Cracking the Hospitality and Tourism Market

In the last post I gave 5 tips for finding your sublimation markets.    Today I want to talk about how to crack a specific market,  because I think it’s one that’s available in most areas,  but one that many people don’t think about.   When considering tourist attraction or souvenir work,  most small businesses probably think there’s a big business somewhere that’s making the t-shirts and mugs and mousepads and other personalized souvenirs that the attractions are selling.   In some cases, you may be right.   When it comes to big organizations,  like Disneyland,  their souvenir production is often built right in to running the park and is just another profit center.   For small and medium size attractions, however,  the business might just go to whomever asks for it.   Why shouldn’t that be you?

If you counted all the tourist attractions in the United States,   from the small, roadside ball of string or mystery spot kind of tourist trap all the way up to San Diego Zoo or Six Flags,  you’d probably discover there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands,  in existence.  Just looking at the area where EnMart is located,  I can point to Sleeping Bear Dunes,  Old Mission Lighthouse,  The Music House, and  countless wineries and craft breweries .  There are also events like music festivals,  the National Cherry Festival,  and wine and food tastings that could definitely use souvenir items.   The possibilities are almost endless.

There are many ways to go about approaching an attraction or festival and asking who’s doing their work and if you could make a bid,  but here are a few tips that might help you get started.

  • Attend the event in question before you contact anyone to make a pitch.   Get a feel for the event, the crowd and what sort of items work there.   A gourmet wine and food tasting,  for instance,  might love etched wine glasses or decorated plates,  but wouldn’t be wild about beer mugs or coozies.   A craft beer and music festival might have the opposite reactions.   Knowing the event will help you figure out what will sell and will also help when you make your pitch.  No one likes to be sold stuff they don’t need or which doesn’t suit the character of their event.
  • Once you’ve been to the event,  brainstorm ideas for products you could make.   Take into account the character of the event and how existing souvenir products are sold.  Also,  try to get some sense of budget.  A smaller event will,  most likely,  have a smaller budget,  but not always.  Ticket or admission prices are one clue to a possible budget.   The number of people attending may be another.   Obviously,  you won’t know the budget for sure until you actually talk to the event management,  but working within a supposed budget will help you bring ideas to the table that will fit the character and the depth of the pockets the event may have.
  • Schedule a meeting with event management.  Check out the event website to find out with whom you should speak.  Don’t send a to whom it may concern e-mail or call someone randomly.   Also avoid sending any unsolicited items to show off what you can do.   The goal at this point is to get a meeting.   Sending items that weren’t requested most likely will be a waste of work for you and a waste of time for those you’re trying to impress.
  • Once you have a meeting,  make up some samples of the sort of items you’d like to make.  Do a couple that are your version of things you saw when you visited the event.  Make a few tweaks to make your version a little more attractive,  but keep the item essentially the same.  Events carry what they know will sell,  so there’s no harm in showing you paid attention to what they were already selling.
  • The other half of your product samples should be new and different items you think would do well at the festival.   For these items,  make sure you can explain why you chose the item and why you think it would sell well at that particular venue.   Before you ask “It just looks so cool!” is not a good selling proposition.  This is another chance to let the event management know that you’ve researched their event and paid attention to what you learned.






Gift Shop Goodies

I live in a resort town.  Every Summer the town in which I live swells with tourists,  coming to enjoy our beautiful Bay,  the gorgeous scenery,  the great restaurants and the opportunities to hike and fish and swim.   As with any tourist town,  our town has a plethora of local gift shops and souvenir stands,  all selling mementos of the local attractions or just the general area.  In short, the town is a dream for someone who has a sublimation business.  There are just  so many possible ways to make a sale.

One potential sale would be t-shirts.  I’m kind of a t-shirt junkie myself and like to try and buy at least one t-shirt as a reminder when I’ve been to someplace new.   When I’m home,  I can walk into any of the local gift shops and see a huge variety of t-shirts and sweatshirts with my town’s name on them.    From cute sayings,  to pictures, to the shirts that simply have the name of the town,  souvenir shirts are always in demand.

Another potential sale would be mugs.  Whether they’re emblazoned with a famous local view,  or simply have the name of the town or attraction on them,  mugs are a memorable and useful souvenir.

Ornaments also make a good souvenir.    I’ve always thought a fun idea for those who travel a lot would be to have a travel tree instead of a Christmas tree one year.    Collecting ornaments when you travel would allow you to create a Christmas tree that would be a complete record of your travels.   Not only would your Christmas tree be full of memories,  it would also be a unique depiction of the sites you’ve seen and the places you’ve been.

Plates are a popular souvenir for a lot of people.    When I was a kid my grandmother collected spoons and plates from various places that she had traveled.  The were displayed all over her house,  and were a great record of the places she had been.

Keyrings are also a popular choice when it comes to souvenirs.    Instead of flashing the logo of your favorite car company or model,   use your key chain to remind you a favorite place you’ve been and some special memories.

Keep in mind that the items  a gift shop owner finds useful and attractive may vary by region and the theme of the store.  Also keep in mind that for a gift shop owner a big selling point for working with a local vendor is the possibility of just in time inventory delivery and the ability to quickly deliver a certain item if sales are beyond what was expected.   In these case,  sublimation may be the ideal option,  but it’s up to you to sell that option to your potential customer.