5 Things That Make Tour Operators Stand Out From The Crowd

 1. Unique Selling Point

Having a successful tour business is not as simple as ‘build it and they will come’ or rather ‘offer it and they will come’.  There are a lot things involved in being a successful tour operator, but having a great product that is unique is a really good start.

Think about what niche you want to serve.  What are you offering that is different from everyone else in the market?  If you are offering bike tours or walking tours, what is so different about your business to everyone else’s?  Is it the experience of the guides? the places you visit?  These are the points of differentiation you need to get across to your potential customers.

 How tour operators can stand out from the crowd

Highlighting your unique selling point

You might have a lot of strings to your bow and offer more than just one type of tour or experience.  That’s great! When trying to grow your business though, it’s probably best to pick your niche and do that well before you start expanding into other areas.  Pick one thing or one area that you want to focus on and do that really well.  Once you have mastered that, then start thinking about adding new tours and moving into other areas.  There is truth in the old adage, “Don’t learn to run before you can walk”.

 2. Tour Reviews

Reviews have a huge impact on a customer’s decision on whether or not to book with you.  They give what’s called ‘social proof’ to what you are offering.  It’s human nature, if someone sees someone else having a good time, then they want that too.  It gives validation.

According to a survey sponsored by Zendesk, 90% of 1,046 participants said that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions.  That’s fairly conclusive.

If you don’t have any reviews yet, then start getting some!  The easiest and quickest way to do this, is just to ask. When finishing up a tour, ask your customers to leave a review.  This can be for your own site, TripAdvisor or Google My Business.  I know that the TripAdvisor review is the one most people focus on, but it is also a good idea to diversifying your review sources.  Start out by asking 3-4 people a week, who have had a great experience with your business to leave a review.  Before long you will have a good review base, which will soon start delivering you more customers.

Once those reviews start rolling in, replying to reviews and dealing with any bad ones is also very important.  If someone leaves you a good review, make sure to thank them and engage further with that person.  Replying to bad reviews is more important than responding to good ones.

“Replying to bad reviews is more important than responding to good ones”

If you get a bad review, it’s probably best to not reply straight away in the heat of the moment.  Take a few minutes, think about it and then respond. There’s no harm getting someone else to look over it, so that it doesn’t come across hostile or rude.  Put your side of the story across in a measured way, addressing the specific points raised without getting emotional.  In any event, getting the odd bad review is not the end of the world.  When people are looking through reviews and they see a bad one, it gives more credibility that your reviews are actually genuine.  They understand that you can’t please everyone all of the time and some people just like complaining.  If there’s a trend of bad reviews though,  this will have an impact and it’s something you should address.

3. Tour Images

As the saying goes ‘a picture paints and thousand words’.  This is also true of the images you use to sell your business.  For tour operators, if someone lands on your website or Facebook page, they want to experience what you’re offering, not just read about it. Use images that show off your tours in the best possible way.

Here’s an image used by one of our customers, Experience Gaelic Games, showing some of their customers having a fantastically fun time!

Activity provider, Experience Gaelic Games

People often buy for emotional reasons, so you can use images to make your potential customers feel a certain way.  Whether you want to convey fun, adventure or trust-worthiness use your images to get that across.

Something that Kissmetrics, talk about in their blog 7 Tips to Boost Your Site’s Conversion Rate Using Images, is that using human faces can really boost conversion.  This gets people to focus more and it causes them to draw towards a common point of interest.  You can’t ask for any better than that!

Tour operator City Kayaking
Here’s an example of 2 images from another customer, City Kayaking.  One showing where the activities happen and the beautiful landscape; another showing people having a good time on the tour.

City Kayaking are pretty good at showing their tours in a good light and showcasing their customers having a good time.  It’s ok to use images without people in them on Facebook, or along with other images that do.  If you are using images on the landing page of your website though or for promotional use, use one with people in them.

 4. Website

In a similar way that images entice customers to book with you, for tour operators your website is the best shop window you have for your business. Some startling or scary facts about your website visitors are:

  • 70% of all visitors to your website will never come back
  • You have approx 15 seconds to grab their attention

“70% of all visitors to your website will never come back”

With those facts as the backdrop, you need to make your website as effective as possible in grabbing your customers attention…and quickly!
There are many things that you can do to get this right including your overall web design, not overloading your website visitors with too much information and having it look professional.  One important aspect of this is to have easy navigation of your site.  I have seen so many examples of websites, which look great, but I have to click page after page before getting to the information I want.  Another really important part to this, is making it as easy as possible for people to book with you. Don’t put so many obstacles in the way that people just give up.  The more effort the customer has to make, like signing up to be a user; too many questions in the booking process; waiting to find out if you have availability – will just lead to a drop off in conversion.

 5. Your Tour Price

This is not the most important factor that people consider before booking or that makes tour operators stand out – unless it’s unbelievably cheap…or expensive!  Let’s not kid ourselves though, it is a consideration.  I often get asked by our customers what I think of their pricing, are they charging too little or too much, should they offer more discounts or less.

There is no simple answer to this and it depends on a number of things, including:

  • How long you have been in business: If you are relatively new to the scene, you may want to keep your prices low until you establish yourself
  • Where you are located: If you are in a more expensive city versus a rural area, and costs are higher, this will feed into how much you charge.  Likewise, a customer would not expect to pay the same price for the same tour in a rural area
  • Overheads: This is really your starting point on figuring out how much you should charge.  How much is it costing you to run your activity and what profit margin should be on top of that
  • Who is your customer?: If you are catering for families, groups, stags or hens, you probably need to cater for these groups in your pricing by considering discounts.  What you need to think about is for example a family was booking with you at full price, would they be put off if you didn’t offer family discounts or child prices?
  • Other tour operators: Although you may not want to go down the line of thinking or caring about other tour operators, I think it’s prudent to be aware of what your competition is doing.  Your overheads will not change, nor will the value of your time and experience.  Looking at what others are doing however, will give you context of the overall market and give you a sense of whether your prices are ballpark or not.

A lot of this is also trial and error.  Just because you charge a particular price doesn’t mean you can’t change it. Start out by working out your overheads, what’s the bare minimum you can charge and add in what you think is a reasonable profit margin.  What value do you point on your own time?  You are offering value by giving your experience and knowledge to your customers, this clearly has a value.

Danielle Mallen
Danielle Mallen
COO at Acteavo
Danielle is the COO of Acteavo and its customer experience champion. You can follow Danielle on Twitter and Linkedin.