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The 30 Day Tour Operator Challenge

Today we are excited to launch our 30 Day Tour Operator Challenge in association with Checkfront. I know many of us have been suffering overwhelm, what with all the webinars, online courses, virtual events, summits, podcasts, etc. So now is time to put some of what we have learned into action.

Starting today with our friends at Checkfront we are running a 30-day tour operator challenge. Tourpreneur will be releasing a short daily episode during each day of November to discuss that day’s challenge.

Tour Operator Rob Dowling shares why he chose Checkfront as his booking system.

Julianne discusses the website integration options of Checkfront and the pricing models and coronavirus support users can expect from the company. We also discuss Checkfront’s multi-language support, reports, and inventory sharing and management.


“We understand that life is busy, and sometimes what you intend to do never gets done. That’s why we created a 30-day challenge with small but practical tasks you can feel good about crossing off your to-do list in a few hours or less.

This is open to all tour operators and not just for Checkfront customers. (You can also complete the 30 days at a month of your choosing, should November not work for you.”

Checkfront


Things to know:

  • Why Rob chose Checkfront for his tour business
  • The different ways tour operators can integrate Checkfront into their website
  • The benefits of Checkfront’s monthly pricing model
  • How Checkfront helped tour operators through the coronavirus crisis with relief credits, deferred payments, and the new Flex Account
  • Why Rob likes Checkfront’s refund process
  • Checkfront’s multi-language support and how the system connects to OTAs
  • The one feature Rob wishes all Rez Techs would offer and the evolution of mobile payments
  • How Checkfront handles equipment management and inventory sharing across multiple offerings

Episodes

Day 1 – Organize your Dashboard

Start the 30-day challenge with a clean slate by tidying up your backend booking software homepage. Remove any widgets you rarely look at and move the most important ones to the top of the page. You can
even Marie Kondo your front desk dashboard, too!

Follow along with the Checkfront Tour Operator Challenge workbook. #touroperatorchallenge

Day 2 – Automate Your Daily Tasks

On Day 2 of the 30 Day Tour Operator Things to Do Challenge, we are joined by Ryan Lainchbury of Checkfront’s technical support team and we are talking all about automation.

‘Using Zapier all you have to do is build the workflows you need —otherwise known as Zaps. Without coding experience or hours of engineering, you can connect two or more apps and automate any of your routine tasks. Simply select a trigger to get the ball rolling and add multiple actions as steps. The small stuff will always be taken care of from now on.’

Day 3 – Research/Try a new OTA

What online travel agents (OTAs) are you using right now? Look over your current list of distribution partners and analyze the metrics. Are you getting any bookings from them, and at what cost to your profit
margin? 

Perhaps it’s time to give another one a shot.

Research a few different OTAs you haven’t considered before.

Create a spreadsheet with five columns and bullet point their features, benefits, disadvantages, commission rate, and geographical focus. 

Whichever one is the clear winner, sign up as a supplier today, try it out for a month, or the next quarter, and see if it’s a good fit for your business.

Day 4 – Treat Your Tour Guides 

On Day 4 of the 30 Day Tour Operator Challenge, we are joined by Checkfront‘s Director of Marketing, Angela Heald and we are talking all about Treating Your Tour Guides.

Genuine employee recognition goes a long way. One simple act of appreciation can make your tour guides feel valued, boost their confidence and motivation, give them a reason to go the extra mile and keep them coming back season after season.

Day 5 – Going Live with a Selfie Video

On Day 5 of the 30 Day Tour Operator Things to Do Challenge, we are joined by Checkfront’s Director of Marketing, Angela Heald who shares benefits of going live with a selfie video as well  as  tips on how and what to record.

Everything’s always about your tours, not enough about you — the person who created the tours in the first place. So, don’t be shy and say hello to your Facebook or Instagram community with a live video. Share a little bit about yourself, and watch all of the floating emojis come through!

Day 6 – Boost Your Instagram Engagement

For today’s tour operator challenge, content marketing expert Kyla Steeves shares her tips on Instagram for tour operators. Engagement feeds engagement. By initiating interactions on Instagram, you can get your brand noticed while showing off a bit of personality. 

Most Instagrammers are flattered when a brand compliments them. So, the more you engage, the more visibility and followers you’ll gain

Day 7 – Tune Up Your Social Media

Hopefully, this one is quick and easy for you today! Take a look at all of your social media profiles, and see what’s missing or out of date. Improve your bio by highlighting your unique selling proposition (USP). Update your cover image with a recent photo or promo video. Pin your best content at the top of your Facebook page, or add Instagram Story Highlights with on-brand cover icons. And finally, make sure your name, address, and phone number are still correct.

Day 8 – How To Reply to Negative Tour Reviews 

Negative reviews can feel like the worst thing to happen to your tour company, but it’s important to remember that one’s opinion does not represent all. 

Every business encounters an unhappy customer from time to time. It’s how you respond that keeps your reputation intact. While you may want to ignore complaints altogether, the best thing you can do is address them head-on. 

In doing so, you not only let the reviewer know you care about guest satisfaction but also thousands of others who may check your reviews to decide whether or not to book.

Day 9 – Tips for Handling Positive Reviews

Tips for handling positive reviews. You ripped off the band-aid yesterday. Now, it’s time to reward yourself by replying to your glowing, rave reviews!

Thank everyone for their kind words, and let them know you’re thrilled to hear they had an amazing time. Blushall you want. You earned those compliments!

While you’re doing this, be on the lookout for outstanding reviews that would make great testimonials. It’s perfectly okay to say, “thank you for the wonderful review, can I share this on my website?” Most people will be happy to help you out and get featured.

Day 10 – Collaborate with local tour operators – buy them a coffee!

Sometimes, the best partnerships in travel and tourism are right around the corner. Who else has the destination down pat?

Like yourself, other local operators know the backroads, watering holes, hidden attractions, and reputable businesses — which means their guests also look to them for advice on where to eat, sleep, and what to do and see.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they recommended your tours or activities as a must-book and vice versa? Plus, you never know what kind of brilliant ideas might ignite from a single conversation!

Day 11 – Gathering Guest Feedback

If you never find out what your guests actually think of your tours, you’ll never be able to provide the best experience possible. That’s why feedback is so beneficial. Your guests can tell you precisely what you’re doing right and wrong so that you know what to do more or less of.

Sure, you can ask guests at the end of the tour, “did you have a good time?” Or peruse online reviews and mentions for tidbits of insight. But the most effective approach is to contact them directly. An intentional email can invite an honest opinion because no one else is around to listen or read. It’s just you and the guest.

Day 12 – How to write a FAQ Page for your Tour Business

On today’s challenge, Checkfront’s Kyla Steeves reveals some of her ninja tips for writing a FAQ page for your tour business. Not only is this an excellent resource for your customers, FAQ pages can also help with SEO.

Grab a notebook and brainstorm all of the frequently asked questions you’ve heard from
guests over the years. If you already have a FAQ page, see if there are any new questions to add.

You can even message your tour guides and find out what they often get asked during the tour.
Don’t be afraid to include silly, random, and absurd questions as well, like “is there anywhere
I can see the bears pose?”

Including them can make your FAQ page more fun and show off your brand’s personality. Who knows? Someone else might have the same question.

Day 13 – Create Automated Guest Emails

You can relieve a lot of guest anxiety with a simple message. By staying in touch with guests from booking to check-out, you show them that you care about every aspect of the experience and want to make sure they have all the information they need before arrival. We also discuss how to write thank you emails.

Day 14 – How to Identify Booking Blockers and Boost Your Tour Website Booking Conversion Rate

When taking bookings over the phone, you can answer questions, offer reassurance, and talk up the experience. You can’t necessarily do that online, which is why the booking process needs to be as seamless as possible. 

You put in a lot of work to get traffic. It’d be a shame for something to get in the way when visitors are so close to booking.

By knowing where people tend to change their minds, you can make small changes to boost your conversion rate by at least 5-10%. More bookings!

Day 15 – Refuel your love for your destination 

Go ahead, take a break, and live like a tourist for the day. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but can never find the time for or keep putting off out of fear.

Note: At the time of publication many of us are in, or going into lockdown again. We can still get to work on creating a local bucket list.

Learn how to surf, scuba dive, or sail. Go skydiving, bungee jumping, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, anything to get off the ground. Visit a nearby town you drive through all the time, but never stop. Take a cooking, painting, pottery, or glass blowing class. Hike to a jaw-dropping view or throw a foodie crawl with friends. Spend a day walking around a museum, art gallery, newly-built library.

Whatever will refuel your love for your destination, do it. You might even discover something new to enhance your tours and create a local bucket list.

Day 16 – Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Spend today updating your Business Profile. Most searchers will see whether your
tour company is legit by scanning your GMB listing first. So, make a great first impression by
including everything they need to know.

Think of your Business Profile as a bite-sized version of your website. You can use it to help guests learn more about your business while strategically leading them down the path to booking.

Google My Business also plays a vital role in local search optimization. That is to say, your Business Profile can snag a spot in the Google snack pack — the top three local business listings above the organic search results. Or better yet, rank higher on Google Maps

Day 17 – Update Your Local Listings

How many places is your business listed? Yelp? TripAdvisor? Google My Business — of
course, since you tackled that listing yesterday.

What about Foursquare, Spoke, City Insider, Superpages, or Yellowbook?

Take some time today to list your business on as many online directories as possible. All while
making sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP data) is correct and consistent on
every site.

Day 18 – Ask for Google Reviews

Tips about asking for Google Reviews. It’s no secret that reviews are a ranking factor for
Google My Business listings. If you want to earn that coveted spot on the local snack pack, you’ve got to get as many recent, quality reviews as possible.

Day 19 – Podcasts for Tour Operators

Sometimes, all you need to keep going is to hear from other tour operators on a similar journey. You’re not alone in the challenges you face. And the Tourpreneur Podcast is just the place to find out what tour operators all over the world are doing differently and learning along the way. Angela shares her favorite 3 episodes of the Tourpreneur Podcast and Shane suggests other podcasts for tour operators.

Day 20 – Review your tour photos

Photos and videos help guests picture having the experience, play on the fear of missing out, and
ultimately inspire a booking. While user-generated content is great for social media sharing, and you may offer photo packages as a tour add-on, your website should only showcase professional, eye-catching visuals.

Think of your website as your online ticket office. If someone sees grainy images of your tours, it’s no surprise they’ll leave right away. That’s because the photos you use on your website are a direct reflection of your business. If they’re high-quality, instead, people will assume your tours are, too. That’s the kind of first impression you want to make!

As a bonus Angela Heald of Checkfont shares some of her iPhone Photography tips for tour operators.

Day 21 – Test Your Website Speed

Make sure all of your pages load fast on all devices. Run a test on Google’s PageSpeed Insights by entering each page URL into the Analyze bar, and then see if there are any problems you can quickly rectify today. Do this for both desktop and mobile.

Why your tour operator website speed is so important. It doesn’t take long for a guest to abandon your website.

Waiting for a page to load shouldn’t be like waiting for the next train to arrive. In that amount of time, they should be able to find your website, navigate all of your different pages for more information, and make a booking.

Ten seconds is all it takes for someone to get frustrated, return to the search results, and check out your competition instead. Don’t let your website speed be a booking-blocker. Fix your website performance now, and create a better browsing experience from the get-go.

Day 22 – How to Boost your website SEO by adding local keywords

In today’s bonus episode, we share tips on how to give your tour operator website an extra SEO boost by adding relevant local keywords wherever possible. Local keywords are the search terms or phrases people use to find things to do in your region, which typically
looks like this:

Tour or activity + Geographical modifier = Local keyword whale watching tour + Victoria BC = whale watching tour Victoria BC

But how do you know what local keywords to use?

While there are many online tools available, Ubersuggest comes with a free plan that’s generous enough when it comes to keyword insights. You can get full access to historical data in the last twelve months, including traffic estimates, keyword popularity, and even synonym suggestions.

Day 23 – How to create evergreen blog content for your tour operator website

Everyone’s saying that blogging is one of the best things you can do for better SEO. Well, it’s true. The more content you have on your website, the more queries you can rank for on Google.

But it can be challenging to find time in your incredibly busy schedule to sit down and bust out an article, especially if writing isn’t your strong suit. So, come up with a few blog post ideas today that will be worth the effort, and then create a makeshift editorial calendar to keep on track.

FYI, you don’t need to post three times a week. Start with once or twice a month. Evergreen content is not about quantity, but quality.

Day 24 – Batch Design promo materials and graphics

Angela Heald shares her graphic design and Canva tips for tour operators. The key part of the challenge is to time batch the task and set aside two hours for it and no switching to other projects.

Ever want to share more on social media? Are you unhappy with your Instagram profile’s aesthetic? Do you wish your Facebook ads didn’t make your tours look so…boring? With a bunch of promo material on hand, you’ll never run out of visual content, which means you’ll have no problem staying on top of digital marketing in the future.

Things to include for your tour promos:

• Special offers or discounts
• Snappy, enticing copy
• A call-to-action
• Your logo
• Brand colors
• Eye-catching images
(not stock photos)

Day 25 – Be an Undercover Guest/Secret Shopper

Have you ever wanted to be a secret shopper? Today is your chance! Book another tour in your destination or somewhere nearby — preferably not with your direct competitor — and see how they run things from a guest perspective! Why not gather intel and have fun at the same time?

Just be sure to take a mental note of everything they do. 

See if there’s anything that you do better, or can take away to improve. Here are a few ideas of things to look out for.

  • What info do you get before the tour?
  • How do they upsell?
  • Is check-in a breeze?
  • Do they use paper waivers?
  • What’s your tour guide like?
  • How do they make the experience better?
  • Do they ask for tips?
  • Reviews?
  • Shane’s tip for tour operators: don’t forget to ask your fellow tour guests where they booked the tour (OTA/direct/word of mouth etc) and also what they think about the tour. We can definitely get stuck in the industry bubble, asking those travelers outside of the industry will often yield interesting responses.

Sometimes, we can get so stuck in the traditional way of doing things that we neglect to see how we can be better. Comparison isn’t always bad. By witnessing how someone else operates, you can get fresh ideas to adopt & tweak or validation that you’re already a few steps ahead.

Day 26 – Facebook Groups for Tour Operators

Facebook Groups are great for connecting with like-minded individuals and expanding your tour operator network. Shane and Kyla discuss the treasure trove of information available to us in tour operator Facebook groups plus also why you should join Facebook groups where your customers may be interacting and posting. Shane shares some of his favorite Facebook Groups for tour operators.

Facebook Groups for tour operators allow us to learn from our fellow tour operators and tourism professionals who are happy to share exclusive tips and tricks with a private community.

Each Facebook Group is managed differently, for instance on the Tourpreneur Facebook Group (2500+) we work hard to ensure the group is spam free yet we allow posts to be published without approval, that is because we vet everyone who joins because we want to make sure our group is full of quality and relevant posts.

Tourpreneur’s Recommended Facebook Groups for Tour Operators

Day 27 – Dig in to Tour Operator Industry Insights with Arival

Arival is not just an in-person conference for the tour operator industry, they also publish research papers, survey results, tour operator spotlights, articles and interviews with activity and tour operator interviews. Much of this is free of charge so please do check them out if you aren’t already.

Arival State of the Industry Survey – November 2020, though Arival are updating this periodically.

Day 28 – Pick A Worthy Cause To Support

Make a difference in your destination by choosing a cause for your business to get behind. Donate to a non-profit organization or rally up your team for a volunteer project. Pick something that makes sense for your brand and aligns with your values.

Already supporting a cause? Make it known on your About page or social media today. Don’t think of it as bragging. It shows that your company cares, helps spread the word of a charity that deserves attention, sparks real conversations about improving the lives of others and our planet, and encourages your team
and guests to get involved.

1% For the Planet

Tourism Cares – Tourism Cares’ mission is to advance the travel industry’s positive social and environmental impact. We believe it is in our best interest to support the destinations we all depend on so that communities, travelers and businesses can prosper.

Day 29 – Level Up Your Skills That Will Grow Your Tour Business and Save You Money!

One of Shane’s favorite phrases is #AlwaysBeLearning. We wear so many different hats as a tour operator. along with running the business, you might also dabble in accounting, digital marketing, maintenance, HR, customer service, and guiding. But there’s always room to improve or diversify your skillset.

Shane and Ryan to discuss the importance of learning new skills when it comes to growing our business. For instance, even if you intend to hire, say a, WordPress guru in the future, it always pays to know the basics so you can enjoy a smoother relationship with your WordPress guru and it will help you work out who really knows their stuff and who is fake! Beware of the Empty Suits! If you are unsure of a course/guru and cannot find any bona fide reviews, try asking in our Facebook Group for Tour Operators.

Day 30 – Rest, Relax & Reflect. Self-reflection tips for tour operators

Congratulations on making it to the final day of the 30-day challenge. End the challenge with a trip down memory lane. Look back at all you’ve accomplished in the last 30 days, months, years. Do this in whichever way you like. Journal. Go for a hike. Watch the waves. Paddleboard yoga. Think of it as a mindful treat-yourself day.

We can get so caught up in what others are doing, especially now that social media has made the act of comparison more accessible. Everyone seems to be innovating in some way or another — virtual tours,self-guided tours, bespoke tours. It’s easy to think you’re falling behind.But while your goals may feel out of reach or you’re not making as much progress as you like, remember that it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. 

Give yourself more credit for how far you’ve already come. It might be just the boost of motivation you need to keep going — one ‘thing to do’ at a time.

Self reflection tips for tour operators

Self-reflection tips

  • Quiet your mind
  • Ask yourself, “Where was I one year
    ago? Five? Ten?”
  • Read old journals or booking reports
  • Make a list of your proudest
    moments
  • Remember the personal, not just
    professional
  • Celebrate the quick wins, too
  • Frame & place somewhere obvious
  • Look at it every day as a reminder