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What do people look for in a tour operator’s website?

  Written By Alex Hopson

  Aug 25, 2017

If there’s one thing that watching people use websites during user experience testing it’s that most people think differently to you. When you’re running a tour company you know why you’re the best, but it’s much harder to put yourself into the mind-set of your customers and work out how to show that.

This is a guide to highlight some of the ways that people will use your website, and how you can design for the best experience and increase your chances of a sale.

What does a customer know?

You have to consider all levels of knowledge when it comes to describing your tours. Personally I usually have a good idea of what destination has to offer from reading travel mags and chatting to other travellers over the years. Many people though may have just have a vague idea of what a country offers.

For users like me it’s more important to see that you’ll be going to the places I want to visit and that a tour operator is a good fit.

For users with less knowledge about a destination you want to use your website to really inspire them – use dramatic photography of the key locations, sell the destination as much as the tour.

If you’re offering activity tours, cycling for example, you’ll want to reassure less confidant cyclists that you’ll be there to support them and they won’t get left behind. This is especially important if you have couples or groups going on your tours where one person may be a bit more reluctant.

Can they trust you?

Buying a tour usually means putting down a substantial amount of money long before you get to travel. For many customers knowing their purchase is safe is critical.

The best ways to show this are to be a member of a protection scheme, like ATOL, TTA, etc. It’s important to display this clearly and to reassure customers their money is safe.

Having a professional looking website that has regular updates will help users to trust you. If you still list tours that have long since departed, your website design is outdated or there are broken images and links on the site you can expect users to swiftly move on.

Showing customer testimonials can help build trust, but as these can easily be faked people will often look to third party services like Trip Advisor or Google to see how people rate your tours. Make sure you're encouraging happy guests to leave reviews.

Can they find what they want?

Some users are happy to browse through every tour on your site; others will want to quickly filter down to a handful of tours, another group might want to search using specific keywords. However your users want to find your tours it’s essential to make it an easy process.

If you have more than 10 tours you need to have a good search facility. If someone visits your website you need to make sure they find the tours they’re interested in quickly, or they’ll go elsewhere.

Some users will know where they want to go, or the sort of activity they’d like to do, others will have specific dates they need to travel. Whatever users need you have to make sure they can find it easily.

Does your website’s home page show the full breadth of your tours? Be careful not to focus the home page too much on just one destination or activity if you have a range on offer. If visitors can’t see any indication you offer what they’re looking for they may move on.

Are you annoying your visitors?

It doesn’t take much with today’s short attention spans! All websites should be mobile friendly, travel websites are visited by more mobile users than desktop users these days. If you’re not mobile friendly it’s unlikely anyone on a mobile will look beyond the first page of your website.

Do your searches return no results? If there’s a chance that searches may return no results rather than telling the user there are no tours for them you should show related tours, e.g. tours to the same country on different dates. This gives users something to look at, most people are flexible so help them find what they want easily.

How do users choose from similar tours from your competitors?

For many tour operators there are numerous competitors, both locally and internationally, offering similar tours. You should expect your visitors to look at your competitor’s websites and be comparing tours. And if you really do offer something unique be sure to make that very clear.

 Here are some of the main factors people will use to compare tours:

  • Price. You don’t have to be the cheapest but if you’re more expensive then you have to clearly demonstrate the extra value your guests will get for their money. Don’t assume people will read the whole of the tourdescription and itinerary, make sure it’s prominently displayed.
  • Destinations. When I’m choosing a tour I usually have some knowledge of the country and there will be a few ‘can’t miss’ destinations. A map is the easiest way to concisely show this, and reinforce this with an itinerary with key destinations/attractions in bold.
  • Interest/Activities. If you offer more than a standard sightseeing tour then it’s worth mentioning what differentiates you. Personally I love photography, if I was looking at several tours and one of them mentioned that they’d go to the top sites at sunrise/sunset for photographers that would be a big plus for that tour. Whatever makes your tours unique you should highlight and mention in the first paragraph of your description.
  • Who the other guests likely to be. Many people would prefer to travel with others who have similar interests and outlooks. If you have, or cater to, a typical client demographic then make this clear. Some guests will want to spend their nights out drinking, others will want to be up at the crack of dawn – not something that is always compatible!
  • Activity/comfort level. It doesn’t matter whether your camping, or in 5* accommodation or whether you chauffeur your guests around rather than using public transport. What’s important is that you make it clear where you fall in the spectrum.

Remember that if you have much competition then users will be looking to narrow down their options as quickly as possible. If this information is clearly displayed and you’re what the user is looking for you should make the shortlist. I’ve dismissed tour companies before because they didn’t make this easy to compare when there have been several similar companies and countless others will do the same.

In summary

If you want people to book tours through your website it has to be easy to use and to find relevant tours. Tour pages should clearly show tour specifics, destinations and what makes you better than your competitors. If you can do this you have a much better chance of converting a visitor into a customer.

You can address many of the issues yourself if you have a content managed website. However many systems like wordpress often make it difficult to summarise key information and you may need to modify templates.

At The Travel Web Design Agency, we have years of not only creating websites but also buying tours online. We understand what your customers want, what’s possible and how your website can get more customers.

Whether you’re looking to improve your existing website (no matter what system it’s written in) or would like a fresh start with a modern website, we can help you. Get in touch now.

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Article written by:

Alex Hopson

Alex's goal is to help the clients of The Travel Web Design Agency turn more browsers into buyers. This article is just a small portion of the knowledge and experience that helps our clients grow.

He's been creating websites since the nineties – before most people were even online! As a perpetual traveller he has first hand experience of what people are thinking when they're booking a tour. And as someone who has worked with the travel industry from his very first professional website he understands what tour operators need to suceed in today’s competitive market.

Are you looking to fill up your tours? If so, you need to call the experts.

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