How can tour and activity organizers compete with large online booking platforms?
November 18, 2020
In recent years, the Croatian tourist offer of arrangements and tours is slowly going beyond its traditional framework. An increasing number of smaller organizers are starting to offer tours and activities that make tourists leave on vacation.Wine tours, trekking tours, biking tours, ZIP lines, historical tours, excursions for children, culinary tours, sports and recreational tours, treasure hunting tours, off-road vehicle tours and many other fun activities. A few years ago, such an offer was unknown to domestic tourism, that is, at least it was not directly promoted to domestic and foreign guests. With the appearance of new organizers, the eternal question arises how to find the best sales channels today not only on the Croatian but also on the foreign market.We get the impression that often a good offer is the least of the problem. It is necessary to reach customers and present your story well. And the offer can no longer just be presented via posters in the office window or somewhere on the waterfront. Today, the world of tourism is plagued by online platforms through which various tourist offers are offered. Tourists book months before their vacation, but also during the holidays.And do you know where they will first look at what is on offer?They will type their query into online search engines via their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. You’re not online, you don’t exist. Smaller companies, but also well-established travel agencies that have an off-board offer, have to fight for their place under the sun. But how do you compete with so many bidders reselling the offer around the world?You will hear different answers to this question. Some oppose online booking platforms such as, for example, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Viator and advocate the traditional way of doing business with travel agencies. They emphasize personalized service and personal approach to each client. Online booking is considered “robotic” and prone to errors. They find that people often cannot know what they will actually get after making a reservation online and the like. Once upon a time, agent advice was a major factor influencing the choice of destination we would travel to, as well as the types of excursions, tours, or activities we would book. Today this is no longer the case and there is no crying, it is necessary to accept the new rules, but not focus exclusively on them.Online booking or personal service?Online booking in the travel industry is generally growing rapidly. In the past 5 years, the number of online bookings has grown by 73%. The platforms that make it possible are easy to navigate and contain everything a traveler needs to plan their trip and make the necessary reservations.We wanted to take a look at the reasons behind the growth of the online booking platform. Also, can traditional travel agencies compete with them.When travelers know where and when they want to travel, Booking.com, Viator, TripAdvisor and similar sites are ideal. However, when they are unsure about where to go and would like some advice, or don’t want to bother booking every single part of the trip, traditional travel agents come into play. Travel agents can do things that internet platforms just can’t – but – travelers still need to be able to find an agency to talk to an agent.Travel agents are not just sellers of their tours and activities. They also sell expertise and guidance – from the best time of year to visit a particular destination, to the best accommodations and activities to book. All based on the individual needs of the passengers.Advice? Recognize what you are good at – and shout about it out loud! Whether it’s the niche type of vacation you offer or you put in the extra effort to reduce the hassle during the booking process, you need to convey that message to your customers. Transfer your knowledge and your expertise to online platforms as well, don’t ignore them and find the one that best suits your way of doing business and where your target audience is.How to stand out in the crowd?Shout about your strengths – always and everywhere! Each online platform offers the possibility of a quality description of your offer. Invest your time and use quality and attractive photos, photos of people who are happy and satisfied with your offer. Communicate with users through these online platforms. Both before departure and after departure. Build your reputation and new travelers will come based on the quality work you have transferred from your office to your online office.Once you understand what sets you apart from the competition, convey that message to as many potential customers as possible. Use your websites, social media, newsletters and online platforms to make potential and existing customers aware of the services you provide. Use your own online booking system for tours and activities to inform all your contacts about news or special offers.Let your customers help you! Nowadays, most people will not make a purchase or reservation without checking the opinions of others. Contact your clients and ask them to share a review of the experience you’ve provided for them on their own social media, on Google, and on your agency’s Facebook page.Positive reviews are great for the travel business. It is essentially about word of mouth online marketing (recommendations). You need to include them in your own marketing strategies. If you get a negative review – don’t worry. You will use it very much too! They will point out to you that there are areas that need to be improved, and then let your clients know that you listened to what they had to say. They will notice you as a tour and activity organizer who cares about their opinions and feelings. You will not be left unrewarded.Accept new technologies Keeping up with mobile trends is of great importance! You heard it, you know it. Especially in tourism. It gives added value to small tour and activity organizers. The big ones, on the other hand, can’t afford not to follow the technological trends because the small ones who follow them will catch up with them! Make sure your website is fully functional on mobile devices or your customers could slip against the competition in a click.Use available resourcesMost agencies have neither the time nor the money to invest in market research. Follow the most important travel trends for tour and activity organizers. Make sure you do everything you can to keep up with your customers.What do foreign tour and activity organizers say?In discussing the marketing and sales channels that tour and activity organizers should use today with our foreign users, they also point out digital marketing channels and the involvement of foreign partners (OTA, hotels, large agencies and others). The choice between these two channels, or rather a combination of both channels, will vary from country to country that the tour or activity organizer is targeting. That is why it is crucial to examine the behavior of each market first.In line with the rapid development of digital marketing channels, tour and activity organizers should:Have a website that is also adapted for smaller screens such as tablets and mobile phones – WordPress websites are highly recommended because they are the easiest to maintain, look modern and adapt to all screens, and allow smaller providers to quickly develop and display offers via the webPut an online booking button on your own website, such as Orioles – software for online booking and marketing because you will not pay yourself a fee for online booking.Being active on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest are the most popular in tourism today, even Snapchat if you want to attract a younger population.Build distribution channels – such as referral programs and special programs for agents that come along with a good booking system for tours and activities.While large agencies (OTAs) help you sell vacation packages, digital marketing channels will help you reach direct travelers. That is why they are an indispensable element of marketing and sales strategy for small players.You will find it difficult to compete with large agencies with large marketing budgets and a large online presence if you try to play the same game as them. But most of the smaller travel agencies, tour operators and activities we are talking about have a niche offer. They are more focused on providing customers with quality, service, knowledge and a personal approach. If you use the research and statistics available to you, keep up with the latest technologies and trends, and continue to provide superior service – we believe you will be successful.And use online partnerships, online sales channels that make it easier for you to sell great and unique offers.Published by: OriolesRelated news:CROATIAN TRAVEL AGENCIES URGENTLY NEED TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESSINTERNET RESERVATIONS ARE INCREASINGLY REPLACING TRADITIONAL WAYS OF TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION RESERVATIONS