ATOAI Convention : 16 Take-Aways

Hey guys,

I just got back from an awesome 3-day convention by Adventure Tour Operators Association of India – ATOAI. There was an awesome array of speakers and interaction in the field of adventure. I made some notes for my Team Viktorianz – and i guess it would be of good use to you all too. I am grateful to all those who shared the wisdom during the course of this convention – credits to them all. These are not in any particular sequence, but in a manner, i would like to convey to my team at Viktorianz. Without wasting much time, let’s get started.

1. Untold Indian Travel Story. Indian travel story as history, culture and travel paradise, is yet to be told. The great Indian adventure has just about begun to unfold. Huge potential exists in this space that lies unrealised – it’s not just Himalayas, its 100 things more to Indian Adventure. You will be glad to know that – 75% of adventure travel revenue is local and is growing at a rate of 30% annually – that is 3-4 times more than the share of foreigners coming to India. We should focus on confident new indian customer and tell the story – foreigners in your stories is gone … stop chasing them too much.

2. Indian Adventure Scene. Indians typically grow up non-adventurous – it’s a schools culture issue. On the other hand extreme adventure is super-niche and hence numbers are minuscule. The Numbers and Money thus lies in Soft Adventures. There is about 4 times increase in adventure searches year on year. So you are in a sun-rise business space. Days of Generalists are numbered, it’s the Specialists and Differentiators who will be sought more. Be singular in you business, don’t try to Be and Do everything – instead – look for brand partnerships.

3. Adventure Expereinces = 200% Safety – Many years back i was to bungy jump, off the 216m Bloukarns Bridge in South Africa. While he was putting the harness, i asked the operator, if this was safe and he coolly replied – “Sir, otherwise I would close it and go home”. In business of Adventure, if you cannot ensure 200% safety, go and look for another business. Here you need to strive to be fail-safe on safety aspects of the risks. Look out for eliminating the ‘Near Misses’ by catering for all contingencies and risks. Insurance of course is the first thing in this.

4. Millennials will Define Future of Businesses – Business owners should spend time to understand Millennials and their habits. They are very tech savvy, so your businesses will have to be tech savvy too – whatever you have to do. They are a majority and they will be your customers from now and in all the coming years in your life. You miss out on them now, and you have missed a whole generation forever.

5. Technology of Social Media – Go and meet the audience where they are – For now 16 hours they are on Net & Mobile, on WhatsApp, Facebook, Insta, Snap-chat etc. So FB, Instagram and at a stretch Twitter ( limited marketing here) are the places to be for adventure business.

6. YOU are the Social Media. For social media YOU are the best person – Tell the stories that you make all the time – be yourself, be original,  iterate, re-iterate, fail fast, move forward. Posts must be genuine, sharable, likeable, remark-worthy, relevant, constantly in news and most important – connect with target segment daily. Aim for CRM – customer referral management – your customers should refer you with confidence and trust. Go live on special projects or stories. You really don’t need Apps for this – Do APPS only when people are die-ing and asking for it.

7. Google is the Only Place. Only place where people go to ask or find or search your offers or anything under the sun is – GOOGLE. Period! Everything else is a poor cousin and a bit passive and yields limited business results. There is nothing called organic growth of Social Media anymore, and they charge you loads of money to push your posts to your own followers. Social media is only for story telling and a bit for limited sales – if it’s not engaging, it won’t fly.

8. Websites are Archaic. Mobiles are defining the viewers choices. The Home page or even bulky Websites are a passe – it’s the light, efficient, landing pages  with book-now buttons – that mobiles will find and consume – this is the future.

9. Stick to Your Value & Price. Value of your product is known to you – deals and discounts are instant gratifications and will not work for long. Dig in heals for your price and value add. Charging less, is a trap one must never get into. Value your Value and Ask your Price.

10. Content.  UGC – user-generated content is the key your client must speak of you. Videos generate 10X more engagement than images. Lots of smaller and focused videos, than one big boring video is known to work. Someone else telling your story is more authentic. It’s no more content creation – its content curation. You have to pro-actively make this engaging content happen. Online Reviews and recommendations from your customers increase your credibility and visibility on the net. Strive to get them.

11. Your Brand on Net – it is not what you think of your business its what people tell other people about it. Be consistent in everything for a brand image and recall. People go to people of their kind, and believe people of their own tribe ( community). The net is borderless, so your presence on all platforms that speak of you business must be consistent. Do people know you? Are you their first port of call? Have a strategy to cultivate your prospects ( read customers) to ensure your future. Some loyalty programs etc is a good thing to do.

12. Tech Platforms Eating the World. Increasingly the platforms are harnessing the customer interaction for sales – it wont be long before another IT ticket window appears between you and your customers. Operators will increasingly sell less directly. What is in the hands of Adventure Operators is the Physical Delivery of Travel Experience, and the Word of Mouth – including Social Media, Reviews, good or bad stories about what you served them etc. Focus on these hard – and internet is the place to be.

13. Serve Wholesome Experience. Everyone wants a single-window-solution. And taking care of  end-to-end needs of a traveller who has opted for your experience, is a must. Consider selling add-ons related to the basic experience.  A Luxury in property is not the only thing – it’s also the quality of experience. Luxury in service and experiential value is a lot bigger thing to strive for. While designing travel experiences, make the traveller do something different from what he does in his daily routine. More and more of same thing – won’t last long.

14. Throw out Seasonality. Plan for the whole year while designing your travel experiences. Things like long weekends are most sought after and searched. Have a plan for them and upcoming holidays well in advance.

15. Run a Responsible BusinessCare for the Earth & Nature, and Care for the Locals. Be genuinely caring for the good causes that synch with your business and personality. Anything that is not in harmony with nature and locals will not work.

16. GST – This is work in progress, and is an unsettled issue. We have to deal with it for now changes would come in due course of time. All of us need to make noise to the State Influencers – who are stake holders for their travel business in states and they are more likely to be heard. In next 3-4 months nothing is changing on GST front.

I made these notes basis what was relevant to me – and what i understood. I also would like to add a disclaimer to its accuracy and am sure not accurately quoting people. If anyone wishes to add something to it .. you are most welcome to suggest to me in comments and I shall be happy to add.

Would love hear about your learnings too. And if you think its worthy wisdom and you want your team to read the blog – please do share it with them.

Ciao and take care!

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