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4 requirements to succeed in 2020 and beyond

The Bókun Team • April 24, 2020

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Tips from the frontlines: The perspective of a Bókun account manager

Travel, tourism, leisure businesses, we are all in a bit of a coma. How long? I don’t know. Will we wake up in the same world we knew in 2019? I don’t know. But what we do know is that travelers will return. And so, we need to prepare our businesses for the decade ahead of us .

But how do we prepare? What first? We can garner research from the past, we can feel the temperature of the present, and we can try to predict the future. Based on my experience working with tours and activities operators from across the globe, I’ve seen a few fundamental characteristics repeated time and again by the tour businesses who are most poised for current and future success.

The travel industry is online. I know it, you know it, and Google and Facebook know it.

The odds that a customer will first find out about you as they walk on the beach or see a brochure in a hotel lobby is nearly dead. Most travelers do some sort of trip planning before arriving at their destination, but even for those booking in-destination, they are doing that online, on their phones.

The fact of the matter is, airlines were the first to populate the online booking space, then hotels, and now restaurants. The last frontier is tours and experiences, and I’m probably the 100th person to tell you that. What it means is if you aren’t bookable online, you are limiting your sales potential. Whether someone finds your company while scrolling through Tripadvisor, Viator, Expedia, Airbnb, or if they find your business website through a Google search — that’s where the bookings will come from, or at the very least the way customers find out about you.

If you don’t have a website or if your products aren’t instantly bookable on your website, you can fix that. Bókun can help you build your website or add a booking engine to your existing website. You can also look at the countless other tools out there that can help you build a website. But I cannot stress enough that you need to be bookable online.

Collect your customers’ email addresses and turn them into reviews, referrals, and repeat customers.

Marketing in this business is essential, but the vast majority of suppliers don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on Facebook ads or Google. But, rest assured, you have a lot of options outside of paid advertising.

Your customers may be providing you with their contact information online or may have filled out a form when they arrived at the tour. Every person who goes on a tour is a potential review, referral, or repeat customer.

I once took a catamaran cruise in the Bahamas on a Monday, and I got an email from them saying thanks for coming, I asked them “If you get me $50 bucks off I’ll come back on Thursday.” And I did.

It’s proven that products with more reviews on Tripadvisor get more bookings. Did you know Bokun has an auto-review integration with Tripadvisor ? Turn it on, and Tripadvisor will email your customers a review request the day after their activity, whether they booked on your website, offline, through a travel agent, or on Tripadvisor or Viator. Or prefer to upload your own list of customers for reviews? You can also upload your customer list here , and Tripadvisor will email those customers asking for a review on your behalf.

There are so many things you can do with your past customers, so make sure to keep those customers and a record of their successful visit. You can turn them into referrals and reviews of your business, which will then beget more business.

Differentiate your business from the other hundred people who do walking tours in your town.

I don’t know how many companies I’ve seen do walking tours in Prague. I cannot count how many companies are named London Guided Tours. Is that a bad thing? No, London is awesome, and there are a lot of cobblestones in Prague. But you need to differentiate yourself and market yourself as a unique tour business.

There is this company in Arizona, USA who does Jeep Tours, and has unbelievable sales. They offer a fantastic experience, but so do thousands of other tour companies in Arizona. The differentiator? Their Jeeps are pink .

Along with amazing guides, great itineraries, and quality experiences, what makes them different is their pink Jeeps. It’s cool, it’s memorable, and it’s different. “Different” gets them sales. I couldn’t remember what the company’s name was at first, but I knew I could simply search “Pink Jeeps” on Google to find them again .

If you are an airport transfer company, you know full well that there are hundreds of others just like you. Market your business differently. Have a unique feature about your experience, market it online with a different motto, a different website, and a different story to tell.

You might not have thousands of dollars to get you to the top of Google searches, but you’ll beat the competition every time if you are memorable enough to drive brand-direct searches.

Take credit card payments. I know the credit card fees suck, but it’s what your customers are demanding.

The trend of physical currency transactions is having a steep decline, especially for those traveling internationally. I have heard and completely empathize with your feelings on credit card transactions — the processing fee and the taxes that need to be filed.

But your customers are going cashless. And this trend isn’t going away. So, you really can’t fight credit card transactions anymore. Get a PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, or Bókun Pay account.


My last piece of advice to you as I pound away at my laptop in the middle of the night is to ask yourself, “How can I get better?”

My advice to chefs during this downtime is to work on new recipes in their home kitchens. My advice to athletes is to work out however they can at home.

The reality is we do not have travelers on our tours. And the chef does not have diners, and the athletes do not have games.

But we can all get better and prepare for when they come back to us for the next decade. Work on your craft.

Think about your online presence, your website, your customer data, and your differentiator as a business. In this period stuck at home, don’t just focus on what you can do for today, think about what you can do to prepare for tomorrow.