Question: I own a heritage home where I run a bed-and-breakfast. I would like to attract more international tourists. How do I promote my property with international tour operators and travel agents?
Answer: Get to know some of the top travel companies that book international guests into properties such as yours, for a start. What are their clients looking for? What countries are they traveling from? How can your home fit into tour packages they are promoting?
“From a marketing perspective, business is another word for relationship,” says Jeffrey Barnhart, president and chief executive of Creative Marketing Alliance, a marketing firm in Princeton Junction, N.J. He suggests that you use social media sites such as LinkedIn (LNKD) to identify and get to know members of the American Society of Travel Agents, the organization that represents domestic and international agents.
“Build relationships by offering a complimentary stay for a select few at your bed-and-breakfast,” he suggests. They can refer you to tour operators, and you can show off your heritage home and get it on their radar as they plan trips for their clients.
Brian Morgan, chief executive of online travel company Adventure Life, recommends that you seek out forums for membership organizations such as the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the National Tour Association, and the America Outdoors Association. “It might be free to sign up for their forums, and sometimes tour operators send out general queries” when they are looking for new destinations, Morgan writes in an e-mail.
You’re probably already listed on Airbnb (or if not, you should be). Morgan also recommends connecting with TripAdvisor, which he calls “an all-powerful source of connecting with small hotels. We use it extensively to vet new properties in areas where were work.”
Along with getting to know tour operators and understanding their clientele, you’ll want to identify the attributes of your property that will most appeal to international visitors, says Mike Gross, senior vice president at Anne Klein Communications Group. “Is it your location and view? Does it have distinct characteristics? Does it have historical significance?” he asks. Once you’ve settled on a unique selling proposition for your B&B, package it and make it the centerpiece of your website, which should feature lots of great photos and be easily translatable into other languages.
International visitors will want to know such things as distance and directions from the nearest international airports. “You’ll want to demonstrate how easily accessible your home is for international guests,” Gross notes. You should also post testimonials from recent guests—particularly if you have feedback from international visitors. “That will show foreign travel agents that your property is a legitimate international destination,” he says.
Drive traffic to your website with search engine optimization (SEO), which can be low-cost and highly effective. “Focus on a handful of keywords you’d use if you were a travel agent or tour operator looking for properties in the U.S that fit your home’s description,” Gross says. Adding a blog to your site can boost your SEO. It can also help you determine what international tourists are looking for on their U.S. visits, and what they’re concerned about as they plan their trips.