Global Tours Connect

We don’t usually broadcast on a Monday, but today we bring you an exclusive announcement, from two former guests of ours – two food tour operators They have teamed up with a major tour operator booking platform FareHarbor and have built a microsite Global Tours Connect, which they say, not only can deliver bookings for your tour business but will also pay you a dividend.

Intrigued? I know I was.

So we welcome onto the show today, Lauren McCabe Herpich of Local Food Adventures, Midgi Moore of Juneau Food Tours and first time guest on the Tourpreneur Podcast, Sabine Whitney of FareHarbor..

What is Global Tours Connect?

Global Tours Connect

‘Global Tours Connect is the first industry-forward collaborative online booking platform created by tour operators for tour operators.

Working in partnership with FareHarbor and led by independent food tour operators Lauren McCabe Herpich of Local Food Adventures in Oakland, California, and Midgi Moore, CCTP of Juneau Food Tours in Juneau, Alaska, Global Tours Connect provides an online destination for guests to discover and book tours all around the world.’

We are creating a new reseller marketplace, in partnership with FareHarbor. We want to introduce everyone to Global Tours Connect. It is the first industry focused, industry forward online marketplace, that is created by tour operators for tour operators.

Right now, we’re the only ones that are giving money back. to tour operators. So you can pay 20% to a hotel concierge, to another OTA, to another reseller. No one’s giving you anything back, other than just a listing on their site. And so, what we’re doing is, we’re sharing the wealth, we’re creating a dividend program.

Lauren McCabe Herpich – Global Tours Connect and Local Food Adventures

In phase one we’re really looking at food tours, particularly within the United States. Because, with any opportunity, you want to eat the elephant one bite at a time. And so, you take baby steps and you start out small and it was just a natural order of things for us, to go with food tours because they’re our people. They’re our colleagues and we know them all very well and we also know, what it’s like to be a food tour operator.

Midgi Moore – Global Tours Connect and Owner, Juneau Food Tours

We include a transcript of the interview below. On today’s episode of the Tourpreneur Podcast you will hear host Shane Whaley ask more about:

  1. What is Global Tours Connect exactly?
  2. How did this partnership with Fareharborall come about?
  3. What is the Global Tours Connect mission?
  4. What kind of tour operator is GTC aimed at? What kind of traveler is it aimed at?
  5. What has the response been from Tour Operators and how many are currently signed up?
  6. How does the dividend work?
  7. Why did you decide to offer a dividend rather than a lower commission?
  8. How will you market GTC to consumers?
  9. What does a tour operator need to do to sign up? 
  10. When do you envisage non FH operators to be able to get involved?
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Tourpreneur Facebook Group

Don’t forget, you can join the discussion about Global Tours Connect over on our Tourpreneur Facebook Group with almost 2000 fellow tour operators.

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Full transcript of our interview with Sabine Whitney (FareHarbor,) Midgi Moore and Lauren McCabe Herpich

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley, will take you on a journey with fellow Tourpreneurs. Sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories, to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now, here is your host, Shane Whaley.

Shane:

Hello and welcome to episode 95 of the Tourpreneur podcast. We don’t usually broadcast on a Monday, but today we bring you an exclusive announcement, from two former guests of ours. Two food Tourpreneurs. They have teamed up with a major booking platform and they’ve built a micro site, which they say, not only can earn you bookings and business, but will also pay you a dividend. Intrigued? I know I was. So we welcome onto the show today, Lauren McCabe Herpich of Local Food Adventures, Midgi Moore of Juneau Food Tours and first time guest on the Tourpreneur Podcast, Sabine Whitney of FareHarbor. All the show notes for today can be located at tourpreneur.com/95. Some exciting news you want to share with us. So there’s three of you here, who wants to kick off with the announcement?

Lauren:

Well, Shane, we are just so excited to share with you and the tourism industry, that we are actually creating a new reseller marketplace, in partnership with FareHarbor. We want to introduce everyone to Global Tours Connect. It is the first industry focused, industry forward online marketplace, that is created by tour operators for tour operators. So, we were able to share an amazing opportunity with FareHarbor and we wanted to create something, that’s really going to bring the industry together and unite all of us as tour operators, in creating a place where consumers can go and really discover amazing tours, all around the world.

Shane:

Right. So as I understand it, it’s almost like an OTA micro site, which right now you’re starting off with food tours, correct?

Lauren:

That is correct.

Shane:

How did this all come about?

Midgi:

Actually, it all started when we were on your show, quite a few months ago and Sabine, sent us an email and she said, “Hey, Midgi, I heard you on Tourpreneur, would really like to talk to you about this idea.” And so, then I said, “Oh, that’s a super cool idea. We need to have Lauren in on this.” And so then it just started with this wonderful conversation, between Sabine and our tech guy [Raleigh 00:00:02:49], who’s also with FareHarbor and creating just this idea, of how we could support our industry, within the industry. It’s actually been a very easy transition for us.

Shane:

Sure and Sabine, what was the discussions within FareHarbor, to bring this about?

Sabine:

Well, we had just heard Lauren and Midgi, go on Tourpreneur previously and we’re really excited about, what kind of space we could tap into further. Especially under circumstances of COVID. In line with management philosophy, where when you’re hiring employees, you want to look for people who have the star shine in their eyes, as hokey as it sounds. But, you’re looking for people, who have this drive and this commitment behind the industry that they’re operating in. So Lauren and Midgi, I could just hear their passion, bleeding through over the phone and thought that there was quite a tremendous opportunity for us to partner together, in some capacity and wanted to draw from the resources that we have, for website development and third party connectivity. To just materialize some of the visions, that I knew that they could bring to the table.

Shane:

What kind of tour operator is Global Tours Connect aimed at currently?

Midgi:

Well, our first round, let’s just say. In phase one. We’re really looking at food tours, particularly within the United States. Because, with any opportunity you want to, as they say in marketing, you eat the elephant one bite at a time. And so, you take baby steps and you start out small and there, it was just a natural order of things for us, to go with food tours, because they’re our people. They’re our colleagues and we know them all very well and we also know, what it’s like to be a food tour operator, because we are and what their needs and pains and, and issues and concerns are. And so we started with that.

Shane:

So right now, food and beverage tours. I’m looking, I can see our friends at Maine Brew Bus, are listed as well. Which is a one I’m hoping to enjoy myself this summer, if it’s safe to get out and about.

Midgi:

Yeah, we’re very excited, because we are seeing the trend where food tours and drink tours are definitely coming back. They were doing a lot of the food tours and food tour operators, pivoted with boxes and different opportunities. And so, I think it’s just a natural marketplace for us to be in right now.

Shane:

Sure and what kind of traveler would you say the website is aimed at?

Lauren:

Yeah, so Shane, I think one of the biggest things for us, when Midgi and I were shared this opportunity with FareHarbor. We talked about this and I can’t tell you how many times at the end of my tour, or even a couple weeks after a tour, I get contacted by one of my personal tour guests saying “Lauren, I had a really great time. Do you have a recommendation for a tour in another city?” Or “We’re going on vacation next month? Do you know somebody there?” And unless I know them personally and can direct them to a tour company directly, I don’t know where to send them.

Lauren:

There’s really no other place, other than the larger OTAs. And we said, “You know what? This is a great opportunity, where we can all work together and truly just promote each other.” And so on that note too, one of the aspects of Global Tours Connect, is that we’re creating a community, where we are able to promote each other. And again, as I mentioned at the top, we are a reseller and so we’re sharing the reselling. Our reselling earnings that we’re getting through Global Tours Connect, with every tour operator, that’s going to be promoted and listed on the platform.

Shane:

Sure, so as I understand it, you’re going to be paying out a dividend, to each and every tour operator that’s part of global source connect?

Midgi:

Yes, so the way that will work, is that as tours are sold and we get reports, we do a calculation of all the tours sold and then our portion of earnings. We take some of that and we will split it out, to all the tour operators that are on the platform. So basically, it’s our way of saying “Thank you for being in the marketplace,” but also, we want to help our industry. Truthfully in the COVID age right now, tourism has probably been hit harder than any other industry, because it’s a leisure purchase and it’s a discretionary purchase. And people are really hunkering down and they’re very finite with their spending dollar right now.

Midgi:

As you know, in Alaska, tourism has all but stopped. So, it’s just one of the ways that we can support our tour operators, as we try to regrow tourism and help that economy by giving back. By saying the cool part is, that if a tour sells in Maine, a person in Florida actually benefits from that. If it is your off season in December, and it’s someone else’s high season, you’re benefiting from that, so its passive income for everybody on the platform, year round.

Shane:

Yeah, I’m really intrigued by this idea. Almost the cooperative approach and also, something I say to many of our listeners, is the challenge with OTAs for instance, is they want the big ticket item. They want the tour, the boat ride out to Alcatraz, because that’s the big seller, but if you’re a small food store in San Francisco, are the OTAs really able to sell you?

Midgi:

Yeah, so that’s actually absolutely the plan, is that we want to close that gap between the small operators, mid-level operators and large operators. Obviously we would like to have all of them, but really, it’s those small voices that aren’t being heard and it’s hard for them. But, if we have a collective voice through this marketplace, then it’s going to open up opportunities for everybody.

Shane:

What’s the commission percentage to work with you?

Midgi:

The way that the FairHarbor distribution network works, when people sign up for that, it’s a 20% commission, which is an industry standard. Through that, we get a portion that and that’s what we’re using to push back out to the tour operators, through our avenue. I work with a lot of resellers and a lot of travel agents and 20% is an industry standard. When I built my company, I built my tours to absorb that 20%. Which is just good business 101, because you want people to help you sell your product.

Sabine:

Yes, so this is functioning like an online travel agency. So micro TA. By using this marketplace, Midgi and Lauren are collecting their commissions. And what’s unique about what they’re proposing from a pricing perspective, is that I don’t think anyone within the industry is really putting much investment, towards improving the performance of their OTA sales. It’s more like “We’re going to get signed up, we’ll be at this rate. It is what it is.” But, the more that they can commit and invest their time and energy and resources into making this a viable platform, the more returns they’re going to see from that.

Shane:

There we go, so it’s just the 20% and then it’s the 6% on top, which is added onto the price?

Midgi:

Yeah, well…

Sabine:

Right.

Midgi:

Okay, I have to do easy math. So, if you had a hundred dollar tour, 20% of that would be commissioned, which you are saying, “I want to give that up, so that someone else will sell my tour and I can book more people.” That’s kind of what we do, but the customer doesn’t see that. The customer will see the 6% ticket fee, which is normal. So, that’s a normal thing, that is based on that hundred percent for a sale.

Shane:

As far as the supplier is concerned, the tour operator, they pay the 20% to you on each of their sale and then it’s the 6% processing fee, which the customer pays?

Midgi:

Correct.

Shane:

Got you. I’m Clear on that now.

Lauren:

The main difference there Shane is that, for us in our viewpoint, 20% is the industry standard. Right now, we’re the only ones that are giving money back. So you can pay 20% to a hotel concierge, to another OTA, to another reseller. No one’s giving you anything back, other than just a listing on their site. And so, what we’re doing is, we’re sharing the wealth, we’re creating a dividend program and it’s no different if anybody’s familiar with REI, the outdoor supply company. They do this and so, I think a big thing as Midgi and I have been working on this and again, we’re part of the community.

Lauren:

This is our family and so, we’ve seen the pain points, that so many operators have shared and in looking at this, we said “Okay, what can we do with the opportunity, that we have been given and how can we make this fair for everybody? And it just made sense that we’re part of the community, we want everyone to win from this.

Midgi:

Yeah.

Shane:

I understand the commission, I understand the dividend. How are you going get eyeballs onto the site, so travelers are going to book the tours that you’re listing?

Midgi:

That’s actually one of the things that we’re really excited about. Lauren and I both come from very strong marketing and PR backgrounds. I’m a firm believer, no one tells your story better than you do. So where are we telling our story? We have a lot of cool talking points to things, but I think that really the other thing, and Lauren, you should speak to this, because you really address it well, is having a collective voice. Of the operators who are going to be in the marketplace and they’re going to be sharing everybody else’s story.

Lauren:

I really love and I appreciate, when someone is on my tour and they say, “Lauren, I had a great time, who else would you recommend?” That’s very empowering for me to say, “You know what, you’re heading to Florida? Yeah, go on Annalise’s Key West Food Tour.” “You’re going up to Maine? Go on Pam’s Maine Food Tour. I know these ladies and these tour operators directly. I want to send them business, directly and their way, but there are places that I don’t know a tour operator. So, I want to send them there and it’s great that, you can actually be your own concierge. You don’t have to rely on a hotel’s concierge to do it for you. You can do it yourself and it’s so easy. Just in a thank you email, or at the end of the tour. We’re going to have the opportunity, in the near future, of operators being able to get little business cards that they can share. Like “Look, if you go on another tour, if you know them directly send their ex business their way, we want, we want your operation to succeed.”

Lauren:

But, if you don’t know someone in the market, hand them a little card and say, “Go to global tourist connect, and guess what? I, the tour operator, I went in this too. I get a little commission fee.” And so, it just really works. We look at kind of a three pronged approach. One, word of mouth, and we all come together and one of the things that we all say, is that if we all work together, we have a bigger voice. Two, as Midgi mentioned, we have really extensive PR and media relations backgrounds and I think I can speak for Midgi as well. Some of the biggest drivers of my tour sales, have come from PR. And also too, that absolutely drives SEO, because not only are you getting a mention in a magazine, a website, a blog, but those links back to your website, really help within online searches.

Lauren:

And then three SEO. So, continuing with the SEO effort. We’ll have a blog on the website, so we’re looking at creating content, that is talking about what cool tours are out there. What are the best food tours that you see in Chicago? What are some awesome brewery tours across America? This will be part of a future phase, but “traveling overseas? Here are some tours that you want to check out.” And so, those are things that we’re going to be doing, that I think will help put us on the radar for a lot of consumers.

Shane:

Sure. I love that you’re going to create content around this, because I think this is one of the things that’s missing. When you look at an OTA, it’s almost like going to Costco, right? Or to our listeners outside of the U.S., it’s pile it high and there’s everything on the shelves, you’re not going there for one specific thing. Whereas, going to Global Tours Connect right now, if I’m looking for a food or drinking tour and I can also read reports. A field trip or a review, or even a curated list of things to do in a particular area. I do like that side.

Shane:

I guess the aspect I’m struggling with a little bit, is how would I find your website? Other than SEO, which as we know, takes quite a while. Are you going to be doing any SEM, PPC? Are you going to be competing with the larger OTAs out there, for instance, in order to attract business through GTC, rather than the bigger OTA players out there?

Lauren:

Yeah. The big thing Shane and I think, the advantage that I have personally is, I live in the Bay area and I’m surrounded by Silicon Valley, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So I understand the amount of money it takes, to create platforms and then also to market those platforms. And I think, in being realistic and the resources that we have, I think we look at it as, there is not the amount of money unless we are going out to venture capitalists, that would be, would enable us to compete on Facebook ads, or Google search against the major OTAs.

Lauren:

That is not what we’re looking at, because it’s not realistic for us. I think we really look at “Hey guys, you are all on Global Tourist Connect, start getting this out to your customer bases.” I have 2000 people on my email list, another person might have 10,000 people on their email list.

Lauren:

For someone like Midgi. Tourism is down right now in Alaska, but she has people from all over the world, that has been on her tours. There’s no reason that she can’t send her customers an email that says “You know what? I loved having you on my tours, if you guys are back at home, look at a local tour operator near you and go support them.” I’m actually looking at doing that right now, because I’m not coming back right now in California. Probably at least until the fall and so I want to support my local tour operators.

Lauren:

I would say too, Shane, being able to create this in the time of COVID. I think we all saw a push at the beginning of, “Support your small restaurants, support your small local businesses.” There’s nowhere that I can send people to say, “Listen, if you’re not from the Bay Area and you want to support your local tour company,” where do I send them? There was no site out there that I can say “Go to this website, find a tour near you and just buy a gift card from them.” There’s nothing. Guess what? With Global Tourist Connect there is.

Shane:

What’s the response been like from tour operators that you’ve spoken to, about Global Tours Connect?

Midgi:

They love it. We haven’t told a whole lot of people, because we were at the time still in development, but the people that we did talk to, to get feedback on. They said it was, not to overuse the word, but unprecedented. They really appreciated the fact, that we were looking at this from their perspective. And my husband, who is not a food tour operator, he just happens to be married to one. He says he can’t wait until he can put his company on it, because he has fishing charters.

Midgi:

And it’s so simple. It’s just a simple process. You don’t have to fill out a 17 page legal document, to be a part of it. There’s not all these hoops you have to jump through and everything. I’m a firm believer, make it easy for me to give you money. The feedback we’ve been getting is really positive and very encouraging.

Lauren:

And know what Shane, we’ll actually be able to answer that question later today, because this is the first time a lot of people are hearing about it as well, because we wanted to share this with you and your audience first.

Midgi:

Yes.

Lauren:

Were really excited to see what people think about this, on the Facebook group when you post it. Really just understand, what do people think? Like Midgi said, from the ones that we shared it with, they really love it. I think they’re appreciative that we’re willing to share this opportunity with everybody.

Midgi:

Yes.

Lauren:

Because Midgi and I could have easily said, “Great, we’re going to take our commission and enjoy everybody,” But we didn’t want to, because we are so fortunate and we really love the community, that we have been able to be a part of. That’s why we’re bummed about arrival and the large scale events not happening this year, to the extent that they have in the past. Big part of the reason why I love going is seeing my friends. Seeing my food tour friends and seeing my other tour operators, that I’ve gotten to know. We wanted to create something that really is for all of us.

Sabine:

And one other thing that I wanted to add just on the current circumstances, is that I don’t think that consumers recognize the activities corner of the tourism industry, to the extent that they should. And especially during this time, everyone’s trying to support local and small businesses and flights and hotels dominate this industry so heavily, that no one recognizes that they can offer that support, in the form of local and small business tour operators in their area. So this is a really powerful way to reach those guys during these circumstances. I don’t know if it’s going to last another week or year, but it’s something that everyone needs to have on their radar.

Shane:

I mean, you’re right about our industry being a family, and when us all want to support each other and it’s one of the reasons, that I’m incredibly humbled to work in this industry. And all of us, could earn a lot more money, if we were to join and certain other industries. Lauren, you come from the media world. I’m sure they pay a lot more, but we do what we do in tours and activities and experiences, because of being part of the family. And when we see smiling faces on our guests after a tour, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Lauren:

Absolutely. You know, what I always said was, I can be having a really bad day and I do a tour and my day is exponentially better. And that is a feeling that I’m sorry, no paycheck would ever be able to give you.

Midgi:

Exactly.

Shane:

What does a tour operator need to do? So they’ve listened to the show today. They’ve gone to the web… Lovely looking website, by the way. That was built by FareHarbour, Sabine?

Sabine:

It was, yup.

Shane:

What do they need to do, to get involved and to sign up and be listed on the site?

Midgi:

Go to globaltoursconnect.com and then there is a join us tab. It’s like a two, to three step process, it’s super simple. That’s where the first step is and then we bring you into the family, into the fold and then we take it from there.

Lauren:

Yeah, so pretty much Shane, when someone comes to globaltoursconnect.com, they click on join us and there’s two steps. One, is join the fair Harbor distribution network and right now, just so everyone’s aware, we are onboarding FareHarbor clients first.

Midgi:

Yes.

Lauren:

And so you would join the FairHarbor distribution network, agree to their terms and then the second thing, is we have a form on that join us page that tells us, Global Tours Connect that you, as a tour operator are interested. Once we get that information, we’ll be able to send you what we’re calling our agreeable agreement.

Lauren:

We want it to be short and simple as possible. We’ve worked with our lawyers, to create a very succinct agreement, that just tells operators what we’re promising to do and i.e. that’s literally, we’re just going to pay you. That’s pretty much what we’re promising and then two, for the operator just to share with us. We need their tax forms, so that we can do everything properly and everyone’s being paid as a 1099 vendor. And then also, just proof of insurance as well.

Lauren:

And so we also know too, with that and I’m in the same boat, that I put a pause on my insurance during this period that we weren’t offering tours. So, if someone is in that same position, once you’re back up and running, send that over to us, but if they forget worry. We’re going to be checking in with everybody again, because these are our friends and family. So we’ll be checking in, just to see how everyone’s doing and just say, “Hey, are you guys running tours again? Hey, don’t forget to send us that insurance payment.”

Lauren:

And then, for anybody, who’s not a FareHarbor client, we will have a phase two, where we will be onboarding non-FareHarbor clients and also non-food tour companies and also tour operators, outside the United States. We just ask, submit in that interest form, so that we know that you’re interested. We’re going to take that data. We’re going to take that information and see how phase one happens and then we’ll start onboarding everybody, because if we start seeing trends like, “Look, there’s a huge group in Europe that really wants to get on.” Or, if there is a huge group from another booking platform. That allows us to prioritize and be able to say, “Okay, in this next phase, we’re bringing in X group. So, we’ve really thought this through Shane and again, because we want this to really be, by tour operators, for tour operators.

Shane:

One of the criticisms I hear of the larger OTAs is how long it takes to onboard. What would you say? What do you estimate is going to be the onboarding time for someone, from signing up and sending you in all the documentation that they need, to going live on the site?

Lauren:

Well, essentially, if you’re a FareHarbor client already, you are pretty much being onboarded, as soon as you agree to their agreements and then you send it to us. What you’re doing is, by agreeing to be part of Global Tourist Connect, honestly, you’re just agreeing to allow us to pay you. Because, we are in the middle of June, so going forward, what we’re going to have two payouts a year. And so, one would be at the end of June, the other one would be at the end of December. And so, we’ll see how the money comes through. To be honest with you, I can only see a minimal amount coming in during those first two weeks, because we’re just really in the onboarding process right now.

Lauren:

So I can see our first payment happening at the end of the year. That’s essentially it. In working with FairHarbor in the past, I think it’s been 12 weeks ladies?

Midgi:

Yes.

Lauren:

It’s been so fast, but we really have been able to think everything through and figure out how this works. Midgi and I, we’ve had so many texts and emails and FaceTimes and as we’ve been going through this, I can’t tell everybody how many times we’ve said, “Okay, keep it simple, stupid, let’s keep to the KISS method.

Midgi:

Keep it super simple. Let’s not [crosstalk 00:26:37] complicated

Shane:

I’m listening to you and for me, if I’m a food tour or beverage tour and I’m on FareHarbor right now, it’d be a no brainer, because it’s no cost to me, other than if you sell any of my tours and I’m going to get something back. What do you think will be the reason, why people decide not to work with you?

Midgi:

I guess the reason would be, there’s always that one little bit [inaudible 00:27:02] in your head, that goes “It sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” And I can respect that. I’m kind of a pragmatic person myself, and I would have to say that it really is it too good to be true. It’s just true. Because we come from the tour and activities world, we walk in those shoes every day, just like everybody else. We really do know what that feels like. And so, I think that if someone would have said no, I think it would just be crazy. Give us a try. Give us a try, see what happens, be a part of this conversation, be a part of that collective voice and let us help grow your company. It costs you nothing, other than being a part of the distribution network, which most FareHarbor clients already are and help us change the voice of tourism and unite us, in one collective voice.

Speaker 1:

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Shane:

Curious why people wouldn’t want to sign up. So I’m sure we’ll get some feedback on that, on the group.

Midgi:

Yeah. I would be shocked if we didn’t, but I would like to know what they’re thinking, as well. I think that’s good information for us to have.

Sabine:

Keeping it under the hood of FareHarbor clients to begin with for phase one, is going to give us like an incubator space to work with. So just looking at what’s working, what isn’t working, how can we get more traction behind this? More organic or ad spend visibility around this? So once we have that trial environment to draw insights from, then we can expand that to the entire market and we’ll know exactly what to target, what kind of value props make sense for people right now? So, hopefully just keeping it within the community, is going to help bring light to what’s representative of the broader industry and then we can be reactive to that down the road.

Shane:

Sabine, when do you envisage there would potentially be a phase two, when non FareHarbor operators can join up?

Sabine:

I would hope to make this a broader initiative, by the end of the year, for sure. I think that’s totally attainable.

Lauren:

And Shane, to that point, I would like to say that for anybody who’s listening, that is not a FareHarbor client, to definitely let us know if they are interested. Because, that information absolutely helps us to see, how responsive this is to people, because by getting that information, at least we know and that’s going to help us decisions faster.

Sabine:

Yeah. That’s a great point, because I cannot overemphasize how imperative it is, for the industry to come together right now. It always sounds like that’s a statement of fluff, but we can’t get more serious than we already are, on maintaining our bottom line and making sure that consumers know where to put their dollars. So that rings true right now, more than ever.

Sabine:

So, we want to make sure that this is as widely collaborative as possible, as quickly as possible. That’s for darn sure.

Lauren:

And I will say Shane, to that note, just for full disclosure for everybody listening, both Midgi and I are fair Harbor clients. I’ve been with them since 2014, Midgi joined on last fall, but in the utmost, we are independent tour operators. And so, we have a separate company, Global Tours Connect, that is not a subsidiary or anything of FareHarbor. We are a separate company. And so, we’re doing this and that has always been one of the things, that we’ve talked with Sabine and Raleigh and the team at FareHarbor. We want to make sure that we have future phases, where we come up with solutions and come up with opportunities, that allow non-FairHarbor customers on the platform as well.

Midgi:

We’re going to start with this phase one and as the Sabine said, really just kind of work out the kinks, figure out what that looks like and then we can grow exponentially, as it makes sense.

Lauren:

Yeah, because look at Shane too, so there are tour operators out there, that are not traditional food or beverage tour companies and they provide food activities. So you can be a kayaking company and you can be doing a kayaking, slash gourmet picnic on the beach activity. We don’t want that person to feel like, “Oh, I’m not a food tour company, therefore I shouldn’t be on this platform.” And so, that would be a nice way that we, maybe in an earlier phase that we say, “Okay, any company that is not traditionally food, we want them to be on next,” because then it also, from a consumer perspective, allows that transition to happen a little bit more naturally.

Lauren:

We hope that we get people who are true, huge Global Tours Connect customers, where they’re like, “All right, I’m going to go on Global Tours Connect, when I’m going to book a tour.” One time they see it and it’s all food tours and the next time they see it, it’s like everything else, at least it gives them a little bit of a transition to that.

Shane:

Yeah. I like the specialization, I’ll be honest with you, because it’s something I struggle with when I’m traveling and I want to book a food tour. I obviously can go direct, because of what I do, but other people are going through the OTAs, not able to find the food tour that they want, for instance, because there’s so much inventory on the… Like I was saying, the Costco model, right? Where they just chuck everything on the shelves and see what sells for them. So I liked the idea of you specializing with food and beverage, I must say.

Lauren:

Well, thanks, Shane. That’s good input, Shane.

Shane:

Well, I think you can, like your SEO and your content. You can build it around food and beverage tours and make it a site that people will come to. Even if they’re not ready to book, they just want to dream a little bit and who doesn’t want to dream right now, about traveling?

Lauren:

And to be honest, Shane, this is not a short term. You know, we’re looking at doing this and then walking out in a year or two. We really look at this as a long game, with content and creation. There’s a lot of opportunities here and the nice thing again is, with all of the functionality, everyone gets a piece of the pie.

Shane:

So, Sabine, can you tell us a bit more about the FareHarbor distribution network?

Sabine:

Yeah, so many people who are using FareHarbor, are probably familiar with the partner program. And what that had started out with, was just an opt-in program, that you could use to resell one another’s activities, or to have other operators in your area resell your own. So many folks probably know that FareHarbor started in Hawaii, where 60 to 90% of people are generating their revenue via reseller channels. So, the infrastructure around reseller connectivity kind of underlies our system for better, for worse, but it’s something that we want to take advantage of. Especially when we have the online focus PR division, so something that we had been trying to explore is just expanding off of this core of the partner program. Where you’re just opting in to this marketplace, where you can resell one another and see if we can actually help with forward-looking initiatives and explore other areas, that you can capture within that reseller space.

Sabine:

So, we essentially just rebranded the partner program into the FareHarbor distribution network. So now we have this core, but we also have a partnership management team, that’s focused on developing new partners. So, whether that’s travel publications, bloggers, social media influencers, et cetera. We’re now charged with being more proactive, in looking towards the market and towards industry trends, on any areas that that network can capture further. So I think that this whole micro-site thing, that Midgi and Lauren are bringing forward, is great opportunity for us to just happen to something, that’s pretty under realized right now.

Shane:

Sure and will you be using any of your internal data, to share with GTC, in terms of sharing that then with all the partners? In order to optimize listings and…

Sabine:

Right. I think it’s going to be more focused on what kind of data we can capture, just on website performance alone and getting a better understanding of the audience. So it’s not going to be so much about who your operators are, who you’re partnering with, what their core offerings are. It’s going to be more around the discretion, of who is landing on this webpage? how did they find your webpage? That’ll give us more direction on where we should be focusing marketing efforts, because I know that Lauren and Midgi, have a really strong publicity core, but where we can help out within that space, is on SEO and search engine marketing. So, just feeling out any other areas that we can expand on for visibility’s sake, is going to make a big difference, I hope.

Shane:

But as I understand it, it’s going to be SEO, it’s going to be word of mouth. You’re not going to be committing to it, your marketing dollars for this.

Sabine:

FareHarbor will be committing some, yeah. Just depending on the successes of it and what’s needed, from an ad spend perspective. So, the quicker we can get traction around this, the more likely it is that we can kind of assist in that space.

Shane:

If you’re coming in marketing dollars to it, can you really say “By tour operators, for tour operators?” Because technically, it’s FareHarbor putting in the marketing dollars and providing the infrastructure.

Sabine:

Yeah, well it is to get traffic onto this website, that otherwise you wouldn’t have captured. We do recognize that there isn’t any one resource, that travelers can really look towards outside of the larger branded names. That’s more community oriented.

Lauren:

But I will say Shane, I’m sure there’s probably people listening right now that, the wheels are in their head saying, “Oh my God, are they going to be competing against me on Google ad spend?” And that is something that Midgi and I have promised, that we will never directly compete on keywords for any direct tour operator. Absolutely not.

Sabine:

So like Global Tours Connect branded keyword sets are being captured.

Lauren:

So if people are looking for reinforcement on the GTC branding and just getting that name out there. Facebook ads, stuff like that. Those will be driving more direct sales towards GTCs brand itself and making sure that, there is some brand recognition within the market. So rather than competing with, you know, best tour in Juneau, Alaska, which I’m sure Maggie has in the bag. What they’ll be looking for, is like GTC Boston, for example, is what we’re trying to get to, eventually.

Shane:

I wish you all the best with it. I love hearing about collaborative, cooperative efforts in our space, because we need it. We do all need to work together as much as we can and I’m really intrigued by the idea, of paying a dividend Lauren and Midgi. I’m excited to see how that goes.

Midgi:

Thank you, we’re pretty excited too.

Lauren:

But we hope other tour operators are excited too. This is the first day of the launch. We’ve launched today and we are excited to see what everyone thinks and we hope that people join us.

Shane:

I just have one complaint about the website, it’s making me hungry and thirsty. Look, I’m seeing Buffalo wings, bites and boozes and tequila and I’m starving now and I’m trying to watch the wight.

Lauren:

You’re due for an in home experience, Shane.

Midgi:

There you go. There you go.

Shane:

Marvelous. Thank you all, I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com, to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.

Shane Whaley is the Producer and Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast. He is also the curator in chief for the Tourpreneur Daily Brief. Shane has worked in the travel industry for almost twenty years.