Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Power of the Internet

By now you should know that i have two tours: The Eco Tour and The Xtreme Circumnav. The Eco Tour is a much bigger seller and i have just closed one of my days in April due to it being full already. Can u imagine that? A day in April being full already!! Why is the Eco Tour more popular among pre-bookers? I think the main thing is the fact that the Eco Tour has been spoken about in the press and message boards for 6 years now with mostly positive reviews since then. It’s been kinda like a snowball effect with the Eco Tour. I remember the first internet "freak" (i am one of them) that came on my tour many years ago when i was first starting out. During the tour she was telling me that she was going to get me loads of business. I said thank you, but in the back of my mind i was thinking "i have heard this one before". My business had been struggling to get bookings with the Antigua market being more geared to big catamaran booze cruises. The hotels and tour reps specifically were not interested in hearing me speak about my eco tour at all. It was a tough2 years. Anyway, she and her husband went back to the cold USA in the middle of the winter and began posting reviews of our day out on the message boards. Sure enough just like she said.......emails and lots of them started pouring in. It was amazing. I have a private web tracker and any time someone posts a link of mine, i see when people use it and where it came from. She didn't know this and most people on the message boards didn't know that i was watching. People felt like they were "discovering" my tour and it was great to give them all the info up front and eventually take them on a tour which matched their expectations. To this day we rely heavily on this concept and we work hard to make sure that every customer who comes out with us has a great day. You never know who will go back and tell "the world" about it. We did find some problems with this concept though. You see if someone says to you, "When you are in Antigua DO ELI's TOUR! Reach him on " some people just book right away without reading any of the info on my site. They just know that they "have to book" my tour. We had huge groups of people booking expecting a sailing catamaran with music and booze all day. I mean, we have more text on our site than any other tour's web site. We stresses that we are not booze cruise. I kinda got tired of questions like "when is the beer coming out". Anyway, we changed our info around a bit more and added more steps in the booking process to solve this communication problem. We added more pics too and this blog is just another tool to make sure people know what we are about. Please ask questions if you don't find all the info you are looking for on the site or after you send in a reservation request.
Anyway, another interesting problem i saw with the way the whole message board thing was evolving was the way certain operators manipulated them. Many people are naive enough to believe everything they read and to not read between the lines. People often asked me when i was doing the Eco Tour if i was the one writing my own tour reports on these message boards. I laughed until i actually saw operators doing this. One thing you must do when you see an extremely good OR bad review is to check how many times the author has posted. Usually there is a bit of info attached to the profile of a poster which tells you how many times he/she has posted, where they live, what they have posted about, how long they have been a member and other info too. Some message boards let you see all the posts the author has made, so you can see what they have been speaking about. If all they ever comment about is how "awesome" a particular excursion is, and never speak about anything else......then you begin to wonder. Also, if their first post and only post is about an excursion then you have to ask yourself whether you should trust them. Most tourists will speak about their ships or hotels or something before posting about an excursion. It's terrible to think that people would pretend to be tourists in order to generate business for their own company, but however crazy this happens.
One other thing I have seen that can be a huge problem is where people for whatever warped reason decide to become “Trolls”. All they like doing is causing trouble. We see this regularly on the Official Tourism Site for Antigua and Barbuda where some person pretends to be other people and just says negative things about Antigua. Again, with this problem you have to just check the profile to see what they have posted about.
All in all the internet is a useful tool to the visitors of Antigua and Barbuda and my business wouldn’t exist without it. I owe a great deal to the kind people who took time out of their lives when they got back home to comment on the experience they had out with Adventure Antigua. I know for a fact that my company would not have made it past year two without them, and I will never forget their kindness. Thanks!
Speaking about messages, this photo above is of a bottle i found on the deserted east coast of barbuda. I have found many messages in bottles on that stretch, but this one was just a nice green bottle.....