The Travel Industry’s Burden Revealed: Results of TourConnect’s Inaugural Tour Operator Survey

TourConnect recently conducted a first-of-its kind survey with Australian contractors, and today we’re excited to share the results.  We asked inbound tour operators and wholesalers to pull back the curtain and give us details around the process of collecting and loading product and rate information for their travel suppliers.  We had a great response to the survey and have seen an even greater interest in the results which highlight the challenges contractors face each year.  We hope the results and analysis below will provide transparency into the process and help suppliers and contractors understand how detrimental this inefficiency is to their businesses.

The Burden of Information Overload

Survey results indicate that contractors face a daunting task in simply handling the sheer volume of information they receive from suppliers.  The average contractor in our survey works with 1,708 suppliers.  Those suppliers account for over 5,000 locations and over 10,000 products.  Almost all of these products and locations have different rates based on seasons (including blackout dates, special events, etc.) and sometimes even have different rates by geographical market.  As the below graphic shows, this is an incredible number of different rates to pass along to the partners & agents that are ready to sell these products.

TourConnect’s founder, Mike Herrmann, adds “The first thing that jumps out at you from the data is that contractors have a mountain of information to digest.  On top of that, in many cases each supplier provides the information in their own format.  Just looking over a single rate sheet and understanding what you’re looking at takes a significant amount of time.”  With the workload comes great expense.  Contractors told us that it takes an average of 3.2 full time employees over 6 months just to load the core products that make it into their booking management system.  This represents a significant cost, not only to contractors, but to the suppliers that pay system load fees and commissions.

The Missed Opportunities

Without doubt, the most insightful number from the survey is 54%.  On average, contractors do not load 54% of the products and locations they receive.  Given the amount of time they spend loading rates, contractors were near universal in their process for determining which products to load.  They first load products that are regularly booked or brochured.  Then, they add products that are specifically requested by agents.  Contractors make it clear that after big sellers, they “will only load product that can provide us with all the required information on their rate sheet or contract”.  Another contractor told us “Personally if I know a particular supplier provides an easy to read, quick to load contract I will always load this one first over one that has so many rules, dates and rates that it takes an hour just to go over the contract before even starting to load it.”

Complexity of rates is clearly a hurdle for getting product into the market and boosting sales for both suppliers and contractors.  In fact, 75% of contractors indicated that they would sell a more diverse range of products if rates were easier to load; and 100% of contractors would actively seek new suppliers, if rates were magically loaded into their booking management system.  One respondent explained it this way,

“Basically less time spent deciphering rates (some are soooo complicated) for loading would leave more time to work much closer with suppliers and work on tactical offers to promote and hopefully drive more business to them (when they need it).”

The Path Forward

The survey reveals the challenge our industry faces in contracting and loading rates.  Like it or not, we are all affected – whether by spending precious time manually interpreting & entering data, paying increased commission and load fees, or losing out on prospective sales. The good news is that TourConnect’s standardized rate format is designed to make the job as easy as possible for everyone.

At TourConnect, our goal is to continue to provide insightful information and even better solutions to help our industry.  We’d love to hear your ideas and feedback so we can incorporate them into future surveys and the services we provide.  Later this year, we will conduct our first-ever supplier survey.  Please join us, share your comments, and keep up to date on our latest research and solutions via Twitter or Facebook.

Mike Herrmann

Author Mike Herrmann

After beginning his career in technology, Mike moved to Sydney in 2004 to start Bonza Bike Tours. His unique combination of experience in software development and tourism helped form the vision for TourConnect. While wearing out the airspace between the US and Australia, Mike has also become an expert in sleeping in uncomfortable chairs and B-grade movies.

More posts by Mike Herrmann

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