If there is one thing that’s clear from 2020 – it’s that you can’t predict anything. In a year marked with unexpected challenges, changing guidelines, shutdowns, and revenue losses for tour operators across activity verticals, outdoor recreation may have been one of the bright spots.
While the travel and tourism industry as a whole saw a 48% drop in travel related spending, our outdoor recreation-based clients, especially those who could cater to small/private groups and/or remain socially distanced outside, had surprisingly strong years.
Key performance indicators – by the numbers
Overall, TOMIS outdoor recreation clients saw large gains in 2020 in key performance indicators such as organic website traffic and the performance of paid advertising campaigns. Nowhere was this gain more evident than online revenue, which increased 24% year over year.
When it came to Google Ads, our outdoor recreation clients saw steady gains in the average return on ad spend (ROAS) from 2019. For every $1 invested in Google Ads, they captured $9.63 in revenue. Our featured client above worked with TOMIS to achieve strong results on their Google Ads campaigns, averaging a 15.11x ROAS in 2020. With three locations in the Southeast, Whitewater Express is the premier provider of expert river rafting and high adventure on the Chattahoochee, Ocoee, and Nantahala Rivers.
Retargeting and other special paid social media ad campaigns proved to be huge revenue grabbers in 2020, with the average cost of conversion around $10. Moreover, the average rate of return on ad spend was $14.30 of new revenue for every $1 invested in social media ad campaigns. Our featured client above worked with TOMIS to include paid social media advertising as part of their integrated digital marketing strategy. Arkansas River Tours offers whitewater rafting & fly fishing excursions on the Arkansas River near Colorado Springs, Colorado. They’ve had over 300,000 happy guests since operations began in 1973.
Organic website traffic and revenue continue to be the best indicator of overall business health. While the tourism industry saw decreases in overall traffic in 2020, TOMIS outdoor recreation clients saw large gains in total traffic and organic traffic with many outdoor recreation clients seeing over 100% growth in organic traffic. A steady focus on content management and a strong SEO strategy proved to be the winning formula for a 147% increase in organic growth for the TOMIS featured partner above, Mountain Creek Riding Stables. They’ve been providing the most experienced horseback riding in the Poconos for both beginners and experts for over 20 years.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Pent-Up Travel Demand is Real
We know the pent-up travel demand is collectively high. But with COVID cases also at an all-time high, travel restrictions, and a slower than expected vaccine rollout, one could expect the majority of travel to still take place closer to home.
That being said, for our National Park and outdoor activity-based operators, we expect another strong turnout in 2021 for extended vacations in outdoor recreation destinations. Yellowstone National Park alone saw a 110% increase in year-over-year visitation in October 2020, the busiest October on record.
Regional Focus on Campaign Strategy
Our clients experienced an increased regional demand for outdoor recreation with a large percentage increase in bookings coming from cities within a day or two drive.
Arkansas River Tours in Colorado saw bookings from Texas cities comprise 5 of the top 10 customer online booking locations. In fact, bookings from Texas accounted for 37% of their customers from June through September with Dallas even outranking Denver as the booking origin city. For our Canadian clients, we saw a similar trend. Wildwater Adventures, on the Kicking Horse River near Banff, noted that 86% of their 2020 bookings were from within Canada, up from 51% in 2019, which was expected given the border closures between US and Canada.
Here’s a few TOMIS outdoor recreation client testimonials from 2020.
“Our ROI in the past two seasons has really exceeded our expectations, we were skeptics of sorts that we were a business that could command real online bookings results in a big way, our 2020 season those online bookings were up 157%. We are believers in their online approaches.”
– Keshia Fisher, Glacier Highline
“We came to the point when brand maturity and market growth required more than a layperson’s attention to our digital presence. At the same time, we needed to continue being able to stay hands-on with our brand’s community presence. TOMIS hit the mark with both of those needs.”
– Gregory Cowan, Defiance Rafting Co.
“Each year I consult with TOMIS about new ways to improve the marketing of our services and stay ahead of the competition. Since working with them over 5 years ago, we have grown our 45 year old business by more than 50% and I can confidently say that much of that growth can be attributed to their hard work.”
– Jeff Baldelli, Glacier Raft Company
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