Reboot Your Tour Business via the Local Market


In his recent webinar, Josh Oakes of The Sunshine Tribe shared tons of actionable advice for rebooting your business using your local market – something that more and more operators are considering as international travel remains low.

You can access the recording of the full webinar here.

But if you don’t have time to watch the whole session, don’t worry! We’ve summarized the key takeaways below.

So how do you make your experiences interesting for locals?

There can often be pessimism around creating tours for locals, with popular opinion being that locals don’t pay big money and they aren’t interested in what you’re selling. But Josh doesn’t believe this to be the case – he’s confident locals will pay if you are solving a problem for them.

Locals may not want to pay for the exact same tour you would sell to someone who’s never stepped foot in your area, but they may well be interested in an experience that has been created with them in mind.

Designing for Locals

With a little creative thinking, you may be able to tweak your existing activities in order to make them stand out in your local area and attract a new audience who are ready and willing to pay to have an awesome experience close to home.

Here are Josh’s 6 steps to creating experiences designed to engage your local community:

  1. How to find a market segment that needs what you’re selling
  2. Proving your concept via ‘deep dive’ research 
  3. Ironing out the creases – take your experience for a ride
  4. Pricing 101 – do’s and don’ts when pricing a locally geared experience
  5. Copywriting best practices – how to get your messaging right
  6. Marketing – paid ads, local SEO and keywords, online platforms & local collaborations


1. How to find a market segment that needs what you’re selling

What potential market segments could you serve? Start by carefully thinking through the types of locals that could be interested in your products.

Some examples could be:

  • Over 60s or retired folks who have been denied their yearly international vacation due to the pandemic
  • Corporate businesses with Christmas parties and team building sessions to plan
  • Families looking for ways to blow off steam after being cooped up inside
  • Couples wanting a break from looking after the kids
  • Groups looking to celebrate milestones that took place during lockdown
  • Bachelor or Bachelorette events
  • Local clubs, groups or societies

It’s important to have a good idea of who your audience is so you can start to brainstorm what their interests are, and what problems they have that you could solve.

Top Tip: Facebook is a great resource for this. Join tour operator groups and find out what’s been working for other operators focused on the local market, what kind of customers they’re reaching, and what they’re selling. Examples: Tour Operators United or Tourpreneur for Tour Operators/Tour Professionals.

Look at the options, go with your best hunch, and choose one.


2. Proving your concept via ‘deep dive’ research

Once you have decided on your target market, take the time to really get to know them. Find out what they’re looking for and identify the challenges or frustrations they may have around vacations, travel, and leisure activities.

A couple of ways you can do this:

  • Talk to as many of them as possible. Identify people that fit the demographic and reach out to set up calls and meetings.
  • Throw all the inquiries you’ve received from local visitors in the past into a spreadsheet and work your way through them to identify patterns.

What to go further with your research? Find out how these groups communicate with each other. Find local Facebook groups related to your chosen demographic, search their feeds for insights and pose questions such as:

  • What kind of activity would you enjoy? 
  • What wouldn’t you enjoy? 
  • Have you done any local tours that you’ve loved?

Josh chose corporate businesses as his segment and looked into Christmas parties and reward schemes. He drew up a target market list of 100 companies, and spent three months calling them to research what kinds of products they would be interested in.

Talking to these people gave Josh permission to sell to them and get them excited about the product.

Don’t forget! Avoid trying to get the answer you’re looking for – approach it like you want to disprove your theories.

Top Tip: Keep a record of the EXACT language your target market used when describing the products they were looking for. Then use these phrases in your marketing and promotion to really grab their attention.


3. Ironing out the creases – take your experience for a ride

Once you’ve gathered all your insights and data, it’s important to spend some time formalizing your offerings and critiquing your ideas.

Get expert opinions from people that matter – other local businesses, tourism representatives, DMOs, product development managers, OTAs, travel agents, or hotel concierges.

  • Hold a trial run of your tours and invite the experts to get their feedback 
  • Be clear on your objective and how you want to get it – “I need your feedback by X date”.
  • Make it sound fun and don’t focus too heavily on the research.
  • Mention that you may need to follow up with a phone call.
  • Let them suggest a good time slot – then if they say no, you know it’s because they aren’t interested.


4. Pricing 101 – do’s and don’ts when pricing a locally geared experience

You may have heard the phrase ‘locals won’t pay’. This is NOT true – people will pay if you are solving a problem for them. As long as you’ve created good experiences that specifically appeal to your target market and address their frustrations, they’ll be willing to pay.

  • Don’t base your prices on the marketplace – you’re offering something new and the price of your product should be a reflection of its quality and value.
  • Get the experience right first, then focus on the price.
  • Segment, segment, segment! Targeting your audience in this way should help you get a good idea of what customers are prepared to pay.
  • Test your prices – be sure to run them past some focus groups and reflect on the feedback.


5. Copywriting best practices – how to get your messaging right

Base your messaging around your original research about your segments. Identify what they’re looking for in a product and how your product fixes the issues they were having with similar products in the past.

An example from Josh’s research:

  • Team-building activities – they wanted staff to feel appreciated and to be excited about attending the experience. They also had specific budget constraints.

The messaging should differ from your previous campaigns because your target audience has changed. For international visitors you are likely to focus more on the destination, timings, and lots of description about the locations. But with corporate business clients, the focus is on convenience, efficiency, and pleasing the boss.

Remember that with a local market, you’re solving different problems – so you need to adjust your messaging accordingly.


6. Marketing – paid ads, SEO and keywords, online platforms & local collaborations

Paid Ads

Now is a great time to run paid ads; many people are spending more time on social media, and most are itching for an accessible new adventure.

  • Start with a small daily budget and see what sticks.
  • Run your ads for a while on Facebook and Instagram; it takes time for them to learn about your business and who best to show your ads to. 10-14 days is usually a good starting point.
  • Facebook is usually the best platform to start off with.

Online Platforms

Optimize your Google My Business account so customers can find out all they need to know at the click of a button. Remember to include clear information, photos, and options to book.


Reviews are really important for getting customers to commit to purchasing your product. Ideally you should have at least 15 5-star reviews on your website. Why not reach out to past customers who never left a review to try and boost your numbers?

Local Collaborations

Work with other tour operators! If people are buying one type of activity in the area, chances are that they like new experiences – and may be interested in your product too. At this time, it’s crucial to collaborate.

Top Tip: Check out Chris Torres’s online book – How to Turn your Online Lookers into Bookers. You can download it for free and it has brilliant insights about marketing to locals.

With international travel potentially on hold for the foreseeable future, appealing to local markets is critical to boosting your business. Now is the time to capitalize on the widespread desire of folks to get out of the house and enjoy amazing local experiences in a safe and fun way!

Want more details on the insights shared in this post? Check out the full session: Rebooting your Tour Business via the Local Market


Who is Josh Oakes?

Josh grew his local tour company to millions of dollars in annual revenue and sold it for $1m+ in June 2017. He has now founded the The Sunshine Tribe, which helps tour and activity operators across the globe build successful businesses and create awesome experiences.

Local Market Recovery Program

In this newly-launched program, Josh shares tons of insights into how to reposition your tours or activities to serve local customers, while international travel remains on hold.

It’s an uncomplicated, step-by-step system to get you selling your experiences to totally new customers within a month.