An Open Letter to Tour Operators About Viator’s New $29 Onboarding Fee
Dear Tour Operators,
Like you, we have read and are trying to process the open letter from Viator. Like you, we are tour operators and are fuming. During a time in which travel is uncertain, and tour and attractions are slowly opening, ticket sales are more than important, they are vital.
We would like to share with you why we started Global Tours Connect and why it’s different from the larger OTAs like Viator.
Viator says it’s time for a change. We couldn’t agree more!
Global Tours Connect (GTC) is owned and operated by tour operators. We understand the nuances of being a business owner, and the importance of seeking the best market opportunities for our businesses and those of our fellow tour operators. We understand competition and the advantages of being part of a bigger voice. We get it.
Viator says it’s time for a change and we couldn’t agree more. Change is essential. We should no longer be held hostage to OTAs that change commissions on a whim and force us into cancellation policies that don’t serve our companies, nor our guests fairly. We have been following and observing the frustrations of our friends and colleagues for several years, and now is the time for a significant change in the relationship between tour operators and OTAs.
Tour “quality”? Says who?
Viator states their path forward is one of a “fusion of quality and quantity.” Interesting. Quality is subjective. That is why the consumer reviews are so appreciated and we strive to get those five stars. However, in recent years, the onset of trolls and the ability for one to hide behind their reviews has caused good companies to be held hostage in fear of a bad review. If the new path forward is of quality, how is that determined? Who is the decision maker? And quantity? Based on what? The number of sales? Are these sales being compared equally? Are seasonal sales being compared to year-round sales?
Viator also states it is implementing “Product Standards.” From reviewing the standard rating scale, there is still quite a lot of subjective analysis that can be made. One that clearly stands out – a tour must have online ticketing. But with who? Bokun? Peek? EzTix? FareHarbor? Does it matter? At Arival in 2018, it was made clear that ranking on TripAdvisor was based on using Viator and Bokun. Is this still even the case?
They very clearly state that they will part ways with “products that don’t meet our new standards.” Wow. As the kids these days say, “Harsh.” But again we ask, whose standards do we need to meet?
The real kicker here is that Viator is going to have a selection process to rank our tour products and WE PAY THEM for that privilege? Who wants to be nominated as tribute for that? Anyone have $29 laying about to test this process?
Give us some RESPECT
As Aretha Franklin is probably shouting down from the heavens: R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Viator’s announcement also demands the need for tours to adhere to a four-hour pre-tour cancellation window. This is not realistic for food tours and many experiences that require equipment preparation. What a way to treat the businesses who are actually supplying your product! Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
We respect the tour operators’ cancellation policy. We know that every company will have a cancellation policy that is unique to their market and business. We honor that. We have no desire to run your business. You do you best.
And, let’s talk about a reasonable deadline. One month for tour operators to upload new products? Many areas have not even opened up yet and don’t even know what they are even going to be able to provide this year, never mind by August 1. In a time in which the travel and tourism world changes with every CDC recommendation or local ordinance, it’s ludicrous to expect companies to determine what tours will be offered in the future. So many variables must be considered. For food tours, it’s which restaurants are open, how are we going to ensure public and guest safety? For a charter boat company with multiple boats, how many boats will be available? What about staffing? What about start up costs? To set a hard deadline to determine all of this before a ridiculous fee kicks in is truly unrealistic and unreasonable.
We’re tour operators, too!
GTC is a standalone company and owned by us, two tour operators who are part of this community. We are working day and night developing ways in which to share your experiences, just like you. GTC is a micro-OTA, a tour reseller. Our goal is to help you market and sell your tour products.
We believe in partnerships and strong, balanced alliances
Yes, we are operating in partnership with FareHarbor. Why? Because they asked us to, and we’re smart women. This partnership allows tour operators already using FareHarbor to opt into the FareHarbor Distribution Network. GTC is an affiliate in the FHDN, which allows us to resell the tours.
Our partnership also includes adding non-FareHarbor tour operators into the marketplace, which we plan to do in the near future. Strong partnerships build a strong foundation. FareHarbor is committed to Global Tours Connect as well. Along with our marketing initiatives, FareHarbor will initiate their own marketing efforts to drive consumers to Global Tours Connect.
Show me the money
Yes, there is a commission involved, the industry standard of 20 percent. FareHarbor receives five percent and GTC receives the rest.
But what makes us REALLY different is what we do with our portion. We take one-third of the income generated from our commissions and share it back to every tour operator listed in the GTC marketplace. This means you actually make money when you sell tours, when your friends sell tours, and, yes, even when your competition sells tours.
The Global Tours Connect difference
All these things are why we created GTC. We want more for our friends, our colleagues, and ourselves. We want a real voice in the tour sales conversation. We want the ability to own our products without someone else telling us what to do.
But honestly, GTC is more than just an online marketplace. We are a community where we support each other. For those of us who are ready to give tours, we have the support of our fellow tour operators to get the word out … remember, we share in the success of our fellow operators.
Working together, we can change the tour sales conversation. We invite you to learn more about Global Tours Connect and to share in the growth of all our businesses.
Lauren McCabe Herpich
Midgi Moore, CCTP
Global Tours Connect