Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does. - Stuart Henderson Britt

Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make. - William Bernbach


Marketing, by definition, means to make a communication about a product or service for the purpose of which is to encourage the recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service.

In the tourism industry, marketing involves communicating the image of your operation to potential customers. Customers will choose the vacation that best portrays the image of the vacation that they are seeking. It is up to you to create, build and promote this image of your operation. To be successful, every operator must actively plan to market and advertise their business on an ongoing basis.

Marketing any product involves planning around the customer’s needs. Marketing experts have analyzed customer’s wants and needs and have identified eight common factors: product, price, place, promotion, packaging, programming, people and partnership. These eight factors, the eight ”P’s”, are used to create marketing plans. In this section of the manual only the first four “P’s” will be addressed: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. The other four “P’s” are addressed, informally, in other sections of the manual.

1. Product - what are you selling?

To successfully market your business you must develop your operation’s image from the perception of your guests. What your guests “see” or perceive your business to be like, is what you need to project in your communications, your advertisements. This is your product.

Much of what your guests want is beyond your control; the location of your operation, your particular piece of Northern Ontario. What is in your control are the support elements: accommodation, food and beverages and additional services. It is important to make sure that the product that you are selling is really the one your customers are buying. You may be offering the support elements but, almost certainly, your customers are buying a piece of Northern Ontario. That being said, you need to have a hard look at your operation from the guests’ point of view. Your operation is not just a collection of quaint cabins, and a rustic lodge set in the Northern wilderness; your operation is reflected in your staff, the degree of repair and cleanliness of your operation, and your commitment to customer service. By talking with and surveying your guests you can get a better idea of how they perceive their vacation (your product) and use their positive comments to promote your business.

You can also check out the competition in your area. Appraise their operation as well. Note any differences in what they offer compared to what you offer your customers. Make an honest appraisal of your operation’s location, design, facilities, condition, quality of service and pricing. By examining the strengths and weakness of your operation you can decide on a course of action to change or improve upon features of your operation to give a customer a better vacation.

2. Price - How much do you charge for your product?

One of the areas where most operators can improve upon is product pricing. Somewhere between the break-even cost and the advertised price is your profit margin. The profit margin enables you to offer: special rates to groups, lower, off-season rates and wholesale rates to the travel tourism industry. It also allows you to decrease rates if competition increases.

Knowledge of your customers and their purchasing power is also an important factor. There are psychological effects to price rates as well. If your resort is higher in quality or has newer amenities, your prices should reflect this. Likewise, if you offer additional services or a unique atmosphere your prices should be higher. Higher prices will attract customers with a higher income.

3. Place - Where to sell your product?

Most customers buy your product, or package directly from you. There are other avenues where you can sell your packages. Travel agents and tour wholesalers can provide other channels to distribute your product. This area will be addressed later in this section under: The Travel Trade.

4. Promotion - How will you advertise your product?

There are various activities by which you can make potential customers aware of your product. The obvious is, of course, advertising. You can also promote your product through sport shows, sales promotion, publicity and public relations. Promotion will be addressed in the section on Advertising.

In summary:

You must examine the market and determine who you are going to sell to, then direct your advertising towards attracting those customers. Design your product (your vacation package) so that your market will notice it. Price it accordingly, and tell your target market that it is available.


Advertising is the method you use to promote your business to potential customers using the various forms of media. Advertising can make or break your business. Any money that you spend on advertising may be the most important expenditure you make each year. It is best to have an advertising plan in place before you spend any serious money.

To construct an advertising plan you need to look at the various forms of advertising and chose which ones are best for your operation. There are many ways to advertise your business and how and where you advertise will be a personal decision based on your unique circumstances.

For the most part, you need to use different strategies for repeat guests versus new guests:


Advertising Strategies for Repeat Guests

Do not forget to advertise to repeat guests. They are your valued customers! They will only return IF you treat them well and maintain your relationship with them. It is many more times more difficult to recruit new customers than it is to maintain a clientele of repeat customers. Use your advertising money to maintain and build your personal relationship with them. Listed are a few ways to nurture your repeat guests:

Treat your repeat guests well and they, in turn, will patronize your business. Consider this type of advertising as customer relationship management!

Advertising Strategies for Attracting New Guests

Attracting new customers, or guests, is one of the toughest things to do in any business, yet it is essential for the survival of your operation. Much of the advertising that actually works for attracting new customers, in the Outfitting business, is word of mouth. Never underestimate word of mouth advertising in our industry. That is why it is so important to run a quality operation and treat each and every guest with the best possible, consistent service. Your current guest is your best form of advertising.

Of course, there are other forms of advertising in our industry that cost up-front money! Yes, advertising does work. The best advertising plan is one that is sustained on a constant basis over a long period of time. Like many things in life, the benefits of advertising are long-term and not noticeable in the short term. Listed are the various forms of traditional advertising used in our industry:

1. Sport or Feature Shows

(Examples: Toronto Fishing Show, Huntin’ Time Expo (Michigan), Canoecopia (Madison, WI), Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show - most shows occur in February or March)

Sport shows or Feature shows are an excellent way to meet your target market. A good rule of thumb is to exhibit in a show located in a city that is a proven market for your business. To advertise at a show, you need to set-up and staff an exhibition of your operation. You will need to create an exhibition that will best show-off your operation. A good exhibition will consist of:

Plan on spending between $2000-3000 per show for two people. This is a time consuming, expensive way to advertise and may outfitters have stopped attending shows since the advent of the internet and web-based advertising. However, if you have a place in a strong niche market (such as attracting anglers from the US), sport shows may pay off for your operation.


2. Magazines

Magazines have a selective readership and are usually “special interest” in nature. They can help you advertise to a specific audience. For many Outfitters, magazine advertisements will be an essential part of their advertising plan. Here are a few points to ponder:

On the down side, magazine advertisements are usually expensive and need a long “lead-time”, up to two to three months in advance. Your best bet is to advertise with a magazine over the long run. By doing so, you keep the name of your operation associated with the magazine.


3. Newspapers

Advertising in newspapers is not used very often in our industry. Many people read newspapers but only a few of them are interested in outdoor vacations. Newspaper advertising can work if you are looking to attract local groups and businesses. They are more suitable for the operations that run meetings, retreats, and educational programs.

You can use newspapers for free publicity if you are holding a special event. Invite a reporter to cover a special event at your operation. Local newspapers are always looking for stories and this is a good way to become more visible in your community.

 4. Travel Guides

Travel guides, such as the Ontario Outdoor Adventure Guide, are aimed at specific markets. Many of these are government sponsored and are of high quality. The free listings are usually small but you can increase the size and content of your ad with more money. If you are a member of NOTO* your ad can run larger, depending on your type of membership.

The guides are available at all Outfitters, travel and tourism centres and at Sport shows.

* NOTO - Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario

 5. Mailing lists and Direct Mailing

You should have your own mailing list of repeat quests and potential guests. If you have purchased your operation, the mailing list should be included as part of your purchase options. NOTO also has mailing lists that you can access if you are a member of NOTO. Use these lists to contact former guests and potential guests.

Direct Mailing involves sending brochures to those people who inquired about your operation. To “freshen up” the image of your operation, you can introduce new facilities or services or offer special “new” packages. These can be offered to repeat guests through direct mailing.

Using direct mailing to attract new customers is not the best form of advertising. Use it only for smaller, special interest groups. If you sort your mail by postal code, Canada Post will give you a special rate for bulk delivery. Direct mailing is expensive but you are targeting your direct market with the best possible form of advertising.

 6. Radio and Television

Like newspapers, radio and television advertisement is not often used unless you want to target a local market. Again, the best way to advertise “for free” with this type of media is to have some coverage of a special event at your operation.

If you have a really unique, high-end product you may want to advertise on one of the speciality television channels but, plan on repeat broadcasts and a hefty bill!

 7. Highway Signs

Highway signs are an effective way of advertising to the public. Signs help people find your operation and they present an image of your business. Signs tell people who you are and what you are selling.

Many Outfitters have the blue, Ministry of Transportation, highway signs. Any highway sign or billboard must meet with government specifications and requires a permit if it is within 400 m of the highway. To learn more about highway signs go to:

Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Commercial Signage

Once you understand the regulations for highway signs, consider the following:

Highway signs are an effective way to advertise but it is difficult to estimate how much effect they have on your business. Signs convey a message and can create a mood or feeling of atmosphere. People can glance at your sign, in passing, and derive meaning from its presence.

8. Brochures

Brochures are standard forms of advertising in the tourism industry and probably the most important means of advertising. Of all types of advertising, your brochure is most likely to make the sale. Your brochure is the product that they are buying since, in most cases, they can not see the actual product that they are buying. Your brochure must then realistically represent your establishment.

Your brochure can be created by you or by an advertising or graphic design firm. In both cases you need to know what type of information must be in your brochure.

Brochure Content:

Typically, the life span of a brochure is three years.

Brochure Format:

The standard brochure size is 4 X 81/2 inches when folded so it fits into a standard business envelope and information racks. In most cases, the brochure is 8 ½ X 11 inches in size and opens up to three panels on each side for a total of six panels.

Keep your brochure simple (KISS) and try using the AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). Your brochure should capture a person’s attention, get them interested in your operation, create a desire for your vacation package and then move them into action by telling them how to book the vacation package at your operation.

The cover of your brochure is your promotional piece and must capture the attention of a prospective guest. Keep the cover simple, show off your operation with your best photo. Don’t clutter this area but entice the customer to pick up the brochure and have a look inside.

The inside pages should contain photos and text that will motivate the reader and create a desire to purchase a vacation package at your operation.

The back pages should contain the information to get the reader into action. Here, you list your operation’s name, logo, address etc., and the information the reader needs to know in order to make a reservation.

Design Ideas:

Brochure Printing:

Shop around for your printer. Printing is expensive. To determine total costs you need to examine the factors that will influence printing prices:

Brochure Distribution:

Brochures work best when they are: mailed out to direct inquiries, handed out at sport shows, displayed on site, and sent to past guests with new rates.

Your brochures can also be distributed and displayed at:

You may want to deliver the brochures yourself. Consider the delivery a sales call and good public relations.

Creating your own brochure:

If you are adamant about creating your own brochure, check out your computer’s word processing software. Most will have a format for brochure creation. (Word, Word Perfect, etc.)

You can also check out this site:

Quick Tips for Better Brochures.

 9. Web Marketing or E-marketing

The internet has made a huge difference in the way that Outfitters market. Any potential customer on the planet can be reached in seconds if they have a computer and access to the web. If you don’t have a website for your operation, you are short changing your marketing efforts. The internet provides a level playing field for both operators and customers.

To have a website up and running you need a computer, modem, software and a local internet provider. If your operation is remote, you should have a location in a nearby town where you can access your internet information on a regular basis. Some Outfitters even visit the local library to access their website and email! You may also consider internet service via a satellite system but this can be expensive.

The Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) offers both free and paid-for listings on their provincial website. Go to for more information.

Websites can be set up much like your brochure but they can also provide you with additional services. A good web site will contain:

How to start

If you know nothing about website design or the internet, it is best to hire a professional web site designer (web master). Go on the internet, check out other outdoor tourism sites that you like, talk to other operators, talk to your tourism association, and find someone that has experience in tourism website design.

Some of the points you and your web master need to address are:

It is important that you are able to communicate effectively with your web master. You are the only one that knows your operation inside and out. Your web master must get a basic understanding of your operation and your website needs in order to best advertise and package your operation on the internet.

The government is sponsoring inexpensive web strategy sessions for tourism outfitters. You can get more information about these sessions at:

 10. Other forms of advertising

There are other forms of advertising that take into consideration public relations and personal selling techniques. Your name and your operation are synonymous to the local public. By being visible in your community you are automatically promoting and advertising your business. Remember that word of mouth advertising is a driving force in our industry. Many local people have relatives and friends that visit the area and some of them may consider a vacation at your operation.

There are many ways to improve your community status:

Advertising Summary:

How and where you advertise is entirely up to you and the nature of your operation. It is best to identify your target markets, set an advertising budget and then select the media you will use to advertise. It is important to understand that advertising is not a science. Some types of advertising may not work for your particular operation.


Organizations that promote and sell your packages, such as travel agents, tour operators, etc., are collectively known as the Travel Trade. Many Outfitters don’t use the travel trade at all but, if you are thinking about attracting more international travelers you may consider getting the travel trade to promote and sell your packages.

In many countries, the travel trade has a strong influence on promoting travel decisions. The travel trade community is very knowledgeable about their customers and are in a good position to promote and sell tourism packages to them. There are many different types of organizations in the travel trade. They range from government bodies, which will help to promote and assist marketing your operation; to tour operators, such as the US National Tour Association which will include your product in one of their packages. Travel agents usually create custom packages for their clients but can promote your packages as well. With the internet it is easy to hook up to the travel trade and offer your packages as part of what they sell.

If you chose to offer your packages to the travel trade you must pay the organization a commission for supplying the business (usually a percentage of your package price). However, you only pay commission on actual packages that have been sold through the travel agency. Usually this is extra business that you may not have received anyway.

By working with the travel trade you can develop and promote new products. Many off season packages and non-traditional packages can be offered successfully by the travel trade. Although not all operators will consider working with the travel trade it can be a successful relationship for others.


 Related Content

Are New Markets Emerging?, from The Outfitter, Winter 2009

From Marketing To Management, from The Outfitter, by Doug Reynolds, Winter 2008

NOTO Responds to Tourism Competitiveness Study, from The Outfitter, Winter 2008

Getting Your Information In The Hands Of Consumers, from The Outfitter, by Laurie Marcil, Spring 2008

Branding...Let’s Move to the Front Seat, from The Outfitter, by Laurie Marcil, Fall 2007

We Are The Brand!, from The Outfitter, by Doug Reynolds, Winter 2006

Exploring International Markets, from The Outfitter, by Laurie Marcil, Spring 2006

Competitive Advantage, from The Outfitter, by Doug Reynolds, Spring 2005

E-Commerce Anyone?, from The Outfitter, by Al Errington, Spring 2005

Angling-Based Marketing, from The Outfitter, by Ben Leeson, May/June 2003

How Effective Is Your Marketing, from The Outfitter, March/April 2000

New Tourism Sign System Unveiled, from The Outfitter, March/April 1997

Developing a Catchy Printed Piece, from The Outfitter, by David Huseby, Nov/Dec 1995

Marketing: What’s It All About?!, from The Outfitter, by Peter Spanyi, March 1995

Why Advertise?, from The Outfitter, by Dave Waye, Feb 1995

Survival Kit Marketing, from The Outfitter, by Marv Wisneski, March 1992

Sport Shows – Not What They Used to Be, from The Outfitter, by Bill Amason, June 1991

Knowing Your Image, from The Outfitter, May 1990

The Whats and Whys of Positioning, from The Outfitter, November 1988

Redesign or Just Print Another Batch?, from The Outfitter, by Don James, July 1988

Successful Selling at Sportshows, from The Outfitter, by Dave Hutchinson, April-June 1988

Consumer / Show Registration Procedure, from The Outfitter, Feb 1988

Selling at Sportshows, from The Outfitter, by Dave Hutchinson, March 1987



Roger Liddle, Lodge Owner, NOTO Board Member. North Bay, Ontario.

Raymond Rodda. Marketing Professor. Cambrian College, Sudbury, Ontario.

The Outfitters’ Manual. NOTO. Circa 1985.

Lodging Operator’s Manual. BC Motels Campgrounds Resort Association. 1997.

Snapshots: An Introduction to Tourism. 3rd Canadian ed., Kerr, Paula and Nickerson, Norma Polovitz. Pearson Education Canada. 2004.


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