Some weeks ago, Shane Whaley from Tourpreneur conducted an interesting interview with Carlee Stellfox Loya, GetYourGuide’s US Regional Manager in Sales, and Marc Terrier from Edge of the World Tours, based in San Francisco.

Topics that came up included some learnings and benefits from tour operators working with OTAs (Online Travel Agencies). They also went into how the sector has evolved since the pandemic. 

We’ve compiled the 5 key takeaways from the interview for you.

1. OTAs help tour operators increase their market reach and revenue 

Partnering with an OTA helps tour operators generate more revenue and attract a wider customer base.

Edge of the World Tours has been on GetYourGuide’s platform since April 2018, and by the start of 2020 GetYourGuide had become its first source of business.

 “When you partner with an OTA, you are able to broaden your reach. Thanks to GetYouGuide’s marketing efforts, you get more diverse channels of business and you are getting more international customers,” Marc states. 

Edge of the World Tours has experienced significant revenue growth since it started partnering with OTAs such as GetYourGuide. These partnerships have proven to actually increase direct bookings due to increased exposure, rather than cannibalize business.

Marc shared that 20% of his customers were international travelers before listing the company on GetYourGuide, whereas this increased to 40% of customers by the start of 2020.  

When talking about commission, Marc explains that: “My view is that no matter how you market your business, there will be a cost associated with generating demand. In other words, tour operators can balance any potential cost associated with each booking against the fact that OTAs help them grow their business and generate extra revenue. 

2. OTAs provide support and advice, from how to best optimize your product to local market insights

Get access to people who know more than you do,” is another benefit described by Marc. 

For example, Carlee advised Marc on how to best optimize his product and increase bookings on GetYourGuide. In his case, the photos were a solid point of optimization as they could be of a higher quality and more tailored to the product. 

By digging into GetYourGuide’s data and guidelines, Carlee knew that professional photos were important for increasing bookings. Any tour should paint a picture by featuring and highlighting the key moments that the customer will experience. The photos therefore need to be appealing, enticing, and shareable on social media, as well as mobile friendly. 

Another key aspect of working with OTAs is gaining insights into market intelligence, on top of the mutual sharing of knowledge. Tour operators gain tips from OTAs, and a better understanding of the local competitive landscape. Meanwhile, OTAs gain understanding about operators’ viewpoints and the operational work involved on the ground. 

3. The importance of API and connectivity 

APIs connect tour operators’ inventory and availability to OTAs’ websites. Getting an API is hugely beneficial to tour operators, especially during challenging times, as it hugely decreases manual work. 

Marc says that the API on GetYouGuide helps him to streamline the booking process and enables him to be more agile. It enables him to scale down operations more easily when unpredictable situations, such as the pandemic, arise. 

4. How to be a successful local partner on GetYourGuide 

GetYourGuide operates on a curating model. This means that “we select who we work with as we want to offer the best experiences for our customers. We are very selective.” says Carlee. 

GetYourGuide specifically looks for tour partners who are “best-in class. They are the best in what they do — they have a high-quality offering”.

Here are 4 key recommendations for being a successful local partner on GetYourGuide:

  1. Have a great product.
  2. Have extensive, live availability — the more availability you have, the more you can sell.
  3. Tell your employees to ask the customers to leave a review where they booked the tour. So, if the customer booked your tour on GetYourGuide, they should leave a review there as it will give your product more visibility on that platform.  
  4. Maintain an active interest in your partnerships: account managers offer local knowledge, can provide you with data, and can give you invaluable feedback. This is great when it comes to adapting your product in their destination. 

5. Running a business during a pandemic 

During the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic, Carlee states that “the number 1 thing travelers want is flexibility”. To answer this wish, GetYourGuide rolled out a standard free cancellation policy so that customers could book with confidence, cancel anytime, and reschedule if they wished to. 

GetYourGuide has also been adapting other areas of its business. This has ranged from adding more domestic activities to the inventory, focusing on smaller geographies, and thinking about new potential customer targets. 

Carlee further explains that tour operators should target families who are looking for experiences during the week as parents are often working from home, and children are often getting their education remotely. 

This means that lots of families still like to get out of the house where possible, and many of them are now often free on days outside of the weekend. Tour operators should therefore ensure that “the child pricing is accurate, and that ages that are included for a child ticket match”.

Marc adds that since the reopening in July, he’s been receiving more local customers, such as essential workers who have a day off, and has organized more private tours than before.