The online travel industry is booming, with global digital travel sales surpassing 560 billion US dollars in 2016. Many of these bookings are made through online travel agents (OTAs), like Expedia. In fact, Expedia alone has recently seen gross bookings of approximately 60 billion US dollars per year!
As a tour operator, you can use OTAs to reach far more customers and grow your online reputation. Here are four top hacks for increased bookings with Expedia and other OTAs:
1. Keep your profile, content, and promotions up-to-date on your page
Your page on an OTA website is the platform through which you can display what your brand has to offer and differentiate yourself from competitors. Make sure your profile is complete, with a full description, business hours, contact details, tour prices, links to your website, and other pertinent details. It is important to keep these details updated. Take a look at Julius Tact Safaris’ TripAdvisor page. Contact details, a description, and opening hours are all included.
As well as maintaining your profile, provide interesting content and run promotions. Many travelers use OTAs to make last-minute bookings, so consider providing last-minute promotions for these customers. Deals and offers can also be used to attract clients during off-peak seasons, when your tours may not always be fully booked.
2. Provide detailed descriptions of the tours you offer
When using an OTA, make sure that you fill in detailed descriptions of all your tours. This is the information your potential customers will read when looking for a tour, so you want it to be as comprehensive and appealing as possible. Use compelling descriptions and storytelling to sell your tour as an adventure waiting to be had. The better your description is, the more you stand out amongst other tours being offered. A great example of this can be seen below, where Vintage Africa has described their 7-Day Masai Footsteps Safari in rich language, and with plenty of imagery, on Expedia.
Remember to include many keywords, so that your tour will appear when people do a search. For example, if someone searches for ‘safari East Africa’, the OTA will show all results that include those keywords. If your tour fits that description, you’ll want it to show up in those search results.
3. Invest in high-quality images
It’s no secret that people are drawn to images. Include plenty of eye-catching photos to accompany your page, tour descriptions and any associated content. Show your professionalism by using top quality images taken by a professional photographer – it is well worth the investment. As for subject matter – allow site visitors to see the full tour experience. Include images of local scenery, wildlife, and of past customers enjoying themselves on your tours. Potential customers won’t want to miss out after getting a glimpse of the experiences that they could have on a tour with your company. Here is an example of a photograph showing happy customers, from Urban Adventures’ Zesty Zanzibar tour page on Orbitz.
4. Respond quickly to comments, questions, and reviews
Travel reviews, like any genuine customer testimonial, are valuable and powerful marketing tools. People will trust reviews written by your past customers, and this will make them more likely to book a tour with you. According to TrustYou, 95% of travelers read reviews before making a travel booking. This means that your reviews are a very important aspect of your presence on an OTA website. Therefore, you should make sure to respond to any reviews and comments quickly. This way, you’ll be able to show everyone that you have excellent customer service.
When it comes to negative comments or reviews, a timely response is even more crucial. Step in right away, and show your concern or offer a solution. This shows that you care about your customers, and it reduces the damage caused by the negative review. It could even lead to positive consequences, if potential customers are impressed by the way you responded to the complaint.
Use OTAs to your advantage and increase your bookings rates using the above four tips. With a great profile, comprehensive tour descriptions, eye-catching images, and plenty of positive reviews, you’re sure to attract new customers and keep your tours booked throughout the year.