Travel Marketing Tips

5 Ways Smart Tour Operators Are Growing (Yes, Even in COVID)

As tour operators, COVID throws us dozens of new questions. Some are urgent: How do I survive this? What does life look like moving forward?

And there are bigger long-term questions, too. Questions like: How do I come back in the post-COVID surge bigger and better than ever?

That's a question we love to help tour operators answer. To help, here are five strategic tips you can implement right now in order to beat COVID as a business — and thrive in the post-COVID surge.

Tip #1: Use customer intent to predict future bookings (before clients have started making them)

As tour operators, it’s hard to know when travel will come back. And it’s even harder to tell who we should be listening to. The pundits? The analysts? (Better yet, which analysts?)

Unfortunately, we often forget the most important group we should be listening to: Our customers.

That’s why intent-based demand analysis is so crucial right now. Simply put, demand analysis measures interest around your experiences by date, even from websites visitors who never book—using the same sorts of tools billion-dollar airlines use to predict demand for their flights.

The result? You can tell ahead of time which dates customers are most interested in.

Why this matters in COVID: An intent graph cuts through the noise from the pundits and the analysts and shows you when your customers are thinking of travelers — so you can get your business ready for the post COVID surge.

(Want to jump deeper into demand analysis? Check out this video from our CEO.)

Tip #2: Analyze your funnel (so you can double down on what’s working)

When you strip away all the buzzwords and the hype, there are two steps to effective digital marketing:

Step one: Find what’s working. Step two: Do more of it.

So … if it’s that simple, why do so many marketers struggle?

Answer: Because they can’t tell what’s working. Their tools are letting them down.

That’s why a sankey funnel analysis is so helpful. It tells you, in one powerful picture, exactly where your customers are coming from — so you can double down on what’s working.

Why this matters in COVID: Wasting marketing dollars and effort has never been more harmful for you and your business. The right funnel tracking tool ensures you keep your marketing focused on what’s working.

(Want to jump deeper into funnel analysis? Check out this video from our CEO.)

Tip #3: Talk to customers who walk away (so you can win back up to 18.64%)

Not everyone who starts booking on your website will complete it. In fact, many won’t.

There are many reasons customers fail to complete their booking: The boss calls … they decide to “wait until later” … they decide to do more research … or maybe they just get distracted.

Either way, you lose the sale, right?

Not necessarily. Shopping cart abandon emails are an easy way to automatically contact potential customers who walk away from your website and invite them back.

Why this matters in COVID: More than ever, potential customers are presented with distractions that might pull them away from completing their booking. Abandoned cart emails keep you in touch with these customers. So you can answer their questions and win them back.

The result? As many as 18.64% of online shoppers who are sent cart abandon emails return to complete their purchase. (And yes, we can prove that with a study.)

(Want to jump deeper into abandoned cart emails? Check out this video from our CEO.)

Tip #4: Reassure worried travelers using customer reviews

When your customers have worries or concerns, the best way to resolve those isn’t with clever ad copy … or a long and detailed FAQ page … or even with a beautiful video.

The single best way to convert customers who are on the fence is: reviews from other customers.

Why this matters in COVID: Your potential customers are more worried than ever. The right review from a happy customer drives those worries away.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that you take control of your review process. Specifically, this means:

1. You ask every customer to review you on your website first. 2. You only ask customers who give you rave reviews on your website to also review you on TripAdvisor.

A great tour management platform does both seamlessly—and makes it super easy for happy customers to repost their review on third-party sites like TripAdvisor.

(Want to jump deeper into review solicitation? Check out this video from our CEO.)

Tip #5: Drive advanced bookings with smart gift card promotions

Travel has always been about adventure, dreaming, and discovering new possibilities. So while it’s certainly the case that COVID has reduced travel, that doesn’t mean travelers have stopped planning that next trip or dreaming about that next great activity.

Plus, while customers are traveling less, many have more cash than ever to spend. In fact, travelers have saved more now than at any period in recent memory.

And for even the most avid 2020 travelers, gift cards may be the closest they get this year to that dream vacation.

Why this matters in COVID: Gift cards allow you to capture revenue from travelers who haven’t yet traveled due to COVID. And it allows them and their loved ones to dream together about their next destination.

So whether they have been a large part of your annual revenue in the past or not, it’s time to get serious about gift card sales. In fact, that’s one reason why you need a gift card platform that allows your customers to choose from a gallery of stunning gift card layouts.

(Want to jump deeper into gift cards? Check out this video from our CEO.)

How to win with digital marketing during COVID … and beyond

Here’s the good news: COVID doesn’t mean that people have given up doing fun things. Travel will come back

And here’s the … err … other news: While travel and tourism will come back, it will never be the same. COVID is dramatically accelerating the shift to digital marketing across all industries. Including travel and tourism.

For tour operators who have failed to connect to their customers through digital marketing (or who have outsourced their digital marketing to channels like Expedia), that’s bad news.

But for tour operators who are working now to tune up their digital marketing so they can get to know their customers better and win in the post-COVID surge, that’s great news.

If that sounds like you, let’s chat.

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