The secret of tourism success: “Our customers became our marketing ambassadors…”

“After three years on the road with Globus Gateway, I felt that I had the confidence and knowledge to start my own tour operation. Among our first customers was my now wife, who later joined the fledgling business and played a vital role in its growth.”

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my introduction and what became almost a addiction to the tourism industry. (See 100 years in the hospitality industry!) In this column I would like to continue with part two.

After three years on the road with Globus Gateway, I felt that I had the confidence and knowledge to start my own tour operation. Of course it’s a lot more difficult than it initially sounds. Start small and grow was the plan. Using my savings, I purchased a Ford 12-seater minibus and began by driving and guiding my own long weekend tours to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Brugge based from a small office in Britain’s most easterly inhabited island, called Mersea.

Among our first customers, was my now wife, who later joined the fledgling business and played a vital role in its growth.

We soon outgrew the minibus and started chartering other firm’s coaches. We knew there was a market for travellers who wanted a high standard of transport from a convenient departure point, to stay in nice hotels, but at an affordable cost. It went far beyond price though, we wanted to get it right, without compromise.

Our groups stayed in beautiful hotels which included the Inter Continental and Schweitzerhof in Berlin, Admiral Copenhagen, Pultizer Amsterdam, Cayre, de Castiglione and Concorde Lafayette Paris, Royal Windsor, Brussels and Crowne Plaza Hamburg – Hotels that normally would charge room rates far above our meagre budget.

When contracting accommodation, I soon learnt the first question you asked was “When do you want us?” This was the secret.

For instance, the Inter Continental in Cologne would be full with business people Monday to Thursday nights, but over the weekend, occupancy would plummet to less than 30 per cent. We soon discovered that if the holiday duration was right and the product quality high that many people would take three or four breaks a year.

As egotistical as it may sound, we pioneered new standards in the industry at that time.

Ten years after I drove and escorted that first Paris long weekend, we celebrated by inviting as many clients as possible for a special anniversary day on the 26th March 1986. 26 coaches transported over 1,300 people across the English Channel on one of the ferry operator Townsend Thoresen’s newest ships, which was renamed ‘Spirit of Incentive’ for the day, in honour of our company’s  business achievement during the previous decade.

As far as I am aware, it still remains a record number carried by a ferry at one time for a single travel organisation.

Growth was mostly achieved by word of mouth, our customers became our marketing ambassadors and introduced their friends and family. However, again, we introduced some unique marketing concepts. One of which I am especially proud was persuading a web offset printer to, for the very first time, produce a 16 page full colour brochure for less than BDS$0.15 cents each.

At that time the largest circulation free newspaper, the Yellow Advertiser, was based in our area and distributed 750,000 copies weekly. It was a rather drab grey publication, so a colourful insert falling out when opened grabbed attention.

It was, when I look back, an enormous financial gamble. A spend of GBPounds 36,000 (almost BDS$120,000) in one single shot. We needed a 2 per cent holiday  booking response to justify the expense. By the end of the first week, it had already surpassed 5 per cent.

There was no going back, or so it seemed then.

15 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business & Banking

15 responses to “The secret of tourism success: “Our customers became our marketing ambassadors…”

  1. Bad Bob

    Your problem, Adrian, is that you offer common sense, cost effective, efficient solutions to the problem. We’ll have none of that on our island, sir!
    Talk like that will only raise our ire [if anyone knows what that is] and your name will float to the top of the faecal roster [if anyone knows what that is].
    Respectfully,
    Bad Bob

  2. nycbgi

    Years ago that experience was germane to the tourism and people awareness, That playbook wont work today. the tourism industry has not kept up with the changing times. look at the caribean on the whole which is suffering from a diminished air lift and the emergence of Cuba which is slowly coming on line for worldwide tourism, especially from the US. BGI in particular has missed the boat by not developing the meeting and conference business.. Inept BTA can and yet will not see how that market will solve slumping arrivals.. Time to revise and update the playbook before Cuba opens up. . .

  3. hmmm, maybe I need to think again

    Adrtian

    Are we to assume there is a part three to this story?

    Is this like a newspaper that publishes extracts for an autobigraphy….to raise interest in a forthcoming book release

    just wondering

  4. Adrian Loveridge

    hmmm, There could in fact be very many more parts to the story, but some may feel its very self indulgent and the last thing I want to do is alienate people. I would like to cover the two years or so that followed the last part, because it was a learning experience for me and I am sure many other small business owners could equally benefit.

  5. sith

    You were fortunate to work in countries that had freely traded currency. Nobody could have predicted the worlds current economic climate. At this stage the US$ is the strongest currency in the world and it does not look like that is going to change for quite a long time. That makes the Barbados dollar also one of the strongest currencies in the world and that is simply not the case, nor is it sustainable. The fixed currency valuation makes visiting the island even more expensive than it already was while at the same time making other destinations who have free trading currency much more competitive. Fixed currency is a ticking time bomb for the tourist sector that will eventually have a severe effect on everyone on the island.

  6. John Dillinger

    indly explain the story in the last night’s edition of the BarbadosToday
    with the caption “Cruise Ship Boost for Antigua” on Page 33

    53 cruise ship calls in December 2012
    73 cruise ship calls in January 2013
    60 cruise ship calls in February 2013

    What is it that Antigua is doing to attract the cruise vessels that we in
    Barbados are not?

  7. Adrian Loveridge

    John, Thats a very good question. Don’t forget for six years the BTA gave Carnival Corporation a total of $2.4 million to ‘guarantee’ 400,000 cruise ship passengers a year. For sometime that only produced ONE ship each week in the summer months.

  8. Carson C. Cadogan

    Why You Should Never Trust the Photos Hotels Post Online

    Hotels aren’t always completely honest when it comes to the photos they post on their websites.

    Professional reviewers from hotel review website Oyster visited vacation properties from BARBADOS to Boston, and the photos they took didn’t quite match up with the online fantasy

    A BARBADOS PROPERTY WAS CAUGHT WITH A FAKE PHOTO.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-you-should-never-trust-the-photos-hotels-post-online-194221400.html

  9. Additional Services

    @ John Dillinger

    Is georgraphy and business sense. Back school you dunce.

  10. Rastaman

    @Adrian L: approx 3000 persons at 52 weeks = 150,000 visitors

  11. A Bajan in Tourism

    Adrian:
    Are you still operating an hotel? you seem to have so much time to write these columns. Stop promoting yourself. Let others do it for you. You are turning off many persons who know that you have a contribution to make but you need to stop being an expert on everything Tourism.

  12. Pink Lips

    Adrian loves to message his own self inflated ego.

  13. millertheanunnaki

    @ A Bajan in Tourism January 18, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Now that you have satisfied you self by personally attacking Adrian, let us hear what you have to contribute as far as getting Tourism in Bim back on an even keel.

    Any ideas how we are going to deal with the threats from Cuba?
    Many seasoned or new travellers to the Caribbean are looking for more exotic, variedly interesting, affordable, value for money destinations. Do you think Bim fits the bill when compared to Cuba and Jamaica?

  14. Bad Bob

    “Pink Lips” & “A Bajan in Tourism”–thanks for your less that informative posts that attack Adrian, rather than the BTA. Might I ask whether either or both of you work for that esteemed organisation..?
    As Hacks or Flacks, you only show your ignorance in shifting to attack the messenger rather than the sorry state of your friends and/or employers-employees..

  15. St George's Dragon

    Paul Merton, one of the biggest comedy acts out of the UK is on at Holders Festival this year.
    I hope someone from BTA is setting up to record it and put it on Youtube.