How to get more bookings for your tour or activity business

When you’re a tour or activity operator, getting new business can be a challenge. Especially if you rely solely on direct bookings through your website or self-run social media campaigns.
First published on January 23, 2017
Last updated on August 20, 2021

When you’re a tour or activity operator, getting new business can be a challenge. Especially if you rely solely on direct bookings through your website or self-run social media campaigns.

If you’ve been in the tourism game for a number of years, you will have seen how much indirect online bookings have shaped the industry for the better. With the internet and smartphones, there are now so many more ways for your offering to be seen. Customers can access these options with the click of a button, no matter where they are. Let’s take a closer look at what indirect bookings are and how to get more for your tour and activity business.

What are indirect bookings?

Indirect bookings are made through third parties, or distributors, who resell your product. This could be an online travel agent (OTA) such as Expedia or Wotif. The more third party distributors you’re linked in with, the wider audience you will have viewing your product offering.

How can your business sell more tours?

Seeking indirect booking options can be an effective way to promote and advertise your business. It can also be cost effective – often, distributors will only charge you a commission when a traveller books your tour or activity. Until they do, it’s essentially free advertising!

Work with Online Activity Agents (OAAs)

Websites such as Viator and Adrenalin are OAAs or experience websites. They give their customers a wide variety of tour and activity offers and specials. Typically these bookings are based on a commission, which is taken out from cost of the booking before it’s transferred to your bank account – approximately 7 days before the booking date.

Link in with Online Travel Agents (OTAs)

Another way to lock in indirect bookings is through an OTA. These websites work as travel agents do, just without talking face-to-face. Customers can book flights, accommodation, tour and attraction tickets all on one website. There are often packages, special offers and reviews of other traveller’s experiences. The biggest benefit of using an OTA for a traveller is the ability to compare an offering. You need to make sure your product’s pricing is right for the target market and compares favourably with competitors.
Much like OAAs, the booking terms are usually commission-based, paid directly to the OTA from the total amount owed to you.

Build strong relationships with concierge services

Concierge services make reservations on behalf of their hotel guests. They will recommend tours and attractions in the local area that the tourists should visit. Having a strong relationship with a concierge is a brilliant way to secure more indirect bookings. Obviously the more your offering resonates with customers and the stronger your relationship is with the concierge, the more they’re going to recommend you over your competitors.

Usually concierges also work on a commission base and the rate is set by the hotel. The only way to make a relationship like this successful is by nurturing it and keeping them updated with your latest tours and offers.

Final thoughts

Finally, it is important to link in with a lot of third party distributors in order to widen your audience. Distributors also don’t require commission until a traveller books with you, meaning they essentially offer you free advertising until that point. OTAs allow travellers to compare offerings, giving you the opportunity price your product correctly within the market and set yourself up as a favourable competitor. It’s also important to have strong relationships with nearby hotels, so that their concierges can recommend your fabulous business!
Once you get all this sorted, it will be important to know how to manage an overload of bookings during high season.

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