Updated July 2022 – As 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 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.

What are distribution channels in travel and tourism?

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.
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, you’re expanding your reach to a bigger pool of potential customers.

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 can make an informed decision before forming a partnership with a distributor.

5 main distribution channels in travel and tourism

1. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

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.

tourism distribution channels examples

OTAs are a popular travel distribution channel 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.

2. Government websites

It’s in the government’s best interest that they see growth and steady levels of incoming visitors to the country. By having both domestic and international travelers frequently visiting, it helps to boost the local economy and help surrounding local businesses thrive.

channels of distribution in the tourism industry

Most government websites actively promote the different businesses and experiences visitors can do during their stay. 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 utilize government websites as one of your distribution channels, you can simply approach your local government tourism body and enquire about reselling via their website. However, for tours and activities, you will usually be required to meet certain criteria. For example, they may require that you offer regularly organized excursions with scheduled departures, a personal guide or host, and commentary.

Tip: Government websites like to showcase businesses and activities that, in hand, help to promote the country. Find a way that you can tie your services to your country or local area.

3. Visitor information centers (VICs)

Almost every major city has visitor information centers. 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.

4. Daily deal websites

what are the main types of tourism distribution channels

Who doesn’t love a good deal? Vouchers and coupons are the perfect methods for filling up your capacity, especially during slower periods. A daily deal website can help boost awareness of your business without spending thousands on marketing. It’s also a good way to upsell by selling extras along with your deal.

Partnering with daily deal websites gives you heaps of benefits, especially when you’re trying to fill up your capacity with last-minute bookings. However, it does require a certain technology to automatically process these codes. An online reservation system such as Rezdy enhances your business with the capability to create and automatically process unique promo codes when punched in. This will allow you to make a variety of promo codes for different occasions and platforms, such as a daily deal website. By doing so, you’re able to track where these codes are coming from and which distribution channel is benefitting your business the most.

Tip: Remember to set a logical limit to the number of coupons sold, and not to offer a discount that is too high. Find out more on what is a promo code and three ways it can help you boost your revenue.

5. Concierge services

Just like visitor information centers, concierges at hotels assist their guests with tasks that will help them get the most out of their stay. This means they can help in making reservations for transportation services, events as well as tours and activities.

Working with hotels and accommodation comes with heaps of benefits, from low competition to low commission rates. Furthermore, just like visitor information centers, hotels are a trusted source of information. Guests looking for tours and activities will trust the hotel’s recommendations, especially when they’re visiting a foreign destination.

Tip: Contact the hotels in your area and set up a convenient time to meet with one of the managers. Prepare a pitch that promotes your services and how it’ll benefit guests who stay at that hotel. Make sure to take any printed materials and brochures to the pitch.

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 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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