Like it or not, online reviews can make or break your business. Hidden travel gems have been propelled to must-visit status on the back of a few effusive 5-star reviews, while lackluster destinations can suffer, or even go bankrupt entirely, if they start racking up 1-star feedback.
As a tour and activity operator, it's important to do all you can to encourage travelers to review you. A Cornell University study found that there is a direct correlation between positive visitor reviews online and increasing revenue. In fact, a one-star increase in average review translates to nearly a 2-percent increase in revenue. (Read our tips on how to get more reviews here.)
Asking isn't enough, though—you have to be smart about it. We've all had automated “Please review us" emails after buying something online or going to a restaurant, but how many times have you acted on them? Probably not very often.
The key to getting a glowing review from a customer is to trigger an emotional response —called a “moment of truth" in marketing circles. If you can recreate the feeling they had on the tour they took with you, they're much more likely to give you a good review. This is why those “review your product" emails from Amazon always arrive just after you've taken delivery. You've just received a new toy and Amazon wants to capitalize on that feeling.
Tour and activity operators are already in a great position to make this happen. The experience a lifetime—be it discovering decadent foods in a new city, or kayaking for the first time—is a much bigger occasion than buying some new headphones, and people are likely to have much stronger positive feelings about their first scuba dive, a guided hike, or skydiving.
Your options for creating your own moment of truth are limited only by your imagination, and the more creative you are the bigger the potential for amazing results.
Take a lesson from theme parks: They'll email on-ride photos to their visitors, and the smart ones include a request for a review. What could bring back the memories of an amazing day better than a photo of you having an amazing time?
Activity operators are perfectly set up to use a similar tactic. Make sure your guides are taking photos (or even better, video) of your guests having a great time skiing, surfing, jumping out of a plane, or whatever types of activities you offer. Send the photos and videos to the guest shortly after they return from their trip (so your email isn't buried in their post-holiday inbox avalanche, and they have a reliable connection over which to view the video) and watch the memories come flooding back, and the reviews rolling in.
For smaller or boutique operators, the best option can often be simply to ask guests. If your personality and customer service are big selling points for your business, it makes sense to ask for a review personally. Explain the value of those five stars to the visitor, and often they'll happily review you. Stephen Peters, director of the Pacific Sands Resort, reports that since he started proactively asking for reviews, their volume has tripled.
Finding your moment of truth is as simple as looking at your current reviews—which part of their trip do your reviewers rave about? Find a way to bring back those memories when you ask for a review and both the number and star ratings will go through the roof.