Many people, we’ll call them dreamers, get involved in the tourism industry because they think it’s about travel. They dream about moving up the coast and buying a motel or building some cabins – maybe even starting a Bed & Breakfast, bringing the doilies out of storage and meeting some new people.

Then there are those who just want to be outside, they love the bush, the ocean, the Great Outdoors, backpacking through Asia or Europe.

So they dream of starting a business based around their lifestyle passion -fishing, surfing, sailing, outback touring, scuba diving, bush walking or touring.

What a great idea, to follow the dream, and some of the world’s greatest travel enterprises have begun in exactly that fashion.

For example, Flight Centre’s Graham Turner’s passion for travel led to him and a friend starting Topdeck Travel in the early 1970s, running bus tours through Europe.

They followed the example set a decade or so earlier in 1962 by young Kiwi John Anderson.

He wanted to travel Europe at other people’s expense and posted an ad on a notice board at the Overseas Traveller’s Club in Earl’s Court, London.

“Small group of young people travelling around Europe (camping), 12 weeks, 15 countries, cost £100, food kitty 25 shillings a week extra. Departs London 29 April, 1962 Only two seats left!”

That led, over time, to the creation of youth travel icon Contiki Tours, while the Topdeck experience encouraged Turner to found Flight Centre, one of the world’s biggest travel groups.

So it is certainly the case that travel dreams can not only become reality, they can also make you big money.

But for every Turner and Anderson, there are dozens whose travel dream becomes something of a financial nightmare – a business without enough customers.

That’s because while Turner and Anderson were dreamers, they understood that travel is simply a product, and a highly perishable one, that has to be sold in a very competitive marketplace.

Not everyone gets this.

Sure, travel might be a more exciting than cold sore cream, but many of the same principles apply.

The reality is that, more than ever before, and this assumes a good product, success in the travel game is primarily determined by price, positioning, sales, marketing and distribution.

Positioning is crucial because that helps define the target market (customers) and flows through to marketing in terms of both strategies and execution.

Price, because everything is about price these days. Just check your inbox for those latest Daily Deals (50 per cent off!).

That last point, distribution, is probably the most important of all – if customers can’t see a product there’s no chance of a sale.

When Turner and Anderson started their businesses their options to distribute (and promote) product were extremely limited.

Now there’s a mind-boggling array of options – Online Travel Agents, Global Distribution Systems, home brand websites, social networking sites etc.

Unfortunately, distribution, marketing and sales, is where many of the tourism dreamers come unstuck.

This is especially true of domestic tourism and is being reflected but the present poor returns outside of hotels in the vibrant CBD markets.

But the good news is that in today’s instant world, strategies can be turned around in a day, new product developed and placed in the marketplace faster than the average holiday break.

The opportunities are certainly there for an industry where an unsold bed or a seat unsold is gone forever.

Graham Turner, for example, at Flight Centre probably makes more money now than he ever did.

John Anderson on the other hand has retired, and is probably living the dream, but for all the changes travel has seen over the past decade some things remain the same, like these six rules for doing business he came up with many years ago:

  • Clearly identify your target market
  • Deliver a product or service the target market wants
  • Brand the product or service. Some companies say people are your most important asset. They are important, but not quite as important as your brand.
  • Tell the market your product or service exists
  • Deliver more than you promise
  • Hold on to your customers

Interesting that in this manifesto there is no mention of travel.

Anderson may have been a dreamer but he was also a realist, one who would probably have done a great job of selling cold sore cream.


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