A guide to building guest loyalty for tours and attractions

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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A guide to building guest loyalty for tours and attractions

Guest loyalty is about crafting an unforgettable experience that echoes in the minds of customers  long after their visit.

Exceptional service is essential. Yet there are several ways to drive customer loyalty beyond customer service, from loyalty programs to email newsletters to personalization. 

This guide serves as a blueprint for cultivating lasting relationships that go beyond a single visit, where we’ll explore the economics of guest loyalty and offer tips on how to improve yours.

What is guest loyalty? 

Let’s say a first-time guest enjoys their experience so much that they share about it on social media. A week later, they tell their co-workers about your tour company. They’ve already signed up for your newsletter, and when they receive the latest news about your summer promotion, they not only book again but also bring a friend along.

That’s guest loyalty.

Guest loyalty refers to the ongoing relationship between a customer and a brand. It’s the continuation of a relationship after their first visit or purchase. And it’s one of the key indicators of customer satisfaction — hence the customer service metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS), which was created to specifically measure guest loyalty.

Understanding the economics of guest loyalty

Acquiring new guests is undeniably one of the most important aspects of running a tour business. However, doing requires upfront investment, in terms of both time and money.

It can cost 5x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Meanwhile, just a 5% increase in customer retention — a metric used to measure the portion of your customers who remain loyal to your business — can more than double your revenue.

For starters, there are hefty marketing expenses involved with attracting new customers. Investing in a couple of Google ads will no longer do the trick. The most successful tour companies also pump their marketing dollars into social media presence, influencer campaigns, and email lists, where they create ads to reach a fresh audience.

It takes less effort to market your brand to existing customers because they are already familiar with your offerings. Repeat customers are also more likely to re-book or spend more on a new experience with you, considering a relationship and sense of trust has already been established.

Within the hotel industry, for example, a loyal customer spends up to 67% more than a new one.

This is all to say that retaining guests is a more cost-effective strategy than attracting new ones. There are many ways to maintain an ongoing relationship after a guest has gone home — a few of which we’ll explore below.

6 key factors in building guest loyalty

Let’s explore seven key factors that not only define the guest experience but also lay the foundation for a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between operators and their guests.

1. Provide exceptional customer service

It all starts with customer service. If you want your customers to go home raving about what a great experience they had, you need to give them a reason to do so.

Now, providing exceptional customer service isn’t just about meeting your guest’s needs and ensuring the experience runs smoothly. It’s the companies that go above and beyond to exceed guest expectations that are most likely to get their customers hooked.

There are a few key factors that play into customer service, including:

  • Professionalism: Customer service employees should be professional at every stage of the guest journey. Guests should always be treated with respect, patience, and kindness no matter the severity of the problem your staff is dealing with.
  • Willingness to help: Your employees should always express a genuine willingness to help. No problem should seem too large to deal with.
  • Proactive vs. reactive problem-solving: Staff should anticipate issues before they come up. And if a customer does have a complaint, your employees should tackle it head-on, rather than avoid dealing with a difficult issue.

Exceptional customer service builds trust and therefore fosters loyalty. One of the ways to ensure your customer service is on point is to hire and train qualified staff. Teach new and ongoing staff to always prioritize guest needs, actively seek feedback, and resolve issues promptly.

For example, if a customer leaves a negative review mentioning the wait time at your attraction, your customer service team should respond within 24 to 48 hours. The response should be professional and courteous; offer an apology; and propose a solution to win the customer’s trust back.

2. Get to know your customers

When operators truly know their customers, they can tailor experiences to their target audience, setting them apart from their competitors. Overall, a more personalized experience creates a lasting impression on your guests.

Pro Tip: Leverage your booking software, like Xola, to collect and analyze guest data, including preferences, booking history, and feedback. Surveys and feedback forms, including a questionnaire in your digital waiver, are also great tools for understanding customer behavior and expectations. 

Social media is another great avenue to engage with — and get to know — your audience. By actively seeking to understand your customers, you can create memorable experiences that resonate with them long after their visit.

3. Personalization

All of the customer data you collect can be used to further personalize their experiences. When you tailor a tour or visit based on individual guest preferences, the experience becomes more memorable.

This is because personalization demonstrates a deep understanding of guests, making them feel valued and appreciated.

For example, a resort might remember a guest’s favorite activities and arrange personalized excursions the next time they visit. Or let’s say that a guide running an architecture tour notices that a guest expressed a special interest in a particular architect. The guide may decide to stop at another building by the same architect, even if it wasn’t on the original itinerary. That one guest is going to feel extra excited to be on the tour and will likely want to recommend it to others.

4. Loyalty programs

Loyalty programs offer rewards, discounts, or exclusive perks to encourage repeat visits. The idea behind every loyalty program is to show guests that you value their loyalty — and to offer an incentive for them to continuously choose your business over competitors.

In a recent study, 53% of travelers say it is more important to travel with loyalty providers than before the pandemic. In response, 75% of travel providers are now offering loyalty programs to encourage repeat bookings.

Most travel loyalty programs in the U.S. offer travel discounts as an incentive. A longstanding example is an airline’s frequent flier program, which provides free upgrades and exclusive lounge access for loyal customers.

On the tours and attractions front, loyalty programs may feature exclusive access to new or limited edition tours or rides, for example.

5. Consistent branding

Consider a strong retail brand like Nike or Apple. You can picture both logos clearly. Consistent branding reinforces a brand’s identity, making it easier for customers to identify the brand across all platforms.

Yet branding goes beyond your logo, colors, and slogan. Your service quality should also align across all touchpoints.

If you’re an escape room operator known for celebrating the winning team in a certain way, for instance, you should follow through with that tradition with every game. The same goes for a new location or a brand franchise. Consistent service will keep your loyal customers coming back time and time again.

6. Seamless booking experience

Booking experience refers to the process a customer goes through when booking a tour or attraction online — from the first impression of your site to the layout of your checkout page.

A smooth checkout experience ensures a guest’s first interaction with your company is frictionless. It’ll make them feel confident about the rest of the experience, and they’ll arrive at your meet-up point or venue with a positive outlook.

Booking software, a simple navigation menu, high-quality photos, and nicely written tour descriptions all contribute to a great booking process. A mobile-friendly checkout page is also key, allowing customers to book on the go. 

How to measure guest loyalty

 If a lot of your guests are returning for a second visit, they must be loyal to your brand, right? But what if your past guests are expressing their loyalty in different ways, such as by recommending your brand to their friends or by posting about it on social media.

When a guest spreads the word about your business, they are displaying one of the key traits of customer loyalty. Fortunately, for operators like yourself, there are key metrics that can help you quantitatively measure this. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the go-to metric for guest loyalty because it measures just that: the probability that a guest will recommend your tour or attraction to someone else.

Unlike other survey-based metrics like the Customer Satisfaction Score, which gauges how customers feel after a specific interaction with a company, NPS is designed to measure how they feel about your brand as a whole, taking every interaction into account.

Research has shown that a company’s NPS score is directly correlated with its growth rate — making customer loyalty one of the most important drivers of success for tourism businesses.

Key guest loyalty metrics

Each of these guest loyalty metrics measures a specific aspect of customer behavior that can bring you insight into customer loyalty. Let’s further explore them below.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The main goal of an NPS Survey is to measure customer loyalty. However, it can also be used to derive valuable insight into what’s bringing guests in and what’s driving others away.

NPS scores are typically measured with a single-question survey that asks, “How likely is it that you would recommend our attraction/tour/product to a friend or colleague?”

Guests are asked to respond with a rating of 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely).

Those that answer with a 9 or 10 are considered your “promoters,” or your most loyal fans. These are the customers who will generate more business for you.

Guests that respond with a 7 or 8 are called “passives.” These guests are satisfied with their experience but not happy enough to recommend it to others.

Anyone who answers with a 6 or lower is known as a “detractor.” They’re unhappy with the experience and may even discourage others from doing business with you.

The NPS score is then calculated by subtracting the percentage of “detractors” from the percentage of “promoters.” For example, if 7% of your survey respondents were detractors and 60% were promoters, your NPS score would be 53 (60-7).

Bain & Company, Inc., the creators of NPS, suggest that any score above 0 is “good,” although it can vary by industry. Airbnb, for example, has one of the highest scores among travel websites at 43.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value (CLV) refers to the total revenue a business can expect from a single customer. In other words, it indicates how much total revenue a guest can generate throughout their relationship with your brand.

As we previously learned, it’s easier to reel in an existing guest for a repeat visit than it is to attract a new one. The longer a customer sticks with your tour company or attraction, the greater their lifetime value becomes. And when you increase customer lifetime value over time, you can also increase your revenue.

You can calculate the CLV by finding the average purchase value and multiplying it by the average number of purchases or bookings. This is the “customer value.” Then, you’ll multiply the customer value by the average customer lifespan to find the CLV.

Here is a breakdown of each formula:

  • Customer Value = Average Purchase Value x Average Number of Purchases
  • Customer Lifetime Value = Customer Value x Average Customer Lifespan

Customer Return Rate

The customer return rate is a measure of how many existing customers have made repeated purchases or bookings within a given time frame. The metric is a solid reflection of customer loyalty because it measures your company’s ability to drive repeat bookings.

When a good number of guests become repeat customers, the value that each brings to your company increases. So the higher your customer return rate, the higher the customer lifetime value.

To calculate the customer return rate, you’ll divide the number of repeat customers by the total number of customers. Then, multiply by 100 to convert to a percentage. This can be calculated daily, weekly, monthly, or even annually.

5 tips to improve guest loyalty 

Let’s say your NPS score is lower than you’d like it to be. Here are five tips to boost guest loyalty.

1. Resolve problems quickly

Swift problem resolution is vital because it demonstrates your commitment to guest satisfaction. About 7 in 10 people agree that “ease of resolution” is among the top three customer experience service factors.

Train your frontline employees to make decisions and solve common problems without waiting for managerial approval. 

For example, imagine a scenario where a guest faces an issue that leads to booking the wrong tour package. A quick and efficient resolution involves the frontline staff acknowledging the mistake, apologizing sincerely, and arranging the correct tour.

This not only solves the immediate situation but also leaves the guest with a positive impression of your commitment to customer satisfaction.

2. Tailor your loyalty program to your audience

A generic loyalty program may not resonate with every audience. The more you get to know your customers, the better you’ll understand their needs and preferences.

You might do so by segmenting your guests based on factors like age, activity preferences, or frequency of visits. You can then tailor the types of rewards you offer to different segments. For example, families might appreciate discounts on group bookings, while solo travelers may value exclusive access or individual perks.

How you communicate the benefits of your loyalty program should also align with the preferences of each segment. Some may prefer email newsletters, while others might engage more with social media updates.

Tailoring your program to your target customers will make it more appealing and effective.

3. Surprise and delight your guests

Surprise your guests with unexpected gestures or amenities that exceed their expectations. Thoughtful touches, such as free upgrades or welcome gifts, can leave a lasting impression on a guest.

Pay attention to individual preferences or milestones — like birthdays or anniversaries — and surprise them with personalized touches, such as a small gift or a handwritten note. Behind-the-scenes access can also make guests feel special. 

For instance, if a tour operator learns that a couple is celebrating their anniversary during a visit, they might arrange a private, candlelit dinner at a scenic spot along the tour route.

4. Never stop improving

Continuous improvement involves listening closely to your past and present guests. You can collect feedback through surveys, reviews, and direct interactions, and then use those insights to make improvements. Customer satisfaction surveys can help identify areas of improvement; actively addressing your guests’ concerns shows a commitment to their satisfaction.

5. Engage with your community

It’s important to engage with your community both online and offline.

Stay active on social media and reply to guests who tag you or comment on your posts. There you can also share behind-the-scenes content and encourage guests to share their personal experiences with you.

But there are many ways to engage with your audience offline, too. You can start by organizing a small event or meet-up related to your tours. This could include a themed gathering or exclusive preview event, where you encourage guests to bring friends, further expanding the community.

***

The path to customer loyalty involves personalized interactions, swift problem resolution, and a genuine commitment to exceeding your guests’ expectations.

Embrace these principles, and watch your tours and attractions become not just a one-time activity but cherished traditions for your guests

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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