Operation Destination: Building a Tourist Clientele

by Marco Pelusi, reprinted from this site

When your salon is located in or near a travel destination, it makes sense (and cents) to become a “must-see” attraction. You also have an advantage of attracting traveling hairstylists, traveling barbers, traveling makeup artists, etc., to your salon or barbershop. Be sure to become a host and list your open chairs on ShearShare.

Just as tourists go out of their way to try a buzz-worthy restaurant, they should go out of their way to try your salon. But how do you build such status? Is it worth the effort to snag a fly-by client who may never return?

In short, yes! We are in an industry powered by connections, relationships and referrals. The more of those you make, the more clients you get. A tourist may only boost your ticket totals one time – but if you make their experience shine and market yourself correctly, that one tourist can turn into endless referrals.

Now, when I say “tourists,” I don’t just mean the stereotypical sightseer in cargo shorts; I mean business travelers, wedding guests, honeymooners – all travelers. Typically, these clients want to look good for a special event they are attending or celebrating. They might need a blowout, an updo, a professional make-up service or a nail service.

Often, these clients are open to larger ticket services such as hair color, or purchasing travel-friendly hair care products. Take advantage of this. They may return to you next time they are in town – or better yet, refer others to your business. (Tip: Ask them to refer you to any local relatives or friends in the area.)

Tourists aren’t the only people who can refer you; other tourism and wellness industry professionals can too. For example, if a hotel concierge recommends your salon to a guest and hears great feedback from that guest, the concierge will continue to refer you. These referrals can grow into a consistent source of revenue. If there are no concierges, make friends with the front desk managers. If there are no hotels, make friends with hosts at popular restaurants (they are the first to greet customers).

The secret to obtaining referrals from local businesses and organizations is to treat the referrers well. Stop by and offer them a complimentary service in exchange for (or in appreciation of) their willingness to refer clients. Find out if there is a local concierge or tourism association and offer members a discount. Those who love your work will become walking billboards for you.

Some tourists may regularly visit your area and become repeat clients. Business travelers tend to fall into this category. These clients tend to know more business people who can afford higher-ticket services. Find out what industry they are in and why they’re in town. Create a promotion around your findings and market it accordingly.

When you plan your marketing efforts, set aside some of your time and budget to target the travel industry. If your time and budget are limited, be very specific about who you target and when. You may find it more lucrative to target travelers during a particular season, e.g., wedding season, holiday season, summer or winter, or a particular event. It’s important to pay attention to these patterns, focus your energy and make your salon available at the appropriate times.

Lastly, don’t forget the press. Consider advertising in travel magazines or reaching out to bloggers who write about your area. Contact an editor at your city magazine, or any publication you like that has a tourist edge. Offer them a complimentary service and tell them you’d be honored if they would feature your salon. Even just one article or mention from them can lead to more tourists, more purchases and more business, so see where tourism takes you!