Today’s episode is a great one for anyone looking for inspiration on how to course correct when things go wrong in business. The last nearly two years have put an incredible strain on the travel industry and businesses around the world have had to innovate to survive. This ability to be dynamic and adapt is absolutely essential in this environment, and I don’t think anyone does that better than Priyanka Zielinski.
Pri and I speak specifically about the strategies she applied to save DC By Foot — and I’ll tell you now it involved completely reimagining their original business model. We also then talk about how she went on to found Dubai by foot and the ways in which she had to quickly adapt her business there once becoming more familiar with some of the cultural nuances of the city.
Finally we discussed her new book while the Ultimate Family Business Survival Guide, which speaks on the pandemic and also more specifically on what family businesses in India need to do to survive. Pri is a master of adapting businesses in difficult situations and I think she offers a lot of incredible insight, especially for any tour businesses that work with OTAs , or online travel agencies such as Airbnb Experiences, Viator, or Get Your Guide. She really breaks down the strategies she used to optimize her tour listings on those pages and very quickly rise to the top of those platforms, this episode also includes lots of super actionable tips for that.
Optimizing tour listings for each OTA
Pri explains that each OTA serves a different market and has different strengths, which is why businesses must optimise each in a slightly different way. For example, Airbnb and TripAdvisor are primarily used by American clients, whereas Get Your Guide is much more popular in Europe.
“They have their own regulations, their own way of presenting information, even their own word limits and picture preferences… so we have to tailor to their preferences and their criteria” she says. Understanding these nuances is essential to ranking well on each website.
Additionally, Pri explains that keywords, availability, and cutoff time is also very important to the OTA algorithm. Companies need to understand the type of content and keywords that guests will be searching for, and they must have a lot of availability with a fair cut off time. “You should try to offer every experience day at least three times a week.”
Considering cultural nuances
After living in the US and working for DC by Foot, Pri moved to Dubai where she founded Dubai By Foot. Initially she attempted to use the name-your-own-price business model — which was very successful in DC — on her tour company in Dubai. However, she quickly realised that this model would not work here.
Pri reflects that, “the cultural nuances are what has been the biggest learning,” and that once she realised what those were, she was able to adapt accordingly. For example, tipping is ubiquitous in the US, but simply does not exist in Dubai. Furthermore, the perception of money is completely different. By understanding these cultural nuances, Pri was able to develop a tour business that would succeed in Dubai.
Adapting your business model in a pandemic
Pri understands the pain that small businesses have suffered in the last year: “the biggest question all the family businesses are asking around the world is how do we make sure we survive the pandemic and what does our business now look like?”
First and foremost, she suggests that businesses keep their costs super lean. “Try to reduce your fixed expenses to the bare, bare minimum,” she advises.
Additionally, Pri encourages everyone to seek support in the people around you. “Rely on friends and family for support. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help. It’s the right time to do it.”
More from this episode
Want more tips on how to optimise a tour listing on the top OTAs? How else DC by Foot had to pivot during the pandemic? What additional advice she has for family businesses? Tune in to learn more from Priyanka Zielinksi!