Turning your first Viator bookings into positive reviews is crucial for long-term success. It creates a cycle—more bookings means more reviews, and more reviews means higher likelihood travelers will book with you.

If you’re in the early stages of building a tour business or offering a unique experience to travelers, it can be daunting to officially launch your service and sell your products online. That’s why we created the Viator Getting Started Guide, aimed at helping new tour companies and/or individual experience providers of all types navigate their way to success.

In earlier sections of the guide, we walked you through creating your Viator account, adding bookable products (the specific tours/activities you’re offering), and marketing your new business to the many travelers who are searching for things to do in your destination.

Here, we’ll show you how to make all your hard work finally pay off—by getting your first bookings and your first positive reviews.

Getting Your First Bookings

Here are some ways to help expedite the exciting stuff: getting bookings!

  • Market yourself: The most successful new operators do their own marketing. As discussed in our marketing plan for tour operators, publicize your Viator page every chance you get. Whether it’s through your own website, on social media channels, with flyers, or other ways, promoting your presence is critical to getting your first reservations.
  • Use an online reservation system: Make it a cinch for travelers to book your Experiences anywhere, anytime, according to your up-to-date availability. Check out our guide to Bokun.
  • Move to mobile:  It’s important to offer a seamless mobile booking experience, and listing on 3rd-party resellers can help with this. Also, feel empowered to up your own mobile game: Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, optimize your page content for mobile devices, and maybe even consider creating your own mobile app.
  • Offer instant confirmation: We live in a world of instant gratification, and customers expect the same when it comes to travel bookings. Forgo the need to manually review each new booking and instead offer your product on an “instant confirmation” basis. Customers will be able to book closer to the tour/activity time and will have peace of mind knowing that their reservation is instantly confirmed. Plus, you’ll minimize the time and hassle associated with managing bookings manually.
  • Maximize your booking window: More than 20 percent of travelers book their tours/activities on the day of travel, yet many suppliers require at least one day (or more) of advance notice to accommodate their guests. Try lowering your booking cutoff time to 4 hours or fewer so you can accept bookings as close to the start of the experience as possible.
  • Improve your search ranking: You can pop up higher on the results lists of Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines with a few simple search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.
  • Deliver a great traveler experience: Here are some things to consider in order to exceed your guests’ expectations and make their Experience comfortable, engaging, and memorable:
    • Why is this Experience important to you? What types of information would resonate strongly with your guests?
    • Are there any traveler needs that you should be mindful of (e.g., safety issues, dietary considerations, accessibility, etc.)?
    • What should travelers bring along? What are you providing for them?
    • How can you manage cultural/language differences among your guests?
    • What questions might your guests ask? Do you have the answers?
    • Are you prepared for the unexpected (e.g., inclement weather, vehicle breaks down, guest falls ill or has an accident, attraction is closed, etc.)?

“I pay attention to the little things. I had the most competitive price and offered the best service and quality I could. I wasn’t trying to pinch pennies. I do quality in everything I do. The first impression matters. I wouldn’t have so many customers if I didn’t give first class service.”

— Joe F., Individual Experience Host, Miami, Florida

Getting Your First Five Reviews

Per a Tripadvisor and Phocuswright study, a whopping 83 percent of travelers say that Tripadvisor reviews make them more confident in their travel decisions. More confidence means higher likelihood of booking. In fact, our internal user research found that reviews are the top decision-making factor. Furthermore, 80 percent of travelers read reviews because they “help them have a better trip,” and 68 percent read reviews specifically to “know about attractions” in the area. Maybe the most eye-opening figure of them all: 53 percent of travelers won’t commit to booking until they’ve read reviews. That’s more than half your potential customer base!

Providing excellent customer service to your guests is one great way to ensure you receive rave reviews. Check out this video from our friends at Be A Better Guide for tips on providing memorable customer service.

After your receive five or more traveler reviews on Viator, your product is likely to get more bookings and sales. Reviews also greatly help set new customers’ expectations.

Don’t Forget: Respond To Your Reviews!

The importance of having reviews can’t be overstated. But equally crucial is how Experience Hosts and tour/activity operators respond to reviews (these tips will help). In the same Phocuswright study mentioned above, 62 percent of travelers said that management’s responses to reviews make them more likely to book. Why? Because a response—even something as simple as, “We’re thrilled you had a good time!”—shows that you care about the traveler’s experience. And for a potential booker, it shows that you’ll also care about their experience.

In the (hopefully) rare instance you receive a negative review, don’t fret. Negative reviews give you a chance to learn about your travelers—what they want or are expecting out of your experience vs. what the received—and adapt your product accordingly. Furthermore, responding to a negative review gives you a chance to tell your side of the story, show other potential travelers that you care about correcting something that wasn’t perfect, and, in some cases, to add necessary context that the reviewer may have left out. No matter what, make sure you remain polite and professional. After all, your response is visible to all users browsing your listing.

1. How to Become a Tour Guide

2. Understanding Your Audience

3. Get Compliant

4. Setting Up Your Account

5. Sell Online to Travelers

6. Marketing Plan

7. Get Bookings & Reviews

About the Author: Dave Armenti

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