Tour operators across the country are ramping back up in preparation for peak season. Although hiring and equipment procurement is top of mind, it’s also an ideal time to reflect on the prior season and look for any operational inefficiencies, marketing opportunities, and pain points that can be improved this year. Refining your approach and process is essential to determining the best path forward.
With our preferred trip photo partner, PicThrive, we’ve identified 3 key pillars to focus on as the 2022 season kicks off.
Pillar #1: Save Time
The most valuable asset every operator has is time, and come July, it’s doubtful you will have any extra on your hands. However, before the organized chaos that is peak season begins, think about what strategies can be implemented to recapture some of that valuable resource.
Key decisions to consider:
- What services or processes consumed the most time last year?
Many operators tell us they receive the same questions from customers day in and day out. Even when they have FAQs on their site, they are managing phone calls and responding to emails with the same answers. AI ChatBots and SMS messaging are ways to take pressure off operators and improve customer service.
- Are there better things to be spending time on?
Are you spending time on marketing initiatives that fall outside the core skill set of your team? If you’re spending additional hours on mediocre work and feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, it’s time to outsource and scrape that time trap off your plate. You need to remain the decision-maker as the owner of your business, without being bogged down with executing day-to-day deliverables. If you don’t have an in-house marketing team, letting subject matter experts strategize and execute those objectives can save you time and yield better results.
- Do your providers and partners have your priorities in mind?
Find a reservation system that simplifies management practices and works for your business and budget. There are a lot of options out there with varying price points and functionality. You’ll want to determine if they are flexible and can adapt to your specific operational needs. Many of our customers have had success with The Flybook, Rezdy, Peek, Xola, Zaui, Checkfront and more. You can also check our Partners page for more ideas.
Industry Insight: 2021 TOMIS AI ChatBot Recap Blog
Pillar #2: Enhance Your Customers’ Experience
At the end of the day, we are in the tourism business to share our passions and provide customers with an unforgettable experience. The key is finding incremental ways to continuously enhance your offerings and holistic tour experience for the benefit of the customer.
Key decisions to consider:
- What can you learn from your customers and website visitors?
Your website is one of the most important aspects of your business. The first step to enhancing a customer’s experience, is to better understand your client’s needs, expectations, and journey to book. This experience begins the day the customer starts searching for their desired trip. The search process and website experience will be the first impression you give a customer. There is a lot to consider here, but do you have adequate tracking in place to make customer-centric, data-driven decisions? With the wealth of data available, there isn’t any need to make gut decisions and hope they work out.
- Do you have tracking in place to monitor website interactions? Installing a platform like HotJar allows you to look at heatmaps and analyze how visitors are interacting with your site. This is essential for finding friction points and improving the checkout flow to ensure a positive booking experience before the trip begins.
- Do you have Google Analytics, and is it properly configured to capture goals and events? Setting up Google Analytics is easy, but the proper configuration on your site and with your reservation system is a crucial step that requires extra work.
- The TOMIS App, through integrations with Google, reservation systems, and others, captures key data and generates easy-to-read reports to better understand who your customers are, when and where they are booking, and how they are finding your business.
- Are you making it easy for guests to share their experiences and provide feedback?
In order to increase reviews, it’s important to consider how and when you are reaching the customer, the clicks required to leave the review, and the platform options available. Data shows that on average SMS messages get opened at around a 90% rate, and emails get opened at around a 20% rate. The ideal time to send the review message will depend on the trip type. For example, think of what your customer will be doing after the trip. Will they be traveling home or decompressing or maybe getting lunch and a beer? Timing is key. After going on a half-day float trip, grabbing lunch and a beverage, and then getting back to the Airbnb satisfied with a great day, its hard to imagine a better time to leave a review from the couch with the ease of clicking a link in a text message.
Providing trip photos is both great for your customer’s experience and your bottom line. However, the logistics of getting the photos to the customer in a simple and timely manner can be a challenge. Platforms such as PicThrive can help simplify this process.
- What services can you provide to go above and beyond your competitors?
- Automated pre-trip reminders are a welcomed touchpoint and can help customers prepare with links to FAQs, packing lists, and more.
- Offering a photo gallery for purchase after the trip gives your guests a high-quality memento and can also drive incremental revenue per trip.
- Creating unique VIP experiences or customized adventures built around your staff expertise can help elevate your brand over the competition.
Operator Success: In 2021 New Mexico River Adventures redesigned their website to streamline navigation, increase mobile performance, and boost search engine rank. The new website provided an ideal first impression to their customers and increased the ecommerce conversion rate by 103% and mobile conversion rate by 105% in the first 8 months.
Industry Insight: PicThrive’s recent customer insights study found on average 10% of guests shared their purchased photos and videos with leading review sites such as TripAdvisor and Google Reviews.
Pillar #3: Increase Direct Bookings
The ultimate objective for all tour operators is to increase direct bookings. There are many items to consider, with time cost and customer experience at the forefront of the decision-making process. The initial step in this process is building an integrated strategy to align marketing initiatives across all sources from the website experience to paid ad copy.
Key decisions to consider:
- Build a strong foundation
Organic traffic is directly correlated with direct bookings and is a key vital sign to the overall health and growth of your business. It can’t be bought or manipulated, just consistently worked over time to ensure you are at the top of the list when customers begin their search. A well-ranking site commands authority, increases direct bookings, and provides a great first impression to potential customers. Keep your finger on the pulse of your organic traffic with consistent SEO management – both on-site and off.
- Effectively leverage paid ads
You have seats to fill and competitors to beat! Google will happily spend your ad dollars as it sees fit, if not properly managed. If you don’t have a paid ad veteran on your team, it’s time to find a partner for paid Google ads and start growing together. Another way to turn a marketing budget into revenue is by building out a paid social ads sales funnel to engage your audience at every stage.
- Turn your website into a conversion machine
You can go to great lengths to bring traffic to your website, but if site visitors aren’t converting to bookings, there is a hole in the sales funnel with missed opportunities. Maybe you have a great in-house paid ads person, but the conversions just aren’t there. Now is a good time to get your website to a necessary level to achieve your sales goals. Step one is knowing where to start, and we recommend looking at optimizing your website conversion rate.
Operator Insight: Get more details on how to make the right move into trip photo sales.
If you are interested in learning more, check out this free PicThrive ebook with additional insights and operators’ advice on improving your guests’ experience through photos.
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