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Online travel agencies (OTAs) have become powerhouses in the travel industry, monopolizing the booking pool for tours and activities. While OTAs can provide essential exposure and a steady stream of bookings for tour operators, they also pose significant risks and drawbacks.

The substantial budgets of OTAs allow them to outbid small and medium-sized operators in ad spending and SEO, effectively siphoning bookings that might otherwise go directly to the operators. This dynamic not only reduces operators' margins due to the OTA's commission but also subjects them to the whims and rules of the OTA.

OTAs prevent tour operators from collecting customer contact information, hindering operators' ability to build direct relationships with their clients, limiting opportunities for personalized service and marketing. This dependency on intermediaries for repeat business can lead to increased costs and reduced brand loyalty, as operators struggle to establish a long-term customer base.

One glaring example of being vulnerable to the whims of OTAs occurred in May 2024, when Airbnb abruptly removed experience listings without warning. Such moves can leave operators scrambling to fill their bookings, often resulting in last-minute cancellations and financial losses. Moreover, OTAs typically allow guests to cancel their bookings at the last minute, further complicating operators' ability to manage their schedules and resources efficiently.

The Biggest Cost: Loss of Direct Communication

The critical issue of OTAs withholding guest contact information stifles operator independence.  By preventing operators from directly communicating with their guests, both in the short and long term, it makes it difficult to build meaningful relationships and foster customer loyalty. The inability to follow up with guests directly means operators miss out on long-tail opportunities for repeat business, personalized re-marketing, and relationship building that are key to OTA independence, long-term profitability and financial success.

Fotaflo's Innovative Solution: Contact Adding Feature

Recognizing these challenges, Fotaflo has introduced a groundbreaking feature aimed at empowering tour operators to reclaim control over their customer relationships. The new Contact Adding feature allows operators to not only provide the best incentive to receive guest contact information (free memories are sent through email and sms) but also provides the easiest method to capture contact information that OTAs typically withhold. Here's how it works:

  1. Self-Service Contact Collection: To streamline the process, guests enter their own contact information. By scanning a QR code, guests are directed to a form where they can add their details. This not only saves time for operators but also enhances the guest experience by making it easy and hassle-free.
  2. Viral Potential: Guests can share the QR code with others in their group, enabling everyone to enter their contact information. This ensures comprehensive data collection with minimal effort from the operator.
  3. Available on Your Phone: The feature is available on the Fotaflo Android and iOS apps. Operators can add new customer contact information directly through the mobile app or generate a QR code for guests to scan, making the process quick and convenient.

The Benefits of Direct Customer Relationships

By utilizing Fotaflo’s Contact Adding feature, operators can significantly reduce their reliance on OTAs and other third-party platforms. Direct access to customer contact information allows operators to:

  • Drive Repeat Business: Follow-up emails, special offers, and personalized messages accompanied by the guests' memories encourage guests to book future experiences directly with the operator.

  • Own the Customer Experience: Direct personalized communication helps in creating a memorable experience that guests share and refer directly to the operators website.

  • Build Loyalty and Advocacy: Satisfied customers who feel a personal connection with the operator are more likely to become repeat customers and advocates who refer others.

Conclusion: Take Control of Your Customers

The landscape of the travel and tourism industry is rapidly evolving, and reliance on OTAs is becoming increasingly risky for operators. By capturing and sharing memories with guests, operators can leverage human behavior to influence travel booking decisions. More on that here. Owning the channels of communication with customers is crucial for building long-term relationships and reducing dependence on third parties.

Fotaflo’s Contact Adding feature is proven to be the simplest tool for operators looking to take control of their customer relationships. It provides the best incentive to collect contact information and the most efficient way to collect customer contact information, ensuring that operators can engage with their guests directly and effectively long-term.  Ready to transform your customer relationships and build a loyal customer base? Get started with Fotaflo today and turn one-time customers into lifelong fans and advocates.

For more information or to get started, contact us at Fotaflo.

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