Pinpointing The Traveler’s Path To Purchase

March 12, 2021
Lucas Ennis
5 min read

The traveler’s path to purchase is complex and by no means linear.

They might find inspiration in a friend’s story from a past trip. Or a vlog or photo gallery catches their eye online. Perhaps it’s a family unit researching a bucket list trip they have been meaning to take.

As this journey of discovery, planning, and booking unfolds, travelers will spend hours researching. They will visit several websites for inspiration and to compare prices. They will seek out reviews and have questions that need answering.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many sources and options that travelers have at their disposal for discovery and planning.

With so many different scenarios to navigate, how can tour operators respond to be there at the right time and place in the traveler’s journey?

Why Mapping This Journey Matters

Every trip of every kind begins with a journey of its own – the traveler’s path to purchase. On this journey are the moments of inspiration, research, comparison, and then decisions.

If you understand the traveler’s path to purchase, it is easier to know where to set up a presence for your business online.

You can focus your marketing efforts and invest your budget in places that have a real impact on travelers’ purchase decisions.

Keep in mind that the website, social media, and general digital experience you provide are critical to your success when landing direct bookings.

Why Map Customer Purchase Journey

How Does The Customer Path To Purchase Look?

Broadly speaking, you can count on there being:

  • a phase of inspiration when the traveler isn’t quite sure of what they want yet
  • a stage where the traveler has narrowed down ideas and begins to shop around
  • and finally, the decision phase when bookings go ahead

We will break these down a little more, so you have a better overview of the journey.

1. Information Search

The traveler, whether that is a group or individual, is ready to plan their trip.

They may have a general idea of what they want to do, but the finer details aren’t there, and nothing is set in stone yet.

They gather as much information as possible during this phase and explore what is available to them.

It is a time when travelers are open to possibilities and inspiration.

Tips For Tour Operators

Here is your time to inspire and capture travelers’ interest through your imagery, videos, and storytelling.

Ensure you have plenty of engaging content on your social channels, and possibly use Google or Facebook advertising to get your name in front of potential clients.

Your SEO and keyword-optimized website and blog content can also make an impact as search engines deliver your relevant content on the results pages in response to search queries.

2. Narrow Down Options

How Travelers Make Purchase Decisions

As the traveler gets a better idea of what type of trip they want to take, where to go, activities to do, they begin to narrow down their options.

They zone in on a few tour operators who have piqued their interest.

Tips For Tour Operators

Now is the time to offer a seamless website experience. Anyone who has found you via social channels, search engines, or advertising will now be browsing over your website for more information, getting a feel for your brand.

In the context of safe travel, don’t forget to highlight on your website the ways you are protecting your clients and team when they are in the field.

Concern about COVID-19 is on every travelers’ mind, so it needs to be said.

Travelers may also be checking your review profiles for any red flags their peers bring up about the experience you offer.

3. Inquire About A Trip

If you have made it this far in the path to purchase, great work. Now is when travelers reach out to you and inquire about a trip.

At this point, you have their information and can use it strategically to entice them onboard.

Tips For Tour Operators

At this stage in the funnel, let your fantastic customer service stand out. Offer travelers the ability to contact you on their preferred channel, communicate clearly, and respond to inquiries quickly.

4. Compare Value Offer and Prices From Operators

How Travelers Research Travel

You are in the running with travelers now comparing the value offer and prices from several tour operators.

Tips For Tour Operators

Keep up the communication in this phase. Ask travelers what they think of your offer.

Importantly, ensure that you have highlighted the value you can add. Differentiate your business and your product from the other tour operators out there. Let travelers know exactly what it is that makes you unique and why they should choose you.

5. Purchase Decision

The ever-important moment of truth – the moment when travelers make their selection and go ahead with a booking.

Tips For Tour Operators

This part should be as easy as possible for travelers. Offer a seamless online booking and payment solution, either on your website or via a private link that people can complete themselves.

Collect their information in one go and have several payment options available, including ACH transfers, card payments, payment installments, or even trip payment contributions.

6. Post-Purchase Communication

Booking a trip is exciting. Celebrate this moment by sending out a booking confirmation to your client. It puts the reservation firmly in place and is a space where you can begin drumming up excitement for the trip. Include a summary of their purchase and information pack if necessary.

As the travel dates get closer, continue to keep your clients in the loop by sending regular updates, payment reminders, packing lists, itineraries, and so on.

These are all critical milestones in the overall customer experience.

Tips For Tour Operators

Automate these emails so that your clients receive them exactly when they need to. Timely communication helps everyone stay organized and be prepared, contributing to the trip’s overall success.

Traveler Feedback

7. Follow Up

Send a follow-up to travelers after their trip as the final step in the path to purchase. Why? Because it is an opportunity for you to get feedback about your tour.

It is also an opportunity to ask your clients to write you a review. As you know, these are important for social proof so that other travelers can read unbiased opinions from their peers.

Tips For Tour Operators

Try not to leave it too long after the tour to make contact again.

Start by thanking your client for trusting you on their journey. Then, include a link to a customer feedback form they can fill out in their own time.

Follow up a few days later with a request for them to leave a review. Again, provide all the necessary links to do this so that the process is easy to complete.

Final Thoughts

This is a general outline of how the path to purchase might look, but it won’t always be the case. What you can expect to be consistent is the need to be personal and inspire at every step of the customer journey.

Travel might be a bit upside down at the moment, but many travel companies are aware of the pent-up travel demand and are preparing for it accordingly. In the mean-time, continue building up trust online so that you are in a position to generate leads that may turn to bookings when the time is right.