The Tripadvisor-owned tours and activities specialist's president Ben Drew caught up with Lee Hayhurst at this week's ITB trade show in Berlin to talk about the need to raise brand awareness
ITB 2023: Viator looks give travellers insipiration when they're dreaming
Tripadvisor-owned travel experiences specialist Viator says it is encouraged by the early signs of the impact of its first mainstream media brand advertising campaign in its core US market.
The 'Do More With Viator' campaign was devised to further establish the brand in the minds of potential customers, particularly during the dreaming or inspiration phase of travel.
Ben Drew, Viator’s British-born president, told Travolution this week during the ITB travel convention in Berlin, that the pioneering tours and activities brand is still not well know enough.
He said Viator was “very pleased” with the recent performance that saw the brand increase gross transactions almost two-fold on what were record pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
However, he said data the brand tracks tells him consumer awareness of Viator remains low. “I actually do not think people do know about us,” he said.
“We have just not told people about us in a way that tells the story out what the proposition is. We have attracted people who are in that moment looking to make bookings.
“But how do we get to people not in that mindset? We have to find a way to talk to those customers as well as those looking to make a booking.
“Some people will spend months dreaming. You need to engage them when it’s memorable so when they are in the mindset to book they come back to you.
“That’s a big challenges because it’s hard to assess that. There is a level trust required; knowing what Viator does and identifying with what we are offering.”
Viator’s main competitor is the more traditional way people book experiences in resort having picked up a leaflet in the hotel.
But the brand knows that in the research phase of travel people look at tens of sites, up to as many as 60.
In a survey Viator found 94% of people want an OTA experience for experiences to compare prices and look at reviews, but 70% of respondents were not aware one existed.
Following COVID, Viator has “completely re-visioned the traveller facing side of the business”, added Drew, as well as revamping its app and launching the marketing campaign.
The brand has also worked to increase its profile on social channels and among influencers offering them the ability to earn commission for referrals.
The brand also culled a quarter of its product to 300,000 having brought in new quality guidelines based on 15 factors for its suppliers.
New suppliers continue to come onboard, but Drew said he would rather not compromise on quality and will look to grow the portfolio “very carefully”.
“Our travellers want consistently high levels of quality across all of our products,” Drew said.
“As a result of that we parted ways with a significant number of products which did not meet our quality standards or did not respond to coaching.
“Travellers are, overall, happy with the experiences they are getting. The average review rating on our site is 4.5.”
On the distribution side, Viator has been broadening connectivity by integrating with reservations systems developed by third party software developers.
The brand also owns Bokun, its own tours and activities reservations system that Tripadvisor acquired in 2018.
Drew said volumes through third party travel agents working through its TAP (Travel Agent Partnerships) business are fast-growing.
“It’s gone from nothing a few years ago to a very interesting part of our business,” he said. “It’s fast growing and there is a lot of product innovation happening there.
“We cover the entire spectrum from big-name OTAs right down to travel agencies with a single office. We have different products for each.”
Drew said because agents have an ongoing relationship with the customer they are able to recommend tours and activities through the booking and travel journey.
“It’s still early days but there’s an enormous amount of space for growth in this area. People do a lot of things when on holiday and travel agents’ clients often have very specific needs.