Strategic partnerships will be key in a post-COVID era in order to rebuild your outdoor guiding business. No industry has gone untouched from the pandemic, and it hit global travel the hardest. Four of ten hotel workers are unemployed. Because international travelers are stuck in their own countries, it’s estimated that the U.S. economy will lose $425 million per day.
The travel industry is returning slowly. Airbnb just went public. More people are driving to their destinations, and travelers are eagerly expecting a return to normal travel. As we wrote in an earlier article, focusing on local tourism will be key during COVID, and also post-COVID.
As we’ve written before, updating your digital platforms for the “staycation” era, building brand awareness on social media, and reaching out to local media platforms are all important tactics to stay afloat during this pandemic.
We also briefly mentioned the importance of strategic partnerships with local businesses, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this article.
Why partner with other businesses?
You don’t have to do it alone. As the saying goes, “No man is an island.” Trying to handle the pandemic alone as an outdoor guiding business can not only lead to burnout but business closure.
It’s marketing. Strategic partnerships help both businesses, and one way is through marketing. Not only are you introducing your customers to this other business, but they’re introducing their customers to you.
Lower expenses. Depending on the partnership and each business’s needs, you might lower your expenses. Perhaps sharing office space or splitting the bill for ad space.
Adds value to the customer’s purchase. Giving a customer more value increases their loyalty and the likelihood of them returning. When you partner with another local business, you add value to your product or service by combining your offerings as one.
Local partnership ideas for small businesses
Having a strategic partnership with some of the following businesses in your area will help you bounce back a lot faster, maybe even before the post-COVID era. The key is knowing who is best to partner with, your goals with the relationships, what you can offer, and if you share common needs.
A hotel concierge helps guests book dinner or tour reservations, assists with work-related tasks, and recommends local services. Travelers looking for last-minute outdoor tours will benefit from a hotel concierge service. So will you if you have a strategic relationship with the hotel concierge.
Find local hotels where you guide your outdoor tours. Before speaking with a concierge, know what it is you can offer the hotel. How will they benefit by promoting your services? It’s also important to have online booking as they’ll likely book guests immediately. Some expect a commission for referring travelers to your business, so keep that in mind.
Much like a hotel concierge, Airbnb hosts can help their visitors with recommendations, like the best outdoor adventures. Having a strategic partnership with Airbnb hosts in your area means they’ll recommend your tour guiding company before others.
And just like a hotel concierge, you need to know how an Airbnb host will benefit by recommending your guided trips over a competitor’s. To gain their trust and seal of approval, invite them to one of your outdoor excursions. That way, they’ll know exactly what they’re talking about when they suggest your company to visitors.
Tourism Offices and Welcome Centers
State welcome centers are located throughout states and provide visitors with important information about state and local travel. Visitors are likely to ask about activities and recommendations. Again, this is where having a strong relationship with this office will be imperative.
Introduce yourself and your business like you would with a hotel concierge and Airbnb hosts. Be clear about your goals and what you can offer the tourism office and welcome center. Invite them to your guided tours so they can see for themselves what you offer.
Local Newspapers and Magazines
Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for good stories. If your company recently partnered with another business, celebrated an anniversary, or served your 1,000th customer, submit a Press Release to your local newspaper.
It’s also important to consider the newspaper’s audience. Will they care about your story? Meet journalists from your area at local events. Introduce yourself and learn what they look for in a story.
Getting involved in the local community can help in more than one way. First, you can tell your local newspaper about the event and what you’re doing or send them an event report afterward. This helps grow brand awareness and directs new customers to your tour company.
Are there local businesses that complement your product or service? For instance, do you have a lot of guests who also drink beer or wine? Is there a local brewery or winery you can partner with in order to increase the value of your service? How can your outdoor guiding company increase the value of their product?
Thinking of complementary business relationships is also important for a successful post-COVID-era.
Restaurants and Breweries
As we mentioned above, partnering with complementary businesses is key to offering value-added services. Currently, restaurants and breweries are hurting with most closed for safety reasons.
Are there local restaurants or breweries that you can partner with? How can they benefit by starting a relationship with your guiding company?
Clubs or Teams in Your Industry
There is a club for nearly everything. You won’t have to look far to find a club or chapter in the outdoors. Start with Google.
Some notable outdoor clubs are The American Alpine Club, American Hiking Society, and Meetup. You can offer a discount on one of your outdoor tours to club members. Besides, you know they’ll enjoy their trip with you since they belong to a club dedicated to it. They’re also more likely to recommend you to their friends and other club members if they had a great experience.
Local Chamber of Commerce
Small Business Trends says a Local Chamber of Commerce “a network of local businesses or businesses within a particular niche or industry. The organization works to further the interests of businesses in the area or industry through advocacy, networking opportunities and various other member benefits.”
Having a strategic partnership with your local chamber of commerce creates a giant networking opportunity. This one relationship could open doors for new business relationships which will only help you in the long run and after this COVID-era.
Rental Car Companies
You wouldn’t think partnering with a local rental car company would be strategic or beneficial, but it can be. When travelers visit from out of town, they’re likely to rent a car to get around, especially if they’re visiting rural areas that lack public transportation.
Just like a hotel concierge, Airbnb host, and tourism office, rental car companies are in a position to recommend sites and attractions to travelers. This is an overlooked but key partnership and one you can take advantage of when brainstorming what businesses to partner with.
How Can You Partner With These Businesses?
For a partnership to be successful, Destinations International says it needs fives things:
- It must be mutually beneficial.
- Participants need to discuss and agree on their roles and responsibilities and document them in writing.
- Those involved should equally shoulder the duties and commitment.
- Communication is crucial.
- Mechanisms must be in place to evaluate the success and benefits of the partnership.
With this in mind, here are some ideas you can use to partner with local companies:
Every holiday is a great opportunity to create a gift guide with local businesses. Sharing the gift guide on your social media platforms and your websites not only provides something useful for your followers but raises brand awareness for the other companies. When they share on their own platforms, it does the same for you.
What do you do between the holidays? Help advertise for each other. Many businesses have shared their partners’ information and sales in their email campaigns, flyers, brochures, and social media.
Offer to share their current sales and campaigns on your social media and web platforms and in return, ask them to do the same. It will introduce you both to each other’s audiences.
Take Out an Ad Together
This works especially well with complementary businesses, but anyone willing to split the cost of an ad with you could prove advantageous.
This not only helps save money, but you benefit from the advertisement as well without the extra cost.
Complying with COVID Regulations
Some businesses like restaurants and breweries cannot operate normally right now. Is there a way they can bring their service or product outdoors? And how can you help them with this?
We saw an apparel company buy ventilated tents in order to set up their shop outside. Is this something you can do too?
Provide a New Service
One good thing about this pandemic is that there has been a lot of innovation. With that has been a rise in product and service offerings from companies you wouldn’t expect. For example, breweries are producing hand sanitizer to keep up with the demand.
Can you partner with a local business to provide a new service or create a new product? Right now, virtual experiences are creating opportunities for travelers to visit unknown places without leaving their living rooms. Can you partner with a local film studio to offer virtual tours?
What are other ways you can team up with local companies to provide something completely new for your community?
Business partnerships take time to develop and should have much consideration instead of diving head-first into it. Knowing this and understanding the strategic partnerships you need to have to be successful post-COVID, your outdoor guiding company will rebound faster than your competitors.
Fortunately, we believe outdoor adventure travel will recover faster because the outdoors provides more space, there are more eco-conscious travelers, concerns for social distancing will remain in 2021, and people like adventures.
Origin is an online booking platform built alongside guides and tour operators to reduce the administrative burden of running a guiding business.
Our software is designed to help you by keeping trip reservations and staff availability up-to-date, prevent overbookings with a purpose-built resource management system, and even help you assign guides to newly booked trips with automated text messages to confirm availability.
Origin is empowering adventure-seekers and guides by streamlining the entire booking process, from reserving and paying for your trip, to getting out in the mountains.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you succeed post-COVID.