How travel partnerships need to payback for you

Looking to accelerate your tourism marketing? One way is how effectively you manage your travel partnerships with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and partners. These groups are a compliment to your business growth, they can help you grow as long as they are win-win for you. The travel industry has to be collaborative to survive.  Travel partners are essential. They can help you run your business more effectively, open you to new guests, and sharing resources. These could include local partners, wholesalers, regular travel agencies and Online travel agencies.  

Your top considerations with a travel partnership

Make no mistake, these partners are not your primary business, they are your competitors too. It’s about striking the right balance with these partners because there are a number of negatives with working with this, such as

-The risk is:  what would happen if those partners closed shop tomorrow? A big piece of your business would disappear overnight  and you won’t be able to make that up with direct bookings or have another partner to replace those losses. At least in the short term

-These travel partners already impact the power of your branding – because you play a back seat role to their brand as those guests bought their  brand not yours- so growing your brand becomes more difficult with these clients (but not impossible) 

– And of course, your margins – as they take away as much as 10-30% from your revenues.

My point here is that you need your brand to stay in the driver’s seat. Growing your business, your website and direct bookings guests should be your primary task. 

I’ve witnessed many tourism businesses as a marketer and a full-time traveler that slowly stop managing their direct bookings business entirely. Let’s face it this industry is busy — and your focus can move to other things

The top signs when a tourism business is spending too much on partners instead of direct bookings:   

  • When businesses stop doing regular analysis of their website, and where their traffic is coming from 
  •  or they stop making regular modifications to improve their website to persuade and attract new guests.
  •  Instead, they just use OTAS like as their booking service, instead of making it visible and available for guests to book direct. Sure it simplifies the task of booking, but they own this audience not you.
  • Some businesses don’t answer messages from potential or current guests, from social media like their facebook page, or just being generally not responsive from contact pages – and these potential guests  are at the stage where they are READY TO BUY. FROM YOU 
  • Other businesses don’t look at their capacity so they book their indirect guests first (from these partners or OTAS)  and leave no room for full margin, DIRECT guests who want to book with their brand DIRECTLY 
  • And finally, this problem can happen when tourism businesses don’t find strategies to continue the relationship with indirect customers – like getting their contact information and email to continue conversations on email or social media.  Remember that they experienced your business too. 

These watch-outs are all unfortunate ways to lose guests and ​get bad reviews.  

The benefit of maintaining your owned-assets is that you have 100% Control. 

Your website is a great example of this because: 

  • It’s the best location for your guests to truly understand your brand, and what makes you unique and it allows you to highlight what is important to you. 
  • It’s where you can inspire them the most to book with you and you control the pricing 
  • These guests become part of YOUR guest list  – and you can 100% control how you stay in touch with them.and how they will recommend you in the future. 

Here’s the interesting things about your guests: 

-Many potential guests may still visit your website or your social mediums Facebook page even though they book through an online travel site of course when it’s accessible to find you online or on social media.  

This is because of a few reasons:

They are doing extensive research for a vacation, not just a day trip

  • They want to find out about you and your business – They can learn about what you are all about, what’s your story, and more visuals and details that they won’t get the full picture from your OTA profile. 
  • They want to know the people behind the business
  • They want to make sure you are a legitimate business and that you are an actively running business. 
  • When guests see a Facebook page without any posts for several months, they start to question whether you are busy or still in business at all.  Because businesses come and go all the time. 

There are many travelers out there that do like to book direct – so why not make it easy for them? 

To maximize your direct bookings — You need an action plan in your marketing plan every year. 

You need to know what % of your bookings are direct vs indirect so you can work towards a better % that works for your business. 

There are a number of simple strategies that you can do step by step to entice travelers to book direct with you.   

 So travel partnerships are key! If you found this video helpful join our community here at Travel Life and subscribe to our many free marketing resources for tourism brands like yours. 

How travel partnerships - otas can work with you

About the Author

Dorene Wharton is a tourism strategist, marketer, coach, copywriter and full-time traveler with a 25-year career working in all areas of marketing and sales. She left her corporate job with Fortune 500 hospitality brands to start Travel Life Media to help hotels, tour, attractions and event companies improve their marketing, and live their brand with purpose.
Dorene Wharton