3 Digital Marketing Tips For Tour Operators That Are Proven to Boost Tour Sales
There are thousands of digital marketing tools, agencies, self-proclaimed gurus and advice listicles out there. Sifting through the ones that are relevant can seem like a monumental task.
So when we have the opportunity to talk to a Digital Marketer who specifically serves tour operators, and has built up a team of avid travelers and former guides, we listen.
We jumped at the opportunity to catch up with Evan Tipton of Tour Operator Marketing Intelligence Software (TOMIS): a digital marketing assistant that’s designed for tour operators. As a former tour guide himself, Evan’s career has gone from rafting tours, to building up tourism start-ups, to refining digital tools for tour operators around the world.
And as you read through his tips, it’ll become pretty obvious why Evan’s one of our favorite Marketing experts. Who else could cover chatbots, SEO, SMS campaigns, and Google Ads in one hour?
In this conversation, Evan chats with Amada Anderson, founder of New York Broadway Tours, and Billy Marquis, owner of Arkansas River Tours in Colorado (and client of TOMIS). They ask Evan pointed questions about their own tour business, so you can hear exactly how software like Evan’s can solve real-life business challenges for tour operators in the world of travel.
Read on to catch Evan’s tips for tour operators, and his viewpoint on how chatbots and text messages can transform your tour and activities business.
1. Be Strategic about SEO and paid ad campaigns.
“It’s definitely a long game, but it makes the business more resilient, and it’s the best driver of sustained growth.”
Evan was clear that investing in SEO takes time. But since it’s a channel that can drive continued growth, without shelling out to an OTA or search engine, it’s an area that every tour operator needs to think about.
There are some SEO basics that tour operators can investigate themselves. As an example, Evan mentioned Google’s Core Web Vitals, an update that rolled out recently. You can get a free report for your own website, and even see how your pages are loading on different devices and platforms using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Since these tools are provided by Google, this is one of the best ways to help improve your site’s ranking, according to the search giant’s algorithms.
These reports will deliver a list of action items you can take to improve your site experience, and therefore show Google that your pages are worthy of higher rankings in search results. Some of those items might be easy enough for you to handle on your own; others may require some technical web development or SEO expertise, which Evan’s team can provide.
Many tour operators can also benefit from paid campaigns. Evan confirms that some of his clients have seen a 6x return on investment from Google Ads.
But the key is to consider your niche and geographic market before investing. Do your research, or partner with an agency like TOMIS to dig into the data for you, before you hand over your credit card to Google. If the average bid will cost less than paying commission to an OTA, then Google Ads are a safe bet.
You can also set up remarketing campaigns to maximize your dollars, allowing you to pay more for repeat site visitors. Be strategic about when and where your ads are displayed, to make sure you’re paying to show ads only to people who are most likely to purchase.
An agency like Evan’s will also dig deeper into your user experience, website functionality, and customer communications – all of which play into your website performance, and ultimately your business.
2. Invest in your mobile experience
“Give potential customers the information they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it.”
The mobile experience is especially important for tour operators, since travelers are often making fast decisions on the go, and booking right from their phone. So it makes sense that one of the first things Evan does for clients is to evaluate the experience on mobile.
Are your buttons easy to read? Is your menu bar clear and easy to find? Making your site easy to navigate on mobile will improve customer loyalty, generate more sales, and even drive more organic traffic (see the importance of this above!).
3. Engage customers in the way that’s most comfortable for them.
“If you can train a human to answer a question, you can train a chatbot.”
Many tour operators end up spending hours of time on the phone with potential customers or combing through their emails, to respond to the same, repeated questions.
Making information easier to find on your site helps. So does an FAQ page. But one of the most effective sales-generation tools that Evan can recommend are chatbots, especially when combined with SMS text integration.
Chatbots save time for you and your staff, and they actually drive bookings. Evan has helped clients drive 150% higher conversion rates after implementing custom chatbots.
And when customers still want to speak to a human? Evan recommends letting them text you or a staff member through an SMS tool. You can reign in the hours of communication so those texts aren’t disruptive, but still deliver answers and convert customers.
Many potential customers find it more convenient to engage with businesses through text – and that may be especially true when they’re on vacation. So chatbots and SMS tools allow you to engage with those customers in the way that’s most natural to them.
Agencies like TOMIS, which cater specifically to the tourism community, are helping tour operators find more time, be more profitable, and stay true to their passion. Curious how other Tourpreneurs are integrating SEO strategies, chatbots, and text campaigns to boost their business? Ask questions and share your own successes in the Tourpreneur Facebook group.
These are just the highlights, listen to the full conversation on the Tourpreneur Podcast or on all good podcast apps.