10 tips for finding buyers in the European tourism sector
As a tourism service supplier you are always looking for new buyers. Here are 10 tips to help you find such buyers in Europe.
1. Start by doing thorough market research
Start by identifying which European countries offer opportunities for you and through what channels you can attract tourists from these countries.
- Read our studies about opportunities in specific European tourism market segments, such as Community Based Tourism (CBT), birdwatching tourism, adventure tourism, cultural tourism, MICE tourism and others.
- To find out what kind of buyers you should target in your market segment also see our study about the channels and segments in the tourism sector.
- Check for new data at the Ministry of Tourism in your country, sector associations, National Tourism Board etc. Try to find recent statistics about arrivals, country of origin, lengths and purpose of stay. If possible also check the kinds of visas used, as not all arrivals are tourists.
2. Check the websites of sector associations
European travel agencies, tour operators etc. are often member of a sector association. In many cases these sector associations publish lists of members on their website. These members could be your potential clients. Check the website of the sector association in the specific country, segment etc. that offers opportunities for you. The most important tourism sector associations are:
- Adventure Travel Trade Association, which is a community of suppliers and buyers focusing on adventure travel. Becoming a members can bring in good business. The association offers all sorts of tools, such as blogs, hubs, social media and webinars. They also organize connection events in many different places.
- Österreichische ReiseVerband (ÖRV), which has over 500 members, including travel agencies, hotels etc.
- Association of Belgian Tour Operators (ABTO), which publishes a list of members published on their website.
- Organisation Nationale des Professionnels du Voyage (SNAV), which is the most important tourism union in France. A good source for information about the market trends, etc. And they have a list of members.
- Syndicat des Entreprises de Tour Operating (SETO) is a group of major French tour operators. The association is more classic travel oriented. On their website you can also find French market statistics.
- Association pour le Tourisme Equitable et Solidaire (ATES) is a major French Community Based Tourism (CBT) association with several member tour operators. They have a list of members. You can also become a member yourself.
- Agir pour un tourisme responsable (ATR) is an association in responsible tourism, with several member tour operators.
- Deutscher Reise Verband (DRV), of which most members are large companies. You can become a member yourself as well.
- Allianz Selbständiger Reiseunternehmen Bundesverband (ASR), of which most members are small and medium sized travel agencies and tour operators. You can become a member yourself as well.
- Arbeitsgemeinschaft Südliches & Östliches Afrika (ASA) is focused on destinations in Africa.
- Arbeitsgemeinschaft Lateinamerika is focused on tourism to Latin America.
- Forum anders reisen is focused on sustainable tourism.
- Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher (VDST) is focused on diving.
- Algemene Nederlandse Vereniging van Reisondernemingen (ANVR) has over 200 member, most of which are tour operators. ANVW published a list of members on their website.
The Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) is the most important travel industry association for the Scandinavian countries. PATA is dedicated to long haul travel to Asia Pacific. However workshops are being offered which also include long haul destinations such as Africa and Latin America. These trade associations don´t have staff, but are managed by dedicated colleagues. Therefore they can´t respond to lengthy emails. Use the websites for finding information.
PATA has branches in each Scandinavian country:
Scandinavian tour operators dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean are organized in Latin American Travel Association (LATA).
- Spanish Association of Tourist Professionals (AEPT)
- Association of Spanish Travel Agencies (AEDAVE)
- Spanish Association of Hotel Directors (AEDH)
- Accommodation Association of Madrid (AEHCAM)
- Association of Spanish Travel Wholesalers (AMAVE)
- Spanish Alliance for Tourism Excellence (EXCELTUR)
- Spanish Federation of Associations of Travel Agencies (FEAAV)
- Spanish Federation of Hospitality (FEHR)
- Spanish Confederation of Tourism Lodging (CEHAT)
- Spanish Center for Responsible Tourism (CETR)
- Schweizer Reise-Verband (SRV) has over 800 active members.
- ABTA is the largest travel association in the United Kingdom. The associations represents the majority of travel agents and tour operators in the country. On the website you can find out which tour operators from the United Kingdom offer trips to your region. Membership is another option but would not really give you a return on your invested fees.
- Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) is an association representing independent tour operators which are not part of larger companies. On the website you can find out which independent tour operators offer trips to your region.
- The Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) also has a branch in the United Kingdom. The website contains lists of members in the United Kingdom, not in the other countries.
3. Visit trade fairs
Trade fairs are an excellent occasion to meet travel agents, travel counselors, tour operators etc.
- If you want your visit to trade fairs and exhibitions to be successful, you’ll need to do as much research as possible into your focus markets. You should have a good number of pre-fixed appointments covering a major part of your presence before you go.
- If you can’t visit trade fairs, at least have a look at lists of participants and exhibitors. These are your potential clients. Most trade fairs have an index on their website.
Below you can find a list of the main tourism trade fairs in Europe:
- Adventure World Travel Summit is the main important international fair for companies in the adventure travel industry.
- Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht is the main tourism fair in the Netherlands.
- Anders Reizen in Amsterdam is a fair for niche tour operators and travel agents.
The United Kingdom
- WTM London (United Kingdom)
- Confex in London (United Kingdom) is a MICE tourism trade fair, with focus on Europe.
- Birdfair in Rutland is the most specific fair on birdwatching.
- TUR in Gothenburg and in Stockholm (Sweden)
- Möten & Events in Stockholm (Sweden) is a fair focused on MICE tourism.
- Konfex & Events in Gothenburg (Sweden) is also focused on MICE tourism.
- REISELIV in Lilleström/Oslo (Norway)
- The Quality Travel Fair in Copenhagen (Denmark)
- MATKA in Helsinki (Finland)
- Feria Internacional de Turismo-International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid
- Salón Internacional de Turismo en Cataluña (SITC) in Barcelona
- EIBTM World in Barcelona is a fair focused on international MICE tourism.
- Feria Andaluza de Turismo Rural (FERANTUR) in Andalucía is a small regional trade fair focused on rural tourism.
- Feria Internacional de Turismo de la Comunidad Valenciana in Valencia is a fair focused on beach holidays.
- Salón Aragonés de Turismo (ARATUR) in Zaragoza is a regional trade fair focused on nature sports and adventure tourism.
- Feria Internacional de Turismo de Interior in Valladolid is a national trade fairs focused on cultural and religious tourism.
- Expovacaciones in Bilbao is a regional trade fair in the Basque Country.
- ITB Berlin (Germany)
- Tour Natur in Dusseldorf (Germany)
- IMEX Frankfurt (Germany) is a special fair for MICE tourism.
- BOOT Duesseldorf (Germany) is a special fair for watersports including diving.
- IFTM Top Resa in Paris (France) is the most suitable fair to find potential French buyers, such as outgoing tour operators and travel agencies.
- MAP Pro in Paris (France) is a smaller and specialized event on French and European incoming group tourism and coach tours.
- MICE Connect and Meedex (Meeting Destination Expert) are two interesting fairs in the business tourism and event management segment.
- International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes is the main luxury tourism fair.
There are also some interesting business to consumers fairs in France, such as:
- Aventure du Bout du Monde organizes two major festival (Le Festival Partir Autrement and Le Festival Globe Trotters) where some French tour operators are present as well as potential consumers.
- Les salons du tourisme in Paris, Lille, Lyon and Toulouse.
- Destinations Nature in Paris is a trade fair for adventure, nature and active tourism.
- Le salon du Randonneur in Lyon is also a trade fair for adventure, nature and active tourism.
- ITB Asia is the most important trade fair for the Asian tourism market. Feedback on this trade show is positive. However, those that have attended mention it is good for regional connections, not for finding European buyers. On the website you can find lists of exhibitors.
4. Contact your national tourism board
Your national tourism board might have lists of foreign tour operators interested in doing business in your country. Contact your national tourism board for more information.
5. Search for online registries
In the tourism sector there are many online platforms through which you can find buyers. Here are some examples:
- TID contains an overview of all German tour operators (about 900 contacts). You can visit the website to get all information about German tour operators for free. But you can also buy information as a book.
- WHO-IS-WHERE is registry containing Swedish travel industry contact details in various categories. It has converted itself from a hard copy book into an online service. You need to make a subscription to access the registry.
- Tour Hebdo is a website where you can order lists of all tour operators and travel agencies in France. You can order the list digitally, or you can order the tourism address book of around 1000 pages. It works as a matrix, showing who is offering which destination. Contact them through the website.
6. Visit the website of European tour operators
In Europe, about 85% of tourists use the Internet as their main source of information about holidays. Tour operators therefore have good websites, with a lot of information. Try to find these websites. If the customer profile matches yours, you could try to approach the tour operator with information about your offering.
- Try to add a customer profile to each of the tour operators. Do they feature your country, or similar destinations? What kind of products do they offer, who are their clients? Often, you can easily find this kind of information on their website. Sometimes you can ask for it and they will be happy to send you their printed brochure by mail.
- When looking for European tour operators, you might need to use local tourism-specific idioms. Here are some important examples: touroperator - reisorganisatie (Dutch), tour opérateur (French), Reiseveranstalter (German), tour operador, mayorista (Spanish); travelagency - reisbureau (Dutch), agence de voyage (French), Reisebüro (German), agencia de viajes (Spanish).
7. Make sure you have a good quality website
You need a professional website. If customers cannot find you online – or if your online presentation is fragmented and shabby – you are not likely to find buyers, at least not in Europe. The internet is usually the first place a prospective buyer will go to find out more about you and your offer. Once he finds you online, the first impression he gets may well determine whether he pursues contact with you or not.
- Treat your online presence like a digital showroom and more than that: it gives your business visibility on a worldwide scale. Design and maintain it carefully, knowing that if you do this well, it can capture the attention of your prospects and, more importantly, generate business.
- Place the design in professional hands and make sure your website is up-to-date to show visitors that you are a pro-active entrepreneur. This may cost time and money, but it will pay off in the long run.
- If you optimize your website for search engines you are more likely to be found by buyers. Have a look at the Google Search Engine Optimization Starters Guide (PDF) for tips to improve your search engines ranking.
8. Send a mailing or newsletter
Once you have a list of potential partners, it is time to draw their attention to your company.
Here are some tips:
- Sending a mailing or newsletter via email is common and cost-effective.
- Don’t write too much in your mailing of newsletter. Better send short, factual news.
- Don’t just write about your company, but also about your destination.
- Don’t expect any reaction at first. They did not ask for your emails, so don’t push.
- Send a newsletter maximum four times per year. Always offer the possibility to unsubscribe. If companies don’t want to receive your news anymore, get them off the mailing list. This expresses your professionalism too.
- It is better to have a small, hard database than big numbers with low value!
- Never approach potential partners when you are not ready. Your website should be of good quality. You should be able to reply to request within 24 hours. And you should be able to answer in good English etc.
9. Use social media
Using social media is a good way to get your business exposed to larger circle of potential buyers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter all offer access to new circles.
- If you’re not familiar with working with social media, invest time in reading up on how to use them for your business. LinkedIn, for instance, offers many helpful articles on this topic. Check the LinkedIn website for information about getting started on LinkedIn, growing your presence and best practices.
- You might consider assigning a trained staff member to following up the work related to social media.
Advertising your service can also be an interesting option if you want to attract buyers. Here are some examples of websites, magazines etc. that you can consider:
- INFOX is a German language website which provides weekly mailings to travel agencies (over 10.000) and tour operators (about 1000). You can prepare and send your information electronically, which INFOX can print. Mailings to the operators for instance will cost less than €1,- per address for one printed page plus the mailing. Prepayments have to be done.
- Tourmagazine.fr is a French website for business to consumer advertising.
- TourMag.com is a business to business magazine and website, with up-to-date news about the French market and with possibilities to advertise.
- DMCmag is a great magazine if you want to be visible for French outbound tour operators and travel agencies. French Travel agencies often visit the websites of this magazine.
- L'echo Touristique is the major French professional tourism magazine.