Email Marketing 101 for Tourism Business

All You Need to Know About Email Marketing for a Tourism Business.

Email Marketing is one of the best advertising sales tools around. You could say that it is the pipeline through which sales reach your business, easily returning R500 to every R12.50 you spend. Integrate this with social networks and the return is even higher. By Des Langkilde.

Where to start!

The first tool that you will need is a bulk email host. Your normal email client (probably the provider who hosts your website) will have restrictions on the number of emails that you can send per day. If you abuse this threshold your email address (and your website domain) will be ‘blacklisted’ ­­­– a term that tells email blocking programs that your email is ‘unsafe’ or ‘spam’ and prevents it from appearing in a subscriber’s inbox.

Bulk email hosting services such as MailChimp and MailerLite are free for mailing lists of up to 1,000 recipients and have affordable monthly options as your subscriber list grows over time. Both have some great features that make creating email campaigns simple, like free design templates with ‘drag & drop’ functionality, rich text editing and built-in photo editing. More importantly, both have really good list management tools to keep track of your email campaign performance and to manage and protect the integrity of your mailing list.

The Message

As far as the message is concerned, you are trying to generate more value for your customers, which in turn generates more sales. So the first thing you have to do is NOT to start writing a newsletter.

What you have to do is determine what your main strategy (your personal angle ) is going to be.

There are two parts of communications that you have to work out at the start, one is who are your sales prospects exactly (e.g. holiday, business travellers, or travel and hospitality colleagues), in other words, what are their personalities, and secondly how do I communicate my company’s brand and products to them.

Sounds easy? Well, it isn’t, but there is an easy way to find out.

The first thing you do when you have the power of email marketing at hand, assuming you have a customer mailing list that is up to date and you can segment the different types of customers, is to send them an email. This is really a survey to find out what your customers think about your company’s destinations, its services, your colleagues, and you. After all, It’s about what impressions they have. Impressions translate into values, and it’s those values that form the basis of your communication with them. Key is to know exactly how your clients like you to communicate with them. You can do this by setting up a simple and effective survey letter.

First of all, you need to place yourself in your client’s situation and a good introduction paves the way to getting good answers back. Above all Keep it simple! So perhaps this message to travellers will suit (assuming that he/she has recently stayed at your establishment):

Subject: Thank you from South Africa

Dear (Name)

I trust that you had a pleasant trip to your onward destination and hope that your stay with us was a happy and memorable one.

As a valued guest, your opinion is very important to us and I would like to ask your opinion on the following questions, which may help us to improve our service to you in the future:

What is your impression of our accommodation?

What is your impression of our food?

What is your impression of our staff?

What kind of atmosphere would you say we create?

I am grateful for your answers. Please don’t hesitate to criticise as it is only by knowing our weaknesses that we can build on our strengths.

Please visit our website or follow us on social media to keep abreast of changes as we implement your feedback

We at (your company name) look forward to hosting you again.

Kind Regards,

Your name

(insert signature / contact details)

Response handling using autoresponders

Now that you have hit the send button your email is on its merry way, and there is no telling what the response might be. Have I checked for any eventualities you might think? Well here is how to prepare for that.

In the email marketing application, you set up your first autoresponder. An autoresponder is really another email that you create which is sent out when a certain condition or a number of conditions are met. For example, if a certain number of recipients haven’t responded to your first email within a number of days. In this event, the autoresponder email can be scheduled to be sent out to those recipients that didn’t answer within the specified time limit.

Newsletter Content

Most of the newsletters I get in my inbox are from safari companies or DMCs, generally informative on the product level telling me what location, what activities and what accommodation they provide plus who to contact and how to get there.

So what’s wrong with that? Nice email from nice people – what exactly am I missing here?

First of all, I like getting newsletters from people in the travel trade and often look to just see what it is they are doing, but as soon as I see yet another “Look at my product” message I quickly click away. We all get messages like this every day and they are basically all the same, churning out the same information over and over again. You really can’t tell these newsletters apart unless they have been templated in which case that might have a pleasing effect after all.

So how does one go about producing an effective newsletter?

Let’s first go back to some essentials. For instance, what is important in sending out a monthly newsletter? Is it the product you want to show or is it what your subscribers want to read?  We often forget to dig into the personas at the other end of our virtual pens to find out what they value the most. It is so easy to slip back into the old information bashing routine. So let’s get under the hood with some simple specifics.

Every successful newsletter does the following:

  • takes the customer on a short but interesting journey,
  • shows product information and
  • illustrates the combination of both magnificently.

These points are absolutely key to creating lasting relationships and of course trust. I know it’s easy to say; “Hey this is what we are going to do!” and then leave out the important stuff, so what exactly lies at the heart of a good relationship bonding newsletter? Well, it is most importantly ‘INVOLVEMENT’.

What every subscriber really wants to know

What every subscriber wants to know and doesn’t ask is:


Aha! So how do you show subscribers how involved you are? Well, quite simply by giving them a view of your actions, your drive, and your imagination. What readers really want is to know you, your colleagues, what happens in your office or out in the bush, how certain things were achieved, how you, your colleagues coped with a difficult situation, you name it – any personal anecdotes together with a healthy dose of humour. Humour always works in forging relationships (even if you are an undertaker).

That’s it?

No, it isn’t, now comes the fun part – merging your anecdotes and your product information together. This takes a bit of imagination, for example, what anecdote can you tell that has something to do with the product you are selling? Ask your colleagues, your family and your friends. You’ll come up with something guaranteed.

Last but not least

The header (tagline) of your newsletter is important, so make sure it rings a bell with your subscribers! Make sure your branding and newsletter design is personally targeted to the market and subscriber base you are communicating with.

Newsletter Design

All your good intentions and valuable content can be wasted if you don’t pay attention to how that content is managed and distributed. There are some highly important guidelines to remember and work towards if we are going to make our emails succeed!

Your email address and subject line.

The first and one of the most important hurdles believe or not is your email address and subject line. This is the first information people will see when mail arrives in their in-box. On average readers spend 3 to 4 seconds deciding if your email is worth the read or not.

With professionals getting many emails a day there is no guarantee people will view what you send. Important is that they recognise you instantly as a trustworthy and recognisable source, so forget about using info@ or such, instead use a personal email address.

Your subject line is your make or break line, 50 characters stand between you and the trash-bin, so make sure this stands out visually and offers interest from the word go.

Use your reader’s name with a consistent repetitive identifier, make creative use of brackets and try out different variations of capitalization! Gmail Outlook and iPhone also offer 100 characters or less of preview text next to the subject line. These snippets are pulled from the first lines of text in your email, so offer something valuable here and/or include a call to action! Use timely topics and urgency!

Make three different variants and send each example email to a segment of your subscribers (don’t forget to include yourself in the list). Determine if your email looks spammy next to other messages. Decide to use the most successful one for the rest of your campaign and continue to repeat and improve your formula from here on.

What’s important is that they recognise you instantly as a trustworthy and recognisable source, so forget about using info@ or such, instead use a personal email address. And try to avoid complicating your email address – your first name is preferable (it’s more personal than your initials and surname). And don’t use those free email addresses from Yahoo and the like, they’re more likely to be detected by spam filters as junk.

Your message, is it going to work?

The first thing a large percentage of viewers won’t see are the images contained in your email.

Most readers are asked if they would like to click to see the images. 67% of desktop, 100% of web-mail and 80% of mobile email clients block images by default. The best way to deal with this and to help readers to decide to view your email is to make use of alt texts, captions and tabled colour blocks.

If you are painstakingly collecting first, second, and surnames for only email marketing purposes you need to know that making use of your subscriber’s first name or surname will not significantly improve opening or reading rates.

Also on the data collecting side, it is easier to let newsletter subscribers just enter their first and second name in one text field instead of separating them into two fields. Video, Flash, rollovers, JavaScript and background images don’t work as they do in the browser. Outlook doesn’t display backgrounds by default. Make creative use of background colours instead.

Different email clients also display content differently, because of this it is important to give specific formatting values (even if that value is 0) to each individual element especially tables (cell padding and cell spacing) also image borders. Make sure to use web-safe fonts like arial, verdana, trebuchet and georgia otherwise your readers may have trouble viewing your texts.

Matching content with design

Now that you have safeguarded your design and created successful solutions for the email being read by readers, let’s concentrate on the message and product specifics.


Try to prioritise your message topics, products and activities. Determine your main product (your bestsellers or seasonal offer) and package this as a luxury offer. In design terms give that product it’s own full-size block with a clear call to action button. Package your activities in three smaller blocks with ‘read more’ links to your website landing pages. Offer more products (packages) each with their own urgency and call to action links. Give readers clear choices, never try to display something that you cannot describe clearly and directly.


Textual content

Make use of questions in your text (even in topic headers), people always like to be asked to do something.. Try at all times to visualise what is a top priority in your reader’s minds and use that in your items with clear calls to action (but don’t exaggerate). Mix your storyline best you can with your product offer and look real and convincing (be you!).


Choosing a design

When choosing a design ask yourself the following:

  1. Is there enough space for my logo and top banner, it is important to display these in the right proportions.
  2. How many columns do I want (using columns usually means a shorter length email as product offers can be displayed effectively alongside)? This depends on whether you are going to employ a right-hand margin for your offers and/or individual products separated alongside.
  3. Does the design (colours, font, layout) match with my audience’s inspirations- expectations: technical, romantic, active, cultural.
  4. Are the social buttons positioned in the right place (in the footer, underneath the content)
  5. Is it easy to alter the design to my liking? (some designs are hard to manipulate due to design constrictions in the code)



The landing pages that the email is linked to must be consistent with the content of the email, otherwise, this will frustrate readers and result over time in your emails being read by an audience shrinking in size, so always keep in mind that your landing pages are balanced with whatever your emails promise.


Winning formula

Once you have created a successful format, stick to it, however always keep an open mind to new developments that your readers are sensitive to. This, in turn, will help you to develop trustworthy relationships and in future exponentially grow your mailing lists.



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