Did you know that personal recommendations are the number one driver of consumer purchase decisions? And 93% of global travelers say their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews?
So there’s no doubt that online referrals and reviews should be an important part of your promotional strategy. But the hard truth is that most tour operators are actually notoriously bad at getting more referrals despite the massive number of qualified leads that they can generate.
The good news is, thanks to social media, the question of how to get customer reviews is so much easier than it used to be. In this post we will share a strategic approach for how to get more referrals for your tour business.
How to get online reviews and referrals: seven steps for tour operators
1. Data is everything. Make sure you gather data on everyone who books with you, so you can follow up with a referral request. (If you use booking software this is automatically done for you).
2. Target where needed. If you’re short on resources, think strategically about who you target for reviews. First-timers are more likely to refer than repeat visitors, simply because the novelty of the experience makes them more likely to share. What’s more, natural leaders or talkers in your group are more likely to talk you up, too.
3. Start by asking for feedback. Not only is this a great way of defusing negative reviews before they get posted, it forms a powerful precursor to asking for a referral. Once a customer has articulated the things they’ve enjoyed about your tour, it’s an easy next step to create a review.
4. Get your timing right. Ask for a referral or review as soon as possible after your customer has completed their tour or experience.
5. Make reviews easy. Follow up with a link to TripAdvisor or your Facebook page.
6. Incentivise. Consider the merits of incenting your customers to make referrals. For instance, customers could receive a discount or go into a draw in return for leaving an online review.
7. Choose your channels. Need to increase your TripAdvisor ranking? Want to increase traffic to your Facebook page and get more facebook reveiws? Direct your customers to leave their reviews where you need them most.
See below for our top tips on which tourism review sites to target. Here we look at the two main big hitters: TripAdvisor and Facebook, plus a handful of lesser-known alternatives.
TripAdvisor: your first stop for tour reviews and referrals
With over 26 million unique monthly visitors, and an average of 90 reviews submitted every minute, TripAdvisor is a must for most tour operators. But how do you make it work for you? It's important to understand how to use TripAdvisor to your advantage. Here’s our advice on how to increase your ranking:
Like Google, TripAdvisor uses a closely-guarded algorithm to create its scores and rankings. One of the most powerful is their popularity index, which we know is based on three key ingredients: the quality, quantity, and recency of reviews, with the average customer score being by far the biggest factor. (See the chart below from analytics company Revinate).
What does this tell us? That to nail TripAdvisor's Popularity Index, the quality of your customer experience is far more important than the volume of customer reviews that you get. So, get your customer experience nailed, deal with dissatisfied customers before they leave your premises, and focus on quality over quantity when it comes to referrals.
(Oh, and a word to the wise: never, ever fabricate a TripAdvisor review. The content team regularly screens reviews, and a fake review can have a massive negative impact on your ranking)
Review Sites: Alternatives To TripAdvisor and Facebook
If you don’t feel like putting all your eggs in the gargantuan basket that is TripAdvisor, there are plenty of alternatives. Here are a few of our favourites:
An upmarket site that specialises in tour reviews and planning.
Specialising in group tours, visitors can read reviews and book online.
Sets itself apart by allowing visitors to search by ‘tribes’ and find referrals and reviews from people like them.
Is a large search and reviews marketplace for tours and adventure experiences.
How to get more Facebook Referrals
Facebook is a great way to connect with customers, but did you know you can also use it to get referrals? Here’s how.
Make sure you have a Facebook page set up for your business.
Always connect with past customers on Facebook. There are a number of creative ways you can do this: a promotional offer, sharing tour photos, or setting up a group.
Ask past customers for Facebook reviews.
Create a post asking people to think about a friend that would enjoy your tour, and ask them to tag a friend in the comments.
Consider sweetening the deal with a prize or offer that goes to the referrer and the new prospect.
And if you're interested in knowing how your referral campaign is performing (and you should be!), here’s how to track Facebook referrals via Google Analystics.
The low season is the perfect time to kick off your referral strategy. Download our 7-step action plan for tour operations and learn how to make the most of the quieter months.
Booking Boss is an online booking system for tour operators and attraction providers. Trusted by many in the tourism industry, Booking Boss is about getting you out of the spreadsheets and into the sun. We provide free education resources for operators like you, to make your business the best it can possibly be.