Tips to Become a Successful Inbound Tour Operator

September 13, 2021 - 12:41 pm
Tips to Become a Successful Inbound Tour Operator
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Becoming a successful inbound tour operator is a rewarding and profitable experience, but it will take hard work, commitment, and a lot of passion.

The travel industry is one of the largest industries in the world. It is also considered an economic sector that’s most profitable with a high success rate. It is made up of a complex web of relationships between a variety of suppliers, tourism products, destination marketing organisations, tour operators, and travel agents, among many others. 

In this article, we will focus on how to become a successful Inbound Tour Operator (ITO). We’ve put together a summary of the most important things to remember before starting your business journey.

Inbound Tour Operator: What You Need To Know

A tour operator packages all or most of the components of an offered trip and then sells them to the traveller. These packages can also be sold through retail outlets or travel agencies. Tour operators work closely with hotels, transportation providers, and attractions to purchase large volumes of each component and package these at a better rate than the traveller could if purchasing individually. Specifically, ITOs bring tourists into a country as a group or via individual tour packages. They handle all arrangements in the host country, and the types of tours they curate are specifically for non-residents touring the country.

So, how do you get into the business?

Before we get to that, bear in mind that starting a tour operator business is one thing, and being a successful tour operator is another. It has many challenges. Running one has its everyday ups and downs, as any other business does.

Tips on Becoming an Inbound Tour Operator

1. Be passionate.

A lot of people dream of having their own business. The thing is, not everyone is ready to trade their 9–5 job to chase an idea that may or may not thrive enough to become profitable.

And being a successful tour operator doesn’t come with overnight success. It takes months, years, maybe even a decade. Things tend to get tough at the beginning and that’s normal. So be patient and never lose your initial enthusiasm.

Photo credit: gotgenes on VisualHunt.

2. Have the right mindset.

Like starting any new business on your own, you need to be certain that you love the idea. When you love what you do, that passion will continually push you forward.

But having love is not enough—you have to be insanely self-motivated. Get used to the fact that you’ll be dealing with uncertainty, stress, and pressure. Also, unplanned madness is always going to pop up on some occasions.

3. Find your niche.

Choose a tour niche you’re going to operate in. Research it. Know everything there is to know about it. Have a good sense of what the tour industry is all about, what you can offer and add to it, when, and how. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest travel industry trends and research what your potential customers want.

Do you offer adventure, nature, cultural, domestic, or sightseeing tours? Or for instance, do you wish to specialize in luxury tours?

Take everything into consideration, like the geographical position. Look at what quality sights are near you.

Is your region known for anything? It doesn’t necessarily have to be known for food, but it could be if you have something special and unique to offer.

Is there something special about your town, city, or region—that it’s not a thing someone already cashed in on

When you find your niche, devise a plan on how to infiltrate it.

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash.

4. Design a unique selling proposition.

Be different from your competitors. With the rising number of new tours and activities, it is a challenge to come up with a unique idea.

Define your ideal customer and what they want. Research what other tour and activity businesses are offering. Research. Research. Research. Then brainstorm and try to figure out how to stand out in the marketplace. Create unique tours and activities with an interesting twist. That is the way to get more good reviews and to have more customers spread a good word about your tours and activities.

5. Create a business plan.

This means writing everything down that you have just researched—to the very last detail. Then arrange this in a coherent and formal business plan. Once you have it written down, you can move on to the next phase: registering your tour business. This is the step where you name your business, create a brand that you’re going to nourish, design a logo, and have a website set up.

6. Prepare a budget.

Registering a business doesn’t come cheap. Nor does obtaining all the legal licenses. Before you can start selling your tours, you need to acquire a bunch of paperwork and proper licenses, among other things.

Check online as well as with your local municipality which license/s you need and how to get them. Again, do your homework and write everything down. Find out how much money you need to get your business running.

That’s why you need a carefully outlined financial plan. Expenses VS profit. What you offer must cover all the expenses in the long run. Once you have a rough financial draft, perfect your business and financial plan and pitch it to your potential partners or investors.

Be prepared that there may be certain expenses you won’t be able to avoid. There are lots of costs, and especially if you are in a seasonal business, it will be difficult to manage your cash flow. So, have a clear and conservative budget.

7. Come up with a marketing strategy.

Before starting a tour business, you should write your marketing strategy.

Marketing is all about your effort to spread the word out about your tour and activity business and get more online bookings.

What will be your distribution channels? How will you reach new customers?

Invest in a website and social media channels to promote tours and activities. That is the best way to raise awareness about your tour business and drive new customers to you.

Another tip is to find partners for distribution (affiliates, agents, referrers, Online Travel Agents, etc.). In exchange for a commission or other arrangements, they will generate more bookings and boost your sales.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it is best to ask for advice.

8. Start small with a well-defined product.

Well-defined tours and activities are something you should pay attention to. Describe your tours and write a killer itinerary.

On the other hand, even though a well-planned itinerary is important, you should also be flexible with some customer requirements. Don’t be afraid to adapt your tours based on customer demand.

Running a tour business is a never-ending learning process. Be patient and tailor your tours and activities to suit new customers. Customised tours will give you one of the biggest boosts.

9. Invest in online booking software.

Having a ton of work, and at the beginning, not many people around you to help you handle everything—it can get hectic.

Once you get your business up and running, you need online booking software to boost your sales and keep everything organised. Use the technology at your disposal. Make your life easier. You need a tool to sell tours and activities on your website. The same tool will also automate tedious tasks which should be your top priority because it saves time and resources.

Finding the right tour operator software requires a lot of research. You have to try a few of them before you can figure out exactly what is it that you’re looking for and what fits your business best.

Read more: Features to Consider when Choosing a Tour Operator CRM

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash.

Not only that. Nowadays, everything is online. All your potential customers are online. That means YOU have to be online.

10. Hire excellent guides

Fenghuang, Xiangxi, China. Photo by Diem Nhi Nguyen on Unsplash.

You can have a great route and stories, but minus excellent guides, it’s a different scenario. Guides who know all about the destination and share stories in an engaging way are the way to go. They should be passionate about their work and sparkle tours with some personal details.

Be a Successful ITO!

There are so many benefits of being a tour operator, but starting and running a profitable tourism business is hard.  From designing a tour and evaluating your market, to building relationships, your brand, your online presence, and getting those first customers through the door, lots of pieces need to come together before you find success.

Photo by 贝莉儿 DANIST on Unsplash.

Becoming a successful inbound tour operator is a rewarding and profitable experience, but it will take hard work, commitment, and a lot of passion.

The question is: Are you ready?

Featured image: Michael Brawn on Unsplash

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