TRAVEL BUSINESS LOUNGE

How This Family-Run Tour Company Caught Rick Steves’ Attention

How This Family Run Tour Company Caught Rick Steves Attention How This Family-Run Tour Company Caught Rick Steves' Attention

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In the age of social media, it can sometimes feel impossible to grow a business without sharing your life on Instagram or spending big bucks on expensive ads. However, today’s guest is proof that patience, hard work, and of course a super high-quality product, can still result in fantastic growth.

Lisa Benjamin and her husband Tom first launched Go Cotswolds, a boutique bus tour company that takes visitors around the Cotswolds, in 2014. What started as a one-man operation has grown into an award-winning business with over 900 Trip Advisor reviews. Their tours are so highly acclaimed that even Rick Steves himself paid them a visit and wrote them a raving review in one of his guidebooks.

In this episode we hear Lisa’s story of how she and her husband have built Go Cotswolds up to what it is today, using organic and grassroots strategies that prove you don’t need a big budget or a huge following on social media to have a super successful business.

Lisa is a breath of fresh air and learning how this tour company has grown over the years is so inspiring. So I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Starting a tour company

Lisa is originally from Kent, in the southeast of England. When she went traveling in 2007, she met her husband Tom. Once they got back from their travels, they both ended up in jobs they hated, so they went traveling again. That’s when they decided that they would do something different once they got back.

Tom is from Stratford-upon-Avon, which isn’t far from the Cotswolds, and he decided to buy a minibus and start running tours through the Cotswolds. He started the business by himself, but after a few years, Lisa joined him. Since then, she’s been taking care of things like the website, marketing, networking, and the administrative side of the business.

Organic marketing for tour companies

Lisa shares that they do a lot of social media, mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But they also encourage guests to leave them TripAdvisor reviews, and they’ve managed to get over 900 reviews on the platform so far.

Aside from their own website, they sell their tours on TripAdvisor and other OTAs as well, and Lisa is happy with that experience. “If you factor the commission costs into your tour price, then it doesn’t matter that they take commission, and it actually helps to get you out there to people that wouldn’t find your website organically.”

Networking and getting Rick Steves on a tour

Something that perhaps isn’t a very common approach, is that Lisa puts a lot of effort into networking and reaching out to people. One of those people was Rick Steves. Lisa shares, “he joined us for a tour in 2019 and wrote some lovely things about us in his guidebook. And Rick has a very devoted army of followers, who quite often will now come on our tours, which is really great.”

Lisa is a big proponent of networking, including with companies that you might consider your competition. She and her husband have built connections with local companies, and they end up helping each other out by passing work between each other. “We recommend each other to customers. If our product isn’t a good fit for someone who’s inquired with us, then we’ll pass those details around.”

They’re also a member of several Destination Management Organizations, which are really helpful when it comes to networking with different businesses. But they’ve helped inform them of funding and finding PR opportunities as well.

More from this episode

  • Get an insight into what happened for Rick Steves to join a Go Cotswolds tour.
  • We talk about the tourism boom that’s started since people have been eager to get back to travel now that Covid has quieted down a little.
  • Lisa shares about the kind of tours they offer, the balance between public and private group tours, and what is included in their tours.
  • What have been the biggest challenges for Lisa and her husband, in trying to grow this independent tour company?
  • Find out about Lisa’s goals and vision for the future of their business, the kind of tours she would like to offer, and other expansion ideas.
  • Lisa shares some advice for you if you’re dreaming of starting your own tour company.

Learn more about Lisa

Lisa Benjamin is a former high school Biology teacher and scientific editor from Kent in the UK. In 2007 she met fellow Brit Tom in a backpacker’s hostel in Argentina. After a lot more travel, a wedding and baby, the couple now run Go Cotswolds, a guided tour company providing small-group and private tours of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England.

Resources

Go Cotswolds on Tripadvisor

Rick Steves’ travel forum

TripAdvisor

Viator

Get Your Guide

Visit Britain – TXGB

Episode 35 with Korrine, about systems optimization and automation

Go Cotswolds’ website

Go Cotswolds on Instagram

Go Cotswolds on Facebook

Go Cotswolds on Twitter

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kara blythe creative

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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