As a tour operator, chances are that you either have your tours listed on Viator and/or TripAdvisor (TA), or you’re trying your best to get yourself listed. You’re also probably aware that every time someone books through these third-party platforms, you’re essentially giving away 20 to 30% of your potential revenue to these behemoths. This past weekend, I booked a trip with an operator in Rio de Janeiro via Viator against my better judgment. In this post, I’ll be detailing my experience and how you can stop the same thing from happening to you by taking direct bookings and avoiding the middle man.
As it’s likely that TripAdvisor outranks you and your competitors on simple Google search, a huge percentage of traffic will end up there since many travelers prefer to compare and contrast their options. Once I settled on a tour I liked the look of, I ended up here:
The first thing I wanted to do was to check out their website to make sure they looked like a legitimate company and also see if there was any further information, as I was still undecided.
Here are the 5 errors you can avoid making to keep that pesky commission for yourself:
1. Ensure that your website link on TripAdvisor is up to date.
It sounds stupidly simple, but look where I ended up after clicking the “Website” link from their TA profile:
This could set off alarm bells straight away. If you make any changes to your website URL or slugs, double check that you update them on all your listings across your OTA platforms.
2. Match your tour names across all platforms.
On TripAdvisor, I was looking at the “Early Access to Christ the Redeemer Tour.” When I finally found Amigo Tours’ website, I was faced by 9 different tour options, none of them matching the tour named on TripAdvisor. This added confusion to my experience as I had no idea which was the relevant tour.
3. Lay out your tour itinerary and details.
Amigo Tours are present in 6 major locations worldwide, yet on their website, they do not have pages dedicated to each tour they run. Instead, they integrate their booking software, PeekPro, directly into the homepage:
Given that the tour names didn’t match and I was unable to read details about the tours they DID have listed on their website, I had no inclination to book directly through Amigo Tours. Having pages dedicated to each trip that you offer is crucial for customers attempting to decide between different options. These details being easily accessible and understandable eliminates confusion from the get-go and can make all the difference in converting potential customers to paying customers.
4. Website security is key!
You can be sure that booking on TripAdvisor will be secure 99.99% of the time, so your visitors need to have the same peace of mind on your site. When I see the below message, I know where I won’t be booking.
An up-to-date SSL certificate only goes so far. If your website presents a “not secure” error like the one shown above, it’s most likely due to the fact that you’re loading http scripts rather than https. A simple way to check for this is by right-clicking on the page and selecting “View page source.” Windows users should press Ctrl + F (Mac users: command + F) and type “http:”, and your browser will then highlight all links loading in http. This will allow you to log in to the backend and change over to https. Once you clear the site cache, you should now have a squeaky clean, safe site.
5. Have a live booking engine.
Amigo Tours integrating PeekPro is something they got right. If your tours are bookable on the TA and Viator platforms, then you 100% need to have live booking availability through your own website. We know that people who use TA are among the savviest shoppers, so it’s unlikely that they’ll send you an inquiry form and wait for your response – they’ll already be looking at the next option or giving away your 20% commission to TA. To learn more, read about Margaret’s experience when booking her Machu Picchu trip.
These 5 steps won’t guarantee that people will choose to book your tours directly through your website rather than via major OTAs. But, by following them, you’ll be increasing the chances of them doing so, therefore wrestling back money and control from the big boys.
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