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About the speakers

Josh Oakes

Owner @ The Sunshine Tribe

Josh took his own tour business from zero to $2.5 million in annual revenue in just a few years before selling the business in late 2017. Since then he’s been helping hundreds of other tour businesses scale, even in the most challenging of environments.

Will Andrew

Owner and Operator @ Graze and Gaze

Will Andrew is the Founder of Graze & Gaze, who create Luxury Picnic Experiences in some of Sydney’s most iconic locations. Before Graze & Gaze, Will he spent ten years in IT and most recently worked at Rezdy as the Business Operations Manager. Will has proven how to take a side-hustle, into a full-time business.

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Session Summary

Do you think resellers are helpful to tour operators?

Resellers are incredibly helpful. Reseller bookings will cost you commission but direct sales are costing you money too, think advertising costs, website management, the different types of travel agents, etc.

However, with resellers you only pay the commission when a sale is generated. Anyone who wants to build a fast growing business needs to build out a diverse sales channel. The resellers are people out there doing the work for you and you only pay them when they make the sale.

And try to have that commission built into your pricing structure. Start working out ways to build that commission into your margin, whether that’s incremental over months or years, or immediate, work towards there. How do I elevate my experience to the point where people stop comparing my tours to other competitors.

I 100% believe that resellers are important. Don’t be fully reliant on resellers and don’t be fully reliant on direct bookings.

Try to work out your commission against your direct booking cost. The commission may be a little higher but I’d rather have a little less margin than nothing at all. Especially for operators who run group tours, if you’re selling seats on a bus, you want that bus to be full.

You can also offer your products through resellers during off-peak times.

What type of resellers have you worked with and how has the experience been so far?

I didn’t work with OTA’s when I was a tour operator, it was mostly traditional travel partners. I value OTA’s very highly but it was a different landscape back then.

My top 10 travel partners did $1m a year in bookings.

“It takes time and tenacity to build those relationships, but once you do, it feels like your business is on autopilot. It’s like having a guaranteed $1m in sales that you don’t have to think about.”

I met every single one of those at a tradeshow or a simple outreach email. Once you serve one of their customers and become their preferred supplier, there is no limit.

I’ve only worked with OTAs. I wanted to spend as little time as possible setting up my channels. My #1 criteria is that they integrate with my booking system because I want my bookings to come quickly and be automatically confirmed.

Red Balloon generates alot for us and they do great in terms of marketing for us. Everytime I google, I see their ads coming up for my product.

GetYourGuide and Klook has also been great from a booking and marketing point of view. We’ve been included on photoshoots and video shoots with Tourism Australia, they’ve given us great exposure we wouldn’t have got otherwise. I’m going to start working with more local resellers, hotels and ITOs next.

What do you think about the commission rates?

I got advice to start my business with the 25% margin built into my pricing structure from day 1. You can negotiate rates but if you already have that 25% built into your pricing structure, you can work with anyone.

Direct bookings are great but why wouldn’t you want to have it as the cherry on top.

I wouldn’t want to be playing price wars and following the market. Once you have that point of differentiation, it gives you scope to charge whatever you want, it is so much easier to charge a premium, than to deal with the other end of the market

Initially, we just took the hit, then we started looking at OTA exclusives. For example, we’d offer professional photographers as a package for a specific OTA, this gave us room to charge more.

We also prioritize our different types of travel agents. For example, we have a bronze, silver and gold bucket. They start at bronze with a lower commission rate, and move up as they sell more bookings. Let the agents prove the value before negotiating.

How have you found resellers in the past?

The first thing I would say is to leverage your local tourism association. Within those organisations, there will be people focused on specific regions, for example the US and Sout East Asia. They will be able to introduce you to resellers in those regions.

Your own personal research is also highly valuable, research and reach out to independent travel agents, find travel agency networks.

Here’s an email script(make a copy of the document in your own drive to edit it) you could use to reach out.
Over 6 months, you’ll start building relationships and one of those could be the one that generates $200k a year in sales.

You can also jump into travel agent Facebook groups. Ask them what they are selling and see how each group works. You should also consider other tour operators serving similar customers, could you cross sell your products?

For me it’s all about time efficiency. What can I do with minimum effort and maximum output. Go into your booking software marketplace and find agents based on your area. They’ll be ranked by most popular to least popular.

I just went through each one and checked them off the list. You’ll have big companies at the top but as you work down the list you find all the local ones. The great thing is I know they all integrate with my booking system so all the bookings are handled automatically.

I also went on Google and typed ‘picnics in Sydney’ and found agents selling similar products.

Bonus: Whenever you’re booking a holiday for yourself, take note of all the resellers you come across or who retarget you on social media, they know what they’re doing and are heavily investing in marketing!

Do you have any strategies to best utilize resellers?

From a tech background, you can turn agents on and off or edit your availabilities, so you can leave popular times reserved for direct bookings.

Aside from that, build your relationships with your resellers, by doing that, we’ve been featured on various marketing campaigns on the tv and the news.

Work with multiple agents, don’t be highly reliant on one, spread the risk. Agents only want to work with one or two of the same experience type, edit your experience so that it’s different

The fastest way to reach the level of success you want is to diversify, meaning get connected with different types of resellers and different types of businesses. And use that in your favour.

For example, for the first 2 weeks of December we focused on corporate events and in the later half of December, we focus on international travelers as they came in.

Finally, see the 25% commission as a marketing expense, you can be sure that the commission is being put to good use. There is no commitment, it’s a no brainer.


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Closing Notes

Josh Oakes is offering:

A free 45 minute ‘Tour Business Breakthrough Session’ to a limited number of tour operators. On that call, Josh is going to figure out what’s not working for you in your business right now. Then he’s going to lay out a simple, clear and actionable plan to take your tour biz from where it is right now – and transform it into an efficient, streamlined, scalable (and highly profitable) ‘asset’.

Josh took his own tour business (Melbourne Private Tours) from zero to $2.5 million in annual revenue in just a few years before selling the business in late 2017 for 7 figures. Since then he’s helped hundreds of other tour businesses scale, even in the most challenging of environments. You can apply here for your Free Breakthrough Session


Email reach out script (make a copy of the document in your own drive to edit it)


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