Your customers are already doing their research and booking online. In fact, over 70% of travelers do their researching online and more than 50% do on-line bookings as well. That isn’t just airfare and hotels either, that’s all aspects of travel including travel insurance, car rentals, and tours and activities. If you don’t plan for online bookings then you will be missing out on a growing source of revenue. Let’s review some simple steps to make sure you are ready to start the process of accepting online bookings.
- Organize your products. Consumers (that includes travelers) are used to buying packaged goods. You need to be able to described, display, and price your tours and activities in a way that is compelling for a consumer. Ask yourself these questions: What do I sell? When do I go? How much do I charge? If you can answer these questions, then you’re off to a good start.
- What type of tour operator are you. Figure out what type of operator you are and how you do business. This may seem trivial but it will go a long way to helping you find a booking solution that best suites your business needs. For example, if you are packaged tour operator who sells FIT and custom tours for groups, then your needs will be very different from an operator who does daily guided sightseeing tours.
- Document your business processes. Do you have an operating manual? Well, you don’t necessarily need one and if you’re a small business it’s probably unreasonable to expect you to have one. That said, you need to understand how your business functions and be able to explain it to others.
- Contact your bank and set-up an online payment gateway. This process will take time and you should start it sooner than later. For more information about whether you should accept online payments for your tourism business, you can read this article.
- Get a grip on your costs and your profit margin. Selling online is not without its costs. You need to understand what those costs will be and how they will affect your bottom line. You may need to adjust your pricing to maximize your margins while still providing good value for your customers.
Once you’ve taken care of these fairly straightforward steps, you will be well on your way to being ready for online bookings. Remember, don’t rush into it, do your homework, ask LOTS of questions, and find out what your colleagues and competitors are doing.