In Autumn of 2016, TrekkSoft conducted a global survey of tour and activity companies to analyse their distribution use and habits.
From the 213 companies who responded to us from around the globe, 64% of responses were in English, 26% in Spanish, 5% in German and 4% in Portuguese.
These companies represent more than 8 sectors within the tourism industry, including outdoor activities (29%), multi-day tours (25%), walking and bike tours (14%), DMCs (6%), boat tours and cruises (5%), coach tours (5%), helicopter and hot air balloon tours (7%), and other uncategorised sectors (15%).
What's a distribution channel anyway?
For the sake of this article, I thought it would be important to first clarify what we mean by a "distribution channel". In marketing talk, a distribution channel refers to the placement of your product, or how you intend to get your product or service "out there" and in front of the right market.
In the tour and activities sector, this refers to your website, OTAs or online marketplaces, offline booking sources like your storefront or a visitor center, or higher level distribution with incoming tour operators or global distributors.
What booking channel is most important to your tour and activity company?
In our survey, we found that 40% of tour and activity companies who responded ranked "bookings on own website" as the most important channel for their business. This was followed by incoming tour operators, direct offline bookings, and online resellers (OTAs and tour & activity marketplaces).
What this shows us is that tour and activity operators are beginning to understand the shift in mindsets of today's travellers. They're becoming more trusting of online reviews and information, with 81% of travellers relying on Google to research an upcoming trip, and are a lot less hesitant to book a trip online as well.
Why will your website be your most important distribution channel?
1. That's where customers are going
Before getting into all the perks of selling on your own website, it is important to note that going online is important because that's where your customers are researching, planning and booking their next trip. If you're not online, you will lose out.
2. Direct channels cost a lot less
When selling a tour or activity to someone from your own website, the costs incurred are much much lower. You avoid commission fees that come with the services of online marketplaces or resellers, and dodge the different rules and regulations third-party resellers often put up about price adjustments.
3. Simpler way to reach your customer
Speaking of rules and regulations, selling via your own website also means that you get to skip all the paperwork and terms and agreements that come along with partnering with other companies. You can make changes as you please, whether to your tours, your pricing, your availabilities and not have to jump through hoops to get these changes approved.
4. Protecting and growing your brand
Selling via your own website allows you to maintain control over how customers view your brand because you get to decide how you want your tours and activities to be presented. You can choose to integrate reviews to your site (always a good thing) and you get to put your best foot forward without someone else asking you why, when, or how.
Learn more about how tour and activity operators are choosing to distribute their tours by downloading a free copy of our Distribution Report.
How can you get the most out of your most powerful distribution channel, your website?
1. Integrate a booking system onto your website
Say you've got a website going, what next? Get more customers to book on your site by integrating a booking system. This means adding a "Book Now" button to your tour or activity description pages or on your homepage, and leading your customers to a booking process that allows them to book and pay there and then.
2. Get a live-inventory
Make sure your booking system comes with a live-inventory where customers can see your availabilities in real-time without you having to manually update and change availabilities every time you secure a booking. This way, you allow customers to make the booking themselves without having to call you or send you an email, speeding up the entire booking process.
3. Enable last minute bookings
In an upcoming Phocuswright report, where as sponsors of the research, we at TrekkSoft got exclusive insight into some juicy findings, it was highlighted that tour and activity operators are missing out on potential revenue gain with last-minute bookings.
Today's travellers are less likely to plan ahead and therefore appreciate last-minute bookings which is made possible with a live-inventory. Allowing people to book up to two hours before departure can be a great way to boost earnings.
Want more resources? Check out these articles:
- A guide to choosing the best booking software as a tour operator
- 7 steps to increase your booking conversion rates
- The basics to building a great tour operator and activity provider website
Want to find out how you can generate more bookings from your website? Sign up for a personalised 15 minute call with one of our specialists today.
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.