Not all bookings are created equal.

Tour and activity operators need to understand the major differences between the two different types of bookings, and also create a distribution strategy that allows them to increase both types of bookings simultaneously. A diverse range of bookings from a variety of sources is the best way for you to grow your tour and activity company — now you just need to learn how to get more direct bookings and indirect bookings.

Direct bookings

Arguably the simplest of the two different types of bookings, direct bookings are defined as those that are made through your own booking system. Businesses can drive direct bookings by accepting online, over the phone, or in-person bookings.

Benefits of direct bookings

In many respects, direct bookings are preferable to tour and activity operators. When you earn a direct booking, you don’t have to pay a commission to an agent. Ultimately, you generate more revenue per booking when you are able to secure a direct reservation over your website.

In addition to avoiding commission fees, it’s beneficial to drive direct bookings as they help your business become less reliant on third parties. With indirect suppliers often changing their algorithms and commission structures, independence is a valuable asset to growing businesses.

Drawbacks of direct bookings

The drawback of direct bookings is that they are more time-consuming and require more work from you, the operator. To secure more direct bookings and gain greater visibility, businesses generally have to invest more money into advertising and creating a strong marketing plan. This can be particularly challenging for smaller and growing businesses.

How to get more direct bookings

How to get more direct bookings

There are numerous ways tour businesses can drive direct bookings, including:

  • Creating a user-friendly, mobile-optimized website with booking widgets
  • Incorporating loyalty programs
  • Building a consistent social media presence
  • Leveraging digital marketing
  • Responding to online reviews
  • Providing excellent customer service though using a mobile booking app

The software that you use to manage your bookings also has a direct impact on the number of direct bookings your business can secure. Rezdy helps tour operators increase their direct bookings by offering a simple, user-friendly online booking engine that is easily implemented into any website design. Notable features of the booking engine include short forms and a vivid “Book Now” button which captures the attention of motivated travelers who want to finalize their plans. The booking engine broadcasts your live availability, so customers who are viewing your calendar always know exactly what tours and time slots are currently open. This live booking system helps minimize confusion and frustration as well as increases overall customer experience and trust in your brand.

Indirect bookings

Indirect bookings are the second type of bookings you can obtain as a tour and activity business. These are any bookings for your tours and activities that come through a reselling agent. This could be a retail travel agent, online travel agency partnerships, a hotel concierge, or a representative from the local visitor information center.

Benefits of indirect bookings

Indirect bookings are critical because they allow you to increase your reach within the travel industry and access travelers who may not otherwise discover your brand. Some agents may specialize in solo travelers, while others coordinate group trips for clubs and organizations. By increasing your indirect bookings, you can boost your brand recognition.

Partnering with high-profile indirect sellers will not only increase your business’s visibility but will also allow you to assume a level of prestige and trust from appearing alongside the reseller’s brand. This is extremely valuable for growing your business and paving the way for future direct bookings.

Drawbacks of indirect bookings

One of the major drawbacks of indirect bookings is that they have an associated commission fee. The amount and structure of commissions will vary depending on the reselling agent. Fees may also change over time, so it’s recommended that tour businesses do not become overly reliant on one specific reseller to secure a majority of their bookings.

How to get more indirect bookings

Types of bookings

Some proactive ways that tour and activity businesses can forge profitable relationships with resellers include:

  • Carefully reading the reseller’s Terms and Conditions to confirm their cancelation policies and commission structures
  • Providing instant booking confirmation and real-time availability
  • Networking at events
  • Continuously measuring the success of your partnerships to ensure profitability
  • Reaching out to local agencies and hotels

In order to attract beneficial partnerships, it’s important to have the proper systems in place to streamline communications. The Rezdy online booking system includes a Channel Manager that allows you to network and partner with a large number of distribution agents. All agents receive your real-time availability and they can book directly over the Channel Manager.

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Your distribution strategy should primarily be designed in a way that will drive direct bookings, as these are the least expensive bookings that you can earn. At the same time, it also should allow you to network with a wide range of agents and distribution channels in order to diversify your bookings and gain indirect bookings.

At the end of the day, the two different types of bookings are important as they can work together to build a strong foundation for creating a strong, recognizable brand within the global travel industry. The balance of bookings you strive for will depend on your business model, competitors, customers, and booking management system.

Rezdy takes pride in the fact that it offers its clients the resources it needs in order to understand the best industry practices that can be used by tour and activity operators. To find out more information about creating an effective distribution strategy that increases both direct and indirect bookings, download the Rezdy distribution ebook now.

Ready to boost both your direct and indirect bookings? Start your FREE 21-day trial or book a demo to see how Rezdy can fit within your business.

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