The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horror story for many small businesses, particularly within the travel industry. And within the travel industry, Tours and Activities businesses have been hit particularly hard as travel ground to a halt. Now is the time for tours and activities operators to recalibrate how they do business, examining their channel mix and revenue model to ensure a brighter, more profitable future.
The good news for operators in this time of COVID: at a time when travel is limited to local areas, searches for ‘near me’ have increased dramatically. So the global reach of the OTAs is no longer an advantage, and operators have a unique opportunity to shift the balance of bookings back in their favor by taking advantage of the local business capabilities Google offers.
The key is to maximize your use of these tools to capture the majorities of these ‘near me’ searches for yourself, so you get the booking without paying a 30% commission. That means more money for you, not the OTA. What’s not to like?
If you do it well, more of the money that the customer pays will go to your business, and your business alone. You just need to follow our easy 4-part recipe.
1. Organize yourself to take control of your bookings
This means choosing a booking system that allows you to take bookings on your own site without a crazy commission. There are lots of them out there and most are really good. Find them on the Reserve with Google list (just Google ‘Reserve with Google software partner’). You’ll pay a small monthly fee, but you’ll be giving your customers a good quality user experience without service costs being added to your prices. The cheapest booking should be the direct one.
2. Sort out your user experience
What this boils down to, is whether someone actually makes a booking on your site using a mobile phone. We do reviews regularly and often you can’t. Operators need to understand most of their customers are using a mobile phone and have no time for complexity or difficulty. Again, this will be mostly resolved by the booking platforms, so just pick the one that suits you best.
3. Google my Business and Reserve with Google
Around 50% of all searches are local and 80% are category-based. Google my Business gives you the tools to be visible for these searches. It also allows you to connect your booking through the Reserve with Google features. Google does not take a commission on these highly visible placements. It’s as close as you are going to get to making free money. Seriously, it’s that easy.
4. Choose your channels
Once that’s sorted, you’ll want to manage your channels and pricing, that means managing your relationship with the OTAs to maximize conversion and bookings for the travelers you aren’t able to capture on your own. Remember, you’re in charge. You don’t want an OTA offering discounts on your prices and therefore your margin.
Put simply, the game is to get every booking you can and to ensure as many as possible of those are direct. And with these four steps, and perhaps an experienced partner like TourismSolved in your corner to help navigate the online world, you’ll be well on your way to leveling the playing field by driving more direct bookings as travel returns.
If you are interested to learn more we are going to be running free Webinars with Rezdy. Click here to learn more and register.