2020 if only we had known!We start the New Year with a look back to how we performed in 2019 and then move on to things we are already addressing in 2020.Round and about Centenary SquareIn 2019 we introduced our 4th tour; ‘Round and about Centenary Square’. Designed as a shorter 1 hour route and a walk that can be repeated throughout the day. This is a different product to Tours 1-3. It gives an introduction to the city as well as lots of ideas for other things to see and do. We launched the tour at Birmingham Heritage Week and have then put it up for a regular 12:00 - 13:00 slot on a Thursday. The idea of using this new 1 hour tour as a team-building activity for staff in their lunch-hours seemed good in theory. In practice it is not easy to market to the city centre companies that could benefit. You can spend an awful lot of marketing energy in trying to promote a new idea with little response. Creating a new market is so much more difficult than piggy-backing on someone else’s established product. Then, out of the blue you will get an inquiry for a ‘Lunchtime fun walks’ from a HR lead who is trying to sort out a dysfunctional team!We even designed a series of adverts around Tour 4 to promote the idea of getting away from your computer and actually taking a lunchtime walk once in a while.Producing the adverts was fun but really indirect word of mouth marketing is more successful for ideas for using our walks like this.Evolving ProductsOf course Birmingham is a continually changing city and our tour content reflects that. In 2019 we explored lots of interactive surprises for our guests with some great things to do along the way. From forming an impromptu Cathedral choir to zany photo competitions with our mobile phones - these are the memorable tour experiences that people really enjoy on our walks. West Midlands Tourism Awards 2020The West Midlands Growth Company along with Visit Britain have been working on developing tourism across the West Midlands and they launched a Tourism Strategy in Autumn 2019. To help stimulate and profile the West Midlands tourism economy they have also set up annual Tourism Awards with the first awards to be made in February. We decided this was a good thing to get involved with and we put in for two categories: •New tourism business and •Experience of the Year. It was quite a lot of work entering - probably a good half day of work for each. We are finalists for both categories and are up against some key players in the Midlands tourism arena. We are lucky to have Jonathan giving us lots of in-house skills in PR and bid writing - not really what most businesses of our size would have on tap. Probably the larger organisations have used their PR companies to produce the bids for them. Will be fun to see what happens on the night!New logo for 2020Of course unforeseen things happen when you enter an award. We expected the ‘mystery shopper’ to come and inspect our tours. However the email asking us for for a ‘high res logo’ of our business ‘asap’ was a bit unexpected. We nearly cropped the www header - which is as close as we had to a logo. Then we came to our senses and realised that our design team was just a phone call away and that is what they are there for! So we now have a logo as well as a website banner. Good thing to because the web designer at Sifa Fireside emailed asking for a logo as well a day or two later! Clearly for small but determined tourism businesses entering an industry award does, if you go with the flow, help take your business forward in ways you do not expect!So, whether we get an award or not we will have to wait and see on the 26th February, but at least we have got a new logo out of entering!TripAdvisor Reviews are important to us!Whatever the tourism industry thinks about the way TA is moving after their purchase of Viator a few years ago, their reviews are very important to a small tourism business such as ours. We saw that right at the start, and decided that TripAdvisor would be the main area we would encourage our guests to feedback to us. We now have around 400 reviews - honest thoughts of people that have been on our walking tours and want to help us into the future.
It was going so well…It started so well - we even won an award! However, of course in March like everyone else we hit the buffers with Covid-19. We gave out refunds and as part of lock down we produced our first two ‘virtual tours’. These we used by 100s of people and or now products in their own right as ‘self guided’ tours.We restarted out tours in July with full Covid-19 measures in place. It has been small groups in the main and just of us have come back so far. Certainly more about maintaining a profile than anything else!Looking around the city one can see we have a long way to go before things get back to even a ‘new normal’. We will plug away as those that come on our tours seem to really enjoy them.