In today’s competitive travel market, there is much talk about the benefit of engaging with the international visitor. While the domestic traveler is important and necessary, reaching those from overseas can create an even greater opportunity for tourism in our local communities.
An effective way to market to visitors around the world is by working with international travel trade professionals. These industry professionals act as a conduit between the end consumer and the destinations or attractions that want their business. A key benefit in working with the travel trade is that they are reselling a product/service 6 months – 2 years out and reaching visitors in advance, as they plan before they arrive. There are different types of international travel trade professionals and organizations, such as receptive operators, OTA’s (online travel agents), international tour operators and online booking agents. There are benefits that come from working with any of these industry experts. However for the purpose of this blog, I’m focusing on online booking agents.
Domestic v. International
First, we need to understand the difference an international traveler makes on an economy, versus a domestic one. The biggest benefit here is the economic impact of travel on local communities. In New York State alone, tourism remains the third largest industry, supporting close to a million jobs. When visitors come to a community, they spend money. The dollars are injected into the community and this creates more opportunities for those who live and work there.
The industry rule of thumb is 50 miles. If someone travels to a destination that is a at least 50 miles from where they live, they are tourists. They will bring money into a destination from outside. So domestically, while it’s true that money from outside a community is brought in, it’s still the same dollars that are being exchanged within our country as a whole. However with international tourism, the visitor’s spend has an even greater economic impact as it adds money to our economy that isn’t already there.
Online Booking Agents
An international online booking agent is a global ticket distribution platform for different experiences with various suppliers. These can include adventure activities, sightseeing tours, culinary experiences and all types of attractions such as theme parks, aquariums, theaters, and museums.
The bottom line is people from other countries can go online to a trusted source and find U.S. attractions and accommodations. There, they can buy tickets, hotel rooms, and more. The best thing about listing with a ticket distribution platform is it’s free!
How it Works
Once a ticket is purchased, a percentage of each booking is deducted from the amount the supplier receives. This amount is determined by the rates that are entered when creating the product or experience on the site. These sites do the outreach and marketing to the international consumer. They reach buyers that an individual supplier would not have the opportunity to reach on their own without investing significant financial resources.
Such marketing initiatives often include:
- Email campaigns
- Display ads and retargeting campaigns
- Boosted posts on social media
- Special offer windows
- Brand recognition
- Home Page promotional opportunities
- Combo ticket opportunities
There is no cost to the supplier for all this. They only need to provide a previously agreed upon portion of the ticket price at time of booking. Importantly, while the tickets are purchased with the currency of where the consumer lives, the monies are paid to the U.S. suppliers in U.S. dollars, so there is no need to worry about any currency conversions.
A Few Options
365 Tickets USA – Launched in 2014, 365TicketsUSA.com currently receives about 50,000 visitors per month and has over 5,000 products in the USA. This platform is very flexible and user friendly and will create customized selling arrangements with their suppliers.
TripAdvisor Experiences – Offers thousands of products around the world. Reaching 490 million monthly users that use TripAdvisor to research, plan and book their trips.
Hotelbeds – Unlike the two sites mentioned above, this is strictly a B2B site working not with the end consumer, but with the travel trade. In addition to accommodations, Hotelbeds offers thousands of attractions, tickets and car hire.
If an online booking agent is right for you, it’s important to understand the market the website is reaching – is it a domestic or international site? It’s also important to keep in mind, that although there may be immediate bookings initially, people plan international travel much farther in advance. It takes about 2-3 years to develop volume from the international market.