We live in a digital era. With online consumers having more ability to research, compare and shop around, standing out from competition is more important than ever.
But it doesn't end there. A booking does not necessarily mean winning the race. One of the key take-away points from the Arival workshop Working with OTAs - so it works for you (download the presentation material HERE) was repeat business and its important role in generating direct bookings.
1. Discovery and booking
Multi-platform presence is key in order for tours to be found and booked. By relying too much on any one booking channel, chances are that you opt out of business opportunities.
First things first. Your tour description should be detailed, illustrative and appealing (accompanied by lots of images!) in order to generate interest. Emphasise your USPs and what makes your tours special to others within the region. In what way can you enhance the traveller's experience and make it unforgettable?
Related reading: How to write a tour description that sells
In order to turn looker into booker and at the same time lock out competition, a website booking function is key. Many travellers are likely to prefer to cut out email conversations and phone calls to secure their place onto a day tour. For last minute-bookings, which usually happen in-destination, we recommend having a mobile optimised website for spontaneous bookings on the go.
If your website refers to an OTA for booking completion, many competitors offering similar experiences can be listed within the same space and create a distraction.
Last but not least, make your booking journey as smooth and user-friendly as possible to not loose prospective customers along the way.
Online travel agencies
Alongside your bookable website, when used right, OTAs can be a great advertising tool and way to extend your network of booking channels.
For many travellers, especially first-timers, an online travel agency is the go-to-place to browse for inspiration - and if there's a customer fit - you would want to be on there.
Related reading: 3 steps to working with OTAs - so it works for you
Before registering with an OTA, research what it can offer you - such as the right customer segment, operational fit and absence or lack of competitors. Before you start, here are some key factors to consider.
A little effort can go a long way in boosting your competitiveness.
As well as promotion of tours, the platforms are a good means of direct, fast communication between you and your tour guests.
In our Travel Trends Report 2019 we talk about the growing popularity of messaging apps. In the preparational survey, participants indicated they use WhatsApp (57.17%), Messenger (18.16%) and WeChat (1.15%) to communicate with their customers.
The same survey also revealed that 28.22% of participating tour operators receive reviews on social media. These reviews can become valuable as 53% of bookers only commit once having read reviews (TripAdvisor, 2017).
The third benefit is the opportunity of allowing your customers act as your advocates (with a little hashtag nudging). With 60% of travelers in 2018 intending to post on social media each day (Booking.com, 2018), chances are high that your tour gets seen and shared by your guest's extended network.
2. On the day of arrival
The big day is here and you and your guests are excited for an eventful trip ahead. We trust you know your local area and range of activities by heart but there are, however, a couple of common best practices:
The tour guide
The host of the day is one of the most important elements in making the experience memorable and enjoyable. You can read more about exceptional tour guides, their gadgets or cross refer with our checklist below:
As a majority of travellers intend to post on social media each day of their trip (Booking.com, 2018), you might want to consider including regular and Instagram-friendly photo opportunities as part of your tour.
3. Follow-up and repeat business
The tour has come to and end and tired, happy customers wave you goodbye at the drop-off point. For you, work is far from over.
We recommend that you follow up as soon as possible thanking your customers for their participation.
With the experience fresh in mind, timely outreach is also a good opportunity to ask for reviews. In fact, you are very likely to get one if you do. According to PhocusWire (2018), 80% of travellers leave a review when requested, whereas you only have a 22% chance of succeeding without a request.
To encourage customers and their friends to come back, loyalty discounts and referral codes can be a great way to generate customer retention and direct bookings though your own website.