TRAVEL BUSINESS LOUNGE

Creative B2B Networking Ideas For Any Tour Business

Creative B2B Networking Ideas For Any Tour Business Creative B2B Networking Ideas For Any Tour Business

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Today I’m joined by Alexandra Kenin, who is the founder of Urban Hiker San Francisco. Her business model is super interesting because though we’ve had quite a few tour companies on the show now, their approach has been very different.

Even though Alex does offer her tours directly to consumers, a big focus of our conversation today was all about the B2B market and how she’s grown her business through networking. And before you write this episode off because you think networking is a dirty word, I really want you to wait and hear it from Alex’s perspective, because she has great networking ideas for a tour business.

Her approach is all about forming relationships with other businesses. She does this as someone who loves meeting new people and loves establishing new friendships. When you think of it in those terms, networking can be anything but a dirty word.

Alex shares her story of how she’s grown Urban Hiker San Francisco, largely through working with corporate groups. She shares how she’s partnered with match.com to offer dating hikes where ten to twenty single people show up and get to go on a group hike and maybe meet the love of their life. She’s also partnered with several local DMCs, or destination management companies, that specialize in organizing trips for large corporate groups. This has been a huge component of her business and it’s fascinating to hear how making connections with these DMCs has enabled her to grow her client base. She even offers her tours on Zola, which is the wedding website and guests to a wedding can buy her tours on a registry for their loved ones.

Alex’s approach is just so different from so many other more traditional tour companies. There is nothing wrong with the traditional way, but it’s nice to hear about alternate routes that people could take to grow their businesses. As it shows, there’s really no one right way to go about it. Alex is full of ideas, she’s got such an entrepreneurial mind and fantastic energy. I’m really excited for you to hear her story.

Starting a tour business

Alex grew up in New Jersey, and she was part of a family that really wasn’t internationally minded. But Alex fell in love with foreign languages. She studied several languages in school, and it was her love of French that inspired her to start traveling. She lived in Paris for a year and traveled all over Europe and beyond.

When she eventually got a job at Google in California, the commute really burned her out. After four and a half years, she quit that job, even though she didn’t know what to do next. She decided to just explore San Francisco, and she had an amazing time doing so.

She realized there was so much to explore still in San Francisco, and she shares, “it dawned on me, maybe other people would want to see San Francisco the way I was seeing it, which was on foot.” That’s when she decided to launch her business offering urban hiking tours in San Francisco. Alex found it surprisingly easy to launch the business but getting customers was a different thing.

Designing and leading urban hiking tours

When she created her website, Alex didn’t want to have only one route available. “I launched it with three different tours on it, just to have options and to look like a real business that, you know, we don’t only have one route, but I really had only kind of solidified one route perfectly.”

She spent a lot of time coming up with three routes that were four to five miles long and offered something different. One route has more of a nature theme and goes through a neighborhood that’s actually a national park. Another route is more of an urban experience, and the final route starts in the LGBTQ neighborhood and ends at a beautiful scenic overlook of the city.

When it comes to leading tours, Alex has never had any issues because she is extremely extroverted and she loves small talk. Something she’s learned from leading tours is that “people are going to forget all the facts you told them, they’re going to remember how they felt on the tour and the overall experience.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get your facts together, but it’s really about making connections with people because that’s what makes a tour special. Alex says, “You don’t have to be super extroverted. You just have to like people and be able to spend a few hours with them and be able to really find a connection.”

Networking ideas for a tour business

Although Alex does find customers through TripAdvisor and OTAs like Viator, her main piece of advice is to pay attention to networking opportunities within the B2B market. Tell people about your business and they might connect you with someone who could use your services.

An important resource is DMCs, or destination management companies. They are large event planners, organizing events for big companies. Financially, it’s great business to work with them, because a DMC could get you a group of 20 or 30 people in one go, while it would otherwise take a while to find that number of individuals to come on a tour. Alex says that DMCs “are very easy to work with. And once you have a good experience with the DMC, they’ll come back to you again.”

Another great thing is that DMCs book way in advance, so it will help you book out your calendar early. You just need to ensure that you have some routes that will work well for larger groups, really think about the way you can create a full package experience to make this type of client happy.

More from this episode

  • Examples of the kind of tours Alex has organized for corporate events.
  • Practical tips on how to research and reach out to DMCs.
  • Learn about using wedding registries to promote and sell your tours.
  • More tips and examples on using your personal and professional network to find business opportunities.
  • Finding opportunities in the local market for tour businesses.
  • Alex shares how her business has evolved over the past 10 years, and how she sees it going forward. She also shares some of her biggest challenges and lessons, plus some great tips for you if you’re in the earlier stages of your own tour business.

Learn more about Alex

Alexandra Kenin is the founder of Urban Hiker SF, a tour company that explores the stairways, hills, and trails of San Francisco. Since founding the company in 2012, she and her team of guides have led thousands of individuals, plus private groups, and corporate groups on hikes all over the Bay Area. She is the author of two hiking guidebooks: “Urban Trails San Francisco” and “Urban Trails: East Bay” and recently completed a pandemic hiking project where she climbed and photographed 1,000 plus public stairways in San Francisco. You can keep up with her hiking adventures on Instagram and Twitter by following @urbanhikersf.

Resources

World Domination Summit

Chris Guillebeau

TripAdvisor

Xola

Viator

Zola

Urban Trails San Francisco

Urban Trails East Bay

Urban Hiker SF

Urban Hiker SF on Instagram

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Kara Myers

PODCASTER + WEB DESIGNER

I’m a former tourism professional turned web designer and podcaster. Tune in each week as I interview inspirational women crushing it in the travel industry. 

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