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Six Trends To Help You Navigate The New Digital Market

This year will be the time to reinvent and reconnect. As travel restrictions lift with the help of vaccines and other technological advancements, we must rethink old methods and keep our customers at the center of every decision.

To help kick start your digital marketing strategy revamp, we’ve identified six digital marketing trends for 2021 and how to take advantage of them.

1. Shake Up Your PPC Platforms.

Incorporating new platforms into your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing strategy will keep you ahead of the curve in 2021. Google Ads, the most widely used PPC platform, revealed an increased reliance on machine learning in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down over the coming year.

If you are actively running PPC campaigns, consider experimenting with different platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok. Identify where your target audience spends the most time and start by testing and comparing one or two new platforms.

Bonus Tip: Take this opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone by going beyond text-based ads and playing with visual elements like images and videos!

2. Digital Connections Are Genuine Connections.

Connecting with your customers actually happens long before they arrive at your business and keeping a pulse on your online presence is one of the most effective ways to keep them coming back for more. Creating a social media gameplan is essential, but understanding how to appeal to the changing needs of your customers is the most important strategy of all.

Try to approach your social media management the same way you would an in-person conversation. Listen to your customers, colleagues, and neighbors to engage in an authentic conversation based on what you hear. Be empathetic in your response and prepare to adapt your gameplan at any time. If you want to dive deeper into social listening, try a free trial of a tool like Sprout or Sprinklr to see if it’s right for your business.

3. Automations Are Your New Best Friend.

When our normal routines are disrupted, the simplest tasks can easily slip through the cracks. Give yourself peace of mind in knowing that certain tasks will always be taken care of with the help of automation. From automating welcome messages for new subscribers who join your email list to streamlining important safety and operational updates for your existing subscribers, automation tools can help ensure you never again have to worry about checking certain tasks off your to-do list again.

If you’re new to automation, start by checking out Zapier, which can connect to your FareHarbor Dashboard to enable the easy transfer of information from other tools you use to run your business. Discover how FareHarbor’s integration with Zapier can streamline your day-to-day operations and communications!

4. Search Intent Will Drive It Home.

In 2021, the quickest route to a winning search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will start by putting search intent in the driver’s seat. The top-ranking sites on a search engine results page understand what their audience wants to find. SEO fundamentals like using schema makeup and structured data and writing meta descriptions with best practices in mind have not completely gone out the window — they’re just enjoying life in the passenger seat on this year’s SEO journey.

To leverage search intent in your SEO strategy, start by analyzing what you find on the first page of Google when searching for the keywords and phrases you want to rank for. By digging into the content that already ranks well for a particular query, you will see which topics and subtopics are worth expanding on in your own content and you’ll also get an idea of adequate content length and page type. Take this trend a step further by writing content to address users’ concerns, simplifying your site navigation, and adopting an approachable writing style aimed at attracting humans first, search engines second.

5. Take Things Personally.
When you check your personal inbox, are you more likely to open the impersonal emails with generic subject lines or those that seem addressed specifically to you and answer your individual needs and concerns? We promise, your audience wants the same! One of the best ways to get personal is to use their name in the email subject line, increasing your email’s chances of being opened by 25%, according to Campaign Monitor.

Hyper-personalization takes this trend to the next level by adjusting your email marketing strategy to write different versions of emails for various segments of your email list. Leveraging data-based insights can help you create different content based on location, interests, age, and past tours/activities they’ve booked.

Bonus Tip: Try mixing a few text-only emails into your regular email schedule. Eye-catching visuals will always be an important principle of email marketing, but text-only emails can give your audience the feeling of receiving a personal email, like one from a friend or family member!

6. Virtual and Hybrid Experiences Will Stay in Play..
Whether you’re already offering fully or partially virtual experiences, or you’re still considering testing the waters, it’s safe to say the demand for virtual and hybrid experiences will remain strong well into 2021. With the safety concerns of the pandemic not quite behind us, virtual events like cooking classes and at-home crafting tutorials, and hybrid events like self-guided beer tastings and walking tours can open your offerings to new audiences and new revenue streams.

With so many options available, the best way to stand out in this growing market is by rethinking traditional virtual engagement tactics. Consider which parts of your tours and activities best engage guests and how you can adapt them to a virtual or hybrid experience. From incorporating a live stream on your social media to leveraging the newest technology for self-guided tours, there is always a new method to test! For more inspiration, check out our Virtual Experience guides on FareHarbor Compass.

When considering how your business can leverage these digital marketing trends, don’t lose sight of the most important strategies of all – reinventing and reconnecting.

Trend Alert: Top Activities for 2021

Our Booking Data Reveals Next Year’s Most Popular Activity Types

The events of 2020 provided a sharp reminder that nothing is guaranteed. With distant adventures out of the question, we turned closer to home and found a renewed appreciation for the experiences waiting just outside our doors. While we have become experts at seeking out activities that are safe enough for our enjoyment right now, we still can’t resist looking ahead.

So, we asked ourselves: What types of activities will we seek out in the new year?

To answer this question, we consulted FareHarbor’s own booking data to gain deeper insight into the top activities for 2021. From summer to winter, oceans to mountains, leisurely to adventurous — these are the activities we will see trending throughout the new year:

1. All About Experiences: Exhibits & Attractions

Local attractions like aquariums, museums, and zoos provide a delightful combination of entertainment and education, while new measures such as reduced capacity and strict sanitation policies provide peace of mind for guests. Before COVID-19, attraction bookings already accounted for roughly half of all bookings seen across the tour, activity, and attractions industry. With the added help of creative adaptations like drive-through experiences and timed entry, attractions operators have proven they’ll continue to innovate to ensure you and your family can share new experiences together.

2. Just Add H2O: Boat & Water Activities

Few activities spell “adventure” quite like the open water. The natural lack of crowds makes most water activities an easy way for you to get out there while staying safe. By operating in small groups and private charters, boat tours gain a significant advantage in keeping up with the latest safety guidelines. Many travelers plan to spend time fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, and snorkeling in 2021, especially as temperatures start to warm up in the spring and summer. Experiences on the water are popular all across the United States’ coasts, major lakes, and throughout Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Australia.

3. The Chill Factor: Snow-Powered Excursions

Winter is always the perfect time to escape to the mountains or enjoy a wonderland of fresh snow, and 2021 will be no different. Experiences like snowmobiling, dog sledding, and skiing will prove that snow-powered and socially-distanced easily go hand-in-hand. With measures like limited group sizes and plenty of space to spread out, many winter activities are ready to adapt to keep travelers safe. We anticipate the steady popularity of dog sledding tours in Alaska, snowmobile tours in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, and ski adventures in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, and Minnesota to continue to increase this year.

4. Sights, Camera, Action: Outdoor Adventures

With the proven health benefits that being outside can bring, it’s no surprise that the demand for all things outdoors will only gain more traction in 2021. Adventure activities like hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, and ATV adventures are most popular in locations like Utah, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Arizona, and British Columbia. But you don’t have to travel far or live in close proximity to a national park to get outside! Sightseeing tours will continue to be enjoyed through many modes of transportation, from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle to a stroll or roll on your own. We will see the continued shift in 2021 toward private and self-guided sightseeing tours, allowing you to discover new destinations and cultures on your own terms, with the help of pre-planned routes and expert tips, of course! With 97% of people learning more about local businesses online than anywhere else, you might even be surprised at how many adventure and sightseeing activities are available “near you!”

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen that resilience is directly tied to success and that the most adaptable operators have been the most successful. Through solutions like private tours, drive-through experiences, and adherence to health and safety guidelines, tour and activity operators continue to find creative methods to provide the experiences travelers are looking for while keeping them safe. In 2021, this will be more important than ever as people start to plan their future adventures.

For more resources on how to market your offerings during this time, check out FareHarbor Compass.

Shared Experiences Ignite Progress at FareHarbor Spark: Our Top 3 Takeaways

On October 19 and 20, 2020, over 800 tour, activity, and attraction professionals embraced the opportunity to revitalize the tourism industry at FareHarbor Spark. The fully-virtual event united diverse perspectives from more than 30 countries around the world, encouraging attendees to challenge one another to find sustainable solutions to adapt to the year’s unprecedented challenges and reimagine a more inclusive future for our industry.

Attendees were eager to come together to explore new ideas from industry thought leaders, connect through shared experiences with peers, and ignite the spark to rebuild our industry at FareHarbor’s third-annual conference. Check out our top takeaways from this immersive two-day event!

1. Demand for local, “COVID-safe” activities is here to stay.

Though we may not be able to venture far from home during these times of uncertainty, the basic human desire to seek out new experiences persists. As a result of COVID-19, our definition of exploring has shifted from flying to a far-off destination to packing up the car and taking a closer look at our local surroundings.

Eight out of ten bookings processed in July, August, and September were for locals — people that live within 250 miles of the activity they booked. This was a huge increase, almost double what we saw in 2019.

— Ted Clements, COO, FareHarbor

In his Industry Insights session, Clements explained that this snapshot of local demand only paints half the picture. The remainder is driven by an activity’s perceived safety level as consumers seek out activities they feel comfortable engaging in during this pandemic. In fact, demand for local and perceived “COVID-safe” activities is up 95% year over year, and we don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon. 

Knowing that the appeal of local, safe activities will remain strong in 2021, it’s important to ask yourself, “how can I appeal to my safety-conscious neighbors?” As a business owner, remember that you are also a consumer. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can better understand how to appeal to their needs during this time.

Confidence converts! FareHarbor makes it easy to support the demand for“COVID-safe” activities by adding clear communication of your health & safety policies throughout the booking process.

2. Resilience is directly tied to success.

This year’s challenges have pushed the boundaries of our adaptability, both as individuals and as an industry. From turning your kitchen table into an office and celebrating life’s milestones over video calls, to implementing contactless technology and redefining your company’s training procedures, we’ve all had to adjust to extraordinary new challenges.

Of the operators surveyed at Spark, 68% said they’ve become more flexible as a result of COVID-19, and we hope this trend continues. During these unprecedented times, businesses that have been able to adapt most efficiently have seen the most success. Whether it’s shifting your schedule to offer more private options or redesigning your offerings to be more flexible, your ability to adapt may be your greatest defense against future bumps in the road.

It comes down to the willingness to try new things and the ability to take new concepts, new ideas and get them into the marketplace at scale… When I think of thought leaders and pioneers in the industry, I think of FareHarbor and the [operators] that use FareHarbor.

— David King, Senior Director of Global Account Management & Sales, Viator

When crafting your own adaptation strategy, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your business, your customers, and solutions that will allow you to keep up with the changing times while staying true to your mission and identity. After all, the collective strength of our industry lies in the unique nature of our individual businesses.

Learn how to adapt to any circumstance! Check out FareHarbor Compass, our extensive, free resource library available exclusively to FareHarbor users for insightful strategies on the most important challenges facing your business today.

3. Profit and principle are not mutually exclusive.

It’s no coincidence that two of our highest attended sessions at Spark tackled the pressing social topics of diversity and inclusion and sustainability. In a thought-provoking roundtable discussion, industry leaders from Booking.com, Black Travel Alliance, and Invisible Cities explored accessible approaches to creating a more inclusive industry, while publishing powerhouse and sustainability pioneer, Lonely Planet, encouraged us to consider how even the smallest actions can help reduce the travel industry’s environmental impact.

As an industry, we must hold ourselves accountable for the wellbeing of the diverse communities, cultures, and environments that inspire us to travel. At Spark, we aimed to provide actionable resources for attendees to better themselves, their businesses, and the lives of those who depend on them (and yes, we believe that you can accomplish each goal without sacrificing the other)!

The benefits of creating a more open, accepting, and environmentally-responsible industry speak for themselves, but your bottom line can benefit from embracing diversity and protecting our planet at the same time. By creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all employees and potential customers, you can tap into entirely new or previously undeserved market segments. Your commitment to sustainability ensures that future generations have the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of our planet and appeals to the increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer.

Start small. It can start with a conversation within your organization.

– Zakia Moulaoui, CEO, Invisible Cities

If you’re not sure where to begin, simply opening up a dialogue within your business can be a great first step. Now is the time to take a step back and reevaluate your approach to inclusivity and sustainability, knowing that even the smallest changes help to improve our industry and lead to a more prosperous travel industry for all.

Looking Forward

Although we were not able to gather in person this year, we learned that Spark’s shift to virtual was a major opportunity to connect with and empower an even larger, more diverse audience than ever before. We were reminded that our desire to connect has not been dampened by an inability to meet face-to-face, and that tour, activity, and attraction businesses are more resilient and eager than ever to build a brighter future for the industry we share.

FareHarbor Spark may be over, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to better ourselves, our businesses, and our industry has passed us by. We believe that every one of us has a role to play in revitalizing tourism and that together, we can turn challenges into opportunities.

Ignite your Spark!
All sessions are available on-demand through the Spark Platform through November 30, and will later be made available on FareHarbor Compass.

FareHarbor Stories of Creativity, Innovation, and Resilience

To showcase the creativity and resiliency of our industry, we looked to our FareHarbor Ohana to find businesses that are adapting and providing fresh perspectives for coping with the current pandemic. We’ll continue to update this inspirational list with companies that are paving the way with their innovative thinking. If your business has something to share, be sure to let us know!

Badge Criteria

Re-imagining services as virtual or online experiences
Demonstrating unique ways to connect with local customers
Leveraging social media to increase engagement opportunities

The Rustic Brush Gives Us a Fresh Canvas (And Perspective)

For a company that provides a social crafting experience during a time of social distancing, Tanya and the team at The Rustic Brush had to use their creativity in a different way. In order to keep customers and families engaged at home, they created take-home DIY kits containing all the necessary tools to unleash your inner artist. In addition, being a family of first responders, The Rustic Brush partnered with the Houston Food Bank to launch the Thank a Hero and Feed a Family Project through which $5 of every purchase goes to the Food Bank to help feed families at this time.

All Things Garmisch Offers A Crisp & Refreshing Bavarian Experience

At the onset of booking and changes cancellations, Jake at All Things Garmisch & Bavarian Beer Vacations went straight to Facebook Live to communicate with his customers and potential buyers quickly. After receiving a positive response from his outreach, Jake took his history of beer and natural story-telling ability online by providing brief history lessons through his social media which eventually turned into Virtual Tours. It was at one of these Virtual Tours that sparked Jake’s next idea to keep customers engaged. To cater to the beer lovers and aficionados around the world, he began connecting with the local breweries to curate weekly care packages from the unique Bavarian breweries in the area to give you truly a unique and refreshing experience.

Casanova Tours Creates Virtual Tours You Can Taste

As a local, family-owned and operated business, Giuseppe and the Casanova Tour team acted quickly to cater their tour offerings to a global audience. The solution: create an immersive experience that allows you to enjoy Venice’s beautiful culture and cuisine from the comfort of your own home. Casanova Tours offers live cooking classes that provide customers with the proper ingredients and then connects them with local chefs to make some of Italy’s most renowned dishes. The result: a unique and delicious experience that gives you a true taste of Venice.

Unlimited Biking Launches #RideItOut

We spoke to Annie Zou, Director of Sales at Unlimited Biking, about their refreshing approach to adapting their business model to support their local communities. As the largest, premier bike rental tours and experiences company in the US, Unlimited Biking found themselves with extra rental inventory on- hand amidst recent stay-at-home orders. At first, they began by giving their employees access to the bikes to help them avoid public transportation and provide an additional means of exercise. This idea quickly evolved to what is now the #RideItOut program, which allows customers to take advantage of long-term bike rentals at a discounted rate based on the local metro and subway fares in each city. The decision to pivot their business became a big hit with residents in their communities and Unlimited Biking has stated they plan to continue to program long-term.

Underground Donut Tours Supports First Responders

Jeff Woelker found a creative way to combine two of his favorite things: good donuts and a good cause. While the majority of us find ourselves in a state of self-quarantine and remote work, Woelker wanted to create awareness and build support for the first responders and individuals on the frontlines. Fueled by his passion (and consumption) of donuts, Woelker created the #DonutsForHeroes campaign, which allows you to send donuts from your local shop to another essential business. His campaign enables communities to support local donut shops while also expressing gratitude for the self-sacrifice of others. You can get involved by visiting https://www.donutsforheroes.com/

Lyon Wine Tastings Goes Virtual

Who doesn’t enjoy a good Wine Wednesday? As signs of quarantine and social distancing hinted that this could be the new norm, we spoke to Caroline Conner of Lyon Wine Tastings, who transformed her intimate, local wine tastings into  online experiences. By offering free, virtual BYOB wine tastings, Conner can continue to share her passion and knowledge of wine by educating participants on wine tasting techniques, while also creating a platform that fosters interaction and engagement at a time when it’s needed the most. Her ability to quickly adapt to the changing times created social buzz that earned Conner a spotlight in the New York Times.

FareHarbor Recommended Resources to Follow

Supporting you throughout this time comes in many forms. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is ensuring that our Customer Support teams are always available, 24/7, to assist with any Dashboard or business inquiries. This also means sharing tips, resources, and updates that allow you to be better informed and prepared.

For your convenience, we have been adding to our Help Center and Compass libraries, new resources that you can follow along for updates. In addition, we will continually update this page with relevant information including FareHarbor tips and best practices, industry insights, and useful examples from our fellow tour and activity operators.

Financial Resources 

  • Our Guide to Small Business Loans: If you’re planning on applying for a small business loan but not sure where to begin, this guide will provide an overview of common small business loans (Americas). Please visit our Help Center to learn more about specific loan details available in your Region (Americas & Global), State or City. 
  • SBA Disaster assistance: The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Small Business Relief Tracker: In an effort to help business owners & tour operators find financial relief, here is a running list of all of the government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations that are extending support.

Business & Marketing Tips 

Industry Insights, Expertise, & News

  • Guidelines & Best Practices for Reopening: provided by the International Association of Amusement Parks  (IAAPA), this 30+ page guide covers sanitation, social distancing, capacity management and much more which can be applied to reopening your tours and activities.
  • Tourpreneur: Subscribe to Shane Whaley’s TourPreneur podcasts where he provides extensive coverage and actionable tips to better arm tour operators during this time. We recommend subscribing to both his email newsletter and to look for his latest podcast.
    • Whaley hosted this podcast with guest and industry veteran, Peter Syme, to discuss a battle plan to deal with the impact of the Coronavirus on our tour businesses. 
  • Arival: Our friends at Arival recently held a Town Hall discussion with leading tour and activity operators regarding the current landscape. If you were unable to attend, you can visit this page to access the key takeaways, download the findings from their recent survey, or watch the recorded version. 
  • Live Blogs: 
    • Skift’s Live Blog: Since January, Skift has been monitoring the COVID-19 impact on the travel and tourism industry. Their blog is regularly updated to reflect the latest news about coronavirus and its impact on hotels, airlines, cruise lines, tourism destinations, and other sectors of the travel industry.
    • PhocusWire’s Live Blog: PhocusWire’s live blog also includes their own extensive coverage and contains articles and commentary from their sister brands in the Northstar Travel Group (in meetings, retail travel and business travel), WebInTravel, and updates from reliable news outlets and official government/agency bulletins.

Sources for Inspiration

  • Virtual Tours: The growing need for social distancing has introduced the emergence of virtual tours! Both Forbes and Insider covered several tour companies and attractions that started offering virtual tours or seminars that customers can do in the comfort of their own homes.  
  • How We Can Help the Travel & Tourism industry: We all have a role to play, here is how we can help the Travel and  Tourism industry during this crisis. 
  • Connect with Facebook Groups: If there is one thing the last few weeks have shown us, it’s that we are a strongly-knit community. Whether you want to start a discussion or provide your own advice, there are several Facebook groups and forums available for you to connect with other tour operators such as Tour Operators United and Tour Activity Owners Worldwide.
  • Client Testimonials: In the coming weeks, we will spotlight several of our fellow tour operators who are adapting, innovating, and providing new perspectives during this time.
    • Caroline Conner, Lyon Wine Tasting: Adjusting to the recent norm of social distancing, Caroline has begun offering virtual happy hours to provide educational content and keep customers engaged. Best of all, it’s currently free to join! 

COVID-19: Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions

As media coverage has increased over the course of the last few days, we’ve received several questions and inquiries about the status of FareHarbor and guidance on next steps. While we will continue to monitor the situation closely, our goal is to provide you with the most current information, as it relates to FareHarbor and address any questions you may have at this time.

Please note: this blog will continually be updated with the latest news and information

Q: Will there be any changes to FareHarbor’s support hours?

A: Our number one goal is to stand by your side through this unknown time. Our Support team will continue to be available 24/7 and FareHarbor will continue operating normal hours.

Q: Where is the best place to find information and resources?

A: If you aren’t already, follow our social media accounts for additional information. We’ll be posting about ways you can manage your Dashboard as well as resources to manage your business

There are also great Dashboard resources available through our Help Center as well as business strategy topics through FareHarbor Compass

Q: How are refunds processed to me and my customers?

A: Full refunds are free in FareHarbor. Any fees associated with the payment will be returned back to both you and the customer.

  • For partial refunds, FareHarbor will keep the booking fee and refund a portion of the credit card processing fee based on the amount being refunded.

Q: I issued a refund, how long does that take?

A: The amount of time it takes for your customers to see the refund on their card depends on their bank, as well as how the refund was issued.

  • Refunds from your FareHarbor Future Payouts balance or Refund Reserve are processed right away. In these cases, it will usually take customers 3 to 5 business days to see the refunded amount on their card.

  • Refunds funded from your bank account (available for US banks only) typically take 6 to 10 business days to appear on the customer’s card.

Q: What are my options instead of issuing a full refund?

A: You can easily offer your customer a gift card for the value of the original booking to use at any time in the future. To do this, all you need to do is locate the original booking and rebook the customer into your gift card Item. This will cancel the original booking and send them an email with a gift card for the value or their bookings.

Q: Can I issue a refund or rebook multiple bookings at the same time?

A: Rebookings, cancellations, and refunds will need to be done per each individual booking.

Q: Can I email all clients on the same availability at once?

Definitely! This is a great way to save time and notify all customers on an availability in one step. You can do this by navigating to your Bookings calendar and into the settings of the availability you want to email.

Q: Where can I find industry-related resources?

A: Right here! We’ll be keeping up with industry topics and updating links below:

  • Disaster Loan Assistance: Asking for help reveals strength, not weakness. Low-interest disaster loans for Businesses are being provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Find out more here!

> If you have any additional questions you would like us to answer, please submit them to support@fareharbor.com.

How to Adapt and Prepare for Travelers’ Coronavirus Concerns

You have undoubtedly been keeping up with the media coverage and articles surrounding the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is unclear exactly how much the travel and tourism industry will be affected, or how long this will continue, but it is clear that this industry is resilient and will bounce back stronger than ever. In the meantime, it’s important to consider how our industry can adapt to the current circumstances and prepare as much as possible. 

We want all of you to know that we stand alongside you every step of the way and, as always, remain committed to best-in-class service and support! Beyond your support system at FareHarbor, we’ve gathered the following tips to help your business and customers during this time. 

1. Encourage Local Tourism

Even though we’re seeing a decrease in international travel, you can still run your tours and activities by encouraging local tourism and incentivizing local customers to book with you. Reaching out to your community is a great way to keep operations up and running, especially since there is no travel needed for local guests to participate. 

Drive bookings by offering a discount to people who might be looking for local gems they haven’t discovered yet. Invest in your local marketing initiatives rather than those that aim to reach a broader audience to better allocate your resources. Consider taking out advertisements in area newspapers, posting on local online directories, or targeting specific areas with Facebook ads or other social media campaigns. You can even get creative and hang flyers in places like restaurants, bars, bus stations, and parks.

2. Get Ahead of Cancellations

There will inevitably be customers looking to cancel their reservations during this time. Make sure you are prepared to handle the influx and have a process in place. When possible, always try to offer a credit or rebooking over a refund. You can utilize gift cards as a form of credit that will allow customers to book whenever they want in the future, while you keep the revenue. 

Most importantly, when it comes to cancellations surrounding these extenuating circumstances, make sure to be understanding and flexible when working with customers. It hurts to lose out on reservations, but providing your customers with a positive experience makes it much more likely they will want to come back in the future.

3. Provide Clear Communication

Although it may seem best to reduce communication touchpoints at times like these,  it is important to continue providing clear communication with your existing and future customers. This can be in the form of emails to upcoming reservations explaining the status of your operations, or making sure your cancellation policies are clear and updated in all locations on your website and book form. 

You can also incorporate communication through your website, including announcement banners, informational pages with updates, and blog posts. Consider including things in your communication like the status of your activities, steps you are taking to ensure the safety of customers, as well as how you plan to handle future cancellations and rebookings. 

If you are a FareHarbor client, we strongly recommend adding a Health & Safety policy to your Dashboard. This will inform prospective guests about the steps you are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your place of business.

4. Band Together

Collaborate with other local operators in your area who are likely going through the same situation you’re facing. When multiple operators in a particular region or industry work together, it can boost the entire region and the local economy  A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say! You can even support each other by signing up for the FareHarbor Distribution Network to easily resell local operators’ tours.

We hope these tips will help you prepare and adapt your business practices during this economically challenging time. Please remember that the health, wellness, and safety of your employees and customers should always be your top priorities. For further updates on the current coronavirus outbreak, please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization (WHO)  for the latest news. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at FareHarbor for additional support.

5 Must-Know Tips for Getting the Most Out of FareHarbor Conference

So you’re coming to FareHarbor Conference. Now what? Whether you’re a Dashboard master or just starting out with FareHarbor, we’ve got your back with our tried-and-true tips for how to do FareHarbor Conference right.

1. Map out which sessions you want to attend in advance.

Set a goal for what you’d like to learn at the conference and save yourself time on October 28 by working out in advance which presentations will help you reach that goal. Review the FHC schedule, and plan your day around the session topics you find to be the most beneficial. Come to FHC feeling prepared, but allow a little room for the unexpected.

Check out the full FHC lineup

Not sure which sessions best fit your business needs? Reach out to our team and we’d be happy to work out a personalized schedule with you!

2. Take full advantage of a 1:1 session.

This is one that few attendees pass up! Our one-on-one sessions give you an opportunity to sit down with a FareHarbor specialist for some personalized training. This is a great chance to work with a team member on-site and resolve any challenges you may be facing, from industry best practices to Dashboard organization. Leave these sessions feeling better than ever about the direction your business is headed!

Schedule your 1:1

3. Use #fhc19 to connect with attendees through social media.

It’s a good idea to engage with people on social media before the FareHarbor Conference even begins. Twitter and LinkedIn are both great places to start, and joining in a few discussions can give you a sense of who will be there and any similar interests you may share.

With so many networking opportunities at FHC, connecting online may also allow you to build somewhat of a relationship beforehand and make it easier to guide in-person conversation starters. “Oh, you’re the one who was talking about XYZ on LinkedIn!”

Event Hashtag: #fhc19

4. Stop by the sponsor area.

We don’t partner with just anyone. We truly believe the partners we bring to FHC are dedicated to helping you run your business faster and smarter. Discover new services and get hands-on with demos by taking a minute to visit the sponsor area!

5. Stick around for the FHC happy hour.

FHC is filled with networking opportunities — from the organized lunch breakouts to casual meetings by the coffee station. But we’ve found that some of the most high-value networking happens at our after-hours event. Take some time after the conference to unwind and strike up a conversation with your peers at the FHC happy hour!

There you have it! Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a great experience at FareHarbor Conference! See you soon!

It’s not too late to register for FHC! Trust us, this is one you don’t want to miss…

Tips for Working with OTAs

Expert advice on getting connected with OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) to fit your tour, activity, or attraction business

The world of travel looks vastly different than it did five years or even one year ago. With the list of ways to promote your tours only growing, it’s worth putting some thought into your distribution channels. 

Are you getting your tours in front of the right people to convert them into customers? These days, three out of four travelers are making reservations through OTAs. Plan ahead for a sustainable future and follow these tips for working with the right OTAs for your particular tour, activity, or attraction business. 

1. Plan for your business and reach new audiences

Think about your business, and also consider your audience. Make sure they’re in the right vertical and have the right reach to put your tours in front of the right customers who are ready to book. These are the kinds of questions you should be considering: Who is your tour tailored to? How do you hit that target audience with the right OTA? Do you typically have open availabilities on your tours and want to offer more ways for potential customers to book? 

Once you have some of these questions lined up and answered, you can then dig into the specifics of which OTAs best fit your business objectives. For example, if you want to attract a global audience, look for OTAs with a global reach such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, or GetYourGuide. Want to reach people looking for water excursions? Get set up with Seabookings, specific for customers searching for water activities. Do you offer romantic sunset cruises? Doorstep is one option for expanding your reach to couples looking for date night ideas. You can get as broad or granular as you want with your connectivity partners if you envision a good fit. 

Check out this list for a full breakdown of the OTAs we currently partner with by region. 

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket 

This tip is dependent on your business. Strategically think about what kind of tours you want to offer to an OTA. Identify your target audience and then consider what that audience is searching for on TripAdvisor. Keep in mind that OTAs are used in different ways to search. Reserve with Google was designed with last-minute in-destination bookings in mind. This connection is great for suppliers who are close to a major attraction to bring in travelers who will be spending extra time in the area; a common “near me” search term. Expanding your options with multiple carefully selected OTAs is great for targeting in-destination customers. Some OTAs have a cutoff for last-minute bookability, but because you are connected to an API you don’t need to worry about last-minute overbookings. This allows you to lower your online booking cutoff to target in-destination customers and get more bookings from your various booking sources.

3. Let the FareHarbor Connectivity team take care of you

Working with OTAs is a good aspect for your business strategy, but can be challenging to manage on an ongoing basis. That’s why FareHarbor has a dedicated team of Connectivity Specialists to ensure you’re set up for success across all of your OTA partners. 

Not only do we take over the heavy lifting, but we also know which setups work best and love to offer our strategic advice. Consider us the experts. By working so closely with these OTAs on a daily basis, we feel confident in providing you a seamless connection with our partners from the start. Just let us know when your account is all set up with the OTA of your choice, then we will step in and take care of the connectivity process from start to finish, as well as provide ongoing support for your live API connections. Connect with a member of our team here! 

 

How to Respond When Bad Days Turn into Negative Reviews


This is a guest post written by Podium

 

Today, most consumers need to see a healthy average star rating and a few of your most recent reviews to be convinced of your company’s credibility. In fact, 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-10 reviews

With that said, it’s incredibly important to ensure you have positive reviews and a lot of them. This helps increase your average star rating and decrease the odds of potential customers basing their booking on a single negative review.

But, it’s not always that simple. Whether it’s a tour that started late or a customer that’s having a bad day—things don’t always go according to plan. Sooner or later, a bad day will turn into a negative review.

If and when that happens, it’s important to know how to respond. That’s why we’ve put together a 5-minute, 3-step guide to responding to negative reviews.

Step #1: Know when a negative review goes live

This step may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many businesses aren’t aware of new reviews they receive, or that they have any reviews at all.

It’s important to know when these reviews get posted online so you can respond appropriately and ensure the same mistake doesn’t happen again. The easiest way to do so is to work with an online review management platform. For example, Podium aggregates reviews in real-time from sites across the internet, keeping you in the know the moment a new review goes live.

If you aren’t ready to get started with a review management platform, we recommend turning on Google Alerts. Google Alerts allows you to track online conversations by specified keywords or phrases in real-time, allowing you to manage your presence and hear what people are saying about you, good or bad.

This is, undisputedly, the first step in combating and responding to negative reviews. After all, if you don’t know the review exists, how can you respond?

Step #2: Respond to the negative review as fast as you possibly can

Now that you’ve read the negative review, let’s discuss how to carefully craft a response.

First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that the person responding on behalf of your business is removed from the situation that sparked the negative review. For example, if there is a negative comment about a salesperson, they’re probably not the best person to respond to the review.

This is crucial because any response to a negative review should be calmly written and well thought out. When someone with an emotional investment to the situation is the responder, the message will generally come off as defensive. We know that not every business is in a position where someone disconnected from the situation can respond, and if this is the case for your business, respond as dispassionately as possible (here are a few calming techniques).

Next, follow these few steps:

  1. Apologize (“We’re sorry to hear…”)
  2. Approach the review with a calm and collected response (cushioned-defense)
  3. Offer a proactive way to right their wrong (“We’d like to do what we can to resolve the situation…”)
  4. Ask to continue the conversation privately (“We’ll follow up with a direct message / Contact our customer service manager…”)

That should yield a response similar to this one:

“We’re so sorry to hear that your experience was a negative one. We’d like to do what we can to right any wrong. Please contact our Customer Service Manager so we can resolve your issues. We’ll also reach out to you in the next day or two to discuss how we can resolve your issue.”

Make sure you craft a response and get it posted as quickly as possible. This way anyone who sees the negative review will also see that you are a responsible business that takes care of your customers. 53 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.

In many cases, negative reviews are not truly representative of your business. Responding to them in a courteous, professional manner builds consumer confidence as potential customers research your business.

Step #3: Learn from Feedback

Learning from customer feedback is one of the most valuable, long-term steps you can follow to improve your business. It allows you to gain valuable insights into your customers and make data-driven decisions about your processes. This will be valuable for positive reviews as well as negative reviews.

The process is simple:

  1. A transaction takes place and your customer leaves an online review.
  2. Your business takes note of the review (positive or negative) and responds upon receipt.
  3. If the online review is positive, your business reinforces existing processes or performs optimization. If the online review is negative, your business alters existing processes to improve the overall customer experience.
  4. Repeat.

A customer feedback loop will continuously provide insights, and in turn, your business managers can continue to alter or optimize processes.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a negative review, don’t let that stop you from embracing customer feedback. Instead, learn how to improve your business from the experience. 

Did you know that 84% of people trust reviews as much as recommendations from a friend? By following the above suggestions you’ll be building your brand and your business online and off.   

If you have any other questions, download Podium’s eBook:
Negative Reviews: A How-to Guide for Turning a Negative into a Positive.