The UK tourism economy is undergoing a boom.
The UK tourism economy is undergoing a boom.
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Setting Up A Mobile Business in the Tourism Sector: Do's and Don'ts

The UK tourism economy is undergoing a boom; employment-wise, it has been the fastest-growing sector in the country since 2010. With the industry poised to double its worth within the decade, now would be a good time to get started on the tourism mobile business idea you’ve been nursing.

As promising as industry trends may be, they can’t, however, guarantee success. Should you decide to set up a mobile business in the tourism sector, we’ve compiled a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you get you off on the right foot.

Do: cater to foreign tourists.

The weaker value of the post-Brexit British pound has made the UK more affordable – and therefore desirable – to foreign visitors. While EU tourists continue to account for the majority, Chinese and American tourism are surging; in fact, the latter are visiting Britain in the greatest numbers since the 1980s. Not only is the number of tourists rising, they’re also spending more money. For instance, VisitBritain, the national tourism resource, estimates a 14 per cent increase in tourist spending on the previous year for 2017.

All this means that now is an ideal time to get into the British tourism business. Yet rapid growth in the industry can also create increased competition, especially in the big cities most popular among foreign tourists. Increasing visibility and targeting sales to foreign tourist is one way to do that. You will therefore increase your chances by researching common tourist profiles as well as the sites and services that are most in-demand. One simple but potentially time-consuming way to stand out is to brush up on your foreign language skills. The downside to English’s status as a global language is that the UK doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a land of polyglots, and being able to advertise yourself to tourists in their native tongue can do wonders for your business. That being said…

Don’t: neglect national tourists

Given recent data in the country’s tourism industry, it would be a big mistake. Just as the price of the pound has made the country more affordable to foreign visitors, it has also made it pricier for nationals to travel abroad. As such, national tourists account for a large part of the industry’s latest expansion.

This has been referred to as the “staycation” effect, where nationals choose to remain in the UK during holiday. As a result, a lot of money that was earned domestically is being pumped right back into the economy. The staycation effect has strongly benefited small businesses, with an 8.3 per cent turnover rise in the first half of 2017 compared to the previous season; three in four British citizens have either taken or plan on taking a staycation in 2017, a 70 per cent increase from the year before. “Staycationers” are particularly drawn to areas outside of London, where they seek a relaxing atmosphere as well as more bang for their buck.

With holiday budgets down, now’s a good time to offer economic options for British nationals travelling within the country: though the current trend points to UK vacationers spending less money overall, the result is nevertheless a slightly bigger industry. For small businesses, there is an immediate opportunity to fill that growing share of the tourist market. Budget van transportation, catering, and home and ride-sharing services outside of London are therefore likely candidates for significant growth in coming years.

Durdle Door, West Lulworth, UK – a beautiful tourist destination off the beaten path.
Durdle Door, West Lulworth, UK – a beautiful tourist destination off the beaten path.

Do: find a specialty for your mobile tourism business

It bears repeating: regardless of whether you cater to foreign visitors, national tourists, or both, it’s important to stand out. Mobility itself can separate you from the competition: think catering business instead of restaurant; camping tours instead of a bed & breakfast or hotel. Sightseeing tours in cities are an evergreen business option, but activity-based tours to harder-to-reach places give your nascent business the advantage of operating with little competition.

Food and wine tourism, as well as luxury travel, are two areas that VisitBritain hopes to expand. Both lend themselves to high-end mobility options, whether than means zipping well-heeled visitors between vineyards for back-to-back tastings or transporting wine to tourist shopping zones for retail sale. Wealthy travellers also enjoy the headspace and general comfort of luxury vans with amenities, even when travelling in small groups. For this target market, the new Renault Trafic SpaceClass can offer a first-class travel experience to up to 9 passengers.

The Renault Trafic SpaceClass offers the perfect combination of style and high-end passenger comfort.
The Renault Trafic SpaceClass offers the perfect combination of style and high-end passenger comfort.

Given that every tourism business has its local sources and suppliers, also consider going into business in a supporting role. When tourism businesses proliferate in a given area, aim to corner the market as their go-to supplier. Transporting food, retail goods, or hotel supplies could all be far more profitable businesses than catering to travellers directly.

Regardless of your angle, you’ll have to believe in your offerings. When you write your business plan, think about what kind of clientele you’d like to serve or host and then design a business strategy to attract it. A clear sense of your intended customers will help you find your niche and stand out among the competition.

Don’t: go uninsured

While this is a good rule for most small businesses, it’s especially important if and when your business deals directly with tourists. If you are selling tourism package that include flights, be sure to follow current package travel regulations covering consumers. The ABTA bond and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) license are both strongly suggested. Other options such as product liability and professional indemnity might also be considered.
If you’re operating tours, various companies can help you ensure the safety of the travellers for whom you’ll be responsible. They provide audits into local sources like hotels and travel suppliers as well as insurance for worst-case scenarios. Also, while they don’t qualify as insurance, also consider joining a trade association, which can offer discounts and connect you were other businesses. The Association of British Travel Agents or the Association of Independent Tour Operators make two options for those businesses organizing or leading tours.

Do: use public data

Tourism is an economic powerhouse in the UK, with an estimated annual worth of £127 billion according to official figures. That fact is not lost on the British government, which invests heavily in tourism research. Most of the findings are publically available online, whether via the Office for National Statistics or VisitBritain ; for the most statistically-inclined, the latter even provides the latest monthly data from the International Passenger Survey. Take advantage of this public database to design a business model that’s smart, and to make the best possible decisions for you and your business to succeed.

21st century tourism: so much data, so many possibilities.
21st century tourism: so much data, so many possibilities.

Using government data, you can track trends to see which tourist sites have had the most visits, and how visit data is fluctuating year-by-year. In addition to tracking visits to specific locations, you can research accommodation occupancy in various locations to see where visitors are staying and in what numbers. You can also check confidence in local businesses and recent performance trends to get a strong sense of local markets, specifically where you might find an opening for a successful concept.

Additional accommodation data includes camping and caravanning, catering, and holiday park consumer research – all industries where a smart mobile tourism business can succeed, especially considering increased tourism and associated spending across Britain.

It’s also important to either already have an intimate understanding of the areas in which you wish to operate or be willing to acquire it. While this public data can be extremely useful, talking to local people and having a feel for an area are both invaluable. Knowing your place and knowing the local market are one in the same.

Given the dramatic uptick of tourism in Britain, the chances to succeed are higher than ever. Follow our suggestions to advance with confidence. The market is on your side: now is the time to make your dreams of creating a tourism business a reality.