5 Steps Tour Operators Can Take to Create a Powerful Website

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  • April 8, 2016

A great website that both inspires and creates a sense of trust with potential clients is one of the key elements to building a successful travel agency or tour company. Here is a look at the 5 most important elements that every website should have. Even great websites have room for improvement. If your website is lacking in some of these elements it’s going to make the rest of the sales process that much more difficult.

Great Design

Great design probably goes without saying, but I am continually surprised by the proliferation of poorly designed websites.

  • 1. Mobile Friendly: One thing a lot of tour operators like is a mobile friendly design. Your website should perform well across a range of devices. If you are not sure about this you can test your website out with these free tools: quirktools.com/screenfly/ or mobiletest.me/.
  • 2. Navigation: Navigation defines how visitors navigate through your website and what links they click. You should make sure your key product pages are linked to from the home page and easily accessible from your menus. Once a visitor lands on your website it’s basically up to you where they go. Make sure you are not sending them to products that sell poorly or pages that have little value in the selling funnel. Make sure it’s easy to find information not only about your products but also about your company.
  • 3. Great Photos: Travel is all about inspiration. Great photos that highlight the destination are an important part of every product page as well as the home page. All the images on your web site should be high quality and optimized so that they load quickly.
  • 4. Calls to Action: What is the visitor supposed to do when they land on your website? Product pages should have clear buttons that direct visitors to inquire or buy. Don’t make forms overly complicated to fill out. It’s better just to get the essential elements in a form then risk losing a potential customers attention. If your forms are hard to fill out its going to give the impression that your company is in general hard to work with.
Build Trust

Selling is all about building trust with potential customers. Everything you do should be with the goal of establishing trust and getting the client ready to commit. When it comes to your website you can do a number of things to inspire trust.

  • 1. Highlight Reviews: Highlighting reviews from past customers on your website builds trust and will certainly help your sales efforts. A lot of travel companies add their own client testimonials but this is not a good way to do it. Customers are smart and know these can be easily manipulated. The only way to do this correctly is to install the third party review widget from Tripadvisor. If you don’t have a Tripadvisor account set one and start getting real reviews from real customers. It might take a while but its more than worth it.
    Update: A number of comments on this post have been made pointing out the problems with Tripadvisor. I agree its hard to hand over the reputation of your company to Tripadvisor and definetly not an ideal solution. However, its hard to get away from how important it is to a lot of potential customers. John made a comment about using a third party review service in addition to Tripadvisor and I think that it would be a good idea to collect both. Hopefully, we will have some widgets shortly that will also you to show verified reviews from Touristlink.
  • 2. Certifications,  Badges: Are you a member of your local travel association or ASTA. If so it’s worth displaying these badges on you website alongside any other awards that you have won.
  • 3. Team: Potential customer want to know who they are buying from. Invest sometime in building your team page. Photos of founding members of the company along with your company in action with real travelers shows that you are legit.
  • 4. Social Media: Social Media is good for marketing but highlighting established accounts also builds trust. If you have been on Facebook or Twitter for a number of years it’s good to link to those from your website and show off the activity on those pages.
  • 5. Contact Info: Make it easy to contact you. Show phone numbers and your office location as well as email addresses and other methods of contact as per your preference such as Skype, Whatspp and Viber.
Great Content
  • 1. Well Written Content: Content on your website should be well written and free of errors. Not every cares about grammar and punctuation but some people do and well written content is a sign of your professionalism. If you are not the best writer hire someone proficient to do this for you, it’s a good one time investment. I see lots of websites copy and paste itineraries from other websites and this is a mistake.
  • 2. Product Details: Your travel itineraries and product descriptions should be sufficiently detailed but not overly lengthy. Different products should maintain consistent formatting so that things are easy to compare. Key details like inclusions and exclusions should be mentioned. It’s better to be clear on what is not included and can even help build trust. Negative surprises during the sales process are never helpful.
  • 3. Show off expertise with a blog: Are you a subject expert on a particular destination? If so I urge you to develop a blog to cover various aspect of travel in your region. Show that your an expert with writing and photos. The type of content is great for marketing and getting new traffic from search engines as well. An established blog helps build trust.
Performance

Website performance matters. Makes sure your pages load quickly and work across a range of devices. Sign up for Google Webmaster and make sure you fix any errors associated with your website and that its mobile friendly. You can test your website speed with a number of free tools such as gtmetrix.com and www.webpagetest.org. Make sure to optimize all your images. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load your probably losing customers.

  • 1. Install Analytics: Google Analytics is a great free tool to see what people are doing on your website and to identify potential opportunities as well as problems. It is a bit complicated and has takes some time to learn but is well worth it. You can check some of my personal blog post on it here that go into more detail (www.davidurmann.com/blog).
 Payments

It’s essential to be able to accept multiple forms of payment. Customers expect to be able to pay online without headaches.

  • 1. Payment Gateway: You should integrate a payment gateway, such as Paypal, directly into your website. Don’t send customers to another website to complete the payment. Make sure that you have HTTPS set up correctly and that the data you capture from customers is secure. Show your Https or payment processing badge on your website.
  • 2. Refunds: Have a clear refund policy in your terms of service page. Don’t leave customers guessing on any of the details.
  • 3. Minimize Distractions: Once you have customers on your payment page you should minimize any distractions. Remove navigation and links if they are not absolutely essential. Remember that if you give distractions people will click on them and not complete the payment process.
    Update: Jansie had a great comment about testing your payment gateway. Dont assume its working or rely on customers to tell you the problems. Try it for yourself on different browsers and devices. Also try entering different formats for phone numbers, credit card numbers, addresses and anything else you can think could possible go wrong. This is the worst place to lose a potential customer.

About David Urmann

PhD Ohio State. Led the development of over 100 websites since 2003 resulting in 150 million+ page views. Moved to India in 2006 to expand my existing US based internet business and met my present business partner. I am an avid traveller having visited over 40 countries and launched Touristlink out of my passion for travel.

32 Comments

  • Elton Devine says:

    You sure know what you’re talking about. Everyone is going to soon be visiting your site.

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  • sekolah menengah kedinasan says:

    With having so much content do you ever run into any problems off plagiarism or copyright
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  • Heraa Farooq says:

    So well explained. I had no idea there were so many issues that I didn’t really know were issues actually. I have checked my ratings on Gtmetrix giving me 86% by giving me an F in leverage browsing cache. I don’t know how to fix this. Can you please suggest?

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    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get advice
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  • There are some good points in this article and I would also recommend making a small payment to yourself just so you know how the payment process works and confirm that it does work. However I also agree with Michael above in that you must practice what you preach! If you’re going to have a paragraph about correct grammar and punctuation you really need to spell check the article as in one quick read through I noticed 5 typos or spelling mistakes! I am afraid I am one of those people who would be put off from doing business with a company whose website has a large amount of typos as it implies lack of attention to detail.

  • Ismail says:

    Hi David,
    Thank u very much for such a wonderful advice, I’m busy refurbishing my website which is been hunging in cyber space bring limited business . I want to focus on online marketing by maximizing on key issues that u have mentioned.
    How bless u!

  • Tanny Nguyen says:

    Thank David. I have a very great lesson. I am starting up the new tours & travel concept with my limited knowledge of a new web builder. I will follow your instructions and update them time to time.

  • Great one David, we can confirm that we almost doubled our bookings since we made TripAdvisor more visible on our website.

  • J. Carreira says:

    I also did a makeover look our website for portugal lisbon

  • David Sande says:

    Thanks for this very important advice! This should reach those young tour operators that are just starting out and would like to harness the internet to grow their business, at least I will share to those I know. Ourselves we are a young operator in Uganda/Rwanda, almost 1 year now, but we’ve been doing a lot of what you given here and our inquiries have been improving exponentially, challenge has been very low confirmation rate for now. But it’s understandable since we are new and have not managed to get some reviews.

  • komang says:

    Very Good Article To Know ! this is what i did for my website http://Balitourvacation.com

  • Very useful information.
    Thank you very much for sharing idea.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks for the useful articles. Very informative. I also agree with John. I dont like the fact that tripadvisor and other site where we get reviewed display our compititors. We work hard for the traffic, we some times go on to spend dollars on ads. This needs to be revised.

    Daniel

  • Good informative writing,thanks David.

  • Thanks For the Use full Information. It is Really Help full.

  • Gideone says:

    I like most to try other reviews like yours and other etc. We need to find something new not same thing all the time……

  • Gideone says:

    Yes…David, thats great article BUT I do support John about Tripadvisor, these days is not working

  • Amos Elias says:

    Thank you David for the advise

  • Lyn says:

    Great article David, and a great read too. Asante sana! (Swahili for “thank you very much”)

  • Great article – sending the link to my clients. Thanks

  • Jansie says:

    Great article.

    One thing though, that I find to be a bit of an issue, even if you’re using a premium CMS, is utilising a payment gateway properly.

    It needs to be tested and tested and tested some more, to make sure it works correctly. One shouldn’t rely on a potential customer telling you that your payment gateway isn’t working properly.

  • John says:

    As someone who oversees around 200 expeditions a year on behalf of clients from all over the world, I can testify that this article represents very sound advice and is a great reference to which to refer back to ensure that one is capitalizing on all opportunities.

    The only thing I’d challenge is that while we still encourage our customers to leave reviews on Tripadvisor, as around 1 in 30 of our enquiries originate from there, we have two issues with your advice a propos Tripadvisor: 1. we are entirely uncomfortable with effectively placing our entire online reputation in the hands of TripAdvisor because doing so attracts sabotage attempts from dishonest competitors that are impossible to disprove as ‘authentic’, and 2. Since Tripadvisor has so many fake positive reviews from marketers representing the company being promoted, if you link to Tripadvisor from your site you are effectively drawing hard-earned traffic away from your site to where your competitors’ fake positive reviews are showcased. It’s a great way to lose business.

    To counter this, we use a subscribed customer reviews service called ‘MiReviewz’. They don’t show your competitors on your listing page, and you can call them if there’s a dodgy review and they’ll approach the reviewer for corroboration of authenticity, and remove the offending review until it’s proven. We’ve never had to do this so far, but knowing it’s possible allows us to sleep at night.

    • David Urmann says:

      Some great comments regarding Tripadvisor. I agree that its quite scary as you put it to place your entire reputation on their service. Seeing how much is at stake when it comes to reviews determining the accuracy should be based on more than algorithms. I think a third party review service that you have more control over is a good idea. On the flip-side customers probably have more trust in Tripadvisor for that very reason.

  • Gem Tshering says:

    Thank you very much David. A wonderful read and very informative.

  • Ammar says:

    Hi there, It was nice reading though. We are from Gokyo Treks and Expedition Pvt Ltd .. http://www.gokyotrekking.com.np

  • Michael says:

    Hi David it’s been a while, hope you’re doing great. There are certainly some great tips on this article but you might want to check the grammar and spelling (especially considering the fact you made a point about having error-free content)

  • Hi – Very good reading indeed.

  • Shilpa Goyal says:

    So far the best and the most awaited post on travel and tourism. I appreciate your content and the idea of explaining things. Thanks!

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