Tour operators exist all over the world, either directly running tours themselves or acting as a central agency by which anyone can book a selection of tours, provided by outside firms. They can also be highly profitable endeavours, regardless of which form they take, should they be run properly.
If you’re planning on launching a tour operator business your responsibilities are clear; provide your customers with safe and unforgettable experiences at prices which remain competitive with the rest of the market.
Getting your tour operator business started can be a struggle though, especially if it’s not an area you’re familiar with. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, to share with you the vital steps you should take if you want a successful tour operator business.
Invest time and money finding the right local suppliers
As a tour operator, you are effectively a middleman connecting and packaging together local service suppliers like coach companies, hotels, restaurants, guides, museums and more, ready for your customers.
It’s your task to find exceptional local suppliers for your tours, negotiate prices and ensure that the smooth running of these services together, creating a seamless tour experience for your clients. Without them, you’ll never be able to offer a successful experience, so landing the right ones is key.
In this regard, social media platforms can be a useful tool for finding out more about a potential supplier. Try giving your supplier a search on Facebook to see if they’re receiving regular negative or positive feedback about their service. It’s always worth speaking to your supplier's face to face too, in order to build a strong personal relationship – doing so helps you repair your relationship should issues occur down the line.
Put the safety of your customers first
Tour operators have a significant responsibility for the health and safety of their guests, one that should never be taken anything less than seriously. Companies like Argent and SGS offer tour operators health and safety audits.
One helpful tip we would recommend is joining the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), as members are offered discounts on health and safety audits, amongst other helpful advice.
Recruit the best
Successful tour operators live and die by their staff. They help keep the wheels turning behind the scenes, organise sometimes chaotic groups and deal with countless hiccups over the course of each tour. To handle that with grace is a real skill, and not a common one.
Nevertheless, it’s what you need to find. Attracting the best people isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Sell your vision and set incredibly high standards, you should only be hiring tour managers who are committed to your ideals and the ideals of your business.
Though there are no ‘required’ qualifications for tour managers, courses are available from the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality and the Institute of Travel and Tourism, which are worth keeping an eye out for on CVs when recruiting new team members.
Build yourself for the online age
Tour operating is a very old business, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to change. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Today’s successful tour operators (old and new) make superb use of the internet, using it for promotion, customer outreach and sales; so, don’t get left behind. It starts, of course, with a social media presence and website, where you can share your latest information and promotional materials, but it should go much further than that.
Partnering with online travel agents can lead to huge benefits, and maintaining a blog on your website can boost your SEO, helping to drive more potential customers to your website. Whilst there, you should implement a tour operator booking platform, which will allow your customers to see live availability and prices, as well as book and pay for their tours at any time, on any device.
There are other benefits to a tour operator booking system, like automatic reminder emails for customers, letting them know their tour is coming up and where they should be, making a booking platform all but mandatory for any modern tour company.
A Tour Operator Booking System is something that many businesses now have - so it's important that you keep up with the trend and your competitors.
To find out more about BookingLives Tour Operator Booking System, sign up to our free demo!