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Serving Your Ideal Tour Customer with Kelsey Tonner

Is your tour company trying to serve too many people?

Kelsey Tonner thinks so. Founder of Guest Focus and a two-decade veteran of the tour industry, Kelsey believes the secret to tourism success is in narrowing focus onto a specific group of ideal customers. He joins this episode of the Gather and Go podcast to tell us how our operators can grow their businesses by identifying their ideal customers and going to great lengths to tailor experiences to them.

Kelsey shares insights on how to use smart questions to give your customers an “easy button” and craft travel experiences they will love. Plus, he shares a free resource that will help you write tour descriptions that will make potential travelers eager to click “purchase.”

Insights from Kelsey Tonner:

On the most common mistakes tour operators make:

“If we really want to serve people at the highest possible level and have a product-market fit between our group tours and the individuals who are buying them, we need to be super-specific with the individuals we are selling to….

“If we try to be too many things to too many people, we end up serving no one well. And we fall into this broad category of bland, generic multi-day tours.”

On researching your ideal guest:

“The single most important question is asking about your challenges and frustrations… By focusing in on what people don’t like, their frustrations and things that drive them crazy, you can start to assemble an offer and tour that takes care of those things. You can give them an easy button….

“You want to out-care your competition. You want them to know that the tour has been designed specifically around your needs and wants. That’s when people pull out their credit cards.”

On product differentiation:

“Your tour should be uninteresting or unappealing to the majority of visitors to that destination. That’s when you’re zooming in and customizing the design of your tour around the customer.”

On the power of details:

“You’re on the lookout for those tiny details that often aren’t hugely expensive but make the biggest difference…. Three things you can look for: Special moments, special people and special access.”

On using media in your tour descriptions:

“The conversion rate is hugely tied to the images and videos we put on the sales page. The biggest mistake we see is very generic stock images that don’t show the ideal target guest…. We want to have at least 50% of the images showing our ideal target guest. I want to see myself and be able to imagine me in the experience.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Download the Irresistible Tour Descriptions Workbook at

Follow the Guest Focus video channel on YouTube.

Follow Kelsey on LinkedIn.

Key Moments From This Episode

2:52 — How Kelsey Tonner found his place in the tour business

5:31 — The most common mistakes tour companies make

8:30 — Why you should serve a smaller customer niche

10:57 — Using data to refine your guest experience

16:20 — Making the most of your post-tour surveys

19:53 — Crafting tours that stand out from the competition

23:41 — How small touches can make a big difference

27:00 — Creating tour descriptions that attract customers

About the Podcast

Gather and Go with Brian Jewell is a tourism podcast that helps group travel leaders plan, promote and lead better trips. Each episode reaches thousands of professional tour operators, travel agents and the volunteer group leaders they serve. The audience also includes destination marketers, museum leaders, church travel leaders and other tourism enthusiasts around the world. Each show includes a featured conversation with a smart and influential travel leader. You’ll also hear travel news, road tips and more. New episodes are released about twice monthly.

You can find Gather and Go wherever your listen to podcasts or subscribe by email.

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