Spark 2021 was our biggest event ever, and we are still absorbing the fascinating information from each session as well as the great feedback and reviews from our attendees. The fully remote conference took place on October 25th, 2021 where over one thousand tour and activity operators joined us for the immersive learning experience designed to get them re-inspired by the magic of the tourism industry.
We were thrilled to expand Spark into 3 events this year, with each one starting in a different time zone. Seventy countries were represented for a full day of learning, networking, and growing.
Spark left us feeling hopeful and determined to get our clients on the road back to normalcy. We have learned a lot in the past two years, living through the pandemic, and we wanted to share our main takeaways from the conference so you can apply them to your business as we move forward!
1. Google is one of the key ways to give stability and success for your business
It’s no secret that Google can help your business succeed in many different ways, especially when you’re aware of their latestproducts and updates. Over 92% of internet users prefer Google as their search engine (Statista) and 83% of people prefer to book online (Condor), so optimizing your online presence on Google and studying the data it provides will lead to more bookings.
We’re sure you heard Google products mentioned throughout Spark. This search engine is constantly improving its reporting, algorithms, advertising, and more, which are all helpful to bettering your tour or activity company. We’re taking a closer look at how Google My Business (GMB), Google Analytics, and Things to do can help your company.
We cannot stress enough how important your GMB is. That’s why one of our Rapid Sessions was completely dedicated to this platform: Playing Google’s Game: Turn Locals into Loyalists. Verifying your listing, adding quality photos, and gaining good reviews are all aspects of your GMB that will help you increase sales.
Having an up to date GMB listing with recent, positive reviews helps you create trust with potential customers as well as increase your SEO ranking factors. Did you know that 93% of consumers say that online reviews influence their purchase decisions (Qualtrics)? Your GMB may be a first impression, so great reviews are vital. Responding to each review is another way to gain credit with those potential customers. According to Trustpilot, 89% of consumers read business’ responses to reviews so this is another great tactic to increase conversions.
As always, using data to make informed decisions about your business is crucial for success. This is where Google Analytics can come into play. Our industry experts highlighted the importance of how analyzing your data can maximize your conversions. Google Analytics identifies your consumer behavior, which you can then use to optimize both your website and your FareHarbor Dashboard.
Things to do
Be on the lookout for Google’s newest product – Things to do – and leverage it to increase exposure and bookings. We were lucky to hear from Simon Lini, Strategic Partner Development Manager at Google Travel, as our Keynote Speaker this year. He discussed what the product looks like at the moment and how tour and activity operators can use it.
“I want to share Google’s goal for Things to do, ‘Being a trusted source for travelers to explore, decide and do the things that interest them in a destination’. To achieve this, we need to have panel selection, servicing your adventure in Google, offering driving referrals and bookings to your sites.”
– Simone Lini, Google Travel
2. The key to more bookings is optimization
Another theme we saw throughout Spark was an emphasis on evaluating your offerings and business model with informed decision making. Keep what works, get rid of what does not, and use optimization strategies in all areas of your business.
Optimize Your Offerings
During the Keep it Simple session we learned that customers with more choices are 10% less likely to buy (Keepitusable). Consider canceling your least popular offerings and focus on those that are most compelling to your target demographic. Too many activity options can create confusion for customers, leading them to choose a competitor. We found that companies with fewer offerings saw 17% more sales in 2020! This tactic can lead to higher revenue, with the opportunity for less costs for your business.
Optimize Your Book Form
A messy book form can also cause a decrease in conversions, which was mentioned during Your Data Your Way. A book form with too many required fields, or unclear questions will cause confusion and many potential customers will leave your site — especially if they are trying to book during non-business hours and cannot reach an associate. According to the Braynard Institute, 20% of online shoppers abandon checkout due to a long/complicated checkout process. Remember, less is more — remove any fields in your book form with information that does not need to be known right away.
Optimize Your Booking Flow
Finally, we saw during Minimum Effort, Maximum Result all the positive changes that can come from optimizing both your booking flow and your mobile site. Similar to your book form, your booking flow should be clear and concise. Highlight your most popular activities with bigger pictures and segment offerings that are similar to ensure the page is not overwhelming. In a FareHarbor case study, a business with an optimized booking flow saw a 7% increase in conversions.
Optimize You Mobile Site
Having a user-friendly mobile-site is arguably the most important aspect to your optimization strategy. We found that 82% of online bookings on FareHarbor come through mobile. Your mobile site should be a seamless process for your customers. Site speed, content structure, and no pop-ups are all a part of this. In another FarHarbor case study, one business saw a 97% increase in conversion rate after optimizing their mobile site.
“I’m really excited to continue to help build the foundation and give our operators the tools that they can use to grow their business and honestly help more people experience all the amazing things in the world.”
– Mark Loh, Fareharbor Chief Product Officer
3. Focusing on your local community is key during COVID recovery
Like last year’s Spark takeaways, a need for a local strategy is here to stay. Not only will this add to your business’s success during the pandemic, but it will also help fuel your entire community. As the country began to open up, many people were still nervous about traveling far from home. Due to this, the search terms “near me” and “close by” grew 200% over 2 years (Hubspot).
As mentioned earlier, verifying and updating your GMB helps bring in local sales. You can also utilize your Google Ads to focus more on your local strategy by setting a specific location or changing your keywords. The session School’s Out reminded tour operators to stay on top of your local schools’ break schedules so you can be prepared to capitalize on those times. Thinking proactively about winter break, spring break, and other vacations can land your business on local families’ lists of things to do. Luckily, many people have already realized the importance of the businesses in their local communities, and over the past year searches for “support local businesses” have increased by 20,000% (Hubspot)!
We heard during the Niche Tourism Roundtable how your business benefits from offering ecotourism, voluntourism, or sustainable tourism tours or activities. Just adding one offering that falls into one of those categories will help you stand out from competitors as well as support the community around you. During COVID and in years to come, it’s important to keep a focus on your town or city to help your communities thrive.
We are thrilled with what we learned from Spark 2021 and we hope you are too! We received quite a few requests for an in-person event next year, and we hope that is possible depending on the state of the pandemic. In the meantime, take what you learned from Spark and apply it to your business in the new year.
We have 940 minutes of content from the event that will all be available by January of 2022. Enjoy, absorb, and we will see you next year!