TourismSolved - Local Bookings: What you MUST do to prosper post COVID-19 starting now

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Local Bookings: What you MUST do to prosper post COVID-19 starting now

6th May 2020

It’s pretty clear now that many countries are starting to consider re-opening business and while tourism businesses are going to be included, so now is the time to get ready.

In Australia, the state borders are going to open again and there is talk about the ski fields being opened for the winter season coming up.  According to Skift, “about a third of Americans surveyed indicated they would start to travel within three months after travel restrictions are lifted.”

However, travel is going to look different.  Skift’s research shows that 41% of Americans will take that first trip by car, within 100 miles.  In Australia, the borders with New Zealand will be open soon but it will be a while before planeloads of travelers are headed to international destinations in every corner of the world.

What does this mean for the tour operator who has built a great business on these international tourists?.  Well for a start, it’s time for a little planning because your new customers and going to be “locals”.  With this in mind, here are some of the things Tour, Activity, and Attraction Operators need to consider.

Work harder, higher up the funnel

Right now there are people at home thinking about where they might go when they are allowed out of the house.  Lots of these people have time on their hands because they are not commuting, and they are looking to make the best decision.  They get online and look for ideas, they explore options, they look at costs and they look at reviews.  They are often months away from buying and they know they don’t really need to worry about things being booked out.

This is top of the funnel strategy and you need to be sure these shoppers find your business and include your business on their list of options.  The solution is to utilize Google and Facebook advertising to drive traffic to your website.   You will need to remarket to these people or you will be forgotten but you need to ensure you are able to do this.  For those of you not familiar with remarketing - it’s the ability to set a flag to display ads reminding the traveler about your website as they continue their searching and browsing.  If you’ve ever done online advertising that didn’t yield the results you were hoping for, it was likely because you missed this step. It’s critical when you’re looking to capture a traveler who is still in the decision-making process because they’re not likely to purchase the first time they come to your site.  It takes a little time and effort to put this in place with the proper tracking, so don’t wait until it’s too late for this step. 

Margins and getting the biggest share

Since there are going to be fewer travelers and fewer overall bookings,  you need to ensure that the mix of direct bookings is higher than OTA bookings which carry a commission.  While the OTAs business will come back - and you should be working with them - you will want to make the most margin possible to make up for the past few months, which means direct bookings.  Fortunately, the tools to do this have never been better.   Facebook and Google drive highly targeted traffic and tools like Reserve with Google allow you to take these bookings from people on their desktop computer or mobile phone.  

Who is the target market

Every tour operator is likely to see a new customer.   For example, if you were a tour operator in San Francisco or Sydney doing tours or the harbor your boats were likely full of foreign tourists wanting to see a much as they can in a short time so they can move to the next thing.   Your new customer could be a family from just outside of town who might want a slightly different experience and are looking to spend more time with the seals, penguins and other wildlife because they are familiar with the sites of the city.

Starting you top of funnel marketing now to better understand the customer and their behavior is important.   By starting a few low budget campaigns to can start to understand your customers, what campaigns are getting traction, what questions are being asked, what content is driving engagement.  This insight will be critical to the development of products and changes to the website.

Product strategy is key

Unless your website is broken now is not the time to build another one.  You are unlikely to have enough data and it’s really difficult to speculate on the new shape of our business.   However, if you are prepared you have all the tools to experiment with new products and offerings.   So imagine you offer kayaking experiences and they are generally just the hire and a guide for 90 minutes.  Perhaps you could turn this into a family kayak safari – choose a more forgiving stretch of water than the backpackers look for, perhaps add teaching and breakfast or lunch make it 3 hours and guarantee the kids will go home tired and fed.   Run a small campaign around this specific idea.  Build some content you can use all of this later for other ideas and see what works and what attracts new customers.  You will be surprised at how little cost is involved in some of these tests and how big the payoff can be when it’s time to actually spend more.

We’re here to help

We are in a time when Google and Facebook provide the tools to target and experiment.  Some businesses will get lucky and bounce back to the old days but most are going to need to try a few different things.  We are ready to help you do a free audit of your current traffic and make some recommendations for a small “get started” program.

Book your free audit today by clicking here.