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Scaling adventure tour operator business to $1,000,000 net income per year

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datoelk

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Hello good people!
First time posting on this forum. Read both Unscripted and MFL 1 year ago, just before I decided to start my own adventure tour operator company in Republic of Georgia, after working as a mountain guide for 11 years (though i'm still under 25).
With some luck of getting great domain and wordpress skills, developed decent looking website and throughout the year managed to get 47 customers, from which after tax net income has been just over $11,000 ($ 200-300 profit from each customer) which is not that bad considering low living costs in Georgia.
If I could maintain 70% CoGS (Totally feasible) and scale the business, attracting more customers, I will need 5000 tourists per year traveling through my company to hit $1,000,000 per year income, which is not that much, considering that there are over 8 million tourists in Georgia per year.

Some of my competitive advantages over other companies:
1) Fastest customer service - answering every email in less than 10 minutes, unless i'm sleeping.
2) Happy 45 travelers (had 2 troublesome)
2) Great itineraries and great looking websited
3) Dope-a$$ domain

Some of my shortcomings:
1) Lack of brand awareness
2) Lack of reviews (no social proof)
3) Lack of Backlinks to website

Here are some of the measures I've taken to increase customers list, but somewhat unsuccessfully:
1) Contacting Alumni associations of Norther Americas universities, but due to "Alumni travel" market being saturated by local American companies, got no response from 50+ universities.
2) Sending cold emails (personalized email for each recipient) to 500+ private schools in Western Europe and Northern America with 0% answer rate, though tried to master cold emailing strategies by reading dozens of articles about it.
3) Contacting 100+ tour agencies in Western, Eastern and Northern European countries, with only 2 companies ordering total of 32 tourists
4) DM-ing famous people through instagram to bring their families on holidays in Georgia, with zero trouble from paparazzis. This was a ridiculous idea, but you never know, might have worked. (Could not find Bill Murrays' email, he would have come for sure, just by himself and a bottle of scotch).

Happy to hear your critiques and suggestions for what could be some other ways to find people, excited to have adventure travel in Georgia.
 

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Fox

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Nice, I love Georgia.

Look into Youtube. The views for Georgia are huge with very little well-made videos to compete with. I had a video ranked near #1 for Kazbegi which wasn't too well made. With some effort, you could be getting 50-100k views a year off YT easy.
 

BizyDad

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I did marketing for an adventure tour company here in the states for 7 years. I grew them every year. Here are some suggestions.

Offer to take writers on a free tours of Georgia, in exchange for them writing about their experience.

Reach out to travel bloggers, especially ones who write for big magazines. But approach them through their personal blogs.

Research the internet for people who have written articles already about traveling to Georgia. See if they have personal blogs.

I don't know if Twitter is as big in Europe, but we used Twitter to also connect with writers.

Facebook ads is an excellent venue if you know what you're doing.

Put a chat on your website. More people will chat with you directly, and you'll get more business, if you're available to chat when they come on your site. If you can't chat, at least have a phone number and a form on every page for them to fill out.

Hope this helps.
 

Boychamp

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First, congratulations! Good for you for starting something.

I just wanted to drop a line and say reach out to your old customers! Ask them for reviews, testimonials, etc. If you want, you could also offer a discount to their friends/family (or to them if they want to go again). But you should definitely leverage your existing customer base if you can.

Also, if you can get on any trip websites, I'm blanking on what the popular ones are right now the ones that tell you about different things going on and people can review them.. anyway, getting on those and getting good reviews would definitely get you eyeballs.
 

Stargazer

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Any chance you could put your website here?

Have you spoken to anyone in the relevant Government Dept who deals with tourism? They have been given hundreds of millions of dollars to beef up infrastructure specifically to attract Western tourism as most of the lot going to Georgia are from places like Russia.

Hence the $3 billion revenue from 8 million tourists ($375 per tourist)

Georgia has recognised the need to shift to a wealthier, bigger spending tourist base so I am sure someone will work with you at a higher level to help target this new market. Maybe there are some grants for marketing or you could piggyback off of a government Advertising drive in the West.

No point them spending $60 million sprucing up some national park if no one in the West is aware of it so I think you have a great opportunity before the market becomes sophisticated.

Dan
 

Dark Water

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Thanks for all of your advice.




it's www.adventure.ge (criticism totally appreciated)
First off, well done so far.

For the website, the first thing that stood out to me is that above the fold, that very first screen you see on the home page, it isn't abundantly clear what's going on. Your second section "Join on adventure tours all around Georgia" may be better up top. Should there be a distinction that this is the Republic of Georgia as well?

The second thing that caught my eye was some of the copywriting. It seems to be non-native English (Explore Georgia with your foot feet; or Explore Georgia on foot), which could be a ding to your professionalism. Headlines could use Title Case as well.

Lastly, would want to see some pages centered, specifically Adventures, and the Travel Articles section at the bottom of the home page. Overall looks good enough to get the job done, but these are just some easy changes I saw that you could implement right away.
 
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datoelk

datoelk

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For the website, the first thing that stood out to me is that above the fold, that very first screen you see on the home page, it isn't abundantly clear what's going on. Your second section "Join on adventure tours all around Georgia" may be better up top. Should there be a distinction that this is the Republic of Georgia as well?

The second thing that caught my eye was some of the copywriting. It seems to be non-native English (Explore Georgia with your foot feet; or Explore Georgia on foot), which could be a ding to your professionalism. Headlines could use Title Case as well.
Thanks, good points. Done!

Is there any point, that repels you from checking out actual adventures (if you were actually interested in Georgia)?
 

Dark Water

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Thanks, good points. Done!

Is there any point, that repels you from checking out actual adventures (if you were actually interested in Georgia)?
There is nothing that repels me but more importantly there is nothing that compels me. You're not just selling a travel package - you have to sell Georgia. Why Georgia?

Where your copy is great is when someone dives in and starts to click the different adventures - like /tour/rioni-rafting. But they may need some help and guidance to get there. Compelling copy, calls to action, etc.
 

BizyDad

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There is nothing that repels me but more importantly there is nothing that compels me. You're not just selling a travel package - you have to sell Georgia. Why Georgia?
I think this depends on your marketing channel. For example, your tour pages could be better optimized for Georgia specific tour keyword phrases. Once you rank, you don't need to sell them on Georgia because they are already looking for a tour in Georgia.

The same would be true if you are running Facebook ads in your general geographic area.

But if you are going to run Facebook ads to people in, for example, Boston, MA, USA, then you definitely need to "sell them" on Georgia.

I hope this helps.
 

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The-J

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I think this depends on your marketing channel. For example, your tour pages could be better optimized for Georgia specific tour keyword phrases. Once you rank, you don't need to sell them on Georgia because they are already looking for a tour in Georgia.

The same would be true if you are running Facebook ads in your general geographic area.

But if you are going to run Facebook ads to people in, for example, Boston, MA, USA, then you definitely need to "sell them" on Georgia.

I hope this helps.
Pretty much. If people are in Georgia, or have already decided to go to Georgia, all you gotta do is get them at the right time.

But if they haven't made the decision to go to Georgia, they're going to need to be sold on Georgia. They're not the lowest hanging fruit though, and it'll take quite a lot to get them convinced. All of your marketing efforts haven't worked because you're attempting to contact people who haven't even made the decision.

If you start with the people already looking for you (searching 'adventure tour georgia country' or something like that, I just made that up, do some actual keyword research), who are already in the place that you're at (say, a FB ad targeted at people who are in Georgia but don't live in Georgia), or who have just landed (focused advertising in airports, hotels, and AirBNB providers) then you'll have a much better shot convincing someone to do rafting or skiing in Georgia. Maybe more joint ventures with tour companies in Georgia. There are plenty of tourists, and once they're done seeing the mountains and the old Christian historical sites, you can convince a few of them to go on an adventure.

Once you've gotten that segment, then you can start looking at ways to bring people to Georgia to do adventure tours. But don't rush into the people who need to be sold on the country itself.
 

DonCorleone

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Hi! First of all thanks for sharing :) I think your website does the job but I wouldn't call it great; I think there's a lot of room for improvement. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good starting point and it does the job. It's just my opinion, I don't want to sound aggressive or anything like that.

In case you want them, I'll leave some advices/suggestions/comments. I think that even if you don't agree with all of them, you can benefit from some. I'll cover just the home page for now and if you're interested I can take a look at the rest later.

Home - Desktop
- It's strange that you have so many different fonts (and one of them is Times New Roman). Just at the hero + navbar you're using 4 different fonts; that's a lot, I think you should fix that.
- I really like the hero's background image
- I think there is no clear hierarchy in the hero's headings. They're too "medium" and the eye is not drawn to any of them immediately. I would increase the size quite a bit (along with changing the font).
- Subtitle is barely visible, it's too small and you seem to have an issue with the container, because the second "g" in Georgia isn't displayed well.
- It's good that you have a call to action button, but I think the color choice (black) is not the best taking in account the background image.
- The little arrow on top of the hero's main heading is confusing. I understand now that it's just decorative, but it may look like something clickable. Moreover, I would add an arrow or something similar at the bottom, to let the user know that he can scroll to see more (a common problem with heros that take 100% of vertical height).
- Content feels short. I think you're lacking some good copy on why I should choose you over your competition. What's your differentiator that makes you better?
- The texts "Choose from..." and "We take care of..." shouldn't be bold
- In the "tours cards" the texts are too small and the position looks odd. Also being white makes it barely visible with some of the photos. I'd make the cards much bigger to really showcase the images and also add some effects/animations on hover.
- The landscape image before the "Travel articles" section doesn't do anything. I think you're wasting valuable space there. I would add copy and a call to action.
- Think about the goal of your site. What do you want your visitors to do? Probably checking a tour and making a booking/contact you, right? If that's the case, I would remove the travel articles section from your home page. It doesn't help to your goal and it's distracting. You have a link in your navbar, that's enough.
- Footer looks great!
- Check your HTML tags. I just had a quick look and for example you don't have any h1 tag in your page. This is bad, you shouldn't use just divs for the text. I see that you use Wordpress but still this is pretty basic and you should be able to fix it.

Home - Mobile
- Here the hero's headings are literally tiny, you need to fix that ASAP.
- I think the tours cards look better here in terms of size, but I'd still fix the texts position/color (consider adding an overlay if you can't get the text right)

Also as a side note, the site is kind of slow. This is a common issue when using Wordpress, but try to see if you can delete any you don't use, compress your images, etc.

Hope this helps!
 
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datoelk

datoelk

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Jul 24, 2019
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Georgia
Thanks a lot guys! I appreciate all of your feedback more than I could express it with my keyboard.
 

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