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Review sites are a tour operator’s bread and butter. They allow you to showcase your tours and prove your experience to other potential buyers, all while letting former customers do the talking. After you’ve figured out which review sites to focus your energy on, it’s time to start directing previous tour-goers there. Though this may seem like a simple enough task, there’s more to it than simply sending a thank-you email with links to Google or TripAdvisor.

Adding Value for Your Customer

People get hundreds of emails each month (or even thousands, depending on your industry), so in order for you to stand out, you need to have something your customer wants. One such way to do this is by taking photos of your guests while they’re enjoying themselves on your experience. This is especially important if the activity is one that makes it difficult for the person enjoying it to snap a photo themselves, as is the case with ziplining, paragliding, or anything involving water. I went on a rafting trip recently where one guide took several snapshots of us from the bank while we floated down the river. I was far too concerned about the rapids to have even dreamed of capturing some memories, not to mention that I didn’t have a waterproof camera. So, when our guide sent me the photos along with a link to their TripAdvisor page, I immediately left a glowing review.

Sometimes you’re not able to take photos of the guests, whether that’s because you’re not with them for every part of the tour or you’re too busy trying to make sure that they have a good time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still send a helpful email! Perhaps they mentioned their love of sushi, and you know of a great place nearby for them to try. Maybe they are traveling to another city in your area and would like recommendations on where to stay. Even if you don’t have the capacity to tailor your email to each individual guest, you can always offer a list of a few of your favorite places in your city. There’s nothing like getting tips from a local, and your customer is sure to look kindly upon such an action.

Make the Importance of Reviews Known

Another way to encourage customers to leave reviews is by making it clear how much they mean to your tour business. Though most companies rely on some form of word-of-mouth marketing, very few are as dependent on it as tour operators, as they often require a customer to book without ever having met the person who leads the tour. Tours are often booked months in advance from thousands of miles away, so it is especially important to impress your value upon potential guests from the beginning. Having a beautiful, easy-to-use website is one aspect of it, since it gives your tour business a sense of authority and professionalism (if your website isn’t doing this for you, feel free to give us a call). However, testimonials are also extraordinarily important. It’s one thing for you, as the tour business owner, to talk about why you’re different from all the other operators in your area, but it carries much more weight when real and (presumably) unbiased guests say the same thing.

Despite the fact that your guests probably used the same review sites themselves and therefore know implicitly how important they are to your success, it’s often forgotten in the post-vacation haze. Review sites struggle with the free-rider problem, and it’s easy for a person to read and rely on reviews without ever leaving one themself. A person may also justify their decision not to write a review by saying that it doesn’t make a difference among the tens or hundreds of others. To combat this, you need to make it clear how fundamental testimonials are to your tour business. Before embarking on the experience, ask guests where they found you. If they say through a review site, you know they’re a good candidate for advocating to others on Facebook (or the site of your choice).

When you’re wrapping up at the end of the tour, you can add a line to your good-bye speech about how customer reviews have impacted your business. A general mention of how “everyone relies on reviews” probably won’t do much good; instead, you should offer clear evidence or anecdotes. For example, if you gave one of your guides a promotion because they were constantly praised by name on TripAdvisor, share this with your guests! Maybe another customer said that they had spent months combing through multi-day trips and ultimately opted to go with yours because of the great comments left by previous tour-goers. Mention this and other similar situations to your guests, making it clear that they, too, can have a tangible impact on your livelihood just by writing a few short lines. If they know how much it means to you, they’ll probably be more amenable to helping you out, especially if they loved the experience.

Be Careful with Guests Leaving Reviews While Still in Your Office

One important aspect to keep in mind is that the physical location where a person leaves a review matters. Sites like Yelp have a tendency to penalize companies that encourage customers to leave reviews while they’re still at the place in question. This is in part caused by their concern about fake reviews, since a slew of positive reviews left at the same IP address looks suspicious, and in part by their attempts to discourage companies from offering a discount in exchange for leaving a review.

To avoid this, you might want to consider asking guests to wait until they get home to add their thoughts to TripAdvisor. Though this may mean that they forget to do it altogether, it also prevents your tour company from getting flagged for fake reviews. However, if your tour or activity ends somewhere other than your brick-and-mortar office, you may not have to worry as much. I’ve personally left positive reviews while still on the tour, but I did so during the drive between destinations, making it unlikely that my positive comments would be flagged as fake.

Make Getting Reviews Part of Your Strategy

Getting customers to leave more reviews isn’t a difficult task if you know where to get started. Offering them reminders in the email where you send post-tour recommendations and citing tangible examples of how reviews have improved your business are great ways to convince a testimonial reader to become a testimonial writer. If all else fails, you can always start by responding to each review left on your page. That way, there’s no excuse that the review will get lost among the others: your response is proof that you’re listening.

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