How to Sell Tours Online: The Best Promotion Channels for Tour Operators
You’ve put in all the hard work of designing a great experience and crafting the perfect offer – this is only wasted if people don’t know about it.
This might sound like common sense but if you have a genuinely good offer and a great experience for your customers – you have to let them know. It would be great if people could magically find out about your business but as you know that’s usually not the case. You need to actively promote and advertise in today’s information-heavy world.
So how can you stand out? Where should you allocate your resources? Let’s check out some of the best promotion channels for tour operators.
Top promotion channels for tour operators
Before choosing your promotion channels, it’s important to understand how your customers tend to buy and the places where they acquire information. You probably have a good idea about this already but if you don’t – ask how they found out about your tour.
That said, there are some obvious platforms you should consider. Below is an overview of the most effective promotion channels for selling tours online:
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
OTAs aggregate thousands of offers in one place so consumers can filter and compare travel products on a single website. Therefore, sites like Viator and GetYourGuide are extremely popular with tourists and boast millions of monthly visits.
Of course, getting access to them comes at a price – OTAs typically charge commission fees between 15% and 30% of your ticket price. And they often ask you to provide your lowest price so people buy through their platform instead of your website or offline channels.
As such, OTAs are a good option in two specific cases:
1) You want to fill out your capacity as your costs don’t increase with each additional customer (e.g. filling out bus seats).
2) You are just starting out and need to raise awareness of your tour even if you sacrifice part of your profit.
So it’s usually best to prioritize your direct channels over OTAs but consider getting listed with a few of them, especially to sell last-minute tickets that would otherwise go to waste.
Depending on your target customers, these are some good options:
- Viator if your customers are primarily from North America.
- GetYourGuide if you’re targeting European customers.
- Klook if you’re after the Asian market.
To be fair, people are usually NOT in buying mode when browsing their Facebook or Instagram feed. However, social networks are good places to raise awareness of your tour and work well as referral sources when your existing customers tag themselves and upload photos experiencing your tour.
In addition, advertising on sites like Facebook is highly customizable based on your customers’ location and interests, making it possible to show your offers to a very targeted audience.
While they are not as effective (or cheap) as they used to be, social networks like Facebook are worth testing as a promotion channel for your offers.
Learn more about selling tours with Facebook in this article.
There’s a lot you can do about showing up in Google search results – including creating valuable content and paying for search ads.
While these tactics are useful, big OTAs and TripAdvisor usually dominate search results and you’ll need to get very specific if you want a chance of reaching your target audience.
However, there’s one absolutely free and very effective service to utilize the power of Google search – Google My Business.
If you’re not already using this, your tour will not show up on Google Maps hence you will lose out on potential customers who search for terms like “best tours in [your city]”.
Overall, Google should be a big part of your marketing strategy and one good place to start is a professional listing on Google My Business.
Did you know your customers can now book tours directly from Google search results? Read more about Reserve with Google and connecting it with Regiondo.
You’re probably getting much of your business from TripAdvisor already but there are some things which can help you make even better use of it:
– Understanding the TripAdvisor algorithm: your listing is more likely to show up high in the results when you have good reviews and plenty of them (doh). But did you know you should also have a consistent number of reviews (i.e. spread out in time instead of many in bulk)? In addition, TripAdvisor takes into account recency, meaning that listings with more recent reviews are prioritized over ones with older/infrequent reviews, everything else being equal.
– The connection with Viator: TripAdvisor owns Viator since 2014 and often shows bookable tours from Viator in the top search results. So if you sell through Viator, you could see an increase in bookings due to its connection with TripAdvisor.
– Using TripAdvisor Review Express: you can encourage people to leave a review or private feedback using TripAdvisor’s Review Express service. Head over to the Review Express website and search for your property to get started.
Did you know you can connect Regiondo with Review Express to collect more reviews automatically? Every time a customer buys through your Regiondo shop, they will get an email from TripAdvisor to leave a review. Learn more in this article.
Partners and Influencers
You can often strike good partnerships with local businesses and influencers where you refer business to each other or collaborate on a commission basis.
One of the best ways to create such partnerships is your local Destination Management Organization (DMO). DMOs work to improve tourism in a region so they often develop large networks of local businesses and visitor services. This makes them a great partner who can sell your services and introduce you to other local businesses that can cross-promote your offers.
Influencers, on the other hand, are bloggers, vloggers and people with big social media followings who can review your tour and share it with their audience. Some can prove to be extremely valuable but be careful with people who claim to be famous when they simply want to get a free tour or advertising payment. Try to negotiate deals where you only pay per leads or customers from their campaign.
There are two broad aspects to a successful tour business – your value proposition and your market. Having a great value proposition is wasted unless you combine it with the right promotion channels.
In this article, we looked at the top 5 channels to promote a tour business online. Each channel can be further broken down into individual platforms and website which you can experiment with.
For example, there are many OTA websites you can choose from – the right one will depend on your geography and who your ideal customers are.
Google is another channel which offers multiple ways to promote your tour – from organic and paid search to Google My Business and, more recently, Reserve with Google.
And that’s in addition to traditional online channels like your website, social media, and TripAdvisor.
If you’d like to learn more about specific platforms to use, check out this post about tour marketing: