Which Review Platform Should Safari and Tour Operators Focus On?
Visiting review platforms is a part of planning a safari or tour trip. In this 21st century, no one books a safari or a tour trip before reading about past guest experiences with the company.
Reviews are, hands down, one of the best ‘marketing tools for a safari or tour company’ you can use this to encourage potential customers to book a tour with you, as it is the digital equivalent of word of mouth.
A study byTripAdvisor showed that traveler reviews remain a go-to source of information, with 72% of respondents always or frequently reading reviews before making a decision to book a tour with you or things to do.
When it comes to adding reviews to your safari or tour website, use an external review platform like TripAdvisor, Yelp!, Feefo, TrustPilot, Clutch or Google instead of creating your own system on your website.
Why Today’s tour customers are cynical? People put more value on reviews that are from an external source as they see custom-built review systems as less trustworthy as they are easier to manipulate.
Reviews also have a positive effect on your SEO. It is said that reviews can account for close to 10% of your safari and tour-related search rankings so it is worth considering when choosing your review platform to attract more customers for your safari and tour business.
Some safari and tour business owners have spoken that put off review systems because they don’t want to be rejected and deal with any negative reviews that will come in (and, believe me, you will get them as you simply can’t please everyone).
Sometimes this is suspected that this kind of safari and tour business owner may subconsciously feel they are delivering substandard tour services.
Deep down, you know you need to improve the customer experience of your safari brand and you don’t want those negative reviews popping up on search results. You may also just be a perfectionist tour operator, but I’d like to remind you that nothing is perfect and the pursuit of ‘perfection’ can often get in the way of a good, functioning safari or tour website.
The only way you can be sure that you are delivering the best virtual tour experience that your potential customers love is to give them a review platform to tell you. Even if you receive some negative reviews, this can actually help your safari business.
Remember what I said a few moments ago: customers are cynical; if they see a tour company with nothing but 5-star reviews they automatically think the reviews are false. But if you have a few moderate to negative reviews, and you have responded to these in a positive way, it helps show that you care about your customers’ feelings.
So, with that in mind, which review platform should you use for your safari or tour business?
I would usually recommend that safari or tour businesses go where their target customers are. However, if I had to put my money on only one the-one that I consider ‘future proof’ then it would be Google.
I say this for many reasons. As I mentioned previously, Google reviews have a positive effect on your rankings as it’s the largest search engine in the world. Also remember that Google owns the second largest search engine: YouTube.
However, these are not the main reasons why I’m suggesting that Google should be your main review platform for your safari business. The main reason is because of Google Things To Do Suggestion.
For those who don’t know, Google has been working on a new way to display tours, activities and attractions on its search results pages. Now, when a traveller searches for things to do at a certain location, they will see a list of experiences, through things to do also you will attract more visitors to your safari or tour website.
This new way of displaying activities will help guests choose and book a tour. To complete the booking process they will be redirected to the supplier’s safari website.
Google’s 5-star rating system is used on Things To Do to help users with their choice. So, it is better to have Google as your main review platform if you want to increase your chances to receive a booking using this new feature.
In my opinion, these changes by Google will put the control back into the tour operators’ hands. It also means that the high commissions that some of the Online Travel Agents (OTAs) currently take from safari and tour operators will be bypassed. Whether or not this is good news to you depends on how much, or how little, you currently rely on OTAs to sell your tours and safaris.
Google’s big changes have caused panic in many OTAs; is it any surprise that the likes of TripAdvisor and Safari bookings have been acquiring booking platforms? They are trying to make themselves as big and influential as possible transforming themselves into comprehensive tourism hubs.
However, what I do find interesting, if a little strange, is that the likes of TripAdvisor Experiences will also be integrated into Google Things To Do. For me, having an Online Travel Aggregator integrated with Google. in this way is bad news for suppliers.
Ultimately, the benefits of using Google Things To Do totally depend on the nature of the tour you’re selling, its location, and its price. It also depends on the quality of your safari and tour website.
If you’re selling a tour or safari product that is already quite well known, then giving users the opportunity to find it on a Google search engine results page can be a great way to add another touch-point between you and your potential customer.
It can make it even easier for busy (or lazy…) customers to book your tour without the added time required to compare the price between different tour operators and agents.
Google is one of the most popular review platforms out there. Asking for reviews for your tour and safari business will be a no-brainer as everyone has a Google account and knows how to use it.
Another benefit to Google Things To Do is that direct bookings have a privileged position on the listing. They are labeled as “In-person tickets” and come on the top of the widget.
The last benefit I would like to discuss is that Google Things To Do is absolutely free at the moment, with no commission going to Google. This may change in the future, so we recommend taking advantage of it while it’s free.
This is why I suggest that a tour operator’s main review platforms should be Google and TripAdvisor. If you have time to manage other platforms, Safari Bookings and Facebook are the other two I would suggest, but drive the bulk of your reviews through the largest search engine on the planet.
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