Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries today with the Internet playing an important part of its rapid growth. The internet has changed tourists’ behavior and as a result, the booking process is longer than before. People are comparing prices online, asking for advice through social media, or reading customer reviews before making an online reservation.
But despite the increasing reach of the internet, Americans still mostly book offline either through phone calls or going directly service provider’s physical location. But that will soon change. According to a recent study, the online channel is expected to account for 49% of all travel bookings in the US by 2020. Now is the time for tourism businesses, especially the charters and tours sectors, to embrace online reservation systems.
What are the benefits of online bookings vs. offline?
Having the option to book online presents numerous advantages that will benefit not only you, the business owner, but your customer as well.
Your customer will appreciate the convenience of booking online either through desktop or mobile. Being able to browse your services at the customer’s own time and leisure and without direct sales pressure makes online booking very appealing. Then, having payment options available directly after making a reservation makes it even more attractive.
Your business is always available
A customer will be able to avail your services even in the dead of the night. There will also be no need for you or your staff to man hotlines or monitor email inboxes all the time as the scheduling app will automatically take care of any reservations that come through.
Companies have resisted using online reservation apps in the past due to its price but that is no longer the case, as advances in technology have made it extremely cheap. Having a website integrated with reservation software comes with significantly lower startup costs compared to setting up a traditional physical location. An online booking portal can be deployed quickly and start accepting reservations right away.
Now that your services are found online and available 24/7, you’ll see an increase in bookings compared to what your business used to have. More revenue coupled with the system’s cheap overhead expense equals more profit.
Easier to measure results
Unlike offline reservations where you have no idea where the lead came from, the source of any online reservations can be easily tracked through numerous tools available. By having accurate data, you now have the power to track the customer’s interactions that will allow you to channel your marketing efforts only to platforms that work – whether it’s organic search, paid online ads, or referral traffic from TripAdvisor, etc.
How can charters, boat rentals, & watersports companies prepare for more online bookings?
Tourism-related businesses should take advantage of the fact that more and more people are using the internet to plan their trip. Businesses such as boat charters, tour operators, and other water-activity related companies can gain more profit by synchronizing their offline channel with online efforts.We’ve listed the top things you should do to capture more online bookings.
Optimize your booking portal for mobile devices
The number of mobile internet users has overtaken desktop users during the last few years. Water-activity businesses should capitalize on that shift by improving the user experience of their booking portals when viewed on mobile. A fast loading website with a mobile responsive design will not only be aesthetically pleasing, it can also influence users to make a booking on the spot.
Be seen on search engines
As more and more travelers are using the internet to plan their trip, the use of search engines became the primary way of gathering information. Search engines have over 1 billion users around the world with a huge portion looking for travel related information. Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), your company website can get a piece of that action. An “SEO-ready” website will get plenty of visits as it will be prominently placed on search engine results whenever there’s a related query. Just imagine how many bookings you’ll get online if your company is listed first for every related query.
Have 24/7 customer support
Good customer service is the lifeblood of a successful business. Good customer service can bring new customers and also bring them back in the future. It’s like forming a relationship with the customer and like other relationships, communication plays an integral part. Your staff should always be reachable either by phone, email, or chat. Get call forwarding, email alerts, or set up a live chat system. Avoid canned responses and be helpful even if there’s no immediate profit in it.
Have an online payment option
Customers value convenience and what better way to serve them is by giving them an option to pay online. A secure online payment system eliminates the hassle of bank transfers or the need for customers to physically bring large sums of cash to pay for your service.
Work with TripAdvisor and other travel directories
TripAdvisor and similar websites reach millions of users worldwide. By tapping that channel, your business can potentially reach more customers than your current marketing channels. Create a listing detailing your offers and standard rates and then upload several attractive photos at will entice users to use your services.
Be active on social media
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have a lot of reach and have a massive impact on consumer behavior. A single shared photo, status update, or a simple hashtag can be viewed by thousands of people and have the power to sway the minds of consumers to your favor. Regularly post content about your business or topics directly or indirectly related to your industry such as local events, promos and discounts, industry news, customer reviews and photos, etc.
The internet has significantly changed the tourism industry. Consumers are more experienced and are harder to satisfy. With the help of CaptainPanel, your business can thrive and grow in this competitive market conditions by adopting internet innovations. Our online booking app comes with a payment gateway and can be customized according to your needs. In addition, CaptainPanel offers a complete suite of services such as website development, digital marketing, reporting, and customer support that will usher your business to the digital age. You can read the success stories of the some of the businesses we’ve helped by clicking here.