How to market online small group tours? In a bustling city as London, designing and communicating top-notch tours which elude the touristy scenery is not a catwalk. Urban Saunters is a Tour Operator in London aiming at creating unprecedented experiences based on the expertise of high-quality local guides and handpicked services.
We had a talk with CEO & co-founder, Slawek Kukielka, on the WTM in London.
Hi Slawek, good to see you again! Can you tell us the story behind Urban Saunters?
We kicked off in a very difficult time, right in the middle of the COVID pandemic in July 2020.
It was high time to seize the opportunity to make things different in London. In an endless sea of possibilities, travelers have now a better option, a better product. Our key focus: high-quality local guides go hand in hand with inspiring experiences, branded by Urban Saunters.
As our pay-off says: “Experience iconic places with passionate guides who know London inside out”.
What is your main field of action?
We run and manage tours all over London, starting from the classic ones for every first-time traveler. Then, we also provide niche products designed by our guides. They can put their own tours on our platform. An example is the “On The Beat – A Unique Crime and Police Tour with Retired Police Sergeants”.
London is a sound tourism destination, a city of art & history. Its popularity comes with fierce competition among its tourism operators. In order to stand out and make the difference in an already filled tourism landscape, you have to think out of the box and address the right audience at the right time. The quality of a small group tour is mainly based on the guide expertise, so the main struggle is to find the right guides. Thanks to my networking resulting in several years in the industry, we could bundle quality guides with quality products, reaching the next level.
What were the main challenges you faced in the beginning?
Of course during the pandemic we couldn’t run any tours, and we worked hard for the setup of the project. In July 2021 we started to run our first tours, signed few deals with travel agents. OTAs were our starting point to scale up bookings.
In early days, direct bookings accounted more than reselling shares. We were mostly working with our own tool, our showcase and website online. But, if you want to grow, you have to find the balance and kick off different channels.
Was it difficult to gain trust within the OTAs ecosystem?
So-and-so. With some OTA it was easier and with other less. For example, GetYourGuide, on which we are ranking 1# for the tour “Changing Of The Guard Walking Tour” is selective and tries to find partners to add the value of what they already have.
Now that you market quality tours online, what are the expectations for the future?
Being a startup, you have to find money to invest in order to scale up your business and your idea. That’s what we are looking for. We would like to expand our marketing activities and work with an expert, having the right person which relates to our identity and purpose and help us find the right message across different channels. We are sure that XeniaPro is our best ally to build up the best marketing and content plan.
What about your communication hub/webpage?
I built the whole page on my own, you know at the beginning you lack budget. But you need to have some background to build a perfect product page. We would like to step forward in this extent and work on SEO strategy, content production, user experience related to our product page. It would be a successful improvement.
Main goals for 2023?
Grow at least double for the next years and open more doors to new opportunities. Invest in our communication strategy, launch some new tours, find more quality guides, enjoy touring as we welcome tourism back to London!