It is well established that an online presence for tour operators and travel agencies is a necessity. Launching a travel and tour website builds trust. People buy things that they can see. And, with 3.6 billion internet users worldwide, these people prefer seeing things online.
Consumers today depend on Google to find, research and book dream vacations, affordable holidays and car rentals. Building your tour operator website is the only way to tap into this market.
Till recently, building a website meant web designers and developers would have to code your website to meet your needs. This required time and money, and meant only big businesses could afford to be online. Things are very different now- you can build a fully functional tour and travel website all by yourself.
In this article, we will compare the options for building tour and activity operator websites through customisable and DIY options. But first, let’s understand the basics of making your own business website!
Before actually building a website for online tour bookings, car rentals, you need four essentials to be visible on the world wide web:
The first requirement is a website domain or name. If you already have a business name, you can use that. If not, you will need to find one. Finding a domain name cannot be skipped. It is a key part of a website, it represents the address of your online business. It is a simplified version of an IP address.
For example, the highlighted part of www.vacationlabs.com is the domain name.
Similarly, your website’s extension should also be given due consideration. Dot COM (.com) is the most popular website extension today. Avoid using country-specific extensions for the sake of creativity. They can impact your business’s image and rank online. Use these extensions only if you plan to operate within a country and not expand internationally.
Giving your website name special thought can make your brand trustworthy and bring tons more benefits.
The next step is to check if the chosen domain name is available. Don’t limit your research to just this though. The name you picked should not sound like your competitor’s or other registered brands. It can invite legal trouble. You should think about copyrights too. Your business name is an important asset you should protect.
Quick tip: make a list of domain names to check. This can help you limit your research time.
Book a domain name with a suitable domain registrar/provider. A registrar reserves domain names for businesses and individuals. Some top registrars in India are GoDaddy, BigRock, BlueHost, and iPage.
To pick a trustworthy registrar, look for accreditation by ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers). ICANN is responsible for coordinating maintenance of databases related to sites on the internet.
Compare the different features and prices each registrar offers. You might get a free domain when you purchase hosting (another website essential), email services, other add-ons at discounts, etc.
Before committing to a registrar, know that domain registrations must be renewed for a fee. You can renew it after one year or ten years based on the plan you choose. As a beginner, it is best to subscribe for a one year plan in the start. This way, you know how well your provider functions.
Website hosting is the stuff that makes all websites live on the internet, including travel websites. Without hosting, no one can see your website (even if they know the domain name). Your website will be stored on computers (called servers). Companies like GoDaddy, BigRock, HostGator, etc. do this for you.
The best hosting companies come with a control panel (cPanel) to manage your web pages and analytics. Transaction security, server space, and uptime are important for tour websites, especially if you plan on accepting bookings. Once you pick a host, plan to commit for a year to understand your hosting needs and your service provider.
Travel websites fall into a very specific category of website building. This is based on the features they have. Retail facilities, search, booking engines, tour cards, trip images, calendar options, and map integrations are all very important.
To meet all these requirements, and depending on your skill with technology, we will walk you through some options you can try, and help you make a choice.
Requires coding knowledge which can take up to six months to master. Hiring a designer and developer for custom HTML websites is the usual route to take. However, delays are still part of this process. You will need to study competitor websites, create your design, and ask your website designer and developer to replicate it.
Bottomline – It is expensive, fully customisable, time-consuming.
WordPress is a popular site building platform. It is very versatile and you can do a lot of things with it. Naturally, that means WordPress takes a lot of time to understand, and most of its numerous features are not applicable in your case. If you have an interest in large projects and are comfortable looking at code (or have resources to employ a developer) for changes/customisation, go for this option. Remember though, you will need research and coding for every change you make.
Bottomline – It is cheaper than all other options, versatile but needs coding experience.
There are many drag and drop website creation platforms (Wix, Shopify, Squarespace) with the flexibility that WordPress does not provide. No coding is required at any stage, and you get to control how the website looks and works.
The drawback is, for integrations with booking engines, marketplaces, agencies and other platforms, you will need assistance. You will need to pay for plugins and update them when they change.
Bottomline – They are easier to use but costlier than WordPress (you are paying for a platform for your website, and also the plugins).
These include specialist website builders for the travel and tourism segment. Numerous platforms like Vacation Labs, Otamagic, Checkfront, etc. are doing a good job. Travel website builders are simple to understand, do not require coding and are easy to use. You save time, do a better job with SEO (since you are using a travel CMS) and improve the look and feel of your online business.
Bottomline – Travel and tour website builders are best for websites speciic to this industry.
If you have reached thus far, you are not the coding kind. Before you decide to pick a website builder, there is another decision to make. Which provider will suit your needs the best. In other words, which is the best travel website builder in the market? Ease of use, capability, design and responsiveness are prerequisites. Make sure that the following features are offered-
The primary purpose of a travel website builder is convenience. The travel website templates provided should be predefined and customisable. You should only need to upload text and pictures. The website builder should also offer sections like ‘about us’ and ‘contact us’.
With website templates custom made for the travel industry, your tours and activities must be the focus. Every section added should be easy to change with the travel CMS.
A smart system can be understood in less than an hour and will have only those backend options relevant to your business needs. To ensure simplicity, the website building system must offer suggestions and help text to improve your experience. That’s not all- dedicated support should be available when needed.
An increasing number of travellers browse the internet through mobile devices. But, there is still a sizeable segment that accesses the internet through desktops. As a result, it is imperative to check if your travel website builder software can manage desktop and mobile responsive websites. This means, your website content must fit seamlessly in different screen sizes and still be readable.
If your website isn’t secure, you risk not even appearing in search engine results. You can assure security through an SSL/TSL certified website. Check if your website builder for tour and activity operators provides this. It is a must have if you plan on accepting money for bookings made on your website.
Is a software that helps you reserve seats for flights, tours and activities. It also helps book vehicles and hotel rooms. A booking engine can record booking volumes, booking mediums, revenue made and customer details too.
Make it easy for your business to be found- give people access to maps on your website. You can easily create Google maps for each tour and integrate these with the relevant ones on your tour operator website. However, for this, your website builder should enable this integration.
Your end goal is to get more bookings through your tour website. This requires your site to be linked to a payment processor like Paytm, PayPal, Citrus, etc. See what payment processors your website provider supports. Research each one’s pricing, then pick the most relevant.
Featuring posts of your tours on your tour and activities store shows customers you receive regular bookings. Also, links to your social medium (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) enable customers to share trips from your website with friends and family.
Integrating with the biggest review platform in the world, TripAdvisor, is a definite must. Reviews about your services on this platform improve customer trust in your website.
Your availability to answer customer queries, shows you are interested in them. With a chat system on your website, you can answer queries, interest customers in your popular tours or even customize tours to suit their need.
Quick tip – Check live travel website templates or customer sites created by different travel website builders. You can examine them for the above features.
A website is your most important marketing tool online. Just like you plan your tours, plan your tour website development too. It should be built to attract customers as well as prompt online tour booking. Your tour website design should allow easy usage and security for you as well. This is essential to control your business on your terms and a tour operator software with a website builder can guarantee this.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to post your questions about website building For a detailed process on how to use a travel website builder, stay tuned!