Ways to Sell Your Travel Products
We are almost halfway through our tourism marketing guide for New Zealand businesses, where so far we’ve learned to:
- Know what you are selling
- Build a simple website
- Get striking imagery for your website
- List your product on Tourism New Zealand’s NewZealand.com, RTO websites and more.
Now, you need to start expanding your sales channels, which, in turn, will promote your New Zealand tourism business. If you are the only one selling your product, you won’t be able to sell much. Get as many hands-on-deck as possible! Luckily, there are a lot (A LOT!) of companies that would be delighted to put your offering in front of many eyes if they can get a cut. In this instalment of our New Zealand tourism marketing guide, we’ll go through both the best offline and online channels you can work with to sell your travel product.
A Note About This Tourism Marketing Guide
If you are just stumbling upon this page randomly or through a search engine, good on you. But before you keep going, you should definitely read the introductory article to this series of tourism marketing guides for New Zealand businesses so you get a bit of context about the tone and the content within it.
This article follows directly from Tourism Marketing #4: List Your Product on NewZealand.com and More…
Get in Bed with Accommodation Providers
(You see what I did there?)
As you have probably figured out, this series of tourism marketing guides predominantly focus on the online promotion of your New Zealand tourism business because, well, online is king nowadays. According to Statistic Brain, 65% of hotel and activity bookings were made online in 2018 and this number is increasing monthly. But that still leaves us with one very Kiwi thing to address: the friendly local!
That’s right, a step often forgotten in our online world is the strength of the local’s advice. There are many reasons why this is a very important factor to keep in mind when building sales channels for your business. First up, ask any concierge what’s the most-asked question and, he or she will probably joke about the parking first, but will then tell you that it’s all about where to eat and what to do. Getting advice from your hotel staff feels like getting tips from a local. Tourists love that.
Another great reason to work with accommodation providers is the ability to tap into a different market – the 35% that have not booked their activities prior to their trip. And since hotel margins are not as flash as they used to be, many hoteliers are looking to diversify their income stream where activity booking is a no-brainer. More and more hotels are wanting to be the i-SITE, so they can provide their guests with better service and clip the thicket along the way. Better yet, if you build a strong enough relationship with accommodation providers, you’ve got the opportunity to incentivise them to collaborate on packages like a “2 Nights and Lake Cruise Package,” for instance.
Finally, you know that the weather in New Zealand can throw the best laid holiday plans right out of the window with its famous “four seasons in one day”. With that in mind, tourists often need an alternative weather-proof plan. If your tourism business is one of those, this should be your main reason to work with accommodation providers as this is likely where the tourists will go for advice when the downpour starts.
How to Work With Accommodation Providers
Now that you know why you should work with accommodation providers, how do you get started? You can work individually with each of them, creating vouchers that they can sell, or you can work with companies like Website Travel that resell wholesale activities to accommodation providers. Both are good options, but the voucher one will cost you less and might be the best place to start. Work with the accommodation providers in the destinations that make the most sense for selling your product.
Register with Online Travel Agents
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are a great way to get online and reach a massive audience in no time at all. Yes, many of them have tight conditions and sometimes have a bit of a long sign-up process, but to be fair, it is well worth the effort. While there are many online booking tools that you can install on your own website, they will take between 8 and 14% commission and that’s with you doing all the promotional and booking work, as well as most of the communication with the client. If an OTA takes 20% and does all this plus puts you in front of millions of travellers, then all the better.
Let’s say that you can’t be fussed with installing a custom booking system on your website. Instead, just link to your page on your preferred OTA platform from your website’s “Book Now” button and you have a hassle-free site for you and the user. Again, this is from actual experience, as I’ve helped operators set up this easy sort of booking method myself and they still prefer to use it. However, you can always change to a custom booking system on your website later down the track when you start making millions.
The second advantage of OTAs is that they even have dedicated staff that will reach out to influencers and publications like us to tell us that you exist and work in integrating you into a lot of their content. No joke, we work closely with Viator and Booking.com, for instance, and I can tell you that their team emails us monthly with all the new things coming out and suggestions for placement within our content. That’s great for you!
And the last advantage I’m going to talk about is currency. Most OTAs accept most currencies and I’m not even going to elaborate on that. Talk to your bank about currencies… it’s a nightmare. With an OTA, they take payment and you get paid in NZD every month. Simple.
How to Register with OTAs
If you have the cash, accommodation providers can go with a company like Sabre that will help you manage all your channels or something similar. Otherwise, you can manage it all on your own by registering on a couple of platforms yourself. If you are an accommodation provider, most booking management software like Cloudbeds will have that all ready to integrate.
The approach that I would take is doing it yourself. Register on two competitors’ platforms, like Booking.com and Airbnb for accommodation or Viator and Get Your Guide for activity operators. Because I never leave all my eggs in one basket and I like to create scarcity to capitalise on the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I would only put about 25% of my available inventory on each of the two platforms, which means that you will almost always appear as “nearly sold out” on each platform. Then, you will still be able to take 50% of the bookings either yourself or through other channels. Obviously, later on, you can add more inventory if you always sell out. It’s a flexible system.
Train Travel Agents
I’ll be honest, even I have a bit of a hard time coming up on why you should do that… I mean, if you are the only resort in Niue (South Pacific) and the main beneficiary from the tourism influx there where most of the tourists are retired Kiwis, then yes, training travel agents is worth it. Aside from that, just create a one-sheet PDF that includes a couple of great shots, a short sales pitch, a few bullet points of things to know, and have it at the ready when visiting the local information centres or the Peterpans travel agents around Queenstown.
There is also the whole “TRENZ” thing which is an event where travel agents from the world come and meet local providers to make deals or learn about their products. It’s the largest “mingle” of the New Zealand tourism industry. TRENZ fun and all, but I am having a hard time justifying the cost vs. reward year after year, so I’ll leave this one for you to decide.
Join Your Local RTO/DMO
Training travel agents is the perfect segway to joining your Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) or Destination Management Organisation (DMO) or other titles of the genre. If you are reading this whole series of articles, you knew this was coming as mentioned in the last article about registering with Tourism New Zealand. I’ll try to keep this one short, but there is a lot to cover. You should register with RTOs/DMOs because:
- Your main selling point is your location. If tourists come to your area, they will be potential clients to you. If they don’t, then you are out of luck. Joining your RTO is giving you the opportunity to have a say toward how they promote the area and how good of a job they do
- RTOs usually run the local i-SITE and they still generate a few sales
- They will often offer you a listing on their website, which will be good for your website’s SEO
- They may promote your product on their social media channels
- They may include you in famil’ offers (I will talk about these a bit more in Tourism Marketing #8: Know How to Approach Influencers and Publishers but, in short, they are familiarisation trips in which they invite media and travel agents to stay in the region and do activities for them to talk about, write about or sell)
- They will give you access to trade events to promote your product locally or overseas
- They will also invite you to networking events where you will be able to meet more people from your industry.
All and all, joining your local RTO is a must-do, a bit like registering with Tourism New Zealand. The best way to approach this is to have all your portfolio of photos ready to give them to use in print and social media so that your product becomes part of the local imagery. Allow them to add your photos to their image library too, which is a great source of inspiration for publications like ours. That’s yet another reason to get your photos done early and have the right to use them how you want, as explained in Tourism Marketing #3: Get Striking Imagery for Your Website.
A referral program can be a monetised or non-monetised incentive where you ask clients to recommend your product to their friends/family. On a personal level, I am not a big fan of referral programs and I’ll explain why below.
If Your Referral Program is Monetised
E.g. you offer $10 off for you and your friends…
This sort of referral program is often going to alienate some of your potential customers. For instance, in this example, the client needs to be travelling with a friend to benefit from the discount (and there are a lot of solo travellers in New Zealand). What’s more, for all of your referral clients, you are just adding friction to the booking system where there will be another layer to navigate, such as: “Where do I put the friend’s name?” The booking process should be as streamlined as possible.
Monetised referral programs like this only work if you are a business that warrants repeat social visits, like an escape room. After the customers have successfully escaped, you could offer a voucher to come back and try escaping from one of the other rooms at a discounted price with a friend.
If Your Referral Program is Not Monetised
E.g. you make a point of rehashing a few selling points to your customers in the hope that they will say those things back to their friends…
At this point, you have to be very subtle because, most of the time, it actually can ruin the experience for your clients. Your customers are here for New Zealand, not for you or your concept. Make whatever travel product you have between them and New Zealand, not between you and others or you and New Zealand. We see this type of referral tactic often, such as a particular bus company in New Zealand that spends most of their tour bashing their main competitor. It is just unfair to brainwash customers during their tour rather than enlightening them about New Zealand.
Affiliate programs are when you offer online publications the opportunity to get a commission out of all the sales they send to your website through an “affiliate link”. They usually involve a fair bit of set-up and there are some great companies sorting this out for you, such as Commission Factory. However, you have to be of quite a big size in order to get this ball rolling, as there is no incentive for publishers or bloggers to create content to feature affiliate links for just a couple of bookings a year. We, for instance, use affiliate programs with large companies and mostly refuse small ones due to the extra management needed.
One of the big mistakes made by tourism businesses is thinking that “publishers get free money out of affiliate programs,” which is not true – we work for our business too. We constantly work with affiliate programs to make sure they are in the best positions on our website to make the most bookings. Well, that’s true for all but one affiliate program from the one company that treats us very badly, offers us very little reward, and does not give us the information needed to remove them from the website… We just leave that one slowly dying off…
What Work Goes Behind Managing an Affiliate Program
As NZ Pocket Guide uses affiliate programs, I thought it might be useful to give you an insight into the work that goes behind managing an affiliate program in order for the program to be successful. First, we have to find all the areas of our website where it would be useful to mention the travel product that we are affiliating. Sometimes, we need to change our content to fit. We need to generate and add the appropriate affiliate links into the content and monitor the results. If the results are good, we usually put time and resources into creating new content to support the program. This takes half a day per page at a rate of about 11 pages per year on average. We also run A/B testing on pages to see what formulation works best for click-throughs. If we run associated imagery, we do A/B testing on this too. On top of that, we need to be extra accurate on all the information given around affiliate links, so we have to do a monthly check of the company’s website (where the affiliate link links to) to make sure that nothing has changed.
In short, it is quite a lot of work to run affiliate programs. For this reason, you need to be offering volumes so all this time investment is met with a decent income. You would not work for a few dollars, so you cannot expect others to do so. In the same vein, you need to be offering a respectable commission – think of it as you would about your resellers and remove your payment fees, for instance. This shows respect toward the publisher.
To conclude, affiliate programs would probably only work for a medium-to-large nationwide operator.
Do You Want to be Featured on NZ Pocket Guide?
A great option to get started with is to go with one of our advertising packages. It is surprisingly affordable and allows you to be featured on the right article to target travellers looking for your service in your area. If you want your business to be featured on New Zealand’s largest and most popular travel guide, we’re just a quick email away. Just head to our contact page. Plus, if you mention this article series, we’ll shout you 20% OFF your first year ad campaign – just like that!
Continue Reading the Tourism Marketing Guides…
To keep going with this article series, check out Tourism Marketing #6: Have a Well-thought Social Media Presence or go back and start afresh with our 10 Tips to Promote Your New Zealand Travel Business.