Whether you are a boutique B&B or part of an international hotel group, attracting bookings is central to your business, and working with the travel trade is another route to help you fill your rooms.
The industry has been massively changed by the internet; however, more than half of all holidays are still bought as packages. Whilst you attract and convert customers through digital marketing (Shine Online has lots of advice and tips on how to do this), you might also benefit from the audience that the travel trade can reach.
There are a number of ways to reach the market via the travel trade - Destination Management Companies (DMCs), Global Distribution Systems and Online Travel Agents etc. By understanding what they do and looking at the way your particular business operates, you can decide which route is right for you.
The latest Tourism Intelligence Scotland webinar ‘Working with the travel trade’ offers an insight into how one hotel operator is working with the travel trade to benefit his business and also gives practical tips and advice from a destination management company on how they can help your business.
The webinar helps you get to grips with different types of organisations, below is a snap-shot of what they are and what some of the pros and cons might be for each:
Online Travel Agents (OTA)
Online Travel Agents are website booking sites, such as Expedia, laterooms.com and Booking.com, where visitors can book aspects of their holiday directly - letting the website’s algorithms check hundreds of holiday companies against their exact requirements.
Many younger travellers prefer this option, as it gives them the opportunity to personalise their trip. However, the lack of interaction prior to the guests’ arrival and limited information on their visit can sometimes become problematic for operators. This might be a simple thing such as not knowing that the guest plans to bring a bicycle and needs safe storage to more complex issues such as guests having accidentally booked the wrong dates online and then requiring accommodation - leaving the operator to pick up the pieces.
Global Distribution Systems
These are digital booking programmes which were originally created to manage seat bookings for the airline industry. The network has more than 70 million screens checking and selling rooms globally. Global distribution systems are often used by the large, international hotel groups because of their high costs, (there is a standing charge, a cost per room listed and commission), however, it might also work for some independents. If your accommodation is unique, or is the only one in its location (in a place that is popular with visitors), then you could attract a number of bookings that you might not otherwise. Another benefit is that as you only pay for the results, it can often work out cheaper than a sales person.
Destination Management Companies
These are organisations, like Abbey Tours Scotland, which sell destination packages to tour companies; think of them as wholesalers. They use destination specialists who know the local market well and who have identified suppliers of every size and scale. These destination specialists develop deep relationships with various suppliers, building partnerships to add value for the tour operators. The perk of these partnerships for the supplier is that often there is less competition as you benefit from the tour operators loyalty. Another is that the tour company is effectively marketing your business to the target audience using a wide range of distribution channels; essentially acting as your marketing department. However, in order to provide the consumer with a palatable package price, the suppliers must offer trade rates on their product or service.
These are the organisations that sell package tours directly to the consumer. A list of some of them can be found on the Scotland Group Travel website. They often use a number of DMCs to help sell their packages, but also can operate directly with operators.
Working with the travel trade can offer new routes to markets for many businesses in the Scottish tourism sector, selling the venue globally using more distribution and marketing channels than a single business can afford. They also bring business from places that the supplier might not have been able to access previously.
Find out more
The TIS webinar provides more detail on each of these and how they fit into the wider market. The experts also help identify what the latest travel booking trends are and how social media plays a role in helping consumers identify holiday location and venues.
Partnerships are vital to getting the most from these groups, so understanding what you can offer them and how they can benefit you is the first step. The Scottish Destination Management Association can help you connect and engage with these operators. The Scottish Tourism Alliance can help you to understand the marketplace and key industry issues. The Tourism Scotland 2020 is the strategy for the industry, developed by the industry. The TIS website highlights the importance of engaging with the National Tourism Strategy in order to help your business succeed.