By Taz Bareham — 13 Feb 2015
Tour and activity operators have long known the importance of partnering with agents to increase online distribution.
Establishing strategic agent relationships will get your name out there, increase the credibility of your business, and – most importantly – get you booked out.
If you aren’t solidifying as many partnerships as you had hoped for, ask yourself if you’re making any of the following mistakes.
One of the biggest pains that agents experience when booking tours and activities is the length of time it takes to confirm bookings.
Most tour operators offer a 24-hour turnaround time via email, but this is less ideal than an automated booking system.
Without a quick way to check your availability (in real time) and book with you, agents will be unable to confirm it with their customers immediately. Both of you could lose business.
Offering instant booking confirmation allows you and your agents to offer better customer service, capturing that customer right at the time that they’re ready to make their decision.
Use booking software like Rezdy which allows agents to log in, check your availability and book on your behalf.
Like Rezdy, your online booking system should provide you with a commission reconciliation report so that your agent’s commission is there in black and white, leaving no room for disputes.
Commission is what matters most to agents, because it’s how they get paid.
There are a few commission rate mistakes that you should avoid:
Understand the industry standards for agent commission.
There are 2 types of rates; the retail rate (what customers pay), and the nett rate (what agents see to add their commission).
You may also want to offer additional “over-ride” commission to encourage sales, which is generally 2-3% on top of existing commission rates.
Agents need to see that making sure your tours are consistently delivered to a high standard is a priority for you. Why? Because they are to blame if customers have a bad time.
If people keep complaining to your agents then you can be sure that they won’t recommend you in the future, no matter how high your commission is.
Your quality assurance program needs to be structured!
You also need a procedure in place for dealing with customer complaints. Read our blog post on it for tips: How to Manage Customer Complaints.
The way you promote yourself in the domestic market will give your agents confidence that you know what you’re doing.
Failure to establish a local presence sends the message that it’s too early to partner with you to distribute your tours to the masses.
Even if you’re a small business that’s just starting out and pressed for resources, you can at least work on:
It makes much more sense to figure out how to tackle the domestic market before venturing overseas. If you make a mistake, it will be less costly.
It’s not smart to launch into a new market without researching that particular market. Markets differ and they may respond to your product differently.
You risk wasting tons of marketing dollars launching a product that has an offering that’s not appealing to that new market – whether it’s the price point, or the distribution channel, or the tour product itself.
Instead of rushing into it, research needs to be conducted to figure out what your competitors are doing, and whether a new tour product needs to be created to better suit the needs of those international markets.
For example, if you know that most Chinese travelers are interested in luxury and shopping, you can fit a stop at a local market into your itinerary.
There are a host of things to consider when partnering with overseas agents. Make sure you carefully assess who you are working with.
Rezdy connects your business to the world’s biggest OTAs. Sell your inventory in real time to millions around the globe, through distribution channels such as Viator (a TripAdvisor company), Tours4fun (a Ctrip company), RedBalloon in Australia, and Great American Days in the US. See how it works.
Also, through Agent Desk, you can give existing agents access to your inventory, and get found by a growing network of agents who are actively looking for new products to resell.
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We also have a free ebook for you to access if you want to keep learning about distribution channels.