In the last few months, we've been hearing reports from tour and activity suppliers that TripAdvisor has quietly removed contact details from their company's listing and replaced it with a "Book now" button that leads to their Viator listing page. This step encourages customers to book from Viator, now know as TripAdvisor Experiences, rather than directly with suppliers. This change can cost suppliers a 20% to 30% in commission, a rather steep price to pay for a process suppliers have no control over.
In my own inbox, I have also received messages from TrekkSoft customers who have had their rankings changed over night for no clear reasons. When rankings fall from #1 to #5, it can dramatically affect a business' bottom line, especially for companies who rely heavily on their TripAdvisor reviews to bring in new bookings.
Clearly, TripAdvisor is tripping up its suppliers with no warnings or explanations and with no clear future direction, this uncertainty can be daunting.
In such a human-driven industry, where a good tour isn't just dependant on the sights and sounds at a destination, but also on the human interactions between the guide, the admin team, the partners and the end customer, recommendations and reviews will always remain king.
So what alternatives are there for tour and activity businesses? Where should you build your reviews if not on TripAdvisor, the industry's longest and most reputable source?
1. Facebook Page
Facebook is a good contender. In October 2017, Facebook announced a new Head of Global Travel Strategy which is a good indication of their commitment to growing their online booking capabilities, especially on mobile.
Through their mobile app, Facebook is able to capture users' location data and share with them a list of nearby places to check out via the "Places the locals go" notification. Attractions and nearby businesses are recommended based on a company's ratings and reviews.
To get started, create a Facebook page with your company's address listed to make sure you show up as "Nearby Places". You can also turn on the "Check-in" feature so that customers who visit your shop are prompted to check-in and share their visit with their friends and family.
2. Google My Business
I previously wrote about Google My Business and how it can help companies grow their presence online and with the recent changes to TripAdvisor, this blog post couldn't be more relevant.
In short, Google My Business is an easy way for tour and activity businesses to get listed on a global platform and is part of Google's effort to improve their Local Search feature where users can search for businesses, attractions, restaurants and other services in a given location.
With travellers searching for "things to do near my" or "tours near me" once they've arrived in your destination, being listed on Google and having it shared to travellers can bring in a substantial number of bookings.
3. Your own website
Your own website is the best place to display reviews from customers. It's your corner of the internet where you have free reign to do whatever you want and you should take the opportunity to brag about your services as well.
You could add review widgets from Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor to your own website, or copy and paste quotes from happy customers your site and display it with a carousel or a slider.
4. On other marketplaces
Finally, a great place to build your reviews is on other marketplaces. This can go hand in hand with your distribution strategy as you expand your network to become less reliant on a single platform for bookings.
Selecting a few marketplaces to focus on will depend on your overall business strategy. Trying to get more visibility for your Spanish speaking tours? Consider Civitatis. Looking to deliver more personal and intimate tours? Consider promoting yourself on Airbnb Experiences. Want to diversify and sell on another large platform? Consider Expedia Local Expert.
The good thing about these platforms is that they will automatically send email reminders to your guests asking them for a review.
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