You’ve invested so much in creating a memorable experience and fine-tuning the ideal offer, but all that effort will go unnoticed if the word doesn’t get out. It may seem obvious, but even the most outstanding offers need a spotlight. In an ideal world, customers would stumble upon your business by accident. But in today’s busy digital landscape, proactive promotion is a must. So where should you focus your energy? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best promotional channels for tour operators and much more. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The Best Promotional Channels for Tour Operators
Before we discuss the best promotional channels for tour operators, take a moment to assess where your customers typically get their information and how they prefer to shop. You may already have a pulse on this, but if you’re not sure, a simple question about how they discovered your tour can be revealing. With that in mind, some platforms naturally stand out for their effectiveness. Here’s a rundown of the top channels for marketing tours online:
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
OTAs, or online travel agencies, aggregate a myriad of different travel deals, allowing consumers to browse and compare options all on one platform. That’s why powerhouses like Viator and GetYourGuide are top of mind for many travelers, attracting millions of visits each month. However, visibility on these platforms isn’t free. OTAs typically take a commission, ranging from 15% to 30% of the price of your ticket. In addition, they often push you to list your most competitive prices, encouraging customers to book through them rather than directly with you or through offline channels.
Including OTAs in your strategy makes sense in certain scenarios:
- If you’re looking to maximize capacity, since your overhead remains the same regardless of additional customers.
- If you’re new to the market and need that initial boost in exposure, even if it means skimming off some profits.
While prioritizing direct channels is often more lucrative, there’s undeniable value in partnering with a few select OTAs, especially to fill last-minute slots that might otherwise go unsold.
Based on your target demographic, here are a few tailored suggestions:
- Choose Viator if you’re targeting the North American market.
- Choose GetYourGuide for a European audience.
- For those targeting the Asian market, Klook is a solid bet.
Let’s face it, most people aren’t scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram feeds with the intention of making a purchase. Nevertheless, social platforms are fantastic for spreading the word about your tours. Additionally, advertising on platforms like Facebook allows for customized targeting based on location and interests, meaning you can present your offerings to an incredibly niche audience. While they may not be the cost-effective powerhouses they once were, social media are still worth exploring as a way to promote your offerings.
Breaking through the noise and appearing in Google search results requires a mix of solid content creation and perhaps even a dabble in search advertising. Granted, big players like the major OTAs and TripAdvisor often hog the top spots, so you’ll need to be smart and targeted to reach your desired audience. But there’s an often-underrated gem that harnesses the power of Google, and it’s completely free: Google My Business. If you’re not on this platform, your business won’t appear on Google Maps. This omission could mean missing out on people typing in “top tours in [your city].” In short, don’t leave Google out of your marketing plan. A polished Google My Business listing can be a great place to start.
Google Things To Do: The Emerging Player in Tour Promotion
While traditional platforms such as OTAs, social media and TripAdvisor continue to hold significant sway, Google recently introduced Things To Do, a feature that is gaining momentum in the travel and tourism industry.
What is Google Things To Do?
Google Things To Do is a search feature that aggregates activities, tours and attractions based on a user’s location or query. Integrated into Google Search and Google Maps, it provides a seamless experience for users to discover, plan and even book activities directly.
Why should travel businesses consider it?
Here are some compelling reasons:
- Reach and visibility: Given the extensive use of Google Search and Google Maps for travel planning, your listing on Google Things To Do can give you instant visibility to a wide audience.
- User Experience: Google’s familiar interface and easy-to-use design make it convenient for users to find and book activities, increasing the likelihood of conversions.
- Integration with Google My Business: If you already have a Google My Business account, your activity listings can be easily integrated to include reviews, ratings, and other important information to make your listing more compelling.
- No middlemen: Unlike OTAs, Google Things To Do allows for direct booking, which could mean better margins for travel businesses.
- Local SEO benefits: Listing on Google Things To Do could potentially improve your local SEO by making you more visible in general search results related to your location or activity type.
How to get listed?
- Set up or update your Google My Business profile: Make sure your Google My Business account is up to date with all relevant information.
- Provide accurate information: The more detailed and accurate the information you provide (hours, prices, high-quality images), the better your chances of attracting potential customers.
- Enable reservations: Google Things To Do often allows users to book directly. Make sure you have a streamlined online booking system that integrates with Google’s platform.
- Collect reviews: As with Google My Business and TripAdvisor, reviews play an important role in how you rank on Google Things To Do. Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews.
Chances are, TripAdvisor is already a significant driver of your business. But let’s fine-tune how you use it:
- Unravel the TripAdvisor algorithm: Naturally, listings with glowing reviews rank higher. But it’s not just about the number of reviews, it’s also about consistency. Rather than a sudden influx, TripAdvisor prefers a steady stream of feedback over time. Plus, recency is also favored: listings that are updated with newer reviews get a bump, all else being equal.
- The Viator connection: Did you know that as of 2014, TripAdvisor is the proud owner of Viator? Often, tours that can be booked on Viator are highlighted in the top search results on TripAdvisor. So being on Viator can give you a leg up on the competition.
- Leverage TripAdvisor Review Express: With the Review Express feature, you can encourage customers to share their feedback or even private comments. Just go to the Review Express page, look up your listing, and you’re on your way.
Bonus tip: Regiondo can integrate with Review Express to automate the review collection process. When a customer completes a purchase through your Regiondo storefront, they’ll be prompted by TripAdvisor to leave a review.
Partners and Influencers
Forging partnerships with local businesses and influencers can often open doors to mutually beneficial collaborations. Whether it’s through referrals or a commission-based approach, these alliances can be gold.
Your local Destination Management Organization (DMO) is a great place to start. Designed to promote regional tourism, DMOs typically have an extensive network of local businesses and tourism services. This puts them in a unique position to not only offer your services, but also introduce you to other businesses for potential cross-promotion.
On the other hand, influencers are individuals who have a strong social media presence and can promote your tours to their extensive audiences. While some influencers can be game-changers, tread carefully as the industry is full of amateurs who may exaggerate their impact in hopes of getting freebies or advertising revenue. For this reason, it’s wise to work out agreements where you compensate them based on the leads or customers they bring in.
In the digital age, it’s not enough to just be there; it’s about making waves and leaving an impression. And in the world of travel and experiences, how you position yourself can be the difference between a thriving business and an overlooked gem. From the ubiquity of Google to the appeal of OTAs, the landscape is vast, but with the right tools and insights, navigating it becomes less daunting. Whether it’s leveraging social media, optimizing for TripAdvisor, or leveraging influencers, the paths to visibility are many and varied. Yet amidst this plethora of channels, one thing remains clear: promotion is paramount. So as you move forward, armed with the knowledge from this article, remember that your unique travel experience deserves to be discovered, celebrated and enjoyed by many. Ready to supercharge your promotional efforts and turn insights into action? Book a demo with one of our experts today and discover how Regiondo can help you get more bookings.