facebook ads for tour operators

How Tour Operators Can Reach More Tourists with Facebook Ads

Are you a tour operator looking for ways to increase your bookings without breaking the bank?

The tourism industry is massive and highly competitive. Last year, the global tourism industry contributed $7.6 trillion USD to the global economy1. With a booming economy coupled with a burgeoning middle class all signs point to continued growth within the industry. And with this growth comes massive opportunity!

In order to capitalize on this opportunity as a tour operator,  you’ll need to take a modern approach to advertising. You need to think outside the box and reach customers where they are in 2018, not where they were in 1990.

Say no to direct mailers, radio ads, and travel brochures.

Say yes to Facebook Ads.

Traditional forms of advertising take a shotgun approach; get your name out there, everywhere, and hope someone notices you. Time and time again we’ve seen businesses waste thousands of dollars on flyers and brochures. The result? A handful of sales that are, themselves, difficult to attribute to any single advertising campaign.

Tour operators shouldn't waste their money advertising in travel brochures
Travel brochures are so 1990.


Those who have taken a stab at digital marketing via Facebook have had a hard time building an audience and determining the effectiveness of their efforts. Step one usually involves creating a Facebook Page but then.. crickets.

Unfortunately, the age old adage, “if you build it, they will come” does not hold true.

So the next step for tour operators on Facebook is to buy likes. They spend copious amounts of money buying Likes, but to what end? How do you quantify your ROI on the number of followers you have? You can’t.

The thing is, you don’t need a massive Facebook following to have an effective Facebook advertising campaign.

Focusing your entire digital marketing strategy on your Facebook Fan Page is extremely short sighted approach and, in our opinion, completely backwards. Most people in this position eventually throw in the towel and give up on Facebook as a way to grow their business.

But we’re here to tell you there is a better way!

Facebook can be an extremely powerful tool for tour operators who want to attract new customers. With over 2 Billion active users, Facebook knows a lot about its users. You as an advertiser can leverage this data reach highly targeted audiences for a fraction of a cost when compared to traditional techniques.

We’ve written about Facebook advertising and the benefits of the Facebook Pixel before. If you’re brand new to Facebook Ads, I’d recommend starting there. If not then read on!

Below we cover two methods that you, as a tour operator, can use to target customers that have worked and continue to work really well for our tourism clients.

Method #1: Target Tourists, and Only Tourists

Facebook offers a multiple of different demographic, behavioral, and interest-based parameters which you can use to target your ideal customer. Of these, the most applicable targeting option for tour operators is the users Location.

Facebook offers four location targeting options:

  • Everyone in this location
  • People who live in this location
  • People recently in this location
  • People traveling in this location

At a bare minimum, you’d want to select People traveling in this location to target tourists in your city.

facebook ads audience people traveling in this location
Facebook allows you to target people traveling to your city.

By using this in a large city such as San Francisco, we’re able to reduce the target audience from 1.5 million (Everyone in this location) to 82,000 (People traveling in this location). With a high enough budget, you’d be able to reach every single Facebook user who is visiting your city every few days.

Not bad, huh?

Now, for best results with an audience of 82,000, you’d probably want to narrow this audience down a bit more using some interest-based or behavioral targeting. However, in some cases it might make sense to advertise your product (or maybe just a blog post) to every single user and then remarket to those engaging with your ad. It really depends on your overall strategy, the size of the target audience, and as always, how experienced you are with Facebook Ads.

Tourist advertising inspiration

Here are some advertising ideas that you can use for inspiration. Some of these tactics and offers we’ve used and have proven to be very effective.

Welcoming new visitors to our city

You could provide a welcome offer at the beginning of their trip. Ads that offer a “free tip” or “free gift for new arrivals” work really well, especially for brick and mortar businesses.


Reaching families

Tour operators can target families on vacation using facebook ads.
Example targeting for families.

Families are a perfect audience for offering tours that are “family friendly.” Restaurants that feature “casual dining” or “great for kids” can see a big impact as well. Make sure your ad copy is on point.

Interest based targeting

Tour operators can target travelers who like adventure using facebook ads
Example targeting options for adventure travelers.

Example targeting options for different types of travelers.Your tour company may align with one of the many travel-based interests Facebook provides. If you run a dive company, you might want to target people intersted in “scuba travel” or “adventure travel.” Operate a spa or near a resort? Targeting “leisure travelers” might be a good option for you. You can also layer in other interests which can result in extremely focused, highly converting audiences.

Targeting newlyweds on their honeymoon

Tour operators can target newlyweds using facebook ads.
Example targeting for newlyweds.

In the rush to get married, most couples leave planning their honeymoon to the last minute. Why not jump in and provide value? Offer a “honeymooners guide to your city” or “the most romantic destinations in your city.” Since newlyweds tend to honeymoon for a a week or more, remarketing offers to them later in their trip can be really effective.

Here’s what an ad for honeymooners in Hawai’i might look like.

an example facebook ad tour operators can use targeted at honeymooners.
An example Facebook Ad targeting honeymooners in Hawai’i.

No matter how you initially setup and run your ads, your best results will come about through multiple rounds of rigorous testing. Everything from how you define your audience (e.g. location, interests, behaviors, ad placement, etc.) to your ad copy to your image/video selections needs to be examined to help determine the what your audience responds to and what they ignore.

Method #2: Reach your website visitors through remarketing

Remarketing is all the rage these days and for good reason. Remarketing is the concept of advertising to potential customers that have already interacted in your business in some way. By serving ads to only those who have an interest in your business (i.e. have visited your website), remarketing can result in dramatically less expensive marketing budgets and higher conversion rates.

By tracking Facebook users who visit your website through the Facebook Pixel, you are able to build audiences (or lists) of Facebook users . You’re even able to segment the lists the page (or pages) the user visits. In fact, we’re building a list of users who visit this page right now.

Here’s how we create the audience on Facebook:

tour operators can create audiences of users who visit a specific page on their website
Creating a custom audience on Facebook.

Building an audience of visitors to this blog post.

While the focus of this section has been on remarketing to your website visitors, the concept of remarketing can be utilized when a customer has any sort of touchpoint with your business, not just online.

Other sources of remarketing audiences include user who…

  • interact with your Facebook Page,
  • utilize your mobile app, or
  • complete in in-store purchase and your brick and mortar store.
tour operators can create custom audiences on facebook
Creating a custom audience which can be used for remarketing.


Remarketing in practice

At this point you might be wondering how remarketing on Facebook actually works. Let’s look at a practical example of remarketing out in the wild. This is an actual example of remarketing directed at me.

I’m a Dropbox user – so I’ve been to the Dropbox website before – and I see the below add all the time.

dropbox remarketing example
Dropbox remarketing ad on Facebook
Why do you think I’m seeing this ad?

Let’s break it down:

  • I’m a current Dropbox user.
  • I do not have a business account.
  • I am the owner of a small business who utilized other cloud services.

From Dropbox’s perspective, I seem like someone who might be interested in moving to a paid subscription. As such, they advertise to me with an offer of “free business Dropbox for 30 days.”

While Dropbox’s core business has nothing to do with running a tour company, the advertising strategy is the same.

Typically, visitors to a new city will shop around to multiple sites before they decide to book a tour. Remarketing an offer to those who have, say, visited your website but have not booked can be very effective in closing the sale.

Other examples of how tour operators can utilize remarketing include:

  • Targeting website visitors who navigated to your checkout page, but have not completed a purchase.
  • Utilizing an email list of your past customers who frequently travel to your city.
  • Reaching Facebook users who have interacted with your Facebook page, but have not booked a tour.

Recap: Tour operators and Facebook ads

There is a massive opportunity for tour operators to leverage the largest social media network in the world to grow their business. Our analysis shows that, when it comes to tour operators utilizing Facebook Ads, the market is largely untapped. Utilizing the Facebook Ad strategies outlined above – location targeting and remarketing – could prove fruitful for tour operators in a large percentage of tourist destinations around the world.

  • Ready to start marketing your tours and activities on Facebook?

    We work with tour operators across the country to help them setup, manage, and optimize their Facebook Ad campaigns.

    Ready to get started? Click the button below to schedule a FREE 30-minute strategy session and learn how Facebook Ads can help you attract more customers and grow your tour business.

[1] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TTCR_2017_web_0401.pdf


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