Where does Apple sell iPhones?

  • Direct to consumer: Apple store and Apple website
  • Retailers: Walmart, Best Buy, JB-Hifi, Harvey Norman and hundreds more
  • Phone service providers: T-Mobile, Verizon, Vodafone and many more
  • Certified Apple Resellers: Resellers who open stores that sell nothing but Apple product and incorporate Apple branding
  • E-commerce websites: Amazon
  • Plenty more

A huge part of Apple’s success is due to it’s huge, balanced distribution network. Although Apple makes less profit by selling through certain resellers/ retailers than it does direct, the company focuses on maximizing it’s reach and number of product sold which in turn maximizes the company’s overall profit.

Distribution matters for tour operators

Like Apple, by focusing on both your direct and reseller channels, you’ll be able to maximize your reach, bookings and your revenue.

You also won’t be fully reliant on any single channel so you won’t be heavily affected by industry changes.

Direct channels

Channels where customers book their tours & activities directly through you. These include:

  • Your website
  • Social media
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Paid advertising (Google Ads & Facebook Ads)
  • Email marketing
  • Walk-ins
  • Etc.

Benefits of direct channels:

  • No commission needs to be paid
  • You maintain full control over these channels

Indirect channels

Channels where customers book through an agent or reseller such as GetYourGuide.

These include:

  • Online travel agents
  • Local resellers
  • Hotels & Accommodations
  • Information Centers
  • Other tour operators
  • Etc.

Benefits of indirect channels:

  • Only pay when you receive a booking (unlike with advertising)
  • Don’t have to spend time and resources managing these channels
  • Can target specific niches and locations
  • Reach more of the buyer’s journey
  • Extremely fast way to grow your sales channels

Why a balanced distribution network is essential

A balanced distribution network will ensure you’re exposing your tours & activities to more travelers at more times during their travel stages, while still maximizing your direct bookings and maintaining your profit margin. For example:

Travel stageDirect channelsIndirect channels
Planning tripOnline advertising and search engine optimization to drive traffic to your websiteOnline travel agents and outbound tour operators
While travelling to destinationReselling through airlines and cruises
At the destinationLocal search engine optimization, online advertising with geo-targeting, local ads in cafes, etc.Accomodations like hotels, Airbnb, caravan parks, etc. and other tour operators

Using both direct and indirect channels will help you cast a wider net so you can reach more customers, in more places and at more times. By being less reliant on any one channel, your business will be less vulnerable to industry changes.
For example:

  • If something prevents international tourists from visiting your country, you’ll still have local customers.
  • If a reseller shuts down or can no longer bring you bookings, you’ll still have others.

How to create a balanced distribution network

The key is to have multiple channels within both your direct and indirect channels running simultaneously. Start out with a few core direct channels. Then, reach out to resellers you might enjoy working with and partner with them one at a time, steadily building out your indirect channels.

Direct channels

Digital marketing strategies are one of the best ways to grow your direct channels. Consider:

  • Search engine optimization: practices used to help your business rank higher in Google search result pages.
  • Local search engine optimization: Similar to the above but it focuses more on users searching from areas near you.
  • Content marketing: Offering content to customers for free. You’re giving value to the customer and building a relationship with them so that in the future they choose you. Attracting users to your site with interesting content will also contribute to highlighter search rankings on Google.
  • Online advertising: Paying to run advertisements targeting specific audiences on platforms like Google and Facebook.

Indirect channels

You can find a full list of the types of resellers here, but the key is to find a good mix of resellers who specialize in different markets, niches and travel stages. For example, a good mix would be one or two large mainstream travel agents like GetYourGuide and Viator, a few specialized travel agents like Civitatis (who focuses on Spanish-speaking markets) and Adrenaline (who focuses on those interested in adventures), as well as a few in-destination resellers like hotels, Airbnbs and information centers to target the travelers who have already arrived at the destination.

Doing all of the above will help you create a balanced distribution network that’ll bring your business a steady supply of customers, even through turbulent times. It’ll help you grow your bookings and your revenue, while keeping your business more resilient to industry changes.

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