Marketing Your Trail
As with any product or service, a hiking trail needs to be properly marketed to gain the attention of the public. You can have the best trail in the republic but it will stay the best kept secret if you don't tell your potential market about it. There are a number of considerations when marketing is looked at and we will consider them under the following headings:
1/. Appointment of a booking agent 4/. Provincial recognition
2/. Brochure 5/. Website?
3/. Signage boards 6/. Advertising
Appointment of a booking agent
I have put this first as you will probably have already been discussing your trail with an agent. The services of a booking agent such as Anvie Ventures or Jacana (for a list, see our contacts page) should be considered as, without them, you are going to struggle to receive recognition from the hiking public. There have been trails that have become successful without such an organization but they are few and far between in the private sector. They have contact with all the hiking clubs and hiking groups and will soon spread the word about your trail. They will advise you on the production of your brochure and feature pictures of your trail at shows such as the Pretoria Show. They operate efficient booking facilities during normal working hours and collect money for you and send you a cheque at the end of the month. Obviously they do charge for this service but all things considered, I believe that this is money well spent. However, your booking agents should not be left to do all the work for a well marketed trail depends largely on the extra effort that you put in.
The booking agents will also help you organize an opening party. This can be an excellent way of meeting some of the hikers that will with hope become your clients. Don't forget to open this gathering to your local tourism dept. and also members of the press.
As mentioned above, this should be discussed with your booking agent (if you decide to use one). The brochure is an important marketing tool and therefore should be as well presented as possible. A colour brochure with a collage of photos is probably best and printed on a Dukuza Gloss (or similar) and A4 folded in 3 to form a Z-Fold so that it will fit into a normal business DL envelope. A synopsis of the backgound of the trail should be included together with a description of the trail and the facilities. A map of the trail can be included although this might be better as a separate piece of paper.
An easily recognizable board needs to be erected at the turn off from the main tarred road (if this is possible) and further boards should indicate the route to the base camp. These should be clearly visible at night. The provincial roads department should be approached to ask for a brown information board to be erected but this is liable to take time. On several occasions I have noticed a trail that I am unfamiliar with, through a strategically placed signage board and have ended up booking the trail.
A marketing opportunity often overlooked is the Provincial tourism, publicity and information offices situated in all the main centres of our land. There are also information centres in most of the motorway One stops and Ultra cities as well and if you can do the rounds, introduce yourself and leave a supply of brochures, you will be surprised at how effective this can be. This is the main reason that your brochure needs to be colourful and well presented, as it will stand out well among all the other brochures on display.
I have purposely put a question mark against this subject. There are many website hosts that will try and persuade you that a webpage is the answer to all your marketing needs. This is not necessarily the case as there are millions of excellent websites out there that nobody looks at. If you take this website that you are looking at, it has taken many, many hours to build it into the success that it is today.
If you would like to be included as a trail on this site, let me know. All I need is a trail description and some photos of the trail. Contact me email@example.com
Newspaper and magazine advertising can be very expensive and have little return. Probably the best way of harnessing 'the power of the press' is to invite your local reporters to the opening of the trail. It might be worth contacting 50/50 through the e-mail on their webpage and hope they choose to mention it on one of their programmes. Try it, it has worked before!
For comments and information please contact Tim Hartwright firstname.lastname@example.org