Regaining the power of Distribution for Tours, Activities and Attractions Operators

Traditionally tours, activities and attractions operators relied heavily on resellers and OTAs for distribution, leaving up to 30% commission on the table and limited control over products. 

 According to Peter Syme (MD and Advisor at Disrupt Travel), many operators focused primarily on operations, leading to an overreliance on partnerships and major distributors. Instead, his recommendation of pulling the focus back to sales, marketing, and distribution is perfect timing post-COVID-19. 

The pandemic did not just put restrictions on travel; it has changed the entire landscape for better or worse. Increased digitisation, safety concerns, and a preference for mobile and online booking mean only one thing; Operators are now faced with a decision: regain control of distribution and innovate or fall behind entirely. 

The good news is that operators that survived have become more resilient, making them better equipped to adopt a new distribution strategy aligned with the current digital landscape. With this in mind, here is what distribution looks like for operators in 2022. 

Bringing Distribution In-House

By eliminating the middleman, operators can regain control of their products and gather the data needed to build marketing and sales. Ensuring this, the customer journey from booking to re-marketing and nurturing creates more brand loyalty and returning travellers. 

Google’s ‘Things to do’ program facilitates this for operators by making your tours, activities, and attractions more discoverable through Google search results. Encouraging website traffic and direct bookings, Google puts the power back in the operator’s hands to control pricing, content, and distribution. 

Livn is Google’s official global connectivity partner helping you add your listing in this high-profile space without charging a commission, transaction fees, or cost-per-click. Instead, operators pay a monthly publishing fee that saves costs traditionally incurred on every booking. 

Facilitating Online Bookings 

According to Arival’s distribution report, more travellers are booking via online channels than previously. Mobile bookings jumped 14% for tours and 12% for attractions in the last 12 months. But, moving your distribution channel in-house will only be successful if you facilitate online bookings.

It is not enough to have a website; you need to create a seamless booking experience via desktop and mobile. This includes; updating websites for searches and making sure you can upsell and cross-sell as easily online as you would in person.

As travel optimism increases to 72% in Australia, offering an online booking system allows operators to capitalise on what travellers are now considering a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have’ to remain competitive. 

Connect With The Right Partners

Nearly 75% of Americans, Australians, and Singaporeans have said seeking new experiences is part of their future travel plans; that is why 2022 is the year of connectivity. As domestic travel increases, operators can form strategic partnerships with local businesses to create unique experiences close to home.

But it is not just about creating a local physical network; global online connectivity is much more achievable now. It opens the door to other customer pools and new exciting products or experiences that have not been done before, facilitating lower costs than before. 

Smarter Marketing Budgets

With a change in distribution comes a difference in your marketing budget. We have already seen how online bookings are on the rise, and with the digitisation of travellers, online marketing channels should become the focus to align with this. 

Looking at long-term marketing investments like branding and search marketing allows operators to be more innovative and efficient overall without sacrificing sales. For example, 56% of marketers invested in social content and 44% in online videos during the pandemic, ultimately resonating with travellers' bucket lists for future plans. 

Create a Safety Net

There remains a lot of uncertainty with travel, and if we have learned anything from new variants, you must have a safety net. In Australia,  43% decided against travelling in 2022 due to uncertainties. There is an opportunity in this situation, from restrictions and safety concerns to the complexity and changing protocols.

Operators who can address the uncertainty and provide backups or guarantees will make travellers feel more comfortable booking with you. This unlocks the potential of an untapped market who want to travel but don not feel confident. Ensure you provide safer backup tours, individual local experiences, or constant travel updates and support. All of these add value to travellers as well as your offering. 

The traditional distribution model has changed forever, and for the operators still standing, the only way to recover is to embrace the change. Regaining the distribution power and increasing resilience will allow you to take advantage of a revived travel industry's opportunities.