2021 has brought challenging times for the travel and tour industry. That's because it's the transition year from 2020, in which we are still shaking off the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. To survive the tough times, we have seen business models being overturned and many pushing the reset button. Now, as the sector aims to recover in 2020, tour, rental, and activities operators can hunt for new exciting opportunities. The good news is that eCommerce data from Forbes shows that the usage of digital channels for shopping accelerated in 2020. This means more opportunities for tour businesses using online channels. By using online booking software, travel businesses will be able to accelerate bookings and turn their back to a year that almost sank their businesses.
Online Travel Booking Trends
Acceleration of digital adoption
One thing that the pandemic brought to the fore was working remotely. People discovered that with just wifi and a portion of the day, one can get work done anywhere. In 2019 before the pandemic, digital booking was increasing, although it mostly remained offline. However, it was in 2020 that online booking expanded exponentially with the pandemic. Even with the pandemic easing off, getting people back to the office takes some hard persuading. This has led to the idea of the digital nomad - working while travelling to favourite destinations. Some countries like Bermuda, Georgia, and Dubai are offering digital nomad visas, which enable one to stay and work where one wants. This is like being in a vacation resort while also working. This trend will lead to increased bookings and the need for booking software.
Marketing strategies that target locals
The recovery from the pandemic slowdown will mainly be driven by local travellers. So service providers should gear for several initial months to cater for domestic travellers as a result of travel restrictions and the preferences of travellers. This means that tour, rental, and activity providers will have to tailor their products for the local market.
- Use Value-Adds and Discounts
Price reductions will be a great stimulus for your bookings, but they should be carefully crafted to guard your credibility. Strategically discounted rates will be on offer this year as part of the steps to a full recovery for the travel and hotel industry. For value-added services, you can also offer free wifi and complimentary transfers, especially if your travel or activity company is located where it is hard to access. You can also give away free stickers, t-shirts, and pens that travelers can carry away to show their friends that they have been on the tour.
Offer Flexible Bookings and Cancellations
This year will see service providers offer guests ways to deal better with uncertainty because of the pandemic. Customers will need flexibility so that travel plans can be postponed or cancelled. These flexible reservations give more peace of mind to them when booking. Under these terms, booking software can provide tools for refunds or cancellations.
Voice Control Technology
Voice control is a technology that has been growing steadily over time. Used via devices like smartphones, smart TVs, smart home hubs, and PCs, it is set to change the face of online booking. As more and more consumers demand personalization and conveniences, voice technology will grow in popularity. Tour booking software solutions can leverage these trends by featuring voice capabilities for their platforms. This will give customers the ability to book appointments using an automated voice system. So customers can act like joining a queue, rescheduling, or cancelling appointments with ease.
With more and more people adopting mobile for their interactions and transactions via smartphones will expand in popularity. This will extend to online booking as users seek the convenience and the flexibility that mobiles give. This will mean tour service providers will have to provide platforms with online booking software that is mobile-friendly.
Connect Creatively With Customers
The previous year has been a steep learning curve as businesses strived to adapt to a pandemic and remain profitable. The innovative approaches will carry over to this year. With data showing the meteoric rise of social media, tour operators can leverage these platforms. For example, if you book a customer, your customer can immediately update their Twitter or Facebook status when the software leads them to the page. With this tool, they can share with their friends about their holiday or activity. This can cause increased awareness about you and boosts the chance to create new bookings and clients.
Advanced Reservation is More Important
Placing more importance on bookings than walk-ins will be an increased feature of the year. This will, in turn, boost the use of booking software. Advanced bookings will have greater appeal to more customers due to the ease offered by technology. They also help you plan better in terms of how much of your staff you need at particular moments.
Travellers Prefer Booking with OTA
According to the U.S. Consumer Travel Report, 50 per cent more travellers find OTAs more preferable to hotel websites. They will typically use OTAs to explore leisure travel options. So if you're a hotel business, you will be better off engaging OTAs. OTAs come with a ton of benefits. For example, their marketing programs give a better way to connect with high-value guests. You will also benefit from their free rich analytic tools, which offer useful market insights like traveller preferences.
- Growing Multichannel Distribution System
There will be a push for expanded distribution channels in 2020 to maximize the benefit of attracting customers. So operators will have to use many distribution channels in addition to self websites and OTAs. This requires online booking software, which also acts as a distribution and sales platform. The distribution feature gives you many benefits, such as the ability to resell activities and tours, offer more visibility and expand your reach. It also aids in finding new business partners. The best online booking software should make it easy to manage your bookings and tour business all in one place.
We learned how fragile life can be in 2020 - even the things we take for granted, like travelling the world can be denied to us. However, the irrepressible human desire to travel means 2021 can be a year of new beginnings. Armed with the right booking software, your travel company can reap benefits from this year’s trends and restore your profitability.