The Most Important Steps You Can Take to Boost Tour Bookings

By: on March 23, 2017

Did you know that tourism accounts for one-tenth of the world’s entire GDP?

That amount, equal to 7.2 trillion U.S. dollars, was revealed in a 2016 study by the World Travel and Tourism Council. That’s a lot of money—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a cut.

The same study finds that, worldwide, one in every 11 people is employed in the tourism industry. That tells us that while there’s a lot of money in tourism, there’s a lot of competition as well.

As a local tour guide, tour planner or travel agent, you’re probably well aware of the competition you face. You know that attracting tourists and gaining their business is a never-ending challenge.

So, what does it take to be the go-to tour operator at a hot tourist destination? That and the following are revealed in this report.

How Consumers Choose Their Own Adventures

Let’s imagine someone who is planning to take a vacation in a few months. They’re going someplace they’ve never been before. They’ve already purchased their airline tickets and made a hotel reservation.

Below are two hypothetical consumers and the approach each takes to planning their vacation time:

1. The first consumer is the type of person who likes to plan ahead.

They’ll go online to research their destination and figure out what activities and sites are in the area. They’ll ask for recommendations from friends and family, and then start planning out their days. When possible, they’ll also make reservations with local tour guides or tour operators, but only after checking out online reviews.

2. The second consumer thinks their daily life is busy enough and vacations should be all about relaxing.

They’re not the type to person who likes to plan every last detail in advance. When they arrive someplace new, they’ll ask hotel staff for suggestions about day excursions. If they suggest something that really piques the consumer’s interest, they’ll book the activity with the hotel.

According to a survey we recently completed, the majority of U.S. adults are more like the first consumer.

Our survey asked the question: “Do you plan tours and activities before you go on vacation, or after you’ve arrived at the destination?” According to the results:

A Majority of US Adults Plan Excursions Before Vacationing
adults plan excursions before vacations

In terms of competition and your overall business strategy, what does this particular finding suggest?

Your tour operation needs an online presence. More than just a website, you need a website that people will see when they’re researching tourist activities in your area. Try typing terms related to your business into a search engine such as Google or Bing.

If your company’s website isn’t on the first page of results, then it will be difficult for tourists to find. Adding useful tour-related content to your site is a good way to improve your rankings.

Online booking features can greatly increase your sales. A great website is important for publicity and branding, but don’t miss out on a larger opportunity. As the data from this survey suggests, a majority of tourists prefer to book excursions in advance.

rezdy online booking

Online booking application from tour operator software vendor Rezdy


Important Factors When Choosing a Tour Operation

We’ve seen above that two-thirds of U.S. adults prefer to book their vacation excursions and day trips ahead of departure. This suggests that a strong online presence is very important for local tour operators seeking to grow their businesses.

But, there are additional factors that customers bear in mind when planning their trips.

In our survey, we asked people which factors they consider before booking a local sightseeing tour. We told them to imagine they’re vacationing somewhere for the first time and asked them to choose their priorities from a list of common factors.

Here’s what we found:

Factors Tourists Look for When Choosing a Local Tour
local tour factors tourists look for

Tour operator software is designed to help your business address these customer priorities, in the following ways:

  • It lets you offer online booking, either through your own website or by integrating with third-party travel agents or other channel partners.
  • It makes it easier to offer all-inclusive packages by handling the back-end accounting that’s required with package pricing.
  • Extra options, packages and side trips can be added to your itineraries with ease, again because the software helps you keep it all organized.
  • You can extend booking functionality to include partners, such as hotels.

Getting the Reviews You Need to Grow Your Tour Company

As we’ve seen, the most important factor when choosing a tour operation is good online reviews. That’s not really much of a surprise, since consumers count on online reviews to help with so many of life’s decisions.

So, how can a tour operator get good online reviews? At first glance, this seems like an easy question, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

The obvious step is to run a tour operation that’s worthy of good reviews. Offer a better experience than your competitors, a better value or both. And, ensure that your customers leave satisfied.

Maybe you run the best tour operation in your area, but don’t get the reviews you feel you deserve. What’s the problem?

Chances are, you haven’t made it easy enough for happy customers to leave reviews.

Customers generally have three ways to leave reviews online:

  • Directly on the tour company’s website
  • On social media, e.g., the tour company’s Facebook page
  • On a third-party reviews site such as TripAdvisor or Yelp

To grow your collection of online reviews, you need to make the process of leaving a review as quick and easy as possible.

The following tips can help:

  • Claim your business’s page on the big-name sites such as TripAdvisor. This will help you monitor and respond to new reviews.
  • Show that your company is engaged by responding to reviews. This will encourage others to leave reviews.
  • Encourage reviews by running contests and promotions. (First, be sure any contest or promotion is allowed by the site’s terms of use.)
  • Include links to places customers can leave reviews in your outbound emails.
  • Have a smartphone, tablet or laptop available that customers can use to submit a review at the end of a trip or service, possibly in exchange for a future discount.
  • Choose tour operator software that includes applications for soliciting reviews.

Many tour operator software platforms have tools that assist with the collection and curation of online reviews. Scroll through some examples below:

Trekksoft includes a website builder that can include a summary of reviews from Tripadvisor directly on your webpage

Screen in Zozi showing the setup of an automated email that could, for example, ask customers to leave a review after completing a tour

Survey collection tools, like this one from AnyGuide, can help monitor service and suggest which customers to reach out to for reviews

The right software can do a lot to help you run your tour operation. In order to get the best return on your investment, however, it’s important that you choose software that fits your operation and its goals.

Take a look at the list of tour operator software products and call our advisors at (844) 687-6771 to help you choose the right tool for your business.

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Compare tour operator software with ratings and reviews