Developing travel itineraries
One of the key services a tour operator provides is the development of travel itineraries. A travel itinerary is a detailed outline of the travel schedule for your (potential) customers. It’s a planned route with accommodations, transport, and travel experiences you select for your travellers.
Travel itineraries manage expectations of customers as they give a good insight what you have to offer. Your selection of travel components is decisive for their final decision and also shows the quality of your services. Travel itineraries can be visible on your website or can be tailor made for individual requests.
A good travel itinerary allows your customers to prepare for their trip and enjoy it to the fullest. Developing good travel itineraries can be a challenge. It involves combining sustainable travel components that meet the needs and expectations of your travellers while making sure they create a positive impact in the destination.
Identify your ideal target group
Investing your time right is essential as a tour operator. When you want a high conversion rate (from request to booking), you have to make sure your itinerary meets the needs and expectations of your ideal target group. Make sure you know who your ideal client is and how to attract them.
Tips for a good travel itinerary
Selecting the best suitable options for your travel itineraries is important but a difficult task. What do you include, why and how do you make a selection?
7 tips on how to develop a good travel itinerary
Be guided by our 7 tips to select responsible components for a good travel itinerary.
1. Transport to the destination
Customers can either book their own transport to their holiday destination, or you can book it for them. International transport is one of the main contributors to the high CO2 emission of the tourism industry. We can’t avoid flying all together, but we can attempt to lower our footprint.
To do this, include flights with the least possible layovers and reduce emissions by avoiding additional landing and take-off. Also do your research and see if there are other ways for your travellers to travel to the destination. For example, with public transport.
If customers book their own (international) transport, you can still influence their choices by recommending responsible options on your website and in travel itineraries.
2. Local transport
Besides transport to the destination, you also need to include transport in the destination. For example, from the airport to the first accommodation. But also, additional transfers and excursion. Again, here it’s important you select transport means that limit their CO2 emissions.
Where available, include train rides to get your travellers from one place to another. Turn a simple transfer in an additional experience of their trip. Also look into long-distance buses for further destinations. And into the local public transport system for shorter distances. When you select private transport, make sure to work with local drivers and well-maintained vehicles.
3. Sustainable accommodations
Every travel itinerary includes accommodations. From a large chain hotel to a boutique eco-lodge to a simple camping experience. Working with sustainable accommodations can be a challenge. How do you know how responsible they are? If you want to make responsible decisions, you need to gain insight in the sustainability practices of your preferred accommodations.
Your selection depends on the needs of your customers. Are they looking for a larger chain hotel? Make sure it’s eco certified. Are they looking for a more local experience? Select a small (eco) boutique hotel that provides an authentic experience, shows local culture and benefits surrounding communities.
Learn how to check and select sustainable accommodations for a sustainable supply-chain and travel itineraries.
4. Slow travel
When developing a travel itinerary, you decide the pace of the trip. An important element of a good travel itinerary is to stay longer in one place and to travel less. This means having your customers stay in one place for at least 2-3 nights. Preferably longer. By doing this your travellers have the opportunity to explore a destination and to experience it to the fullest.
By slowing it down, they’ll have time to relax, unwind and visit more than just the highlights. It ensures local communities benefit more from tourism as travellers spend more. There is also a reduction of CO2 emissions by travelling less.
5. Carbon-free travel experiences
When talking about travelling slower and emitting less CO2 emissions, carbon-free travel experiences are a perfect add-on. A carbon-free travel experience is simply an activity without carbon emissions. It ensures minimum disturbance to wildlife or the environment and enables travellers to experience the destination to the fullest.
Think about walking tours, bike rides and canoe trips. It all focuses on taking it slower, enjoying nature and being active. The possibilities are endless as you can combine it with any niche activity. For example, local food tours, history tours, bird watching and community-based tourism.
Learn more about examples and the benefits of carbon-free travel experiences for a good travel itinerary.
Even though you tailor your travel itineraries to the needs of your ideal target group, it will not always be a perfect match. Every traveller has their own preferences and wishes. To accommodate this, make sure to offer customization opportunities. Personalisation is key to success and allows travellers to design their dream travel experience.
To streamline this process, add optional travel experiences, transport means or accommodations to your itinerary. This makes it easier for customers to see the possibilities and make better choices. Clearly communicate customization is possible and also highlight more responsible add-on options to influence their behaviour.
7. Support the local economy
Good tourism supports and empowers the local economy. As a tour operator, you have influence on where your travellers spend their money. You can make sure your travellers also create positive impact during their trip. You can either include this in your itinerary (recommended for group travel) but also add this as tip for individual travellers.
Think about recommending specific places and destinations where they can spend their money locally. For example, a small restaurant that serves local food from the surrounding area. Or a boutique or handcraft shop where locals sell unique souvenirs and where the crafters directly earn from their sales.
Learn more about how you can support the local economy as a tour operator and ensure money spent stays locally.
Besides selecting the most suitable options for a good travel itinerary, it’s also important they’re visually appealing. Stay away from sending itineraries in word format or with limited information. The itinerary must appeal to your potential customers and convince them you are the right company to travel with.
Do this by including background information about the selected regions, accommodations, and travel experiences. Add storytelling and pictures to visualize the itinerary and to make it appealing to your potential customer. Even if your selected components are perfect for your customer, it still needs to look interesting to them for them to actually convert to a booking.