We know there are a lot small tourism businesses that have stayed offline, but we're here to tell you that the internet is here to stay and if you want the same for your business, you need to jump online.
It's been three years since Google told us that the internet ranks as the top source for travel planning used by 74% of leisure travellers. Don't have a website? You're missing out on three quarters of the leisure travelling population. Oh, and that percentage is only getting larger as the years go by.
The good news
You don't need a complex, fancy website. A simple, informative website with key details and no frills will do just fine. And yes, websites really can be simple.
Sure, complex websites can cost a pretty penny if they have fancy features and a team of people to keep them running, but most small tourism businesses don’t need all that.
The truth is, all you really need is:
- A website host
- A domain name
- Some key information about your business (see below) and,
- A way for customers to book or purchase your services or products (see below)
A website host
A website host is essentially a service or platform that will help you build and host your website. Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and WordPress are the most common website builders, and Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms. Pricing ranges from free (usually with limited features and no custom domain name) to about $10 USD a month.
A domain name
This is your website’s address, ie. stormfreeawesometours.com. We recommended that you purchase a custom domain name for several reasons: it make you look more legitimate and professional, and it’s easier for consumers to remember. The cost of domain names can vary, but it’s usually around $10 USD a year. You can purchase them through your website host or on a domain site.
Once you’ve got a website host and domain name, the next thing you need to do is the most important thing your website does: provide key information on your services. A good tourism business website should have the following:
Detailed product descriptions.
o You really want to compel the customer to book (without giving away your trade secrets). Use vivid language, tell your product’s story, and be clear about what’s in it for the customer.
o Visuals are what sell travel. High quality photos that accurately showcase your tour or activity are essential to securing those bookings. Selling travel online is tough. It relies on consumers trusting what they see and read online enough that they want to purchase it. Generally speaking you can’t try-before-you-buy when it comes to tours and activities (although VR is trying to change that). For now, your best tool for selling your experience is a library of excellent images. Excellent images are great value because they have a long, versatile life. You can use images on your website, on social media posts, on brochures, in advertising (print and digital), on business cards, on third-party distribution sites.
An easy-to-navigate layout.
o Don’t make things needlessly complicated. Make it easy and clear for customers to read and find things on your website. Most basic website builders will guide you along this path by offering themes (website structures, if you will) that are clean and concise.
o Customer reviews are critical to convincing customers to book with you. A TrustYou survey found that a whopping 95% of respondents read reviews before booking (Tnooz, 2015).
o Most basic website builders will give you the ability to have a mobile-friendly (or responsive) website without you having to do any extra work. Keep in mind that 83% of leisure travellers have encountered a travel site that was not mobile optimised or friendly and only 23% of those have actually pushed through (Think with Google, 2014), meaning you’ll lose out on potential customers if you haven’t ensured your site is mobile-friendly.
o SEO can get extremely complex, but at its most basic level, it refers to the ability and likelihood of search engines pointing searchers towards your site. Given that leisure travellers are increasingly turning to search engines first vs. brand sites / apps for online trip planning (Think with Google, 2014), you want to ensure that your basic SEO is covered. To do so, ensure that your site has proper meta-tags set up. Most basic website builders will guide you through this. Once that’s down, you can add layers to your SEO efforts as you see fit, but definitely don’t ignore it altogether: tourism operators estimate that 47% of traffic to their websites comes from search engines. (Tourism Research Australia, 2013).
Finally, the last thing you need (and the second most important thing your website should do) is the ability for customers to book or purchase your services or products. More than half of travel reservations are made online (Statistic Brain, 2016), and customers enjoy the convenience of booking online, evidenced by the 30 – 40% increase in bookings tour and activity providers tend to see after implementing an online booking system (TrekkSoft, 2016).
Even if your tours, activities, hotel rooms, etc are available to book on other sites, like OTAs, it's still worthwhile to have them bookable on your own site. Not only will you avoid paying a commission to the OTA, but 65% of consumers booking online do so on the brand’s own website (Statistic Brain, 2016), indicating that consumers prefer booking directly with the company. If you allow bookings on your site, not only are you more likely to secure the booking over an OTA, you’ll keep more of the profits.
Bonus: additional content
If all you want to have is a basic website, then the above points will cover you. If you want to up the ante a little bit, add some additional content to your site. This could be a blog, your Instagram feed, or some static (or "evergreen") content (such as things to do in your destination) that provides value and requires little maintenance from you.
Basic Websites for Small Tourism Businesses
We're developing a short-and-sweet course that'll teach you how to do it all! In our Basic Websites for Small Tourism Businesses course we'll show you how to easily set up and maintain a super simple website, ensuring you don't miss out on any more customers.
Don't want to DIY? We can DIFY! (Ahem, that's 'do it for you').
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you're looking for and we'll discuss!