Tips to work with Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs)

Inbound Tour Operators:

Inbound tour operators create and market travel products and services to customers mainly in long haul markets. Customers in countries far away generally do not have in depth knowledge of a destination or the service providers in that destination, may not speak the language, and may not feel comfortable making their own arrangements.

Inbound tour operators serve these customers by taking the guess work out of planning a holiday, andmay offer experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible to independent travelers making their own arrangements.

For example, planning and organizing your own expedition to go trekking in Western Croatia would involve months of research to identify routes, find local guides, arrange transport and pack animals, and considerable expense to transport equipment and gear or purchase it locally.

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A local company can organize all this for you at much less cost and in less time than it would take for you to do it yourself. Inbound operators usually specialize in package travel arrangements of this kind, and may have both group and independent travelers as clients.

Inbound operators operate their own tours, although the services of many local companies may be packaged and resold as part of this tour. Inbound operator usually specialize in one country or region. They may offer tours catering to a broad range of interests if they are located in a country that is not well known to travelers, but if they are in a well known destination where it is easy for independent travelers to make their own arrangements they usually focus on specialty travel.

Your tour and activity company’s distribution strategy needs to include many different types of distribution channels. These channels provide you with access to a diverse range of travelers, allowing you to boost your bookings and discover new market segments to target your products to.

One essential distribution channel is Inbound Tour Operators, or ITOs. ITOs are sometimes referred to as destination management companies, and they are responsible for promoting an entire tourism region to international travelers. They create packages to provide to distributors, who ultimately book visitors who are interested in your destination.

So, now you know that you need to work with ITOs, but how do you get started? We’ve compiled a few tips to help you out:

Evaluate your tour products and make sure they are “export ready.” 

ITOs specialize in providing their distributors with “export-ready” products, so you need to make sure your products fit this description if you are going to form a partnership with these agents. Your product should have the following qualifications:

  • It should be an established product that has existed for at least a year.
  • It should be an affordable and valuable product.
  • It should be a product that you can deliver with consistent quality.
  • It should be offered on a regular basis.
  • It should be a unique experience that can’t be found at just any tour and activity company.

Prepare marketing products that ITOs can utilize.

You need to provide the ITOs with marketing materials for your tours and activities. This may include traditional marketing products, such as brochures and flyers that include both photographs and tour descriptions. It also may include multimedia marketing materials, such as videos that can be shared or slideshows that showcase the products you have available. Since ITOs often market to international travelers, it’s important to create marketing materials in the native language of the market segment that the ITOs and their distributors work with.

Develop a commission sheet to present to ITOs.

You need to have an inbound commission rate sheet available, and your commission rates should coincide with industry standards. You need to make your terms and conditions as clear and concise as possible.

Connect with ITOs at networking events.

Once you have prepared your products for ITO distribution channels, you need to make it a point to connect with these valuable agents. ITOs often have a presence at industry events, such as trade shows and conferences. Plan to be at several of these events throughout the year in order to meet and greet with ITOs who can connect you with niche markets around the world.

Your distribution strategy should always be a work in progress. You should continue to strive to connect with new types of agents and discover unique distribution channels. This is the only way to continue to ensure that you will increase your bookings and boost your revenue at your tour and activity company.

To learn more about creating an effective distribution strategy, download the Rezdy distribution ebook today.

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Top Distribution Channels to Utilize

  • Your business website — Enhancing your tour and activity website will help drive direct bookings, which are the most cost-effective bookings to secure. Implementing an online booking engine with a secure payment portal, while also creating a responsive design to allow mobile bookings, will help you improve your website this year.
  • Online review sites — An increasing number of travelers are relying on online review sites in order to finalize their decisions for their upcoming trips. TripAdvisor and other well-known online review sites make ideal distribution agents, as they attract a vast number of motivated travelers to their sites.
  • OTAs — Online Travel Agents, or OTAs, attract travelers who want reliable, accurate information about travel deals in one convenient location. It’s impossible for an independent tour and activity operator to compete against these high-powered travel companies, so it’s better to utilize OTAs as a distribution channel. Through a channel manager tool, you can provide OTAs with real-time information about your availability, allowing a significant number of global travelers to gain access to your company’s products.
  • Visitor Information Centres — Visitor information centres are the distribution channel that you should consider in order to increase your last-minute bookings. Many travelers will stop by the local visitor information centre in order to get information on the tours and activities that are available in the area. Through your channel manager, visitor information centres can easily book your tours and earn a commission at the same time.
  • Local Restaurants — Partner with local restaurants in order to create packages for your tours and activities that include a meal at their locations. This is an ideal way to grow your business while also promoting your destination as a whole.

Utilizing multiple distribution channels is quite simple when you implement an online booking engine that offers a channel manager.  You can update your availability in one place and it is the broadcast to your whole distribution network. This saves you time, ensures that all your agents have accurate, up-to-date information, and saves you from ever having to worry about overbooking again. As you expand your distribution network, you’ll see an increase in your bookings as well as a boost in your brand recognition. For our tips on how to prepare your business for distribution through agents, download our distribution ebook today!


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