email marketing to grow his tourism business – helping people discover one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, Spain. Learn how he does it.

I love travel. Pretty much everything about it… hitting the road (or air), visiting new places, seeing and meeting people who I may have little to nothing in common with, trying out new food…

And I’m not alone. International tourism alone accounts for nearly 30% of worldwide exports, and its share continues to grow. People like to get out and “see the world” (just think about how many times you’ve heard that phrase).


In such a lively market, it seems that opportunity must abound. Of course, like any opportunity, not everyone takes advantage of it.

Gerry Kerkhof did. And he’s using email marketing to grow his tourism business – helping people discover one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, Spain.

Background

While working in Madrid about a decade ago, Gerry decided that he wanted to start a travel business.

With the popularity of football (soccer for us in the US) in Spain and the UK, a logical first market was people who wanted to see a Real Madrid game.

“From adverts in football magazines I got my first clients who I collected at the airport myself, took them to their hotel and arranged the match tickets for them.”

He soon met and established relationships with similar businesses, which allowed him to expand his operation throughout the country, particularly in Barcelona. He launched Spanish-Fiestas.com in 1998 and began to offer trips around Madrid in addition to football getaways.

Going Full Time

As the business grew, so did its demands on Gerry’s time:

“After a while it became clear that it would be impossible to maintain a full time teaching job and develop the business so in 2001 I resigned… and put all my efforts into the business and the website… I got down to the job of learning what the internet was all about.”

His clientele began to shift from a primarily British group to include North American tourists, and his business model shifted as well:

“Affiliate marketing… slowly became an important line of income… then came Google Adsense. We also have contacts in every field throughout Spain so whenever we can’t offer a service ourselves we are able to refer it to a trusted partner.”

Marketing Offline

Initially, offline advertising in football magazines helped build a client base and a small mailing list.

Gerry tried to market to his list via a brochure with a match schedule that he mailed out at the start of each season. However it simply did not get results, which mirrors Gerry’s overall experience with offline ads:

“I’ve tried some offline advertising… it proves very expensive for very little return. There is so much more potential to working exclusively online.”

How AWeber Fits Into Gerry’s Business Model

As much of Gerry’s revenue derives from ad clicks (both for his affiliate links and AdSense), it’s in his interest to drive people back to his site (where they can click again). And since the other main earner for his business is arranging tours, he’ll benefit by establishing himself as an expert who can deliver the best value to travelers.

He uses a monthly newsletter to do so. In it he discusses Spanish culture and travel topics such as:

  • Upcoming Spanish Festivals
  • Destination Reports
  • Typical Spanish Recipes
  • Travel News and Offers

Gerry sends his newsletters in HTML and plain text, using a simple format for his HTML message: a header graphic that includes his logo (like the one on his site), and then a single column with 3-4 sections (which are easy to identify/distinguish because he uses an image to start each one).

To get subscribers on his list, Gerry uses a Newsletter page, with a simple opt-in form on it:

Click to See Full-Size

He links to that page from the sidebar of his website:

spanish_fiestas_com_sidebar.png

The sidebar is available on all pages of his site. He also uses a popover form that appears once per visitor on the site.

Results To Date

Gerry’s been pulling in a good number of subscribers daily, and remarked to me that he wishes he started building his list years ago.

He didn’t have a lot of statistics available as he’s simply so busy with other aspects of the business:

“I know I’m supposed to test, test and retest according to so many so called marketing experts but to be quite honest I don’t do it. I simply don’t have the time… [b]ut I do like the idea of developing relationships with the members of the list so they come to trust me then when I feel like recommending a service in the future I’ll be in with a good chance of high conversion rates.”

However, he did comment that he receives a lot of positive feedback and thank-yous after sending out his newsletter, as well as an increase in sales.

Of course, the question for us here is, how can we increase the effectiveness of his campaign, and turn more of those visitors into subscribers, sales and clicks?

My Suggestions

I was impressed with the newsletter. It uses a simple, clean design and contains plenty of great, relevant content. Gerry’s writing tone strikes me as friendly and slightly formal

19 Comments

  1. David G

    4/17/2007 8:57 pm

    Good post – I love the detailed step by step process idea!

    Thanks

  2. Graham Cox

    4/18/2007 3:53 am

    Great post and a helpful reminder I need to add an image of opt-in verification email to make my thank you page. I think I’ll customize the emails subject line too.

    Thanks

  3. Graham Cox

    4/18/2007 3:55 am

    Actually I forgot to mention, Gerry if you’re reading this, there appears to be a problem with your dynamic fly-in subscription box on your home page. It appears behind your map of Spain. This is both IE7 and FF.

    Hope this helps

  4. Catherine

    4/18/2007 11:31 am

    I’d like to be able to do something similar on my website, I have inline opt-in and a pop-over but I am getting mails though a webmaster mail service instead.

  5. Thelma Lowery

    4/23/2007 5:13 pm

    This is a brilliant production and I am taking tips from it.
    It is a helpful guide to and gives me ideas on how to start a blog
    that I’ve been contemplating but just can’t seem to get it started.
    Except my idea is to start a blog on home decor; using cultural styles.

  6. Adrian Lee

    5/1/2007 6:17 pm

    Thanks… especially the tip on writing the "thank you" message.

  7. Siriol Jameson

    5/1/2007 7:12 pm

    Job well done. This post contains a lot of good tips that work well on a blog or a Website.

    Thanks very much.

  8. Anthony

    5/8/2007 12:43 pm

    Thank you for making this available. I like the step by step suggestions for improvement. There is always room for improvement!

  9. Kenneth Edwards

    5/8/2007 6:20 pm

    Great post. My favorite way to build relationships
    with my prospects customers is through email and
    blog post, like Aweber is doing now.

    I also like to send some direct mail pieces because
    of the high rate of conversion. Anyway, thanks for
    the info.

  10. TedTested

    5/10/2007 1:00 pm

    Telling the reader what to expect for the subject and from fields in the confirmation email is a great idea. I know they can get lost in the toooooooooo many emails most people get very day.
    Great post!

  11. jerry holmes

    6/20/2007 1:07 pm

    Will try the optin on homepage without going to another page, I think this will improve the rate much better and should have known because we only have a few seconds to get their attention.

  12. Arun

    8/9/2007 6:51 am

    Hi,
    I have been searching on the internet for tourism email marketing, as i was designing a newsletter for one of my client. Thanks for the excellent information and tips provided for effective tourism email marketing.

  13. Colin Maddocks

    12/10/2007 11:46 am

    I found this article/post really instructive and will be making a few chnahes in my own campaign in view of this.

    Thanks a lot and please keep these type of posts coming.

  14. Frank Okorodudu

    1/1/2009 5:30 pm

    Please could you recommend a reliable web designer,
    who can incoporate all the ideas, you have recommended.

    I had several websites in the past, most of them
    , were never well designed.
    And my business as a result failed.

    Designing a complete website with all the essentialn features
    is to me the first and most important part of online
    business.

    Thank you for your co-operation

  15. T

    1/2/2009 1:22 pm

    Thanks a lot, this was very helpful, it gave me several ideas on how to make my opt in much more effectivel. I’d been having a problem with people filling out the form but not comfirming, I think these ideas will help big time!

  16. Andrew

    1/3/2009 4:41 pm

    Hi , some very good information regarding the use of optin on home page

    will try that today- thanks!

  17. Lora

    9/6/2011 7:59 am

    Hello!

    I stumbled upon this article of yours and I found this one extremely interesting. I love the way how you explained your thoughts and advices, you did absolutely wonderful job here. This information is quite exciting so I’ll take it into account. Thanks again for sharing it!

  18. C

    10/18/2011 4:14 am

    Thanks so much for so much essential info! You provided many useful tip for blogging ang making a site. Thanks again.

  19. Neal

    10/18/2011 4:16 am

    Many thanks to the author of this blog! Very useful information for bloggers indeed!