Technology has changed almost every aspect of our lives, including travel.
According to TripAdvisor, 59% of travellers begin researching their next trip between one and three months before departure. From first being inspired to travel by friends on social media, to hitting up review sites for recommendations on what to eat and what to see, to booking accommodation, flight tickets and in-destination activities on the likes of Expedia and Booking.com, more and more of the research and planning process for travel is carried out online.
Today's travellers are tech savvy and want to find out about your company's reputation before booking with you. From our data, we found that tour and activity websites are most commonly visited during the evening, with Monday and Sunday evenings having the most visits.
At the same time, they want to be able to book a trip with you at their convenience, not yours. 38% of bookings happen on the same day or up to two days before the activity, with many of these bookings taking place “in-destination”, when they're already travelling. That number grows to 53% when we look at bookings made within a week, while only 19% of these activities were booked more than a month in advance (Phocuswright, 2017).
So, where will today's travellers find you?
As a tour and activity operator, more often than not, your customers will first find your on social media profile or a review of your company on TripAdvisor (though reviews on Google are slowly gaining prominence as well). From these search tools, customers should be able to find a website address and head over to your very own website, your corner of the internet where you show off your company, your brand, your tours and your activities.
On your website, you want to have clear booking pages (sometimes also known as product pages), where you state in detail what services you offer and make a case for why someone should book a tour with you. Typically, we recommend that you post 8 - 10 real photos from your trips (not Stock Images) because it helps establish authenticity and it makes it easy for customers to imagine themselves on your trip.
Having a booking system with live availabilities lets customers view your departure dates and times, and gives them the freedom to pick a time slot that suits them. More importantly, it allows people interested in your tours to reserve a spot and pay you immediately, at any time of day.
To get more booked customers from your website visitors, download our Booking Conversion Guide. It comes with a printable checklist that you can print out for reference.Get your free e-book
The last thing you need on your website is a payment gateway that allows you to take payments online, from anywhere in the world. Having a payment gateway integrated with your booking system makes it easy for operators to see which tours have been paid for and which haven't, and streamlines refunds if a customer decides to cancel on you.
"TrekkPay has been a lifesaver. We now process all our transactions internally and stopped using a third party since 2017. Our records are more accurate. They can easily be compiled and printed at the end of each month which saves us on accounting time. The card readers are the only ones that work in our region as well so that’s a super plus!"
- Dario from Exuma Escapes
With TrekkPay, you can also take payments in multiple installments with Payment Links. This way, you can first charge customers a deposit then collect the rest of the fee at a later date.
Another common way to be discovered online is through your listings on online marketplaces, both large and small. Large marketplaces would be the ones like TripAdvisor Experiences (previously known as Viator) and Expedia Local Expert, while smaller marketplaces like Musement and Veltra tend to focus on a niche market or a specific region.
Over the years, we've developed our channel manager to offer the most competitive set of connections and integrations on the market, to include global distribution systems like Hotelbeds.
With a channel manager, streamline your inventory management by syncing real-time availabilities across all your sales channels. Say you currently sell your trips on three channels: your website, on Marketplace A and on Marketplace B. When a booking is made on Marketplace A, traditionally, you would manually update your availability on your website and email Marketplace B about the booking. With the channel manager, the updates will be done automatically, making it easier for both your team and the marketplaces you work with.
You could work with local tourism boards, hotels, hostels, or cafes and restaurants in prime locations and have them resell your tours and activities. In return for selling your trips, you can offer a commission on each booking. These businesses you work with are commonly known as agents and resellers.
Working with agents and resellers can help improve your offline visibility, especially for travellers who prefer to speak face-to-face with someone before booking a trip.
“Connecting our channels together was key to strengthening our sales efforts. With TrekkSoft, tourist offices, hotels and travel agencies can easily and quickly take bookings.”
- Michael Trummer, Basel City Tours
It is common for booking systems to incorporate an agent feature that allows suppliers to track bookings made by agents and to calculate the commission owed to each party. Bonus points for systems that allow you to equip agents with booking tools that let them book directly into your system instead of picking up the phone to call you.
With TrekkSoft, we've developed a Partner Network as well, allowing suppliers to team up and cross-sell each others' trips online and offline. With this technology, you're able to take bookings on behalf of a partner, have their availability updated automatically, the sale logged into both your systems and the commissions calculated.
For tour and activity operators looking for different revenue streams, reselling trips in your area can be the answer. It's common for companies with an established web presence to resell tours and activities from smaller suppliers who might be less visible online, or those who aren't online at all.
Having tours in your region listed on your website combined with insightful articles about your destination can improve site traffic and get you noticed as a destination expert.
Needless to say, travel technology, especially in the tour and activity sector, has grown immensely in the past decade. Suppliers in the industry have gone beyond merely owning a website to now demanding better management tools, reporting tools, and improved connectivity with agents, business partners and marketplaces.
The boundaries to travel tech will continue to be pushed as we continue to keep up with increasingly sophisticated consumers and as we seek enhance the traveller's experience online and offline.