7 Essentials Every Tour Operator Should Have on Their Websites

Having a pretty website with a fancy logo isn’t enough to survive in such a competitive and complex digital world, especially for tour operators. From the eyes of the consumer, nothing is as frustrating as landing on a website and having a broken experience that doesn’t provide all the information needed.  But you don’t need to be a designer to create a seamless experience for all your potential customers. In fact, applying some easy tricks will increase the likelihood of converting your visitors into your customers.

It’s extremely imperative that when applying the following tactics, you ensure it’s optimized for mobile as well. In fact, having a mobile responsive website is not enough nowadays. Mobile usage in the US surpasses desktop and it’s pertinent to provide an above satisfactory experience to outshine your competitors. If you can’t reach your potential audience through mobile search, you most certainly won’t convert them to a sale. Understanding the shift of desktop only, mobile only, and cross-platforms is key to your success.

One. Easy & Intuitive Navigation

There is a reason a “UI and UX Designer” exists as a profession. The way users interact with not just the digital world, but also the real world, is a basis of human psychology. Here are some strategies you can apply to understand the flow your visitors go through:

  • Test your website with friends and family and watch their behavior when interacting with it – subtle facial expressions can indicate a lot
  • Have an easy way to get back to the home page
  • Straightforward  navigation and menu bar

As mentioned above, creating an easy and intuitive navigation for mobile is especially important. The way users interact with a mobile device is entirely different than that of a desktop. For example, most people are right handed, so having the menu bar on the right side as opposed to the left can make a huge difference.

 

Two. Images, Images, Images

The phrase “a photo says a thousand words” has never been more relevant in a highly digital and information overloaded world. From an aesthetics point of view, images provide a friendly and inviting environment. By breaking up large amount of text, images can ease the stress on the eyes. Many people fail to underestimate the value of high-resolution images. Not only are they a portrayal of you and your business, it enables the potential customer to experience the activity before even booking.

Have you ever looked through a series of beautiful landscapes from all over the world and all of a sudden feel a spark of your wanderlust? Or perhaps you noticed while perusing through a series of food photos, you suddenly found yourself hungry? Photography is more than just art – it’s a powerful action-motivating tool.

For example, imagine you run a food tour business. With the crazy amount of food bloggers and food images on Instagram, Pinterest and the like, capturing the attention of your audience becomes incrementally competitive. Capturing the right angle could make all the difference. 

Whether you utilize some of the abundantly free stock photos, hire a professional food photographer, or hone in on your own photography craft, great photos are the perfect way to capture someone’s attention.

 

Three. Clear, Concise, Call-To-Actions

Humans are naturally action-oriented. That doesn’t change in the digital world. For the most part, there is an intentional reason why visitors land on your site. Whether it’s through organic search, paid advertisement or affiliate linking, something motivated the user to go to your site. Once they land on it, your site should continue leading them to their intention. The most obvious and necessary call-to-action is a “Book Now!” button. This button is the key to your sales and there are a few tips to capitalize it’s power:

  • Include it in the navigation bar. If your site doesn’t have a navigation bar, make sure it’s at least “above the fold”
  • Separate it from other buttons – make sure it does not compete with other buttons you might be utilizing.
  • Incorporate it throughout your site in a non-obtrusive way – 3 to 4 buttons throughout a page is a good number depending on how much content exists.
  • Always have a phone number or email near the button.
  • If using a 3rd party ticketing provider, educate the consumer as such, especially if the 3rd party provider redirects the user to a new page.

 

Four. Reviews.

Your customers are your best salesmen! With such a competitive market, it’s challenging to convince people why they need to go on your activity as opposed to your competitor. Reviews and customer testimonials convince your potential customers without any effort on your end. The key is ensuring reviews are authentic and unbiased. Putting a list of reviews on your website is not enough as it serves no validation of authenticity. Using third party aggregator sites like TripAdvisor on the other hand, gives assurance that the reviews are legitimate.  These unbiased reviews serve as a trusted source of information for many different reasons. Not only does it show potential customers how great your activities are, it could also provide additional information that your website may be lacking.

Understanding the customer journey to purchase is  key to understanding where to incorporate your reviews. For example, having your reviews on your checkout page is not the most ideal location as your customer already decided to purchase. The best place would be at the beginning of their journey when they are still in the “discovery phase”. Having TripAdvisor and Yelp icons in your header and a widget in the footer are great ways to invite your future customers to read your reviews and learn about your activity.

Getting customer testimonials is not always easy but there are easy steps you can take to get more raving reviews:

  • Using 3rd party aggregators like Review Tsunami
  • Email follow-ups 3 to 5 days after the customer participated in your activity
  • Videos – never underestimate the power of video marketing. Capturing testimonials while the activity is going on or immediately after is a unique, easy and fun way to get more testimonials
  • Social media – highlight some of the customers that have left raving reviews to entice others to do the same

 

Five. An About Us Page.

What is your why? Reveal a little bit about yourself and show off your personality. You have a unique and fun offering with a passionate story behind it. Nobody wants to go on a tour or activity and have no clue who they will be interacting with. Explain your history and the journey you came to developing the activity you provide. A big part of selling anything is understanding what your customers want to buy. Customers don’t just buy tickets to your activity or tour, they buy a bit of you as well. You could have the most historical, informative and fact-driven tour but if it’s not delivered in an exciting way, customers are not going to enjoy it. But assuming you created such an offering based on your passion, it’s highly unlikely you deliver it in a boring way. But customers don’t know that so you have to show them the passion.

Include photos of your tour guides with mini-bios and photos of your vehicles or modes of transportation if applicable. If your activity takes place at a facility, include photos of the inside and take your customers through a visual tour of what they’ll be participating in. Each activity provider is different and it’s your responsibility to use your unique value proposition to get customers on your activity as opposed to your competitor.

Six. Invest in an Online Booking System

Your visitors landed on your site to do something. Your goal is to make that something a sale.  In today’s tourism market, an online booking system is a requirement for survival. Whether you’re a one-man show or an operation with a full staff of customer service representatives, an online booking system ensures your business is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s what enables you to make money while you sleep and choosing which online booking system can be overwhelming at best.

Although you can make a custom solution, choosing a 3rd party service might be a better option for many different reasons.  The most important thing is to find a solution provider that is tailored to your business needs. Every tour and activity provider is different – different products, different offerings, and therefore different business needs. And just like any other business partner, you must choose one that truly addresses your business needs to ensure your business grows. For example, if you’re a passenger vessel or a water-sports business, consider using a ticketing provider with software specifically tweaked to handle the needs of that business niche like Starboard Suite.

Your customer’s path to purchase is already intricate enough from external factors, don’t make it even more complicated once they made their decision to book. Not only do your visitors want a clear path to purchase, they want to be confident in their purchase. Here are some tips to make it a seamless path:

  • Use idiot-proof calendars – showing an updated schedule helps your customers plan their travels. It’s important you have accurate availability of your activities but showing that to your visitors is dependent on the factors. If your activities typically sell out, showing availability will evoke an urgency for your visitors at the chance of missing out. If, on the other hand, your activities typically don’t fill up, showing such will potentially dissuade your visitors and suggest your activities aren’t worthy enough.
  • Clear pricing – if you have additional fees like taxes and ticketing fee, break it down so the customer can clearly see what there money is going to.
  • Easy checkout – typically this is handled by the third party vendor of your choice but it’s crucial to keep that in mind when deciding which solution to use. Creating a seamless user experience is a waste of time if your checkout is over-complicated.

Seven. Make it Easy for Your Customers to Contact You

This might seem like a no-brainer but nothing will lose your customers as fast as a difficult way to contact you. Include your phone number and email in the header and footer on every page. Although you’ve invested in an aesthetically beautiful and informative website, your future customers will inevitably still want to talk to you. Adding additional pages such as a “Contact Us” and “FAQ Page” can mitigate the number of emails and calls you receive.

It’s important this extends to all digital channels you use, including social media. If you (as a business) haven’t figured out the importance social media plays in your overall success, you’re way behind the playing field. The tourism industry is constantly evolving. As consumerism shifts, being tech savvy and agile is the only way to ensure success. Social media’s role in your business is two-fold. One, it’s a platform to express your business and build reputation. Two, it serves as a two-way channel between your business and customers.  

Different social media platforms cater to different demographics. That’s why it’s critical you understand your customer. Social media implies it’s “social” so be “social”. The power of social media connects you directly to your customers, providing personal and proactive engagement. By that same token, it’s also imperative you do not go radio silent in times of reactive emergency. Do not ignore your customers when they are demanding your attention.

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