Direct bookings are good for business.  You get the full margin and often that’s a lot of money – usually about 25% of the sale.  So obviously you want more.   You’ve often had limited success in the past and have resorted to the old ways – you rely on the OTA.

There is good news

The customer does not care where they finally buy. If they trust your business and the website experience is good there is no reason you should not get the sale.

We also know who is the competition.   It’s the aggregators.   Booking, Viator, Trip Advisor and others.   These businesses have worked out how to attract customers and they have finely honed user experiences.   Nothing is left to chance.

But the travel experience is normally about location.   Your customers are mostly either in your location or planning to be in your location. This is your advantage.   If you do a good job it’s cheaper for you to acquire customers than the OTA.

But there is a challenge

The challenge for tour and activity providers is you have to get every aspect of your web presence nearly right.   I mean 80% to 100% right.   So many sites ask the customer to do too much work.   Work means risk so the customer just goes somewhere else.

What does that mean:

You have to be found by people looking for you.  Thats critical.  You must own this because these are the cheapest customers.   I’m talking about the customer who gets told by a friend, hotel concierge etc that when you go to Amed Bali – you must use “No Fear Diving”  if that business can’t be found on Google with one quick search they are lost.   You have to own this space!

Then you have to compete effectively,

Your website needs to be perfect. This means it sells your products and services well and it works perfectly.  The person is sure to be on a mobile like 70% of your potential customers. They have something they need to know.

Customer service needs to be prominent and prompt. I’ve just been to Bali where the local businesses have to be good. They all use WhatsApp but it could be email.  They work this well. They get back to you instantly day or night. Also the link to Contact us is always front and centre and obvious.

You have to deal with your location properly.  Does the address on your website match the Google address? Is there a link to Google Maps. Everyone wants to see where your business is relative to where they are. Remember travellers need context to make a purchase decision.

Pricing is important. This means ensuring the best price or at least price parity is available on your site. Often it’s cheaper to buy from the aggregator and you’ll lose that sale. Your potential customer will go elsewhere for the smallest price difference and it’s only a browser tab away.  While on this topic what is your cancellation and refunds policy? Unfortunately, the customer is trained to expect a pretty generous policy.

The pages need to sell. This is not mysterious. It’s just about answering the questions people have in their heads at the point of purchase. The basics of any travel decision are:

  • where you are,

  • what it is you do,

  • and what is special about your business – for example better safety procedures, government certification, guide training.

The guys at The  Baynard Institute found that too many travel operators don’t even have the basics.   These are:

  • Duration and start time

  • Tour departure or meeting points

  • Special requirements or restrictions (e.g., “for ages 16+”, physical fitness requirements for hiking tours, etc.)

  • Full descriptions of the experiences users can expect during the tour

  • The cancellation policy

Fix Your Website

See it’s easy.

So many sites ignore these issues.  I’ve audited hundreds of sites and most tours and activities websites fail. This matches the work done by Baynard.   The overriding observation of the Baynard research was:

It’s “UX basics” — with a heavy focus on providing users with all the information they need to consider a tour — that need attending to. Otherwise, users are likely to simply go to another site — as for many users, a low-performing tours and experiences site is an indication that the actual tour itself will similarly be disappointing.

So lets get this fixed for next season.