Experience Booking for Travel Agents | Beyonk Blog
As an online travel agent, trying to meet consumer demands for events, tours and experiences can be a huge challenge.
Latest studies show 76% of consumers value experiences over things. What consumers are looking for in vacations and their spare time is shifting to become more about self-transformation and less about luxury. Millennials are increasingly seeking life-changing experiences and instagrammable moments. Instead of simply sightseeing, millennials are pursuing the idea ‘Sight-do-ing’. Travel is becoming more about the experience, than the accommodation or the destination itself.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that more and more online travel agents are partnering with booking providers aimed at tours, events and activities. As a travel agent, providing accommodation and transport is only part of the story, which is why companies are trying to bring tour operators and experience providers online. More travel agents are expanding into tours, events and activities to bolster their value proposition to travellers and grow their reach.
As an online travel agent, trying to meet consumer demands for events, tours and experiences can be a huge challenge. With consumer habits trending towards last-minute searches and specialist experiences being a fragmented industry, how do you successfully connect the two? In a world of fake reviews and growing complaints, how do you ensure you’re finding quality, verified experiences in your destinations? In this article, we’re going to explore a few areas.
Emerging opportunities How Google’s recent changes impact travel agents
The challenges faced – Online travel agents face a huge challenge when selling experiences. We dive into the cause of these challenges to break it down into a clear problem statement
Bridging the gap – How Beyonk works with the community to overcome these challenges and help you connect customers with engaging, local experiences
Case Study – Our work with Great Western Railway (GWR) to improve their value proposition to give their customers more.
Considerations – What to consider and potential challenges when selling experiences online
Working with Beyonk – How to get in touch and get started
An emerging opportunity for online travel agents
An exciting development that was poised to bring disruption to the industry was Google’s Reserve feature. Reserve with Google was developed to enable tour and activity providers to capture bookings in their Google business listings. This meant customers could book as they search. The customer-facing booking experience was handled by Google, whilst the actual booking was processed by online travel agencies. However, Google decided to turn off Reserve with Google on August 1st, 2021 . Instead, they’re focusing on changing their functionality to use referral links in the future, meaning the customer experience won’t be handled entirely by Google. Customers will still be able to compare, but they’ll be directed to click through and book direct.
What does this mean for online travel agents, tour operators, events & experience providers? This change opens the door for online travel agents to capitalise on the opportunity now left behind. Online travel agents can leverage their ability to capture a large volume of visitors actively looking for their next getaway. They can be in control of the customer experience, instead of it being at the mercy of Google. This means online travel agents can utilise the power and freedom of their own websites to tailor the customer experience and target an engaged travel audience looking for real local experiences.
By making the most of this sooner rather than later, Online travel agencies can position themselves early as being able to offer their customers more than just accommodation and travel. Offering tours, events and experiences enhances a customer’s destination planning, as it allows them to tailor their trip and enrich their experience.
The challenges online travel agents face
Over the past decade, the travel sector has developed significantly online to give consumers the most convenient, personalised experience possible. Through this growth and competitiveness, there have been many innovations in how travel agents and booking providers market to their customers. Most interestingly, this has been achieved through partnerships. For example, through clever timing and geo-targeting, voucher affiliate websites have made it possible for hotels to target nearby customers who might have missed the last train home.
However, for tours, events and experiences, the online experience has mostly lagged behind for a few reasons. Firstly, many of the events, tours and activities that provide the authentic, meaningful experiences that consumers seek are run by smaller operations. These typically don’t have the money to invest in new technology or navigate crowded marketplaces online. Their audience tends to be more local or within a specific community. This brings us to the first challenge: There’s significant fragmentation within the events, tours and experiences market.
Secondly, the experience online doesn’t always match consumer demands. Providers are already up against the fatigue of planning travel and finding relevant experiences adds another layer of complexity to a customer’s journey. No two experiences are alike; when booking a train ticket or hotel room, customers are generally clear what they’re getting upfront. But when booking a tour or activity, their experience can vary. This makes it harder for customers to find “things to do” that suit them and even harder for online travel agents to sell these experiences.
Customers are expecting more personalised offerings and are looking to find authentic experiences, especially experiences they can share on social media. What’s more, they want unbiased recommendations to help them create a trip that’s unique and memorable. If customers can find the same experience you’re offering in the first few listings of Google, you’re at risk of being perceived as not adding value. Add this to the ever-increasing demand for customers to be able to book last-minute, book online and be able to pay online, and it’s no surprise that travel agents have historically had a difficult time adding events, tours and experiences to their bookings.
This brings us to the second major challenge: consumers want authentic local recommendations, with the convenience of booking online.
These two challenges seem difficult to overcome but present an opportunity for online travel agents to excel. Many providers are localised and fragmented, but consumers are wanting local and authentic experiences with the convenience and reliability of an online booking system. If travel agents can connect consumers with local experiences that fit their needs, they can significantly bolster their value proposition and generate more revenue online.
Bridging the gap between provider and consumer
Connecting consumers with authentic local experiences when planning their journey can be the next step in creating a stronger proposition for your brand and help you stand out online. Whilst it may be unrealistic to achieve for most online travel agents, partnering with a specialist in events, tours and experiences can make it possible to overcome the challenge of connecting customers to relevant, unique experiences. Not only does this benefit travel agents, it creates a win-win for all parties involved.
For experience providers, they can better merchandise and target customers. Instead of trying to compete among crowded booking platforms or trying to stand out among a sea of leaflets at hotel receptions, they can be connected with customers actively planning a trip in their area and capture bookings ahead of time.
Customers will be given more choice and are empowered to find experiences easier, within the convenience of their favourite online travel agents.
This is where Beyonk comes in.
We’re actively partnering with local experiences within the community, to bring local experiences to customers searching for something unique. We’re more than just a booking system; our outdoorsy team of experience go-ers and tourism experts are constantly meeting new providers in the field to ensure we’re promoting the best providers possible. We’ve created a community that collectively provides over 1,000 active local experiences across the UK, vetted by our specialist team to ensure quality, clear information and reliable bookings.
This means you can offer customers local, verified experiences as part of their trip planning. Our work with individual communities means we’re bridging the gap between consumers and providers, whilst giving travel agents, hotels, train lines and more a platform for their customers to find the best experiences in their destination.
We’ve partnered with UK Tourist boards such as Visit Cornwall, Visit Cumbria and offer providers an exclusive distribution network of leading tourist boards, parks, forests, accommodation platforms and more.
Beyonk’s work with GWR
Great Western Railway (GWR) is a British train operating company. They operate long distance inter-city journeys in the West and South of England, South Wales, plus commuter services within London and surrounding regions.
They offer customers online rail ticket bookings and offer guides for individual destinations. However, GWR wanted to offer their customers more. We provided a fully branded white-label solution for their customers to leverage Beyonk’s network of experiences across the UK, enabling them to find relevant experiences to tailor their trip.
Our platform enables their customers to find experiences that suit their needs. Customers can choose from a range of activity types, effort levels and more. They can specify their search for experiences suitable for different groups such as charity fundraising, corporate events, families, pet friendly and more. Alternatively, they can filter for special categories such as bucket list experiences, mindful escapes, epic challenges, skill learning and much more. All listings come with rich content, high quality imagery and clear information on what’s included or required. This means customers know exactly what they’re getting, how challenging it is and what to bring.
Considerations in selling experiences online
As we’ve explored in this article, there’s a lot of fragmentation among experience providers and consumer demands are ever-increasing. Another challenge is that ironically, events, tours and experiences tend to be among the last thing consumers actually book, despite their desire for unique, authentic experiences. Some consumers book a few days before arrival, while others wait until the last moment to book. Whilst this can be tackled by providing recommendations with customers’ bookings, it’s possible to turn this obstacle into an opportunity, not a hindrance. If consumer interest & demand peaks when they’re closest to the date of their trip, you can use this knowledge to target customers in the lead-up to their trip to maximise conversion rates from targeted emails or push notifications. This means not only are you offering customers with relevant experiences in their area, you’re capturing them when they’re most interested, instead of losing them to competitor offers through online searches.
If you want to provide the best experience for your customers, take a look at Beyonk, the simple yet powerful booking system to help you delight your customers, maximise your revenue & reduce your admin.
Our mission is clear: to make it easier to manage and grow your business. Beyonk is packed with tourism and leisure-specific features, 24 hour support, a UK team, free sign up and no contracts or minimum term lengths.
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