Tour Operator Pitfalls & Solutions

Travel best practices: Tour operator pitfalls & solutions

Tour Operator Pitfalls & Solutions

Travel is a tricky business. With so many factors at play (both in and out of your control), there are many pitfalls that can await tour operators. Given the complex and fast-paced nature of the business, having the right tour operator solutions can help travel professionals avoid any mishaps and run a more streamlined, efficient business. As a labor-intensive profession, it’s of great importance for tour operators to have optimized roles, decision-making, and structure. 

In recent years, technology has transformed the landscape of the travel industry. Tour operators now have an incredible number of tools, resources, and features that can help them reduce manual work, book more trips, and make their teams work better together. However, using technological advances as tour operator solutions can only go so far. If operators and their teams don’t have the right structures in place, it can be pointless to look to technology as the end-all, be-all.  

If tour operators can manage common pitfalls and look for the right tour operator solutions to solve for them, then technology can accelerate their business to be better than ever. Our team spoke with travel consultant and industry expert Michael Hios to learn what he has seen in his years helping tour operators in his work at Mythos Ventures. His main takeaway? Many tour operators struggle with the same problems. Focusing on process, organization, and communication can go a long way in preventing issues before they arise and making technology an asset rather than a hindrance. 

Make sure you pay attention to these common pitfalls & solutions for tour operators:  

Pitfall: There is a lack of change management during software implementation.  

When adopting a new software system, often change management does not come from the top. Tour operators may struggle when there is a lack of communication from leadership about impending changes. This can create confusion and resistance among team members. 

Solution: Leaders need to convey to the team that things are going to change.  

Effective change management starts with transparent communication from leadership. Clearly articulate the need for change, its benefits, and how it aligns with the company’s goals. Ensuring that every team member is aware of the upcoming changes will pave the way for a smoother transition. 

Pitfall: You are tweaking software to fit the process vs. tweaking the process to fit software.  

Many tour operators want software to fix the problem, but software can only enhance what is already working. Attempting to mold software to fit existing processes can lead to inefficiencies, non-standardized workflows, and a lack of alignment with best practices. 

Solution: Have the team or a consultant perform an internal gap analysis.  

No tour operator is perfect, after all. Sometimes it’s hard to see gaps when things have always been done the same way. Seek an external perspective, be it from a consultant, industry peer, or staff from another department. Conducting an internal gap analysis helps identify areas for process improvement, guiding you to adapt processes to fit the software seamlessly. 

Pitfall: Your departments are siloed and not working together 

Having silos between various departments- especially operations and product – can be hugely problematic. Isolated decision-making within departments can result in changes being implemented without considering the broader impact on other areas of the business. 

Solution: Share information consistently with the entire team when considering making a change.  

Always promote cross-departmental communication and collaboration, before any changes are put into place. Ensure that any proposed changes are communicated to the entire team, fostering a more integrated and cohesive approach to software implementation. Everyone should be on the same page and have easy access to any relevant information.  

Pitfall: You rely too much on automation across the business.  

While automation can enhance efficiency, excessive reliance on it without considering long-term support requirements can lead to challenges. Quality of work and rapt attention to detail should never be sacrificed in the name of speed: often trying to oversimplify actually overcomplicates things.  

Solution: Consider the total real cost of undertaking an automation process.  

Evaluate the resources needed to support automation and understand the desired exceptions. Striking the right balance ensures that automation enhances productivity without creating unnecessary disruptions. The goal is to alleviate work, instead of creating more work ensuring that all automations are running correctly all the time. 

Pitfall: You are focusing on software for cost management rather than revenue growth.  

Ignoring the role of software in driving top-line revenue can lead to missed opportunities, especially when offering complex products and promotions. Tour operators should always look to increasing revenue, rather than just trying to save money through using technology.  

Solution: Structure products for quick processing and use software to grow topline.  

Design products with streamlined processes, allowing for swift transitions from phone calls to payments. Tour operators should leverage software not only for cost management but as a strategic tool to drive revenue growth. Software should accelerate, not just optimize, existing growth efforts.  

Pitfall: You view APIs as a panacea for pricing and operational issues.  

Overestimating the capabilities of APIs without understanding their limitations can lead to unexpected challenges for operators. Increasing integrations won’t necessarily fix issues, but can often lead more unwanted complexity and challenges.  

Solution: Understand the limitations and risks of using APIs.  

Conduct thorough research on APIs, considering potential issues such as changes from service providers, infrastructure outages, and data control. Develop contingency plans to mitigate risks associated with API usage and don’t jump into something just because it is available to you before understanding all the implications.  

Pitfall: There is a lack of crisis management processes in your business. 

Tour operators often lack a well-defined crisis management process, leaving the company vulnerable in times of unexpected challenges. Having a system in place ahead of any crises can help mitigate any potential harm done to passengers or the business. Keeping everyone safe and satisfied should be top priority.  

Solution: Invest in a business continuity plan and regular team training.  

Develop a comprehensive business continuity plan and ensure that staff are well-trained to execute it. Regularly review and update the plan to adapt to changing circumstances, ensuring the organization is well-prepared for any crisis. Putting this work in can be a make-it-or-break-it for tour operators.  

Pitfall: You have poor data hygiene, leading to uninformed business decisions. 

Do you keep your passenger and business data across multiple spreadsheets, systems, and people?Maintaining inaccurate or outdated data can hinder effective decision-making and business intelligence. If you don’t really know what the actual numbers are, any decisions based on those can lead to unwanted outcomes that can affect the entire business.  

Solution: Create “guardrails” and document processes for your data.  

Establish clear processes for data management, creating guardrails to maintain data hygiene. Document these processes and use them for staff training, preventing the development of unvetted procedures that could compromise data integrity. It takes some manual, detail-oriented work, but software can help keep everything in one place. And you will be confident that your numbers are right.  

While no tour operator solution is one-size-fits-all, there are some universal best practices to follow and commong pitfalls to avoid. By fostering effective change management, promoting collaboration between departments, and embracing technology as a strategic revenue driver, tour operators can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving market. Additionally, understanding the risks associated with APIs, implementing crisis management processes, and maintaining data hygiene will contribute to a resilient and adaptive tour operation business. 

Most importantly, tour operator solutions can often be found in the right comprehensive software. Doing the right research to understand what the business needs and goals are go a long way in making the right choice (at the right time) for your business. See how Softrip can support by booking a personalized demo!