Traditional travel companies can avoid being overrun by a market that is becoming increasingly competitive as more and better online services and mobile applications appear. Managed properly, there are plenty of opportunities for tour operators to increase both their profitability and customer base.

The key to taking control of the developments lies in factors such as gaining an information advantage, improved sales rep performance, automation of daily processes, cost control, instant business overview through reports and dashboards, including graphical representation of the company’s business pipeline.

Online vs traditional tour operator

Many consumers prefer to compose their trips on their own, where the prospect of lower prices is the main driver. Other perceived benefits include the flexibility in the choice of dates and components (transportation, hotels, outings etc) compared to the more standardised approach offered by tour operators.

However, many still choose to turn to a tour operator. There are several reasons for this, the most important being:

  • The convenience and security to get everything from a single source
  • Saves time as booking through a tour operator can be handled in minutes instead of hours as it often takes a to browse around to compare rates and other parameters
  • A personal knowledgeable contact person ensures that the trip will be smooth and provides valuable hints about attractions at the destination
  • Avoid the risks associated with for example inconvenient flight connections and substandard hotel experiences

Despite the advantages listed above traditional tour operators are forced to continuous development to avoid the risk of losing market to online services, not least as a result of changes in buying habits. One key to success lies in the implementation of smart IT system to enable the sales reps to work faster, smarter and with greater precision, while many operating processes can be automated. Below are eight points that are particularly important to consider for tour operators who are determined to stay ahead:

1. Attractive web site

Most people start to plan their trip by gathering information online before they contact a salesperson. For the tour operator it is important to be at the top of the search engines in their special fields. Once customers found their way to the your web site, it is important to serve attractive and concise destination descriptions. The challenge is to provide the information in a clearer and more eye-catching way than your competitors. It is also important to repeatedly underline the comfort and security of getting everything from a single supplier. Another trigger is to offer opportunities to customise trips within reasonable limits.

2. Travelers are expecting instant information

The fact that many travellers are accustomed to mobile apps and online services has lead them to expect tour operators to have all conceivable information instantly available, at the fingertips, when the customer calls. An efficient online based reservation system is thus a prerequisite to meet customer expectations in this aspect.

3. Value for the money

Almost all consumers expect to get their money’s worth, whether they are pronounced bounty hunters or have more exclusive preferences. Although the pressure of competition is tough in the travel industry many are willing to pay a little extra for the convenience of a contact with a one-stop shop, and to reduce the risk that something goes wrong during the trip. When you turn to an established tour operator you can rest assure that the trip in its entirety meets expected standards and that you will avoid unpleasant surprises that can ruin your trip. For the tour operator it is important to clearly position itself in select segments, nurturing its brand and to act professionally and efficiently towards their customers. By virtue of experience and knowledge of the destinations, tour operators can also provide important added value through tips on attractions, dining options, and make sure the customer gets a hotel room according to their preferences, etc. To be able to guide the traveler throughout the sales dialogue, it is essential for the sales rep to have access to all relevant information on their computer screen. The system should also be able to calculate current prices with respect to factors such as group size, currency exchange rates, high or low season, etc.

4. Personal and attractive offers

As soon as the traveler with help of a sales rep has worked out the journey details, is time to summarise all relevant information in a offer. To become a winner on the travel market, it is important to act quickly and professionally. To cut and paste together an offer from Word and Excel files is extremely inefficient and error prone, a much better approach is to use a modern reservation system to generate the offer during a conversation with the traveler, to be mailed instantly when the conversation is finished. To be as attractive as possible the offer should include a clear and concise description of all booked components with pictures of, for example, the hotel room and the rental car. Clickable links then give access to the depth information, maps and video content. Furthermore, offers should be personally designed, without unnecessary information that hinders decision.

Clickable accept and deny buttons in the offer speeds up decision, as it enables the traveler to make his decision on the go, even with a cell phone. Another good idea is access to a dialog box in the offer, where the traveler can request additional information or clarifications before deciding.

5. Full focus on ancillary revenues

For many companies in the travel industry a substantial revenue share derives from the sales of additional services, and this is an increasing trend. It is therefore essential to give these additional revenue streams and its healthy margins full attention. The key is to incentivise sales reps to focus on this important area. Please note that the propensity to spend money on different add-on services vary over time, some items sell better when the trip is purchased, for others the traveler is more receptive to when departure approaches. The timing is thus essential.

6. Work smarter, not harder

Automation of everyday business processes is particularly rewarding. It substantially lowers the company’s operating costs and eliminates many error sources that in the end always tend to affect customers. Examples of processes that can be automated are price calculations, voucher issuing, requisitions to the suppliers, balancing supplier invoices and web site content updating. A clever IT system also generates information for improving important key figures as the number of customers served per sales rep, tender win/loss ratios, and to follow up final margins on individual itineraries, to identify profitable and unprofitable products, monitor the productivity of individual sales reps and cash flow

7. Ensure delivery quality

Quality is about a continuous improvement. Through systematic monitoring of customer feedback and supplier performance recurring grievances can be eliminated, which help to strengthen the brand. For traditional tour operators the brand constitutes a primary means of competition, especially in these times when bad experiences leads to rapid diffusion in social media.

How Kaptio can help you keep up with the demand of the 21st century traveller
Kaptio is a renowned tour operator and travel agent software specialist company. Contact us to discuss how we can analyse your current business setup, identify weaknesses and then action improvements. Kaptio develops best-of-class solutions for the travel industry and delivers outstanding value to customers via solutions, project delivery and consulting.