Think about your favorite sports team as they begin to ready themselves for a new season. The team meets to watch and discuss game film; they work on game strategy, conceive new, and revise old plays; they engage in individual and team practices to sharpen or refine their skills; and they work closely with coaches and other levels of team management to ensure optimal levels of fitness and mental readiness for the long season ahead.
For tour operators in today’s global travel industry, the preparation necessary to ready themselves for the next travel season is not unlike the measures teams take to prep for their next campaign. The operational, back-office, and even customer-facing duties and tasks tour operators engage in before the season directly reflects business outcomes by the season’s end. Of course, tour operators aren’t watching game film of an opponent or taking part in intense practice sessions, but strategizing about which products and services to offer, where and how to source them, selecting the right itineraries to promote, and more are critical drivers for tour operators in ensuring an efficient, productive travel campaign.
The competitive nature of today’s travel industry means tour operators need to work harder than ever before to stay ahead of the curve and offer clients and customers not only quality services, but quality services in a fast and efficient manner - while at the same minimizing internal costs for the company. For these reasons, preparation for any given tour season is essential to success. With that in mind, here are 4 ways tour operators prepare for a new travel season.
1). Know Your Product - Know Your Customer. It goes without saying tour operators must have comprehensive knowledge of the products and services they’re providing in order to express just how valuable these products and services are to clients and customers. As such, tour operators must dedicate substantial amounts of time and resources to familiarizing themselves with these products and services, particularly in new and expanding markets. For example, a tour operator offering a guided mezcal tasting in Mexico must not only know the mezcal producer and facility, but they should also be knowledge about the area surrounding the facility to capitalize on any potential opportunities for add-on’s. In addition, tour operators must also know their customer and what this customer most wants or desires. While this can be more difficult than simply brushing up on products and services, tour operators who spend the time to dissect their market share to determine which tours to position to which customers and when will leverage a significant advantage stacked against their competitors.
2). Sourcing Products and Services. Once a tour operator has a firm grasp of their products and customer-base, sourcing products and services becomes the next crucial step in preparation for the season. These products are most commonly sources from inbound operators, however, they can originate from in-house in conjunction with inbound operators or ground operators. Another route in the sourcing of products and services is via local service providers in the destination country or region in which a bulk of the services are provided. This ensures a local touch on the products and services offered, which can help tour operators feel at ease given the on-the-ground knowledge these local service provider possess about the region, its inhabitants, and its ability to make tourists feel welcome and at-home while on holiday.
3). Selecting the Right Itineraries to Promote. Harkening back to our sports team analogy from the beginning of this post: Once a team has strategized and decided on which plays to run in which situation, the next step is actually executing those plays. The same is true for tour operators in selecting the right itineraries to promote and when given the products and services they have chosen to offer. The factors that play into this decisions are numerous: geography of the region, availability of tours, past demand, future forecasting, and a host of others. This is perhaps one of the most critical preparation tours operators make in large because it’s more of a customer-facing task. It’s the first step tour operators take toward actually opening up a new travel season, so choosing the right itinerary at the right time for the right customer is critical is making positive strides in a new season.
4). Receiving and distribute rates. The final step in preparation for the upcoming tour and travel season is tour operators receiving, sorts, and distributing pricing and rates for products and services. This is most often where the reality of the upcoming season sets in for tour operators as adding prices to selected itineraries and products cements the fact that the new season is set to begin. This is also where tour operators can begin to forecast potential profitability, ROI, and the necessary resources to allocate to ensure prices and rates are in-line with internal projections and customer or client expectations.
As you can see, the methods in which tour operators prepare for the upcoming travel season is really not terribly dissimilar from the way your favorite sports team prepares for their season. Both entities engage in a series of exercises to ensure the agility, strength, and fortitude necessary to compete with other teams or tour operators. Engaging in these exercises not only makes tour operators better able to handle the challenges and opportunities of a new travel season, but it also gives them important insights into their operational capabilities.