Compared to previous years, the business of selling tours in 2021 will look different for tour operators and travel providers.
The reason for this is priorities for both travelers and businesses have shifted since the arrival of COVID-19. As we know, it has severely impacted the tourism industry and changed the way we go about so many things.
In this article, we will look into what travelers' priorities might be when they feel confident to book again. We will also identify how these impact which travel distribution channels you sell tours on this year.
Preparing Your Travel Business To Resume Bookings
At the end of 2020, the news of the approval of the vaccines brought some hope and optimism to the industry. It even led to a surge in travel searches and bookings for 2021.
However, even though the rollout has begun, it's still a long way out of the woods. Realistically, global distribution and immunizations could take months, even years to complete. Not to mention that countries are currently experiencing new waves of infections and are under varying states of lockdown.
For travel businesses that haven’t done so already, this is a time when you can reevaluate your sales strategy and channel mix, taking into account the new considerations and perceptions of the industry.
In the past, tour operators investigating which channels to sell their tours on would have received recommendations that include OTAs, travel agencies, industry events, travel influencers, and so on.
These can all be valuable sources of income for your business. But, the current climate has shifted how we go about business. Given the new priorities of both travelers and your company, the list of channels for selling tours probably needs some adjusting.
Possible Priorities Of Travelers
We have written more about the general industry outlook and what travelers might expect from providers in this post. Focusing on the booking aspect, these are some of the main points to consider:
- Zero-touch travel and contactless payments will be important to travelers
- Online bookings that travelers can complete themselves will be key
- Your clients will expect more flexible policies
Possible Priorities Of Travel Businesses
When demand does rise, many tourism businesses will want to do their utmost to generate sales and get back on their feet while providing an exceptional and safe experience to their clients. Their priorities around selling tours could include:
- To offer contactless online travel bookings
- Taking in as many direct sales as possible
- Reducing reliability on OTAs to achieve a better booking balance
Keeping the priorities of your potential clients and business in mind, work out which are the best channels to sell on. We have put together a list of options below which might tick those boxes.
Travel Distribution Channels For Selling Tours On In 2021
1. Your Website
Attracting clients to your website and taking direct bookings has many advantages.
Your clients have direct access to you if they have any questions before or during booking. It means that you don’t have to rely on anyone to send a timely response, and you can deliver accurate information on your product.
You eliminate commissions and fees payable to OTAs or agents by taking direct bookings. After a period when many businesses in the industry have had a reduced income, putting as much money as possible into your own bank account is often a priority.
Signing up to WeTravel's booking and payment platform means you can offer online reservations from your website that your clients can complete themselves.
Adding Facebook’s Book Now button to your account profile is another effective and free way to raise awareness of your tours and reach clients.
If you connect the Book Now button on your profile to your website product page, you can direct travelers to a point where they can find out more information or book.
Most people don't go to Facebook to shop for travel, but it's a space where they can find inspiration. As part of your overall sales and marketing strategy for selling tours, having a presence here helps you develop and maintain relationships with potential and existing clients.
3. Google My Business
Setting up a Google My Business listing for your travel business helps your brand in several ways.
- An optimized listing can land you in the 3-pack results of local businesses when travelers nearby google your keywords.
- It puts you on Maps, helping clients to find you, as well as makes you visible across Google's suite of services.
- You get access to and can control your image on your Google Reviews profile.
Make sure to include your NAP information and a link to your website so that people know where to contact you.
4. Partner Networks
Your partner network can include your vendors, other complimentary experience providers in your area, local agents, or your local tourism office. Build relationships with these businesses, and you will receive their client referrals.
They could put travelers directly in touch with your business, share a social post of your latest offerings, or place a link on their website to your own. Working together in this way gives you a larger audience to pitch your product to.
5. OTAs and Online Marketplaces
Earlier, we mentioned finding a better balance between direct and OTA bookings.
OTAs provide much-needed exposure for many experience providers. However, they take a commission (sometimes between 15% and 40%) from your sales and do not increase your brand and website visibility.
In 2021, being selective about the channels where you sell tours can make a difference to your bottom line. For the most part, you will need to contact or sign up with the marketplaces to find out what their fees are.
A new platform that recently entered the scene is Touriosity. For a flat annual fee and zero-commissions, tour operators can list day tours, multi-day tours, or online experiences on their marketplace.
It's a non-profit and designed to help tour operators increase their direct bookings, which means it may be worth looking into.
Now that you have a few ideas on sales channels to use, you can better prepare for selling tours when the tourism rebound does happen. Optimizing your online sales, building your online presence, and improving your website will go a long way in helping you do this.
If you would like to see WeTravel in action and get an idea of how it can streamline your booking and payment processes, get in touch.
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