By Tourism Tim Warren, Adventure Business Consultants

Tourism Marketing Business Case Study of California River Rafting Company

tourism marketing case study on Whitewater ExcitementWhitewater Excitement, Inc. (WWE) was founded in 1978 providing river rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River in Northern California, 3 hours east of San Francisco. WWE was one of the early rafting companies in this region without much competition. Over the past 25 years, the area has become very competitive with over forty rafting companies on the same rivers. WWE business had gone up and down over the years, trying to move ahead but with little success. Mariah Wilderness Expeditions ­ a friendly competitor on the same rivers – referred tourism consulting firm Adventure Business Consultant (ABC) to WWE after they completed one and half years of business and marketing work together.

ABC was hired in April of 2002 to analyze their business, marketing and operations and provide a written “road map” of how to improve sales and profits. WWE owner, Norm Schoenhoff thought what he was getting from ABC, as he put it was “a better strategy for advertising – but it has turned out to be so much more”. WWE subsequently hired ABC for project management to help implement the business, marketing and operational “action plan” that ABC had created.

There is no magic wand ABC can wave to increase a clients success overnight. It is a process with many elements that need to be integrated over time. It is like farming. The right seeds planted and tended over time will bear fruit. The following is an outline of the major elements ABC planted and managed for the 2003 season, with and on WWE’s behalf, and the specific rewards that have been harvested in 1 year from ABC and WWE’s efforts.

Tourism Marketing Material Improvements

The first and most important step was to modify WWE’s marketing message (words) to showcase their many years of experience, their professionalism and thousands of guests. The marketing message (copy) and graphic changes were made to create higher consumer confidence, sense of safety and to distinguish them from their many competitors. We also enhanced an existing “5 Star – Satisfaction Guarantee” program and with a new corresponding “Satisfaction Guarantee” icon to showcase WWE’s commitment to quality, safety and customer service.

All the new copy and graphic changes in WWE’s marketing message was applied to their primary marketing materials: color brochures and web site, The strategies outlined below to increase prospects, would have done little to increase sales, had we not improved WWE’s marketing message (copy = words) at the same time. The guide we used to improve WWE’s marketing messages and consumer response, were based on the special report E-book, Tourism Marketing Success. If you want to turn your web site, brochures, ads, tradeshow stands and more into powerful sales conversion resources, check out this easy to use, how-to instructional book. You’ll be glad you did.

E-marketing: Web Sites, Search Engine Optimization, E-newsletters & More

With the intention of earning more target and qualified traffic, ABC did a detailed analysis of the to key word phrases most frequently used in top search engines and directories by prospective river rafters in California. Our research showed good odds of earning high search engine ranking, the corresponding traffic and a good return on investment with a well-executed search engine optimization (SEO) and link building plan. Seven key word phrases were integrated into the 2/03 launch of a new river rafting themed web site, In spite of high competition, this site has yielded high ranking and tremendous traffic. This strategy alone grossed a 24 to 1 return on investment of new sales in 5 months in 2003. And 2004 should be even better.

To further leverage increased traffic, we created an opt-in (voluntary self-registration) E-mail newsletter sign up form with automated E-mail address database acquisition on web sites. The goal has been to gather as many qualified prospect as possible to send our HTML formatted E-mail newsletter “California River Rafting News & Specials”. E-mail sign ups more then tripled in 2003. This allowed us more consistent prospect outreach at a lower cost – all contributing to increased sales. A well designed and written E-mail newsletter for regular prospect and client relationship management works!

Customer Service & Operations Improvements

Numerous staff and operational improvements were put into place to enhance WWE’s existing quality service. I am confident; these new additions to customer service will increase repeat guests and referrals for many years to come.

Guides found that 2003 tips increased through more post trip guest connection. New signs were added to the inside of the bus that said. “If our staff and guides have added fun and value to your vacation experience, please tip your guides. They deeply appreciation it. With gratitude, The Whitewater Excitement Team.”

For better customer service, read the checklist – 10 Keys to Outstanding Customer Service”.

A Guide Safety Board was posted to keep track of each guide’s safety and service record on the water. Better safety and customer service has been emphasized with through staff communication and incentives. You can never go wrong by providing continual training in safety and customer service to your staff.

Remember your staff is your most important asset. Customer service works both internally within your team and externally for your guests.

Thank you postcards sent by trip leaders to guest after each trip was new for ’03. Far too often tourism professionals overlook the importance of developing relationship before, during and after guest visits. At the very core of the tourism business is service. Thank you’s are always appreciated and will lead to higher referrals and repeat guests. Get your guests to market for you, it always costs less and is more effective.

Return on Investment

According to the Norm, 2003 was a record year high after 26 years in business. This was especially rewarding for him and his staff since so many tourism businesses were down in ’02 and ’03. Throughout 2003, Adventure Business Consultants provided ongoing weekly meetings, executive coaching and project management in all areas of Whitewater Excitement’s business: marketing, E-marketing, sales, management, operations, publicity and strategic planning. Our combined efforts, marketing investment and teamwork yielded Whitewater Excitement approximately an 8 to 1 return on investment. This includes all search engine optimization fees, consulting fees, paid advertising, etc. which has made Norm and staff very happy, busy and preparing for an even better 2004.

We are still providing consulting, executive coaching and project management for Whitewater excitement as we launch even more strategies to improve customer service, marketing and staff happiness for ’04 and beyond. We expect that Adventure Business Consultants role will diminish later in ’04 since we have accomplished so many of the objective we first laid out in the comprehensive business/marketing analysis action plan for Whitewater Excitement in’02. The strategies and systems we have helped put in place will increase arrivals and profits for many years to come.

Increasing your arrivals, profits and success is like farming. You have to plant the right seeds in good soil, water and feed. And over time and your garden will bear abundant crops well beyond your investment. Having a professional tourism marketing and business consulting firm will cut 2-5 years off your learning curve, save you lots of money in expensive mistakes and increase your profits.