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How to Get More Direct Bookings: Strategies for Tour Operators 

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Travelers love booking online. More than two-thirds of revenue in the global tourism market came from online sales in 2022. And the online travel market size is expected to reach a whopping one trillion US dollars soon.

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Online travel agencies (OTAs) — like Expedia, GetYourGuide, and Viator — are a great way to get online bookings as a tour operator. 

But they come with a catch: you have to pay a commission, and this commission can be 20% or even higher. 

The solution? 

Direct bookings. Travelers skip third-party platforms and come directly to your tour business to make a booking, boosting your bottom line. 

The tricky part here is you need to entice travelers away from familiar OTAs to your own website to book.  

Below, we’ll dive into seven strategies to help you get more direct bookings for your tour company. 

Why Direct Bookings Are Important for Tour Operators

Direct bookings are the holy grail for tour and activity operators. Travelers come directly to your website to make a booking, meaning you keep the profits and don’t need to pay a hefty commission to a third-party platform. 

Beyond increasing your bottom line, direct bookings allow you to be in complete control of the customer experience.

When customers come to your website, you can make booking as streamlined and on-brand as possible. Plus, you can resolve any customer service issues yourself. This can help you form a relationship with travelers, encouraging raving reviews and repeat bookings.

You’ll also have more data to work with, like how customers find your website and where they go when visiting it. You can use this information to attract and retain even more customers.

We’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages of OTAs in more detail if you’d like to know more. 

Strategies to Drive Direct Bookings 

Here’s how to get more direct bookings as a tour operator. These strategies can help you attract new customers and keep them coming back. 

Boost Website Traffic to Get Direct Bookings 

You probably use OTAs to increase your reach and get your tour company in front of more travelers. You can also do this with your own website by boosting your web traffic.  

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The more eyeballs you can get on your website, the more likely you are to get direct bookings. 

You can boost your website traffic by: 

  • Optimizing your website with search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, such as using keywords about the tours you offer and where you operate, so you rank higher in Google search results  
  • Running paid ads on Meta or Google 
  • Using social media marketing to build a community and drive traffic towards your website 
  • Using Google Things to Do to get your tour business in front of travelers who are searching for, well, things to do 

Craft an Irresistible Booking Page 

More traffic on your website doesn’t mean anything if your conversion rate is low or non-existent. 

To make direct sales, you want your booking page and process to be as user friendly as possible. The more customers have to click around to find information or figure out how to book, the more likely they’ll go somewhere else to make the booking — either to an OTA or a competitor! 

Include all the information travelers need to make a buying decision on your booking page, and don’t forget about high-quality images and videos to make it more attractive. 

Rezgo Booking Software integrated and customized to your website

Remove any unnecessary steps or clicks in the path to purchase, and include clear calls to action (CTAs) to entice travelers into making a booking.

CTAs include: 

  • Book Now 
  • Reserve Your Spot  
  • Make a Reservation 
  • Check Availability 

For consistent branding, you can easily customize a white-label booking website with Rezgo to link to from your own website. 

Use Special Offers and Incentives 

Unless customers already know and trust you, it can be tricky to entice them into making a direct booking if you’re offering the same deal as an OTA. 

So, if possible, offer them a better deal.

Use some of the money you’d spend on commission fees to offer discounts or extras to direct bookers. 

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This could come in the form of: 

  • Early bird discounts to get bookings secured ahead of season 
  • Loyalty programs for repeat customers 
  • Package deals if travelers book multiple or complimentary tours or activities with you 
  • Incentives like a complimentary bottle of wine to take home from their wine tasting tour, free equipment rental with their scuba diving booking, or an upgraded seat on a rail tour 

Don’t be shy about these incentives. Make it clear on your website and in your marketing efforts that you’re offering a great deal that’s only available when booked directly.  

Use Direct Booking Software 

You’ve convinced a customer to book directly, but now they have to move through a clunky booking flow, send off an email, or, worse, pick up the phone to book. 

To compete with third-party platforms, you need to make direct booking a breeze.  

This is where booking software comes in. 

With direct booking software tools like Rezgo, customers can: 

  • Check real-time availability 
  • Make a booking 24/7 
  • Book easily through a page with your branding
  • Book on the web or mobile 
  • Pay through secure, well-known payment gateways  

Rezgo also lets you embed a booking widget anywhere on your website to capture bookings whenever customers are ready, and it makes your booking page SEO and mobile-friendly.

Beyond making direct booking simple for customers, booking software helps you drive more bookings overall as you can: 

  • Offer gift cards, promo codes, add-ons, and bundles  
  • Send secure online payment requests 
  • Use dynamic pricing that adjusts based on factors like date or availability  

Build Trust

Travelers know and trust big-name OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia. When they land on your website, they need to feel safe spending their hard-earned cash and booking tours, activities, and attractions for their precious vacation days. 

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You can build trust with social proof by displaying customer reviews on your website. 

With Rezgo, you can share verified reviews on your booking page. These reviews can only be left by confirmed customers, making them even more trustworthy.  

Along with reviews, trust badges show customers their personal information and credit card details are safe with you. 

Trust badges include: 

  • TrustedSite 
  • PayPal Verified 
  • BBB Accredited Business

Offer secure payment options, so customers can confidently enter their credit card details, and be transparent and upfront with your prices and policies too. That means no surprise booking fees that pop up at the final hurdle and scare customers off. 

Use Retargeting and Follow-Up Strategies 

Don’t give up if a potential customer bounces. Retargeting ads can lure back customers who have visited your site without making a booking or abandoned the booking process midway through. You can also set up automated cart abandonment emails in Rezgo. 

new-email-notification

While we’re talking about automation, set up automated confirmation emails to go out right after a customer makes a booking and automated follow-up emails after a tour or activity to show your appreciation and request a review.  

Once you have a customer’s email address, engage with them regularly through email marketing efforts to encourage rebookings and word-of-mouth referrals. 

Don’t forget to highlight the fact they can book directly with you — and that they can score a deal if they do.

Final Thoughts

Yes, it’s possible to compete with the OTA giants and increase direct online bookings as a tour operator. 

Offer discounts and incentives to make direct booking a no-brainer and use SEO and social and email marketing strategies to drive more traffic to your website and convert new and returning customers. 

For this to work, customers need to trust you with their booking. Use Rezgo to offer secure payment gateways, verified reviews, a branded booking page and widget, and a streamlined booking process that rivals the best third-party platforms.



 
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