Best Website Builder for Tour Operators – Complete 2018 Review
Travel Website Builders
Complete Review- Wix vs. Godaddy vs. WordPress vs. VacationLabs
Creating a travel website is easier than ever before. While you can outsource the heavy lifting to a developer, an increasing number of tour operators prefer using website builders. Travel website builders lets non-coders make a good-looking and highly functional travel portal. It’s also a good platform for designers to build websites for clients.
Website builders are flexible, affordable, intuitive, while carrying specific designs for making professional travel websites for travel agencies, hotels, and tour operators. With numerous website builders vying for your attention, the problem for travel businesses is finding the right website builder to fit their needs.
CMS vs. Drag & Drop
There are two main families of tools when making a website- content management systems (CMS) and Drag-and-drop website builders. CMS like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal offer a very large number of plugins and modules, making them very versatile, if not a little difficult to learn initially. There is direct access to code available, or you could pick a free template and go from there. CMS enable users to create, publish, edit, and manage information. On the other hand, website builders like Wix, Squarespace, etc. are browser based interfaces that allow you to design websites as you see them on the browser itself: WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). While Drag and drop is quicker and visually better, you need to pick wisely- because there is a trade-off: let us explain what!
Technical Skills vs. Functionality
Drag and drop website builders require very little technology knowledge to make a website. Depending on your design skill, you can style and design your website in a few minutes (or a few hours). On the other hand, CMS might take skilled manipulation of CSS/ HTML to produce a professional website- unless you can find a travel website template which suits your need 100%. Nevertheless, more technical expertise (as compared to a drag & drop builder) is definitely required in CMS. This is mostly because of the versatility of CMS. While the initial learning curve can be steep, once you get the hang of it, it is an extremely malleable platform and fun to work with.
Functionality wise, drag and drop builders are initially great to work with, giving you complete control over what you wish to design. But they hit their functionality ceiling fast. And then they stop being fun, and become just plain annoying. Thinking of adding a new field or functionality to your form? Whoops- got to pay for that feature! And so on. The list of paid features is never ending. What about SEO? Well- unless you pay for something else, there isn’t much you can do. What about travel specific features? Tour cards, packages, dynamic rates? Well, you have got to pay for the good stuff!
Wix, Godaddy, Squarespace, and all the other ‘generic’ website builders give you drag and drop functionality, and ‘free’ and paid templates to use as a starting point. While great to begin with, CMS based systems generally have a much better ROI in the long run. Let us explain how.
Cost of Setup & Maintenance
Drag & drop builders come with free hosting and DIY instructions. Your expense includes paying for a ‘plan’ with the website builder tool, and a domain name. A CMS website might require external hosting (or not). Going for external hosting means that you can shift your provider anytime you want (which by the way can’t be done with a drag & drop builder- you will lose your work once you shift), most people don’t really shift hosting- it’s a commodity service with really competitive pricing across the board. Moreover, all paid plans (both Drag & Drop and CMS) will give you free hosting these days. While free CMS will require extra paid hosting, the overall cost for both options is about the same.
The real cost of building a CMS website is to hire a developer and designer, pay them to get a website with desired functionality made, and take the risk of giving them part upfront payments, etc. Plus, every time you need to change functionality, or an update is applied, coding tweaks will need to be done. No maintenance charges per-se, but development work comes at a cost: higher lead time and more involvement in project management from you.
Running a Test
Now, we will rate the various (popular) website builders and CMS systems in the market- and try and arrive at a final verdict.
Problem: Which one is the best website builder for me?
Methodology: Rate the most popular website builders on the following parameters:
Design interface– How is the design flow of the website builder tool?
Final design– How does the final design look to the end consumer?
Technical & SEO– How good is the SEO aspect of the website? Are the technical aspects easy to manage?
Features & Functionality– What are the features you have available for your website.
Ease of Use– How easy is it to set-up, update, and change your website?
Cost- Compare the plan/ pricing which might suit you
Who is the platform best for? Is there a standout user who is best suited for this website builder?
Future Direction for development- If you decide to go with it, what is the expected direction future development that the tool is expected to take?
Scores will be recorded on a scale of 1 to 10.
Travel website builder reviews
Wix, Godaddy: Drag & Drop builders
WordPress, Vacation Labs: CMS builders
Wix is a powerful cloud-based website builder. The marketers at Wix have come up with ‘artificial design intelligence (ADI)’ that claims to ‘design the kind of website you need’, which is simply based on the requirements you state. Once the website is produced by the system, you can make changes to it by dragging and dropping options like text boxes, image and video fields, banners and much more. Just about anything on the auto generated website can be moved, edited, and changed. You can also build your website from scratch with the Wix editor where you choose templates from 100 different designs.
- You don’t have to pay separately for website hosting.
- You have hundreds of ready-made templates to choose from. Each template can be customised with the Wix website editor.
- Wix integrates with multiple in-house and third-party apps (both free and paid) to improve the functionality of your website.
- The free version of the website builder comes with Wix ads, and you can’t use your own domain.
- It’s difficult to change your website hosting and builder once you’ve launched your Wix website. You will lose all your work and you don’t get access to your website once you leave the platform.
- Meant only for small businesses.
Design interface (Rating: 9/10)
Once you are done with a quick drop-down based sign-up, you will land at the templates page. You get to pick a template and can start setting it up straight away. The interface itself is extremely well done. You will never feel lost or unable to figure out something you need to do. There are annoying limitations sometimes, but the benefits & ease of the platform far outweigh them.
Final design (9/10)
The final output looks, well, stunning. Since you get to control every single aspect of the design visually, there is very little chance of screwing up.
There is a catch here, though. The design looks great to YOU. In our experience, most people don’t understand technical design (including me- I’m exceptionally poor in anything to do with design). Our recommendation is that unless you have a good idea of what you are doing or are aware of design fundamentals, doing this might get tricky. That being said, if you stick to the templates to a large degree, you should be fine.
Technical & SEO (Rating: 5/10)
SEO is where this starts to get tricky. While I was trying to set up a demo website, by the time I got to the SEO functionality (Wix kept prompting me for it), I had 7 tabs open. Seven! I could no longer keep track of what was what, and then on the SEO tab itself, Wix wants me to go through a 3 Step process (each step has 7 sub-steps, by the way) which doesn’t look easy at all.
For example, Sub-step 1 of Step 1 is: Update the home page’s SEO Title. Sounds easy?
While I am sure Wix is working on the design/ onboarding flow for SEO and making it easier for us, at the moment, it seems quite difficult to handle, especially if you are new to this.
Features & Functionality (Rating: 7/10)
Wix have tons of features, but they are mostly paid. While you can create a placeholder page (on Wix’s domain) for free, you can do very little else. As a tour operator, you would want a booking widget on your website, right? And tons of photos? Well, here is what Wix threw up as soon as I asked for a booking widget: the cost is up to ₹545 per month, and for 500MB storage only! At 3GB storage, the cost goes to ₹895/mo.
So overall, a poor score for Wix, because while most of the functionalities are available, the cost will start to get prohibitive at this point!
Ease of Use 8/10
It’s very easy to set up and update your website when you make it using Wix- I think we have already established that. It seems only logical that most users would change their websites often. But do you think you would do that? In our experience, very rarely do people wish to change their websites every month. Most users make a large change every year (to keep the website looking current as per new design standards), and otherwise a constant look & feel- content can of course change as and when required. For WIX’s ease of website set-up and deployment, we score it a high 8/10. Here is a snapshot of the ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) sign-up process. Having filled this detail, WIX sets up the website for you.
Future Direction (Score: 8/10)
WIX is on a mission to make website design easier and simpler. As a result, expect the major flaws such as the SEO workflow to get better over time. Our expectation is that WIX will be a leader in defining the cutting edge in website design, and at some point will choose to take focus away from technical & SEO aspect even further (as these evolve too).
Cost (Rating: 4/10)
Cost is where our biggest peeve with Wix is. While it is rewarding to make a website for literally free when you are starting out, the cost escalates once you are hooked onto the platform.
The Wix website builder pricing can range from $3.50 to $30 per month (₹122 to ₹485 per month as advertised by Wix). There is a free plan, but you cannot connect your domain to it, and it has very limited storage space for any practical use- and yes, free plans have Wix advertising. Plus, for any functionality, you have to keep paying higher amounts per month.
Is the platform suited for Tour Operators? (Rating: 6/10)
WIx is best for people who are just starting off. They don’t have any revenue at the moment, and don’t want to spend any money on their websites- ofcourse, they have some time to spare, and don’t mind creating their own website, just the way they like it.
Most suitable for artists, entry-level real estate agents (no integrations), solo entrepreneurs, and so on. If you are planning your own tour operator business, this might be a good place to start. But remember, you will have to pay at least ₹122/mo. to begin with (to link your domain), and there will be no features to speak of (you will not getting a booking engine- that plan starts at ₹595/mo.). Plan to upgrade once you have built up a revenue stream.
The largest domain registrar and hosting company, Godaddy also comes with a comprehensive website builder. Renowned in the online realm, and we have to admit, for good reason. This website builder also offers drag and drop tools to manipulate over 300 templates to match your business and your brand. What stands out about this Godaddy is its ability to seamlessly offer a blend of its domain registrar & website builder services.
- The Godaddy website builder is very simple and easy to use.
- It has multiple building options to design professional layouts.
- It is integrated with a photo library with images from Getty Photography. You can upload your own images too.
- There are limited features available with this builder and this limits functionality.
- It’s (almost) impossible to move your Godaddy website to a different platform.
Design Interface (Score 6/10)
A very simplistic implementation. Once you have picked the ‘kind of website’ you want (tours & travels in our case), the software unceremoniously plonks you on a template. While the template isn’t half bad, our first reaction was- ‘Is that it?‘ There are some colour changes you can make, pick one of 25 fonts, and pick one of 10 ‘themes’ which are deceptively similar looking, except for minor variations. It’s not exactly drag & drop, but allows click-and-change functionality on the template. Overall, it looks underpowered compared to WIX, by a large margin.
Final design (Score 7/10)
The final design is good, but nothing to write home about. Distinctively template like, the output is very functional, but it won’t win you any design awards. We have scored it a fair 7/10. We find nothing wrong with it, and overall it does look very very difficult to mess up.
Technical & SEO (Score: 8/10)
The Godaddy SEO functionality made us realise something: this is a very difficult aspect to score! How good/bad the ‘SEO of a website’ is depends on the result itself- how long & how much effort it takes to rank the page/ website. Which, in turn, depends on the keyword you are trying to score on. For instance, if you picked ‘Rajasthan Tours’ as the keyword, it is going to very difficult (and possibly costly) to start ranking on it.
However, we did realise something. Godaddy has a deceptively easy SEO workflow- but there is great functionality hidden in there! The screenshots below will show you how the flow looks like, which is extremely user friendly, and very easy to execute. This gets Godaddy a high score of 8/10.
Features & Functionality (Score: 5/10)
This is a segment which is fairly undeveloped on Godaddy. It’s a generic website builder, that is, it is meant for everyone and anyone. You will need to work a fair amount to get the website working the way you like. That being said, the form (for enquiry, etc.) is built right into the website. If you wish to integrate a payment functionality, on the other hand, you will need to use the e-commerce functionality, which leaves a lot to be desired for tour operators.
Overall, we rank it usable, if you are not finicky about the functionality. The problem is that for the price, it is not really worth for tour operator businesses (especially if you are using the store).
Ease of Use (score: 9/10)
The website is very easy to set up and manage. We have already argued that most users would not want to change the look & feel more than once and year. GOdaddy works perfectly for that. Minor changes, including adding/ removing pages very easy to do. Sections can be added and removed easily too. What impressed us the most was the simple workflow, which was very refreshing!
Cost (Score: 7/10)
With Godaddy, there are no free plans, you just get a 14-day free trial. The ‘Personal’ plan is also of very low value, as it doesn’t allow SEO. For tour operators, getting a ‘shopping cart’ is essential, so what you will need to go for is $29.99/mo., that is very similar to the costliest plan with Wix. Overall, not very cost effective, but not priced over the top either.
Suitability for Tour Operators (Score 6/10)
As the shopping cart feature is built for e-commerce stores, and not tour operators, the suitability for tour operators suffers a bit. It is still usable, but not a perfect fit. For operators looking for a basic design and getting enquiries, it might work better.
Still, for not having 100% functionality for tour operators, we rate it a humble 6/10.
Future Direction (Score 7/10)
It is quite difficult to tell what future direction development GODaddy will go for. It is quite obvious that their onboarding flow and modules are clearly defined. They definitely need some work in making their website more design friendly and better looking. Also, the Email and Social marketing toolkits could be their focus areas for the next few dev. cycles. From an overall perspective though, GoDaddy seems to be in the right track for a great future platform.
The most popular website development tool on the world wide web (internet?) is a WordPress. Flexibility is one of its key selling points. A combination of functional themes and plugins convert a blank WordPress website into a fully functional travel store, blog or business site. Open code access lets you change your website the way you like. The CMS is perfect for management of large quantities of data (100+ pages in various segments anyone?).
- You have full access to customize your website any time and in any way.
- You are allowed to use any third party tools and plugins to boost your site.
- You control your website hosting and in turn it’s speed and backups.
- It can support any language, currency and other requirement.
- Moving content around is more tedious.
- Not much can be achieved without technical knowledge.
- Managing security, downtime, hosting renewal and setting up the hosting console.
- It takes a long time to understand how the CMS works and making and actual website can take more than a month.
Design interface (Score 6/10)
The design interface on wordpress is what you would call ‘classic’. That said, it does take getting used to. Any add-ons you make on the website just complicates the panel to no end, eventually making it messy. But, for a simple website with limited functionality, the design interface is pretty useful. Plus, you will find tons of data, tutorials, and guides online to help you solve any problems- all for free!
For a steep learning curve on the platform, we decided to rate wordpress an average 6/10.
Final design (Score 8/10)
Right from picking the right template, to modifying it for your specific purpose, to making it into an award winning website, is achievable on WordPress- for free. Some of the most beautiful websites are made on WordPress. If you are technically sound with HTML5/CSS you should be good to go. Else, design implementation can be a challenge. Still, you will find templats good enough for your use.
For the high design versatility, WordPress is rated a high 8/10.
Technical & SEO (Score 6/10)
WordPress is a star when it comes to its ability to manipulate SEO properties. The only problem is the actual implementation. WordPress itself has limited functionality built into its interface, and you really have no ‘user flow’ to speak of. What most people have to do is get a free plugin and implement SEO on individual pages. Definitely doable, but very time consuming and a steep learning curve. For the possibilities, WordPress should be rated high. BUt lack of a user-onboarding force our hand for an average score of 6/10.
Features & Functionality (Score 8/10)
Want dynamic cards on your website? Done. Want an online store? That’s done too. Also, most of it comes free too, unless you are extremely finicky about the exact implementation (then you can write your own code). There is no match for the feature & functionality set for WordPress. The only issue is, you will have to research each functionality you need separately, and add it using some plugin (usually free), and hope that it works correctly!
Again, the learning curve is steep, but you quickly get the hang of it. If your business is heavily dependent on this website, this might be good route to take!
Ease of Use (Score 4/10)
Sorry WordPress lovers, someone had to say this. WordPress is difficult to use. And it doesn’t improve too much over time. THe clunkiness persists. Every new plugin, every little functionality, changes the interface enough to trouble you for a few days.
For the difficult initial learning curve, and always worrying you might break something, WordPress gets a low-low score of 4/10.
Cost (Score 9/10)
Is there any better you can do than forever free? Including the online store (Woocommerce), WordPress and it’s infinitely large library of templates & plugins lets you do what you want for free. If you are having trouble, there is a huge library of online help & forii you can approach for help. Lastly, you can approach a developer, who can solve your problem, but for a service fee. For the times you might need a developer, but otherwise free for life, we score WordPress a high 9/10. Also, you do have to pay for hosting, which comes bundled in all the other platforms we are reviewing here.
Who is the platform best for? (Score: 7/10)
There is no single standout user for WordPress, though it was originally intended for online blogging. Today, anyone and everyone uses it. The platform is so versatile that it can do whatever you wish it to do. In our case, for tour operators, it’s a great platform to use. THe only trouble is that most operators either don’t have the skill or the time to produce an effective website. Outsourcing it to a developer is the main challenge, as the reliability, affordability, and delivery timelines might become an issue. Nevertheless, WordPress remains a strong contender for any tour operator website!
Future Direction for development (Score 8/10)
You are in luck. The sheer volume of independent and community development being done on WordPress is astounding. Someone somewhere had had a similar problem as you are facing, and has written code for it, and maybe made a plugin for you already. Your (future) problem is getting solved by someone in this space.
This is an interactive website builder developed for the travel industry. It requires zero coding to launch a website with the Vacation Labs website builder. The process is pretty straightforward. To begin all you need is content and images that you intend to put up on your website. You can use different template designs to start off your website. Vacation Labs comes with an in-built CMS to manage your website content- a website builder with a difference!
- Building a website takes only a few hours with Vacation Labs.
- Each section of the website built has text fields to boost SEO.
- It comes with in-built apps, it is compatible with third party plugins and integrates with online tour distributors like Viator.
- Comes with a booking engine so you can accept bookings online 24×7.
- Its website templates are specifically built for the travel industry and are not suitable for any other businesses.
- Takes about 20 mins to get your bearing right before you can actually start using the website builder.
Design interface (Score 6/10)
The design interface is definitely better than wordpress, but not as intuitive as the other drag & drop competition. While the onboarding flow is being continuously improved, the customer support team does a great job in walking you through the demo. After the initial 20 minutes of figuring out the system, it’s pretty straightforward to use.
Final design (Score 6/10)
The final design has a template look to it. Nothing wrong with that, but it does take away from clients expressing individual creativity. It works both ways, though, the current set up is very difficult to mess up. For the versatility of design for all tour & travel agencies, the design of the website gets 6/10.
Technical & SEO (Score 7/10)
The technical aspect of the website you build are pretty good. All the text, alt-text of images, and other features like meta keywords and tags are in place for maximum leverage. The onboarding flow needs to be better for the tour operators to have an easier time setting up the website. For the technical aspect itself- 7/10.
Features & Functionality (Score 8/10)
This is where the Vacation Labs software really comes into its own. Every functionality is built with the tour operator in mind. One-click tour card set up, book now button integration, and seamless payment gateway integration to work with dates & pax rather than units & item (for e-commerce) is where the real benefit for tour operators lie.
The number of features which are useful for a tour operator are just astounding. For the specific feature set ready to go from day one, Vacation LAbs scores a high 8/10.
Ease of Use (Score: 7/10)
You need help to understand the Vacation Labs system. The first time around, it can be a pain. But once you get the hang of it, the learning curve flattens pretty quickly. Very soon, you are changing headers and font sizes, button styles, etc. to suit your needs. If not for the initial learning spike, this system would have scored much higher.
Cost (Score 7/10)
Cost is definitely the standout feature for this tour operator website software. There is just one simple plan- at INR 1000/mo. or $19/mo. Currently, a promotion with 80% discount (restricted usage) and 50% discount (first year only) is underway. Might be a good time to sign-up & take advantage. Although the pricing compares favourably with competition, there is no beating the forever free WordPress. Vacation Labs justifies the pricing with 24×7 premium support that they provide. Overall, a solid 7/10 score.
Platform Suitability for Tour Operators (Score 8/10)
This travel website builder is meant for tour & activity operators only. Any other business owner will not find a use for it. As such, it becomes highly targeted for tour operators, and thus very relevant for their use.
Future Direction for development (Score 8/10)
As with suitability, the company concentrates on tour operators. So, all future dev. work is bound to happen directly for this target market. A packages module is underway, which will be hugely beneficial for existing and new clients. For highly relevant future product pipeline, Vacation Labs scores a high 8/10.
The cost of the Vacation Labs travel website builder can vary based on the features you choose to use. The software company offers a 14 day free trial period and its website builder is currently on promotions. The starting price for this website builder is INR 1000 per month.
Must Have Features for Tour Operator Websites
To create a travel website you need a comprehensive website builder, especially if you are not a developer yourself. It should possess interactive templates that meet your content requirements like trip packages, trip itineraries, capacity limits and calendar display. The template and website builder should also support integrations with booking engines, payment gateways, chats, social media, Tripadvisor and tour distributors. This casts your online net much further than a generic website which does not fulfil all your needs.
The on-boarding & design of the platform you are using to build your website, the final design on the website you have created, and easy usage are must haves for complete control over your online operations. The technical aspects such as SEO can be tricky to handle, but a good software should make it easier for the user. Apart from the features & functionality, the cost of the platform itself is important. The final thing to keep in mind is that the website builder should be designed for you, so that you can be sure that future development will be extremely useful for you, and you can grow with your software provider!
Some other features which might be important for you: multilingual support, backend support and the ability to reach a real human, customization options for the website editor (tours, booking forms).
We suggest you subscribe to the trial versions of the website builders and compare their capacity to suit your business needs! Have fun!
Tour Operator Websites Comparison Table
Technical & SEO
Features & Functionality
Ease of Use