Tour Operator Insight: Why You Need to Trust This Proven Process
This video forms part of our Get More Bookings® Show series where we interview clients and travel professionals from our Facebook community for travel industry pros to uncover tips on what’s working for them in business. Click here to be part of the group and check out the proven process for yourself.
“It felt very authentic, it felt like you could show proof of concept.” – Andre Van Kets, Discover Africa
The Problem: Adapting to a Constantly Evolving Online Landscape
“I didn’t just want to pay for adverts, I wanted to draw people in with good content-rich experiences.”
Describing himself as a “computer geek that loves to travel”, Andre Van Kets is the Co-Founder of Discover Africa, committed to showcasing the best safari experiences in Southern and East Africa. He’s explored this vast continent in almost every way imaginable and resides as a Trustee Tourism Community Development Trust (TCD Trust), a non-profit organisation that raises funds for community projects in and around Cape Town. Having built the business with fellow co-founder Steve Conradie back in 2002, Discover Africa is embarking upon its 20th year anniversary online.
“It was really easy to get top positions on Google pages to get business back then…Over those 15-20 years, the landscape has shifted tremendously…The prized first page of Google became harder and harder and more expensive, so we had to look for new channels.”
This is where 10x Tourism enters the picture. While, just like us, Andre is a tech geek and SEO expert in his own right, he needed support with inbound marketing. Having mastered the craft of SEO since 2002, he wanted to shift focus onto educational content that drew customers in with rich experiences.
“I was reading great case studies, you guys were essentially practicing what you preach. And it felt very authentic, it felt like you could show proof of concept.”
Over the past few years, Andre and his team have partnered with 10x Tourism in two different stints. Firstly, as a Done-For-You client as part of our pre-pandemic concierge model, and then as a member of the Tour Operator Accelerator program in 2021, with added 1-to-1 technical support from the 10x Tourism team of experts for certain elements of the course. Whereas the previous approach was very hands-off for Andre, the Accelerator program allowed for a more hands-on experience. Building the Get More Bookings system with his team, in-house.
“Just like I believed in SEO because it was very metrics-driven. I think we saw very quickly that your approach to online marketing was complementary to what we were doing. You weren’t aiding our SEO, you were tapping into a new area for us.”
When is the Right Time to Bite the Bullet?
“You guys have been amazing as we shift the goal posts here and there”
Flexibility played an important role in making the transition from one stint to another. Andre trusted the power of the Get More Bookings system to accelerate growth and achieve his sales goals because the results had been proven to him in 2019 when we initially partnered. However, due to the devastating blow to the travel industry in 2020, choosing the right time to implement the system again had to be right for Discover Africa.
“I remember saying I can’t spend money on sales or social media ads, when my conversion rate is 3%. We’re still getting leads coming through but they’re not putting deposits down. When 3% turns to 6 or 7% then let’s talk again, because that means we’re maybe a few months away from meeting our 15% conversion rate.”
Throughout this uncertain time period, 10x Tourism and Andre worked very closely together to figure out what step to take next. A strategy that kept a steady flow of bookings coming in without hemorrhaging too much cash was the key driver in decision making. Like most tourism businesses out there, Andre also had to cut down his team as well as other costs. Initially, he brought costs down to 30% of what they were pre-pandemic.
“We had a monthly call schedule with 10x for about 4 months to try and figure out what move to take next.”
Within 4 months Discover Africa did reach their 6% conversion rate goal, and Andre made the decision to bite the bullet and jump back on board with the Get More Bookings System®. Many tourism businesses have expressed the same concerns as Andre over the past two years, they worry that sending email newsletters to leads will put them off booking when travel restrictions are in place. However, on the contrary, as we know from previous success stories, this isn’t the case. People want to travel, they want to be inspired to plan their dream trips, and they want to go with a company they can trust – so, show them what they’re missing!
The Solution: Committing to the Process
“I had this whole idea in my head that we were going to take your framework and fully customise it for our own way, we did the journey, we started implementing it, and you know what we did a complete U-turn and came back very close to your guy’s flow.”
When Andre and his team first started building and implementing the Get More Bookings® System themselves, they wanted to stamp their own mark on the process – which is totally doable! However, as time went on, and they tested out new avenues, Andre found himself returning to the foundations we had set.
“I’m a dreamer, I love trying to make things more customised, but what I discovered over the past 8-9 weeks is that we went away from you guys and came right back, you guys have worked out all the little quirks, every time we stepped away it felt more clumsy.”
Whilst we encourage our partners, especially tech-savvy ones like Andre to experiment and customise the process to work for them, the Get More Bookings System is a tried and tested model that’s delivered ROI for hundreds of tourism businesses. We’ve spent over 10 years working out all the kinks, testing, and failing at points, in order to ensure that the system we’re delivering is one you can trust for generating a reliable pipeline of leads.
“I know you’re very specific and detail-oriented, and I think it shows in the end product. On the whole, we spent more time than we needed trying to improve something that was already good.”
Leveraging Your Pack for Success
“I hope the fact my team has had to wear more hats, that they enjoy it more. There’s pros and cons to the pandemic, you gotta take the good with the bad.”
Look behind every successful venture, and what you’ll find is not a one-man band, but a team of people collaborating to make things happen. Andre made sure that the onboarding experience extended to his marketing team also, as they would be the ones implementing a lot of it.
“Jordan and Esmee have always been very willing, and can’t ever do too much. And if they’re too busy, we just schedule a call the next day.”
A suggestion Andre made, which we 100% agree with, is that inviting your team into our closed Accelerator Partners’ Mastermind community group on Facebook is an effective way to ensure the whole team is on board and receiving the right technical support through invaluable Q&A sessions hosted by 10x Tourism’s COO Esmee and Product Manager Jordan.
“I don’t want to underplay the value of the internal onboarding of those who will use the tool”
Andre’s two experiences partnering with us have been under very different circumstances. The first, pre-pandemic, Andre had the backing of a fully-staffed marketing and sales teams, and oversaw the operations as opposed to getting too hands-on with the processes at play. This time around post-pandemic, all team members have adapted to wearing many hats, and Andre is loving getting back in the ‘trenches’.
“I always believed in the system but I didn’t get my hands dirty. I wasn’t in the trenches back then whereas now I have been hands-on with the setup.”
The silver lining of scaling the Discover Africa team down to 20 has allowed Andre to speak more directly and become more involved in the ground level operations of running his business again. The experience has given him and his team the opportunity to rethink processes, and improve upon them in order to make a robust recovery for the future. When the business scales up again to pre-pandemic levels, they’ll be better equipped with a more rounded knowledge on how to operate.
“I’m really enjoying it, I haven’t had my hands in code for 10 years”
During the one-on-one sessions with Esmee and Jordan as part of his upsell support package, Andre found the ‘show, don’t tell’ approach to be extremely productive in understanding the technical elements of the course. People learn in many different ways but one of the most effective is by ‘doing’. Taking the time to share-screen on Zoom to show one another exactly how to implement specific actions saves a lot of time in the long run, especially for team members with less technical experience.
“When you have a meeting, don’t talk about it vaguely, jump onto Zapier altogether and get stuck into it.”
What Next For Discover Africa?
The part of the Get More Bookings® System that impressed Andre this time around on the Tour Operator Accelerator program, is the narrow breadth of technical tools needed to implement the system. Having years of experience behind him working with all kinds of online tools, Andre was pleasantly surprised to know we like to keep the processes as streamlined as possible.
“I dabbled with all the tools that make up the system independently, so the fact that when you zoom out and look at that whole diagram of how it all flows together, there isn’t actually that many tools, a few moving parts makes for an easy machine to maintain. That’s what surprised me the most I think.”
Looking ahead, having already proved the system works for generating a high-quality pipeline of leads since 2019 for Discover Africa, Andre wants to focus on the post-booking customer journey.
“In terms of tools…I’m really looking forward to seeing a live stream of new live leads coming into the deals pipeline of our new CRM.”
With so many travellers these days booking up to 18 months in advance, the online customer journey doesn’t stop once the booking has been made, and the deposit is taken. The next challenge is keeping that booking in place, and building those strong relationships. An intuitive way to maintain that relationship between customers and tourism brands is to adopt the same approach from the sales pipeline.
“What we’re looking to achieve in our implementation, from when the client says “yes I want to travel with you, and by the way, it’s going to be in 2 years’ time”, we need to track that over the rest of the life span. What are we going to do with them in those 18 months? We’re going to inspire them, we’re going to stay in contact, we’re going to upsell to them…So we’re actually using the sales pipeline to track post-confirmation stages.”
During these unpredictable times for travel, having a flexible booking policy in place is the one thing you can do today to gain travellers confidence in booking with you. In fact, according to Zenith research, consumers are valuing it more than ever when considering booking international trips in 2022. This is why, maintaining a strong bond with your client right up until they leave a review on TripAdvisor is so crucial – because at any point they may be more inclined to cancel if they don’t receive that email contact within those 18 months.
“You want a lifetime customer here…a repeat customer is much cheaper than finding a new one.”
“I Want Everyone Here to Feel it’s Okay to be Struggling Right Now, You’re Not Alone”
A key message that Andre feels everyone needs to know right now is that it’s okay if things aren’t going as you want them to. Most tourism businesses, including Discover Africa are in the same boat, barely breaking even, and taking each day in their stride. There are no magic fixes for the industry at the moment, but with the right technical implementation your tourism business can start to build back more robust and profitable step by step.
“Cut the costs you don’t need, our revenue is down to about 25% of what it used to be, and costs are down to 30% of what they used to be, so we’re not breaking even, most people aren’t and that’s okay. Prepare well, find the right time and then pull the trigger, keep a diverse set of channels open, we kept all our eggs in the SEO basket a few years ago, but then we diversified, diversify your inbound sources of leads”
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