New Technology Trends Emerging For Tour Operators

Frida Kops   ● 9 min read
This article forms part of a weekly newsletter series that’s sent directly to travel industry professionals every Friday.
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Sparked by the recent need for virtual tours and events, there are many buzzwords floating around the technology space, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Marketing Automation. But what areas of the tech world should tour operator businesses be taking the leap into? I’ll explore this further. 

Let’s get started.

Here's this week's roundup:

Virtual Reality Could Be a Big Asset to Travel Companies

Source: TravelPulse

A recent survey from Global Data found that 45 percent of global travellers remain extremely concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19. This data suggests that making virtual reality a part of the booking process will be advantageous for tour operators.

The use of online platforms has significantly increased during the global crisis providing the rising opportunity of more digital interaction between tour operators and their customers.

“Even once the spread of COVID-19 has slowed, timely airport procedures, an increase in pricing and more concerns regarding safety will likely affect future travel decisions.” – Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData

VR can ease consumer fear by offering a chance to experience a taste of what they should expect. The effect of full immersion, high-quality images, wide possibilities of demonstrating tourist sites and attractions – all this makes Virtual Reality a powerful marketing tool. 

“Fascinating, appealing memorable experiences that VR can offer will help to ease consumer doubt – acting as another factor that can increase future travel demand.”

It is true, that some travel companies have been implementing VR before the pandemic. But I support the opinion of Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, who said that the ‘try before you buy’ concept might remain an important part of the booking process.” Do you agree?

Read the full article here.

Five emerging trends in the travel industry

Source: Travel Daily

With a constantly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, it is paramount that your tour operator business follows emerging trends to adjust the sails.

Here is a summary of the travel industry trends at the moment:

1. Domestic and regional travel. Road trips, family visits, and countryside breaks will become the most preferred types of trips. As countries start lifting travel restrictions, domestic travel will probably take the lead. The current situation in China, as well as recent statistics on European hotel reservations, also confirm that local tourism will be the first to recover.

2. Booking windows. As countries have started to reopen their borders, the number of bookings within two to thirty days before a trip has increased. However, the booking windows for more than three months continue to decrease every week. To follow-up on frequently changing data, you can check ADARA Traveller Trends Tracker.

ADARA Traveller Trends Tracker

3. Travel purpose. Visiting family members is the main purpose of travel bookings. The trends in the US and EMEA present different pictures suggesting that in EMEA more people will travel for business purposes.

4. Mobility trends. The recent Longwoods survey found that “22% of those who changed their vacation plans for this year switched their form of transportation to driving instead of flying.” It is expected that flight corridors will open first between neighbouring countries. Although the cruise industry suffered badly during this pandemic, current trends suggest that it will eventually become safer due to implementing new H&S protocols to control illness on board.

While some travellers cancelled their vacation plans for at least six months, others are seeking low airfares for existing flights and are ready to travel as soon as the current restrictions are lifted.

5. Products. What type of travel products will be in high demand?

  • Car rentals: Studies show that the role of auto tourism will increase. People will opt for car rentals to visit destinations close to home.
  • Flexible bookings. Now more than ever, people are seeking reassurance before they book a travel experience. They will book with you only after you help them to achieve peace of mind by introducing a flexible bookings policy
  • Vacation rentals. Tourists tend to opt for private accommodations rather than hotels.
  • Travel insurance. Industry experts suggest that up to 30% of tourists are expected to get travel insurance before booking a trip.
  • Travel advisors. Rather than organising a trip and dealing with possible cancellations or changes on their own, people are now turning to travel professionals. As a tour operator, not only can you help them better navigate through unexpected situations but also assist in selecting a personalized travel package according to their needs. Here is another promising statistic – Bookings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are up by 38%, 40%, and 23% respectively, compared to 2019.

Which of these trends can you observe in your tour operator business?

Read the full article here.

Net Effect Automated Customer Appointment Scheduler Offers Video Calls As An Option

Source: Travolution

People are no longer interested in wasting time waiting for the phone to be answered or waiting for replies after filling out a web contact form. Research has indicated that up to 70% of customers prefer to book appointments online.

In response to this, travel technology specialist Net Effect, has developed a live online customer appointment scheduler so customers can instantly book appointments with travel professionals based on their availability. Considering that your customers often browse travel websites in the evenings or on weekends, providing this opportunity could secure valuable leads.

“It is not convenient to give a customer a response to their appointment request during work hours. People tend to discuss their holiday plans at weekends and in the evenings, so outside of office hours. This is when they’re most likely to be browsing your website.”

Net Effect - Pro Appointment Scheduler

You can also use this system for scheduling events, creating a landing page to invite people, and send reminders.

Does your tour operator business have a similar system in place? Can your customers book a video call online?

Read the full article here.

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Four Ways Technology Can Empower Travel

Source: Forbes

Is your tour operator business looking for innovative technological solutions to support its operations?

Then you need to look at them from your customers’ perspective, try to understand how technology can get people excited about travelling again. This article from Forbes highlights four ways technology can offer increased safety and flexibility to tourists.

Here is a summary:

  • Suggesting new destinations that spark interest. A survey by IATA conducted in April confirmed that 40% of air passengers will wait at least six months before regularly flying again.
    • How can your tour operator business benefit from this information? By offering technological platforms enabling customers to choose the less expensive alternative closer to home, where they have better control over the risks.

“It will be critical to explain how their travel problems will be solved in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks and new restrictions on movement. Travellers also will want to quickly understand payment terms when comparing accommodations.”

  • Increasing flexibility. We all know that people feel uneasy about travelling in the near future. However, there are ways that tour operators can make them feel comfortable committing to a holiday. As mentioned above, flexibility is one of the key emerging trends. Your booking platforms should include a flexible booking policy to reassure your customers that they can flex their travel plans AND book with confidence. 10x Tourism offers you a free online training session on this topic. Click here or below for details.

10xFlex: The Booking Policy Template to Secure Deposits Now!

Free online training session to help you trade through the COVID-19 crisis and out the other side

✅ Overview of the 10xFlex booking policy and why it’s important

✅ How to implement 10xFlex in your tour operator business

✅ How to get your new policy into the hands of your guests

✅ Using this time to consolidate and capitalize

  • Helping consumers to achieve psychological comfort. Never assume what your customer wants, let them make a decision. While some travellers might be looking forward to spending their time outside after the lockdown, others will prefer to stay inside or at quiet secluded locations.
  • Even though the trends above show tourists opting for private accommodations, some people will consider hotels relying on professional and systematic cleaning. Digital platforms must help travellers to identify the right type of stay according to their needs and concerns.
  • Providing tools and data to support the traveller’s journey. Your customers have a lot of questions. You have a responsibility to educate and inform them at each step of their journey and be totally transparent. 

There are a number of opportunities for tech organizations right now. If your travel company manages to find and implement technological solutions that will lead customers to booking with peace of mind, you will achieve a strong competitive advantage.

Read the full article here.

Three Key Questions Businesses Should Ask Themselves Before Investing in AI Tech

Are you thinking of investing in AI tech? Then I encourage you to read further. There are three important questions your tour operator business should consider before implementing Artificial Intelligence technology.

1. What does a business require from automation? Ask yourself: why do you need automation and what do you want to achieve? It is crucial to have a clear strategy in place before making an investment. Otherwise, you risk spending more time, money, and effort without a guaranteed result.

“It is vital to stress, however, that for companies that are afraid of AI ‘replacing’ the human element, this is nothing more than a common misconception. It is all about how a firm utilises and integrates AI, which determines whether it works seamlessly in tandem with employees, or in a conflicting silo.”

2. What are the advantages of AI?

AI allows you to:

  • analyze customers’ data efficiently.
  • predict customers’ demand
  • forecast operational risks
  • automate repetitive tasks

By implementing AI in your tour operator business, you increase your chances to connect with your customers on a personal level.

3. Operationally, how can an enterprise bring AI in seamlessly and produce instant results?

Artificial Intelligence technology can be extremely useful for your tour operator business. However, you need to perform exploratory work, consider all existing options, calculate your ROI. Never apply a “lazy approach” by ignoring the preliminary research that needs to be done.

“Businesses should not presume that automation will solve all their worries, without having to give any input at all. This is where it can all go drastically wrong.”

Let me know whether you’re considering investing in AI technology and why?

Read the full article here.

9 Ways to Crush the End of a Blog Post

Source: Hubspot

COVID vaccine

This article provides tips on how to write a great ending for your blog. It is important because how you do this will impact your reader’s journey on your site. Let’s get into it:

1. Write a summary. Remind your readers of the most important points in the article, highlight the main key takeaways. Keep in mind that people are most likely to forget most of the information you reflect on in your content piece. The point of the summary is to make it stick to them. 

2. Ask a question. You should gradually draw in your readers to leave feedback or a comment. Ask them what they liked the most about the destination you described in your article, or whether they had a chance to visit one of the landmarks mentioned in your blog article. 

3. Include a CTA. What is the purpose of your blog post? What is the next step for your audience to take? Specify it to them with a strong and clear call-to-action. You can invite them to subscribe to your newsletter or check out the latest offers.

“After reading a blog post, most users are thinking, “Okay, now what?” This is why the end of a blog post is a great place to provide actionable solutions in the form of a CTA.”

4. Inspire your readers. They might need it more than ever during these difficult times. Leave them with food for thought. Encourage them to take action towards new achievements. As an example, you can end the blog about the tour you offer with a powerful feedback message from your customer or an inspiring travel quote.

“Sometimes a person just needs a little inspiration or a different thought to get them propelled in the right direction.” – Tondeleya Allen

5. Direct your audience to do something. You have probably noticed that all of the above -mentioned tips have one thing in common: they must guide your readers on what their next steps should be. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. Try this: the next time you are writing a blog, finish it with a sentence asking the readers to share it. The results might surprise you. 

6. Provide links to another blog post. Think of related articles on your blog that might provide your readers with additional value on a discussed topic. For example, in a blog post about the top 10 places to visit in Rome, you can recommend reading another post featuring 10 places to avoid.

7. Start a discussion. End your blog post with a question leading to the discussion. Don’t worry if you can’t come up with one. It all depends on the topic you choose to write about. Remember, you can always use one of the other tips described here.

8. Produce a teaser. Let your audience know what your next blog post will be about and why they can’t miss it.

9. Answer who, what, where, when, why, and how. Always write with your audience in mind. By doing that you will be able to answer all the questions they might have. 

Which of these tips have you been using?

Read the full article here.

A statistic I found interesting:

Even with dramatic budget cuts, it is predicted that investment in marketing automation platforms will grow by 3% to ensure business recovery by mid-2021. (MarketingLand)

A question for you:

Have you already leapt into the world on new tech? What do you use or what would you consider to use for your business?

Share your thoughts and comments on our Facebook and Linkedin page or drop me an email at [email protected] – I’d love to hear from you.

The 10xpress is a weekly series curated exclusively for travel companies like you

Every week, I provide you with:

  • Reports, opinion, case studies and key findings that directly impact the tours and activities sector.
  • Educational articles to guide you through the changing world of online sales and marketing from industry leaders.
  • Tips and tools on how to improve your tour operator business, generate more sales and make your life easier.
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