Direct Bookings 101: Strategies and Tips to Drive Direct Bookings for Tour Operators.


October 16, 2023

5 min read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Strategies and Tips to Drive Direct Bookings for Tour Operators

Direct Bookings are like  hitting the jackpot for tour and activity operators. It means more control over reservations, better profit margins, and the chance to create a personalized brand experience for your customers. In fact, it can translate to significant savings of up to 30%, which are typically given as commissions to third-party resellers and online travel agencies (OTAs) for selling your tours.  In this blog, we’re going to explore the strategies and tips that will help you drive those desired direct bookings to your tour and activity business.

1. Personalize the Direct Booking Process

A robotic “we have seats, they are available, here’s the cost” approach won’t cut it in today’s competitive landscape. Modern tourists seek more than just a ticket for the popular tourist spots; they seek an experience. Be prepared to answer questions and provide real-time information about your activities and other local attractions. Your website should reflect the unique experiences your business offers, and your agents should be ready to paint a clear picture of why your tour or activity is the ideal choice.

2. Leveraging Google Things to do

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, staying visible on relevant search platforms is extremely important. Google Things to do is a valuable tool for tourism businesses to increase their online presence and attract potential customers. Here’s why it’s essential:

Enhanced Visibility

Google Things to do allows operators to display their tours and activities in a user-friendly and digestible format on Google search results. When travelers search for things to do in a specific area, your offerings can appear prominently, capturing their attention right when they are actively looking for activities.

Seamless Through Integration

 Integrating with Google Things to do can be a seamless process, especially when using booking software like Zaui. This software streamlines the configuration process, consolidating essential information in one place and issuing alerts for any missing details. The result? Greater visibility and an effortless setup process.

Competitive Advantage against Popular OTAs

Being visible on Google Things to do provides you with a competitive advantage. Travelers often rely on Google for information, and your presence on this platform can influence their decision-making process. It’s an opportunity to showcase your unique tours and activities to a broad audience. A direct integration with Google Things to do through your reservations platform also gives you an “Official Site” badge, making it the more attractive booking link for customers.

By featuring bookable links in these searches, you can directly channel bookings to your site, allowing you to actively compete with, and even rank higher than, OTAs like Tripadvisor, Get Your Guide, etc. Achieving an official site badge also empowers you to secure a higher ranking compared to the popular OTAs you currently pay commissions to. Moreover, this official site badge enhances the credibility of your listing, instilling greater trust in potential customers.

3. Determine Direct Booking Success from Guest Data

Data is your compass in the world of direct bookings. While online travel agencies (OTAs) might have deep pockets for advertising, you can still win where it counts. The key is to analyze guest data meticulously. With digital reporting, you can see which marketing campaigns are driving traffic and conversions. However, it’s equally important to track how these campaigns are converting through phone reservations. This holistic view of your marketing efforts will help you optimize messaging and channels effectively.

4. Decrease Abandoned Guests

Imagine a prospective guest calls your property, and instead of receiving assistance, they are directed to your website. This can lead to frustration and potentially lost bookings. When someone calls, seize the opportunity. Provide exceptional customer service and guide them through the booking process. Avoid pushing them to your website, which may trigger rate comparisons and result in lost leads.

Does your Online Booking engine allow you to create bookings on your guest’s behalf? Consider investing in an online booking engine that simplifies booking on behalf of your customers and grants you the ability to create and edit bookings for them. Furthermore, take into account the flexibility of the system regarding the number of users, as some tour booking systems charge exorbitant fees for multiple logins for your company representatives. Zaui, on the other hand, offers unlimited seats for your employees, ensuring seamless operations.

5. Targeted Messaging and Promotions

To drive more direct bookings, you must first understand your target market and your competitors. Identify who your ideal customers are and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly. Additionally, study successful competitors to identify gaps in your offerings and pricing strategies. This insight will help you refine your approach and capture more direct bookings.

Dynamic Pricing

6. Encourage Reviews and Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals can be powerful drivers of direct bookings. Delight your customers with exceptional experiences, then encourage them to leave reviews on your website or Google business profile. These reviews build trust and credibility, making it more likely that future customers will book directly with you.

Photo Marketing tools

7. Offer Incentives for Direct Bookings 

Entice customers to book directly by offering incentives such as complimentary meals, transportation, or future booking discounts. Promote these benefits in your marketing campaigns to remind customers of the advantages of booking directly with your business.

8. Simplify the Booking Process with Online Booking Software

A complicated booking process can be a major turn-off for potential customers. It’s crucial to offer a streamlined and user-friendly booking experience. This is where online booking software becomes invaluable.

One of the key advantages of utilizing online booking software is its ability to seamlessly integrate into your website. This integration allows you to accept bookings and payments 24/7, ensuring that potential customers can access your services at their convenience.

9. Leverage OTA Insights for Direct Bookings

While the goal is to maximize direct bookings, it’s important not to overlook the potential benefits of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). OTAs can be a vital component of your distribution mix, especially during specific seasons or when entering new markets. It’s essential to carefully consider factors like pricing strategies, data collection, and retargeting efforts for OTA bookings. By investing in technology and training, you can ensure that guests who initially discover your business through OTAs eventually become repeat customers who choose to book directly with you. This transition can be facilitated by providing incentives or exclusive offers to guests who have previously booked through OTAs, encouraging them to return directly to your website or contact your business directly for their future bookings.


Final Word

In conclusion, driving direct bookings to your tour and activity business requires a combination of data analysis, personalization, smart channel management, and excellent customer service. By implementing these strategies and tips, you can increase your direct bookings, boost revenue, and provide your customers with memorable experiences they’ll want to share and repeat. So, get started today and watch those direct bookings soar!

If you are seeking a software solution that empowers you to boost your direct bookings, enabling you to gain a competitive advantage and enhance profitability, please don’t hesitate to schedule a demo with Zaui.


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