With the Jamaican government projecting a ‘near-record’ year for visitor numbers in 2022, the outlook for the tourism industry is looking up.  But how can small tourism businesses take advantage of increasing visitor numbers?  We’ve created a series of guides for small businesses to support recovery following the pandemic.  Here we share our top tips from the first of those guides (Are you ready for recovery? Module 1. Markets and Products), which focusses on how to stay ahead of market trends.

1. The search for authenticity

All the international tour operators that we consulted in our research mentioned ‘authenticity’ as one of the top qualities that tourists are looking for. Jamaica, with its vibrant culture and stunning natural beauty, is well placed to harness this trend. If you are offering something genuinely and uniquely Jamaican, make sure you tell this story.

2. A better, greener product

Tourists are increasingly looking for holiday products that are kinder to the environment and ethically conscious.  By making your business greener you can do something positive for people and the planet, whilst also improving the experience for customers and increasing your product’s appeal.  Reducing energy and water use, purchasing local products, reducing single-use plastic, limiting impacts on nature and wildlife are good places to start.

3. The power of local 

Similarly, an awareness of the impact of COVID on livelihoods coupled with a growing understanding of the environmental impacts of flying means that tourists are keen to make their holiday count and give back to the community they’re visiting.  Demonstrate how you support the local community for example by buying local goods and services, hiring local staff, providing training for young people, or opportunities for local community groups.

6. Getting into nature

The pandemic has inspired a return to nature for many people keen to escape the confines of their houses during lockdown. This has spilled over into travel preferences with many tour operators getting more requests for outdoor, nature-based activities.  If you tick off the nature box, then make this clear on your website and social media. Use key words such as ‘open air’, ‘connecting to nature’, and ‘once in a lifetime.’

7. Don’t forget the locals.

One of the few positive impacts of the pandemic has been a rise in people taking the time to discover what is on their doorstep. While international arrivals remain somewhat uncertain, it’s worth thinking about what you can do to reach this market.  This might mean offering special prices and events for locals, or targeting your marketing specifically at local residents and domestic tourists.

4. Private and small groups tours

The demand for smaller group and private tours was already growing before the pandemic and has since accelerated, with many now less willing to travel in larger groups.  Adapting tours and excursions to offer these options also gives customers the opportunity for a more tailored, bespoke experience.

5. Food glorious food  

Gastronomy tourism is witnessing a big surge in popularity.  If you provide food and drink to customers and it is local, then make sure that people know this. If not, look at how you can source local ingredients. Tell customers about the history, customs and preparation of any local delicacies you offer and make sure to let customers know if you provide vegetarian or vegan alternatives as this is a rapidly growing market.

at Holywell Park

8. Online experiences are here to stay. 

Many tour operators are reporting a growth in demand for online, virtual experiences such as tours, cooking and craft lessons.  Whilst you may not be immediately ready to produce great online content and experiences, it is worth exploring how you might do it.  Many small businesses have learned very quickly during the pandemic, demonstrating that it is possible.

9. Health and safety

Underlying all these trends is the importance of demonstrating how you are adhering to COVID health and safety protocols and how you are taking steps to ensure your customers feel safe and secure. Look out for more tips about health and safety next month.

10. Ace the basics.

Finally, you may have the most polished and unique product, but if you can’t get the basics right then you’ll struggle to sell it. Make sure you provide a clear, up-to-date description of your product: opening times, contact details, cancellation policies, duration of tours etc, and don’t forget to update your listings on 3rd party websites.

To download the full ‘Are you ready for recovery?’ guide on markets and products, go to www.bigupsmallbusiness.org/resources

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