The other day, I asked one of the directors of a TourConnect inbound tour operator, Stephanie Karst from All Pacific Travel Concept (APTC), why she was excited that they are using TourConnect. Stephanie said, “We are excited to use TourConnect because this will make contracting so much more efficient, and because it will allow us to include more products and suppliers in our database.”
This got me thinking about some of the interesting revelations I heard in my many discussions with inbound tour operators over the past year. As I come from a supplier background, it was very interesting to see what tour operators actually do, or don’t do, with our rates when they receive them. I think we all realized there wasn’t a whole lot of automation, but it was eye opening how difficult it is for tour operators to get rates into their booking management system.
Here are the top 5 tour operator secrets that I have found in working with tour operators:
1) Tour operators will book some products over others simply because the rates have better information and are clearer than others.
I heard multiple tour operators point to complex rates as a reason that they would not book a product. One tour operator said that they had asked multiple times for a room configuration for a particular hotel. When that hotel never supplied the configuration, the tour operator simply started booking another hotel…and has booked the other hotel for years now.
2) Tour operators are just as frustrated with contracting and handling rates as suppliers are.
We all like to think that we are unique. In the tourism industry, we also often have a suppliers versus tour operators, “us vs. them”, view of the world. As I pulled back the curtain, I saw that tour operators are just as frustrated, if not more, with rates and contracting as suppliers. The process is broken, and both sides of the equation, suppliers and tour operators, are carry significant additional costs because of it.
3) Most tour operators can’t load all of the suppliers they want to sell into their system.
Most of the tour operators I spoke to said that the inefficiency of the entire rate loading and contracting process limits the suppliers they are able to work with. This bottleneck keeps them from offering products they know they can sell. This means the time to market for new products is slowed, and even great, established suppliers can’t get into some tour operators’ systems.
4) Not all supplier products make it into a tour operator’s booking system.
Suppliers often spend tons of time providing rates for all of the products they offer. The reality is that very often tour operators don’t even enter those rates, not to mention sell the product. The problem is, though, tour operators want rates for all products, just in case, they get an inquiry. So regardless of how much business it will actually generate, suppliers must provide rates for every product, every year.
5) Many tour operators load very few special offers into their system.
Many suppliers have a knack for coming up with some unbelievably creative and enticing specials for their products. The sad reality is that no matter how creative or value-laden an offer is, tour operators don’t have the manpower to enter all of the specials into their systems. In fact, very few special offers ever make it into booking management systems at all. This problem isn’t specific only to large tour operators, even small tour operators receive at least an average of 50-100 specials and updates a week!
By working together, the tourism industry can significantly reduce inefficiency and the headaches we all face every year. The challenges listed above, while unique to the tourism industry, are not too dissimilar to those encountered, and overcome, in other industries. The tourism industry simply must decide to not accept inefficiency as the cost of doing business, and to work together to make the industry stronger. By removing the bottleneck of contracts and rate loading for tour operators, the entire industry will not only save money, but more products will be available to the people that need them most…the visitors!