The Complete Guide to Email Marketing for Tourism Operators

By Erick Tomaliwan

Booking ManagementBooking Management

We know that as a tour operator, you’re a master of many tasks. While creating a memorable tour is likely at the top of your list, the guest experience begins long before the tour happens. And one way to set the scene ahead of time is with email marketing. 

As one of the most direct methods of communicating with your audience, email marketing for tourism is key for connecting with your guests before and after their experience.

But, how do you use emails in a way that speaks to your audience? Here, I’ll share examples and tactics for making email marketing a powerful tool in your tour business. 

Define your email marketing goals

As a tour operator, you may be looking for ways to connect with your guests on a deeper level to encourage more bookings and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. What does this look like? Inviting travelers to connect over email takes the relationship a step further, helping to build the relationship between travelers and your brand.

With shorter attention spans, tailored email content is a better way to connect with your audience because the emails feel like they’re coming from a real person with a wealth of experience — and that’s you! 

While every person who visits your website may not be ready to book the first time they visit, they might appreciate free, valuable information. And since travelers prefer to book with companies they trust, you can help to foster this feeling for guests well in advance of booking.

So, how do you come up with goals for evaluating your email marketing efforts? 

1. Ask what you want to accomplish

Develop a better connection with website visitors by providing free, insightful and helpful information to earn trust? Share exciting and recent updates about your business? Promote your latest or a new activity or experience? Increase conversion rates? 

2. Create a clear plan of action  

Determine frequency of emails (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly). From there,  discover who’s opening and engaging your messages through email analytics.  

3. Evaluate your efforts 

Explore whether segmentation of your email subscribers makes sense with your email subscribers. Is there an opportunity to delve into two different groups to provide the most relevant information? Experiment with different types of content to see what gets the most engagement from your subscribers

senior travelers relaxing in an email marketing for tourism campaign

How to use email marketing for tourism 

Curating an email marketing strategy allows you to remain front of mind with guests, loyal customers and website visitors. Look at your email marketing efforts as a way of warming up your leads to help build trust which is key before people decide to book with you.

Focus on delivering valuable and engaging information, even if it’s a small amount at first. Since most people scan emails and online, include images and short headlines to pinpoint readers towards what they may find useful. 

The customer journey is longer and the competition is tougher, which is why having a direct channel to  travelers is so important. Email marketing is one of the best ways for nurturing interested travelers and heightening their awareness of your brand.

1. Optimize your emails for smartphones 

People expect emails to be mobile-friendly. By designing your emails to be responsive, smartphone users will be able to tell from a quick glance whether there’s something worth exploring further. 

With more travelers using their mobile devices to research and plan trips, it’s vital to optimize your emails for mobile. Another opportunity to connect with your audience is through tour SMS messages.

Users can opt in to receive text messages that direct them to relevant information, like your tourism newsletter. Include links to your social media channels where you can share and repurpose the email content.

2. Tailor your email content to the recipient

More hyper-personalization is infiltrating inboxes because it heightens email click-through rates. Subscribers who receive an email personalized to them are more likely to open the email

3. Complement other marketing strategies

Email marketing has one of the best ROI (return on investment) and complements other marketing strategies you use in promoting your tours and activities. If you publish a new post or gather some amazing photos from a recent tour, enlighten your guests and share the latest content to fuel their desire to travel.

outdoor traveler inspiring guests through email marketing for tourism

What content to include in your email marketing for tourism

When you consider email as a method for current and future customers to keep in touch. Email marketing for tourism, how can you help guide travelers through each point in their journey? 

1. Share company news

In your emails, include company events, news and updates and  to help transform website visitors into subscribers. This is an ideal outlet to warm up your audience by offering a few tips for assisting travelers as they prepare for their trip. Share who you are as a tour business and what you want customers to experience when they visit you. 

2. Spotlight your team

People like to connect on a personal level. And they love behind-the-scenes content. When you show your face and use the first names of people on your team, it helps to form a better connection overall. Since booking requires people to have trust in you, sharing photos of yourself along with staff members will help to build on this.

3. Highlight guest stories and experiences 

Who doesn’t love a good story? Guest photos and testimonials in your email marketing give future guests a sense of what to expect along with a burst of excitement for what they can look forward to. 

Readers appreciate guest reviews because of their relatability. If your guests already share their experience on social media, re-purpose this content with a hashtag that represents your tour company along with guest photos to inspire future guests.

4. Offer insider tips and guides

Keep giving readers valuable content before they are ready to book with you as a way of demonstrating your knowledge. As a tour operator, you’ll already have a sense of the types of guests that typically book with you and what they appreciate as far as recommendations. 

Share local sightseeing suggestions, restaurant recommendations and even ideal packing lists based on your locale. If you’re limited on ideas, share articles, weather information or recommendations from other sources, all linked within your email.

5. Promote new experiences  

Do you have some new activities you’re excited to share with your guests? Your email marketing is the perfect outlet for announcements, events and updates. Promote new activities guests might be interested in through photos and video content.  

Share special deals exclusive to newsletter subscribers on your email list. Speak to their fear of missing out by using statements like “Stay connected and hear about promotions first through our e-news.” 

6. Direct readers to recent blog posts

Make your tour company more credible by sharing specific content your audience won’t easily find elsewhere. Plus, helpful articles and tips sent through email marketing will save your readers time by not having to do all the research themselves. 

Consider the possible questions guests might ask. Your role as a tour operator is to be there every step of the decision-making process and give them reasons to trust you. Here are some questions you can answer:

“Where can I go for dinner after my tour in [location]?” 

“What are the best times to visit [location] to avoid crowds?”

“Is this [activity/tour/lodging] child or pet-friendly?” 

“How can I book a private tour?” 

“What are your cancellation policies?” 

7. Ask for guest feedback 

Each of the emails you send out to your subscribers should make the reader feel appreciated, informed and inspired. But it doesn’t have to be a one-way channel. Invite guests to connect with you through your emails. 

Part of your email marketing for tourism strategy should be to communicate with guests on a regular basis so they are more likely to engage with you. This helps to drive customer loyalty and increase repeat bookings along with positive guest reviews. 

fireside camping inspiration in email marketing for tourism campaigns

Types of marketing emails that provide value for your tour guests

Booking confirmation email 

When your customers book with you, whether it’s by phone, online or in-person, they expect to receive an email confirmation. By sending an email immediately after a guest books, you give them the impression that every email you send will be chock-full of value. 

When you’re writing your booking confirmation email template, you’ll want to include the essential information a guest will be looking for immediately after booking, which will likely include:

  • Date(s) Booked
  • Guest Names 
  • Location
  • Invoice
  • Number of guests
  • Cancellation and refund policies

Follow up email

A follow up email can be viewed as a way of closing the loop and reminding guests to share their feedback post-experience. These can be sent 1-2 days after the guest has completed their booking.

Nurture emails 

When a website visitor initially signs up to receive emails from you, they will expect some kind of email confirmation that welcomes them to your brand.

From here, your new subscriber will enter what’s commonly known as a nurture campaign or a welcome sequence, where they’ll receive a handful of emails providing helpful information, promotions and updates. Make a point to offer two-way communication with your readers.

If you decide to use personalization tokens, for the reader it will feel more like the email is coming from a human. Welcome emails are typically friendly, informative and designed to confirm an action taken by the recipient. 

Nurture emails are designed to walk people through potential hesitations around booking. They are typically sent using personalization tokens and include content designed to help them get closer to booking. 

These emails are not cold-selling tactics, but more of a communication channel geared towards keeping interested site visitors informed.

Happy hipster man smiling while reading email on his phone

Promotional emails 

Promotional emails are revenue-generating messages that speak to a limited-time offer, seasonal promotion or special deals. They are useful in your email marketing for tourism efforts because they inform subscribers about limited-time offers. They are centred around letting your email subscribers in on the discounted offer so they can choose to take advantage of booking now for a great price. 

Reminder email

Designed to give booked customers a heads up before their upcoming trip, reminder emails are valued by customers for a few reasons. First, a reservation reminder email acts as a courtesy because this email helps guests stay organized. 

These reservation reminder emails are useful to reiterate what guests have booked and simultaneously offer valuable information to them leading up to their experience with your tour business. 

A reminder email can reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations by sending reminder emails to booked guests. Aim to schedule reservation reminders to land in a guest’s inbox between a week to a few days before their trip is scheduled. These emails can also add a bit of last-minute excitement for a guest with an upcoming booking. 

Thank you email 

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a thank you note, you know it feels good to be acknowledged. Thank you emails are designed to express gratitude to your guests. And customers appreciate receiving a thank you note for the tour after the experience. 

If you can provide guests with a token of thanks like free photos from the tour or a personalized note detailing something remarkable from their tour, you’ll stand out that much more in their mind. Aside from making your guests feel appreciated, the benefit for you, as the experience provider, is that a post-tour thank you email can remind guests to share a review within a quicker time frame.

Tourism newsletters  

Your tourism newsletter should contain easy-to-read, useful information tailored to your audience, with a mix of both educational and promotional content. Place your best content at the top of your travel newsletter, followed by fun facts, images and questions that people can’t help but click.

 For guests, a tourism newsletter gives them a way of staying up-to-date and being the first to know about special deals, events and promotions. This way, it won’t come across as too sales-y and customers will look forward to what you share. You’ll want to make sure your email travel newsletter has: 

  • Ashort, punchy subject line
  • Company news and event updates 
  • A sentence or two leading into a call to action
  • Fun stories 
  • Helpful tips and guides 
  • User-generated content from guests
  • Photos and videos showing guests enjoying your tours and activities 

Is your tourism newsletter helpful, humour-filled or informative? Is the content text-heavy or more photo-centric? The personality of your travel newsletter content should match the tone of your tour company. Develop a cadence you can maintain that helps keep your tour business front of mind with your audience.

woman sitting on a balcony with her computer and looking out at the sun

Email marketing examples 

  1. With a blend of promotional content, images and guest testimonials, this tourism newsletter template example is designed to motivate the reader to click and book
  1. While Condé Nast has their finger on the pulse when it comes to travel, they understand the importance of providing fresh content to their audience
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Lean into your booking software 

Having an online booking system is one of the most time-saving decisions you can make for your tour business. And, Checkfront happens to integrate with Mailchimp, further supporting your efforts in tourism email marketing.

Did you know that with Checkfront as your booking software, you can automate your booking confirmation, reminder, thank-you and follow up emails to guide guests throughout different stages, triggered by a booking action. It takes the manual effort out and amplifies the seamless experience tour guests expect. 

Automated emails are ideal for operators who want to send confirmation, reminder, thank-you and follow-up emails because they can be triggered by a customer’s booking action.  

One of the most difficult tasks might be deciding on which template you’ll be most drawn to using with your email service provider. Always make your calls to action easy to find and designed to inspire readers to learn more or book now. As you develop an email marketing strategy, with automated booking emails, you’ll reap the benefits of an engaged, trusted audience.

Final Thoughts 

While travel email marketing for tourism may seem like a lot of work, it’s centred on providing value at different stages of the customer journey. Part of the fun is exploring what styles of emails yield the results you’re looking for. 

And since your email list can take time to build, you can explore what works for your business. In every email you send to your audience, invite readers to connect with you and share their feedback. 

Now that you’ve discovered the different types of marketing emails, here are templates you can use along with your automated email marketing and booking software. 

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