This past week I attended the first trade show of its kind for small tour operators in Las Vegas. The Arival In-Destination event was attended by a lot of companies such as Expedia, Viator, Travelzoo and many in-destination tour companies throughout the world.
One of the challenges I have owning Shutter Tours is that I am so focused on business, often I don’t get to talk with other tour companies unless it’s just in passing with another tour guide at one of our stops. Usually, we cannot share too much about our business because we are all competitors in the same market in Seattle.
That’s why this event was so imported for me to attend, allowing me to look at the excellent opportunities we may have been missing on things like additional tour experiences and how to manage our future growth.
When I first arrived, I was asked if I wanted a head free headshot and being a photographer, I’m always interested in how other photographers set up their lighting.
Stephen Joseph Photography of Las Vegas was the Photographer, and he had everything dialed in perfect to get those great headshots for all the attendees. This is the result of sitting for about 30 seconds and I have to thank Travelzoo for providing these as well. (I did do a slight photoshop edit to clean things up in the photo).
For the next few days I was able to talk to and hear speakers with companies from as far away as Rome, Hawaii, Australia and all over the U.S. I think it was the simple conversations that I had as I introduced myself with the common question, “what brings you to Arival?”, that gave me the most insight into what the possibilities were for Shutter Tours moving forward.
For example, I met Fiona of Go West Tours in Australia. Though our conversation was brief, she shared with me how they were a small company like ours when the first started and had grown to provide many great tours and shared some insight on how to build without sacrificing the customer experience. I never want our company to become just another average city tour company. We always need to provide that extraordinary experience, even if we grow slow. This is one of the reasons we don’t do tours in November in Seattle as this is the month with the most rain per year for Seattle. We would rather have customers choose another option then be standing at Snoqualmie Falls with high winds, rain, and a blown umbrella.
I was also surprised by the uniqueness of the tours, such as One Ocean Diving of Oahu, who provide an experience where you swim with sharks without cages in the open water. They are also educators and conservationists that help people understand the importance of sharks and why they are crucial to the ocean.
David Luria owns Washington Photo Safari, and you can see by the photo above, he enjoys what he is doing. We had a nice brief chat about what we both do and it was nice to hear the success he has had as well. I was surprised that no other Seattle companies attended, but there is nothing wrong with having a bit of an advantage over our competitors.
To wrap this up a bit, because I don’t want to ramble too long in this post. I am excited to get to work this winter on some fantastic ideas I came away with in creating even more exceptional experiences for our customers when they visit Seattle. A business like this takes a lot of dedication and work, and I think what you’ll see next year from us will surprise, wow and delight you.