Updated December 2022As a tour operator, bookings are your bread and butter. By maxing out your sessions and having high steady levels of bookings all year round, your business will flourish. However, achieving this goal isn’t always easy. It’s even more challenging when you solely rely on one distribution channel.

When it comes to distribution channels in travel and tourism, many operators automatically assume that online travel agents (OTAs) are the only form of resellers available. However, this isn’t the case. Travel distribution channels come in a variety of different types of resellers and distribution strategies.

The importance of targeting the right distribution channels for tour operators

For many tourism businesses, broadening your distribution channels is a smart way to elevate your tourism marketing strategy. By delivering your products via different streams and using valuable third-party integrations, you’re expanding your reach to a bigger pool of potential customers.

Distribution channels are all the different ways that your services get delivered to your customers. It can be a direct booking via your website or through third-party resellers within the tourism industry. Any platform where your services can be turned into a transaction is considered a distribution channel.

In this article, we’ll discuss the 5 main distribution channels in travel and tourism and the benefits of each one. This will help you make an informed decision before forming a partnership with a distributor.

Top 5 distribution channels: examples of valuable channels all tour operators should consider

1. Your website

The chain of distribution in travel and tourism

Don’t underestimate the power of your own website. Unlike other distribution channels, you remain in control of branding and customer experience during the booking process on your website. This enables you to take advantage of booking trends and more accurately finetune your messaging so that it is well received by customers.

Your website also has a direct impact on your business’s reputation. A professional branded website helps foster trust and authority within the marketplace. Customers will be more willing to book directly through your website if they are welcomed by a mobile optimized website that enables a seamless booking experience. When supported by a strong SEO strategy, your website can dramatically boost customer impressions of your website and increase overall engagement. 

Tip: When it comes to content, quality always trumps quantity. Don’t fall into the trap of stuffing your blog and website pages with long keywords or boring content. Rather, scatter in relevant keywords and create content that matches the user’s intent when searching for the keywords you are targeting.

2. Online travel agencies (OTAs) and market places

tourism distribution channels examples

Online travel agencies are one of the biggest players within the chain of distribution in travel and tourism. There are heaps of top online travel agencies you can partner with. These include big names such as Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Viator to name a few.

OTAs are one of the most popular travel distribution channels as their websites gain millions of visitors every day. OTAs appeal to travelers as it’s a one-stop shop for both travel and tourism products. By being able to compare the prices of these travel products and book all of them at once, it provides travelers with an easy booking process. And with the majority of customers now booking on their mobile devices, OTAs have made their booking process a lot easier by building their own applications.

Furthermore, with the help of their strong domain authority, OTAs rank at the top of search engine results – making your services quicker and more accessible for customers to book.

Tip: The competition on OTA websites is tough. Be sure to display professional-looking photos and videos that showcase your services. Well-written tour descriptions will also go a long way.

3. Tourist information centers

Tourism distribution channels examples

Almost every major city has visitor information centers (or VICS). These centers are a place for travelers to enquire about everything related to the area. From accommodation, tours and activities, transportation, or simply suggestions on things to do. VICS will help visitors in suggesting and organizing itineraries and travel arrangements based on their preferences.

Partnering with VICs helps boost the perception of your business as VICs usually hold an authoritative position in the customers’ eyes. They’re perceived as a trusted source and will most likely trust your business for being affiliated with VICs. It’s for this reason that visitor information centers are great to partner with to broaden your distribution channels in travel and tourism.

Tip: Some VICs don’t ask for commission for bookings that they send to you, while others have a pricing structure to list on their site. Make sure you do your research before you decide to partner with a VIC in your travel distribution channel strategy.

4. Your partner network

Your partner network can include Destination Management Organizations (DMOs), local governments, vendors, hotel concierge services or even other tour operators.

Local government websites, for example, often promote different travel businesses and experiences for tourists visiting a specific location. For example, Tourism Australia helps promote events and businesses every month by featuring them on their monthly e-guide, The Hot List. The Hot List is filled with the latest activities, events, and things to do in Australia and is published each month with new suggestions. 

To expand your business’s travel distribution channels through partner networks, you can simply approach relevant businesses or organizations and enquire about promotional opportunities or partnerships. 

Tip: Travel networking events and tourism conferences are great places to build mutually beneficial partnerships with other businesses.

5. Google

Travel distribution channels

Google manages a variety of tools that can be employed to increase your business’s online visibility. Two of the most useful tools offered by Google that have significantly enhanced the chain of distribution in travel and tourism are Google Business Profile and Google Things to do.

By creating and optimising a free business profile on Google, companies can encourage more lead generation and boost their visibility for local searches. Business profiles are also valuable when fostering customer engagement as they are open for customers to leave reviews, ask questions and submit relevant photographs. 

Google Things to do is another free tool that can increase your business’s visibility and allow you to connect with potential customers. This search experience is designed specifically for tour, activity and other attraction providers looking to increase their distribution channels in travel and tourism. By using Google Things to do, businesses can more seamlessly convert relevant Google searches into direct bookings. 

Tip: When managing your Google Business Profile, it’s important to check it every week or so to ensure that contact details are up to date and that customer queries are answered without delay.

Conclusion

Working with the 5 main distribution channels in travel and tourism sure has its benefits, but it does come with added work. Connecting with them also comes with a set of challenges. Joining a tour operator marketplace is one way to help alleviate the stress of setting up your travel distribution channels.

For instance, Rezdy Channel Manager is a marketplace platform designed specifically for tour operators. Through Rezdy Channel Manager, you’ll be able to connect with thousands of resellers and build your distribution channel with a click of a button.

Rezdy’s Marketplace platform simplifies the overall reselling process into 3 simple steps:
1. List your products
2. Set your commission rates
3. Let thousands of agents and resellers resell and promote your products

The good news is that if you’re already a Rezdy booking software customer, you instantly have access to Rezdy Channel Manager. Allowing you to benefit from the best of both worlds – an advanced booking system that will simplify your processes and the ability to instantly connect and manage thousands of resellers from one central system.

Ready to take the step to boost your bookings with Rezdy? Start a FREE 21-day trial or book a demo today.

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