How to be a successful tourism company online?
The place to find European customers for your tourism company is online. Therefore, you should have a good website and be active on social media. European travellers prefer to book online and expect quick replies. They especially value the opinions of other travellers. This makes it important that your satisfied customers speak for you on, for instance, social media and review websites. If you manage your online presence well, you will attract new business and keep existing customers happy!
The social internet and mobile devices have changed how European travellers research and book their holidays. Nowadays, you find your customers online, rather than at trade fairs.
The internet is very important for the tourism industry. It shows European travellers the amazing long-haul destinations that await them. Social media inspires them and allows them to share their experiences. The tourism sector is an early adopter of digital technologies. Consumer purchase behaviour changes, as quick and easy online booking becomes a main sales channel for tourism products.
You should not wait for your customer to find you. Instead, actively use the opportunities that the internet offers your tourism business.
How can you attract tourists online? Here are our top 10 tips for online success with your tourism company.
- Have a good website
- Offer online booking and payment
- Consider selling your product through an online travel agency (OTA)
- Be present and active on social media
- Let your satisfied customers speak for you
- Respond quickly to online customer contact
- Build relationships
- Collaborate with bloggers, news and/or travel writers and stakeholders in your region
- Keep learning
Tip 1: Have a good website
European travellers are experienced internet users. If you want to successfully target the online tourist, you need a good website. You should invest in your website, as it is the centrepiece of your business success online. It is where you can present complete information about your tourism product, at low cost. To keep your website up to date and interesting; you should update the contents regularly.
A good website should:
- have a good and attractive design
- have informative, complete and attractive content
- be search engine optimised (SEO)
- be easy to update and maintain
- be mobile friendly
- have good quality photos and videos
- have tools to measure its behaviour – for instance, the number of unique and returning visitors, page views and countries of origin.
You can build your own website or hire a professional do to it for you, depending on your skills. To help you on your way, Tourism Boost explores both options for building a website.
For tips, see for instance the Tourism Company’s How to improve the effectiveness of tourism destination websites.
Tip 2: Offer online booking and payment
In Europe, online booking is a major sales channel for tourism. Travellers like how quick and easy online booking can be. In 2014, 59% of European travellers booked their accommodation abroad via the internet. This share was highest in western European countries, where online booking accounts for about 75%. This means you need to provide online booking options for your tourism product. If you do not, you exclude the majority of the European market.
A useful option in your online booking system is online payment. This is time-efficient for both you and your guests. If you only accept cash or cheque payments, you are restricting your client base.
There are several types of online payment methods, including:
- card payment
- bank transfer
- mobile payment
- international alternatives, such as PayPal
- national alternatives.
For more information on online payment methods for customers in Europe, see our study about online payment methods in Europe.
You can install a booking and payment tool on your website, or use a third party provider like an online travel agency.
Tip 3: Consider selling your product through an online travel agency
You make the greatest profits from customers who book directly, rather than through a third party distributor. Nevertheless, collaborating with online travel agencies (OTAs) can be very profitable.
Such OTAs include
- Adventure Finder
Advantages of online travel agencies
The main advantages of using OTAs are:
- massive exposure for your tourism product, leading to more bookings and revenue
- relatively low costs, as you do not have to invest in your own booking system
- quality exposure, since European travellers like to compare offerings, so if you have a quality product, it will stand out
- more bookings, since good customer reviews on OTA websites convince tourists to book tourism products.
Disadvantages of online travel agencies
The main disadvantages or using OTAs are that:
- they usually charge a commission of 10–20% of the gross cost per sale
- there may be restrictive terms and conditions, for example regarding cancellations
- you will need a way to prevent your OTA from overbooking, such as a real-time booking system.
Tip 4: Be present and active on social media
Social media allow you to communicate, connect and build a relationship with your (potential) customers. Travellers also use it as a key source of travel information before, during and after their trip.
Which social media channel to use
The most important social media channels to use are the following.
- Facebook – to create, promote and share content and interact with (potential) customers
- Twitter – for real-time interaction, ranging from customer service to updates on events
- Instagram – to share photos and videos of your destination
For more information, see Expedia’s eBook on Social Media and the Travel Sector. This gives you insights, as well as and tips and best practices for each social media channel.
Locating potential customers on social media
Find your potential customer on social media, for example by:
- searching for related hashtags
- using the ‘search’ tools in your social media accounts
- joining online groups that your potential customers are in.
Interacting with potential customers on social media
Keep track of your customers on social media, as well as mentions of your destination, company and/or product. Answer questions and/or post helpful tips.
You can also answer questions that are not aimed directly at you. For example, if a potential customers asks for tips on what to do in your area, or the best destination for a particular activity. This way you can bring your product offering to a their attention. However, do not spam people with deals for your destination, because this can quickly become annoying.
User generated content
You can reuse the user generated content (UGC) of your customers. This means you publish content from others on your social media accounts, with their permission.
This includes such matters as:
Using a customer’s content can make them feel proud and appreciated. In addition, European travellers consider this content from others to be especially trustworthy. This makes UGC a very effective way to connect with (potential) customers.
For more information on how to use USG, see bizeez communications’ do’s and don’ts for user generated content in tourism and hospitality.
Tip 5: Let your satisfied customers speak for you
As just explained, what others say about you is your most powerful marketing message. You need to create positive word of mouth. For this, of course you have to give your customers a great experience on their holiday. In addition, you have to encourage them to share their great experience online.
They can do this, for example, via the following channels.
- social media – updates, photos and videos
- your website – comments and feedback
- review sites – reviews and ratings
The Tourism eSchool gives you 3 steps to encourage customer advocacy of your tourism experience on social media.
Use review sites like TripAdvisor, where customers can rate and review their experience with your business. If you have a good TripAdvisor ranking, mention this on your website.
Some of the main advantages of review sites are:
- free word of mouth marketing
- a free tool for your customers to rate and review your business
- a free, high-quality inbound link into your website, providing
- transparency for your business
- an indication of the quality of your product and service.
The Tourism eSchool has some tips on how to set up and manage your TripAdvisor business listing.
Tip 6: Respond quickly to online customer contact
If a (potential) customer contacts you via your website or social media, you should respond quickly. With existing customers, slow replies may annoy and lead to bad reviews or further problems if they need assistance. With potential customers, slow replies may cost you their business.
There is a strong correlation between response time and consumer buying behaviour. The faster you respond, the bigger the chance it will result in a sale. When people post a general inquiry on social media, 78% of sales go to the first company that responds adequately.
The average response time is 41 to 56 hours. Make sure you are faster. Strive for a reply within 12 hours, maximum. If you are not at the office all the time, invest in a smartphone. This allows you to respond quickly to voicemail, email and social media.
Tip 7: Advertise
Google Adwords and Facebook Ads
Online advertising can be very rewarding. Some good ways to reach your potential customers are:
- Google Adwords – a pay-per-click advertising service based on search engine keywords
- Facebook Ads – various types of advertisements on Facebook platforms.
To get started with Google Adwords, TrekkSoft has 10 tips for tour and activity companies to create a successful AdWords strategy.
Facebook now has a guide to Facebook for Travel, with useful advertisement tools for the travel industry.
Selecting your target audience
Before you advertise, you have to understand who your customers are and what influences them. You need to specify the demographics that you are looking for, especially for Facebook Ads. These 10 Ways To Target Travelers With Facebook Ads give you an idea on this.
Only pay for advertising when it is highly targeted at your ideal customer. Be smart, use long tail keywords that your target audience is searching for.
For more information on how to define your message, see our top 10 tips for determining your Unique Value Proposition.
Tip 8: Build relationships
It is easier to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. This means you should cherish your customers and make them into return customers.
Good online ways to build and maintain a relationship with your customer are:
- staying in touch after the trip is done – customers appreciate a personal touch
- asking for feedback and using it to improve your product – let your customers know how you used their feedback
- building an email database – use your website or blog to add to your subscriber list and create effective and exclusive information for this group. There are several articles on the internet that can show you examples of successful email marketing for travel agencies.
Tip 9: Collaborate with bloggers, news and/or travel writers and stakeholders in your region
Another way to use what others say about you in your marketing is to collaborate with relevant parties.
Travel bloggers and writers
Travel blogging has become one of the most important ways to generate sales for tourism products. However, you should not write all the blogs yourself. To create trustworthy content, collaborate with travel bloggers. This can increase your sales in your existing target market, as well as create new opportunities. For example if you use bloggers from different disciplines, which appeal to a new group of potential customers.
For more information, see our top 10 tips for travel blogging for your tourism business.
Also team up with stakeholders in your region. Build relationships with, for example:
- your local visitor information centre
- your destination marketing organisation
- relevant trade and media organisations.
Look for a way to target the market online together. For example through a tourism portal or shared advertising campaign.
Tip 10: Keep learning
Internet marketing strategy and tools are evolving and changing rapidly. Take the time to keep yourself and your staff up to date with relevant marketing information, for example by attending internet marketing training at training centres, or online.
Online presence is a lot of work. You have to integrate it into your company procedures. If you feel like you cannot keep up with maintaining content and online visibility, you can decide to outsource some of your online tasks. It is important to do it right.
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