Sam McManus from YellowWood Adventures

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the world of travel and adventure tours, this interview will give you some insights into how it’s done. If you’re interested in visiting emerging destinations but you don’t fancy going it alone, check out the fascinating parts of the world that Sam’s company, YellowWood Adventures, visits. Sam talks about staffing, marketing channels, marketing tools, and how the business developed

Despite some sound and connectivity issues, there’s a ton of information in this interview, especially for people that would like to run their own tour company.

📍 What are the best marketing channels for Sam’s travel tour company?

Social media is a good channel but it’s more of a reassurer than a sales channel.
The main marketing channels are

  1. Meeting people
  2. Writing article
  3. Calling potential customers

Another powerful marketing tool is writing an email newsletter every month. A powerful newsletter can change a business.

tips on choosing and using a Customer Relationship Management tool

  • Keep track of people you talk to and details about them – helps build relationships
  • Avoid expensive CRMs like Salesforce until you have 100 employees. Hubspot is free for most tasks.
  • Record conversation points to use in the next conversation.

Wax & Gold: Journeys in Ethiopia & other roads less travelled by Sam McManus

📍 On backpacking remote islands in Japan

“I did an exchange program as my second year of university. I was doing English Literature which had no relation to going to Japan whatsoever, but I just saw the opportunity and said, well, if I study Japanese literature, maybe I could compare it with English.
So I was living in the South Island, called Kyushu where the spring holiday is really long. So I took my tent and surfboard and Island hopped in the Ryukyu Islands, an archipelago in a half-moon shape that stretches all the way down the South China Sea to Taiwan.”

📍 Why Sam started a tour guiding company

“Half the reason I founded Yellowwood Adventures four years ago was that I’d done so much travel in my life and in the world, to these really exotic places, that having your own travel company is the perfect excuse to revisit those.

The trips and the itinerary we have are really quite personal to me because of the travel experiences I had before setting up the company.”

📍 How the company was named

The whole ethos of the company is tied into the name, Yellowwood Adventures, which comes from the poem The Road not Taken by Robert Frost, which starts:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
The poem finishes with:
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That’s what we’re trying to do to combat overtourism. Travel is much more available to so many more people now. These huge bottlenecks are forming in places like Machu Picchu, or Everest base camp. They’re kind of destroying what made them attractive in the first place.”

📍 On tour guiding in “dangerous places”

“The world’s a big place and there are loads of other destinations. We try to pick the ones that are might be perceived as dangerous, but are not actually dangerous.”

📍How to differentiate your travel business from the competition

“To have a good business, you need to provide a solution to people.
And the solution we’re providing is getting to these really “out there”, amazing destinations in an affordable way.”

📍 On Sustainability in travel

“I hope that the general global trend of travelers is heading towards a more sustainable and a more responsible way of travelling. Because, according to a recent survey from, 55% of travelers are demanding more sustainable ways to travel, because of global warming, it’s not a debate anymore.”

📍 Oman as a travel destination

“Oman is one of the sleepiest countries in the Middle East. It’s right next to the UAE, which has been bombarded with tourism, but little old Oman gets overlooked, which is partly what makes it so nice.

It’s so tranquil. The desert, the beaches, the mountains are untouched. They’re not covered in litter. It’s a very natural place to go and explore.”

📍 On partnering with other businesses and organizations as a marketing channel.

It was only by partnering with the Ethiopian coffee company in London that we’ve managed to get a pool of interested clients for our Ethiopian tour.

I couldn’t get that trip off the ground for two years. It was by tapping into the Ethiopian coffee company’s mailing list that we got traction. They sent out one email and when people sign up for it. I thought “work smarter, not harder”. Similarly, for a horse riding adventure, we partnered with the equestrian club of London.

What we’re doing is quite “niche”, and not for everyone. But if you can see that as a strength, that helps you target who to look for. People do want really specific adventures. They want to do something that tallies up with their interests. So it’s putting two and two together that leads to success.”

📍 What’s working for tour guide company marketing

“Trade shows and Travel Shows work incredibly well for. They serve all the functions of generating new clients, spreading the word, building exposure. We get a lot of the connections with journalists or platforms that we might syndicate our trips onto.”

📍 How to get clients

A client needs three touchpoints before they’ll agree to a sale [for a high-ticket item].
We might meet them or they might click on an ad and see a website, but then they sign up to your mailing list. Then they get an email. Then they see you on social media.

Then they make an inquiry. Then I call them. Then they buy a holiday. It’s not one thing. No one sees an Instagram post from us and says, “Wow, that looks great. I’m going to book that right now.”
It just doesn’t happen like that.

Just calling people up and talking to them goes a really long way.”

📍Email marketing as a sales tool

“One really powerful marketing tool is the email newsletter that I write every two months.
I live a pretty interesting life and our clients go to interesting countries. we’re doing cool stuff. And every two months, I just write an update and send out a newsletter. And it’s getting quite a significant following already. And people talk about it. People come to the trade shows and say, ‘Oh yeah, we get your newsletter. We really like it’.”

Anything you can do to personalize your company and your interaction with clients is hugely effective.”

Don’t catch a leopard by the tail, but if you do, don’t let it go – Ethiopian Proverb


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