How to sell guidebooks with tour operator reservation software

tour operator reservation software

All too often busy tour operators miss out on the extra revenue guidebooks generate, presuming the production and distribution is cost prohibitive. But the latest in self-publishing tools and tour operator reservation software make producing and selling guidebooks easier than ever. Here’s how to do it….

The Reference Standard

Paul Bland’s ‘The Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook’ is the best selling walking tour guidebook ever published. Bland’s tome is the basis for untold self-guided tours in Georgia’s city by the sea. When interviewed, Bland explained the long-term appeal of guidebooks:

"It's still flying off the shelves...and the book isn't just appealing to tourists. I think it's helpful to locals who want to be better hosts or just better information about the city they live in.”

Bland’s guidebook covers 12 of the city's 22 public squares, including the most famous one of all, Chippewa Square, prominently featured in the film ‘Forrest Gump’ starring Tom Hanks.

The Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook’ is sold online and in retail bookstores across the country. But as far as walking tour guidebooks go, Bland’s book is an exception and not the rule. Of the tens of thousands of walking tours, few have an accompanying guidebook produced by a big publishing company.

Many tour operators assume that producing a book like Bland’s is too expensive, or that maintaining an inventory would mean selling the book through a third party, diluting the profits. That assumption may be causing them to miss out on a very lucrative aspect of their business.

Tour operators should know there have been amazing advances in book production and distribution and that includes sightseeing guidebooks. Time was, an author (or tour operator) needed to have a publishing deal with a big company and a formal distribution channel in order to sell books - but that was then, this is now.

How To Publish and Distribute Guide Books

The revolution in self-publishing has caused the price of printing books to plummet to almost nothing. Book printing services from the new generation of companies like Lulu allow for production “runs” of a single book for the same unit price as one hundred, or one million.

If you currently have some form of paper hand-out or a bound folio that you sell as a guidebook to your tour guests, take the time to review just how far along self-publishing has come in just the past few years. The time and money you spend now may very well be enough for a full color, hardcover guidebook, like Bland’s (and just as profitable).

Also an important consideration, in today’s modern era ruled by the smartphone, is making two versions of your guidebook available - one physical, one digital. The same way Lulu specializes in self-publishing of physical books, there are several services that specialized in publishing digital ones. First, of course, is industry giant Amazon, the number one distributor of so-called “e-books” in the world. Amazon has a way for any author to create a digital version of a book and sell it to anyone who owns a Kindle. But there may be a drawback to this method since locking a digital edition to Amazon's proprietary hardware may limit the appeal a guidebook has.

A digital distribution channel that has no proprietary hardware requirements at all is Google Currents. Currents boasts that they can create and begin to distribute a guidebook in minutes, with just a few mouse clicks. Many popular print magazines use Google Currents to sell digital versions of their magazine since it is much cheaper than building their own digital production process in-house. And publishing a digital book through Currents comes with all of Google’s know-how in content discovery through online search.

That takes care of production - but what about distribution?

Lulu, Amazon and Google Currents all offer their own way of doing things when it comes to distribution. Some take a percentage of the sale, others offer digital book distribution for free, but reserve the right to add their own advertising to the content. There has been controversy recently over the fees and percentage author’s pay when their work is distributed by the likes of Apple iTunes and Amazon - some fees can go up to 35%! However, high distribution fees can be avoided when the tour guidebook is offered as part of the tour reservation process.

The best tour operator reservation software features the ability to sell items along with tour reservations, right when the guest already has their credit card out. Such a closed loop may not have the giant exposure of Amazon or Google, but guidebooks are hyper-context specific. A professional tour guide's expert opinion is specific to their tour. As such, the operator’s guidebook is best enjoyed as companion reading only for the tour which reservations are being made.

ThunderTix Tour Operator Reservation Software

Guidebooks, keepsakes, mementos and souvenirs are just as much a part of a sightseeing experience as the tour itself, why not capitalize on that and make selling guidebooks part of your online reservation process?

ThunderTix tour operator reservation software can help you sell your guidebook aright along side your reservations. Best of all, we never take a percentage or charge a fee for any of the items you sell.

Selling items with reservations is just a small part of what we offer the hard working tour operator. Our technology lets you display “Hurry! There are less than 5 tickets remaining” during the online booking process. These messages shown to people visiting your website increase sales velocity while reducing the dreaded cart abandonment. Ticket availability messages are proof we are committed to doing everything we can to make your tour a consistent long term success.

Not only do we help you recoup costs, we offer some of the most competitive pricing plans out there. Our management software is priced as a flat annual license based on the number of tickets needed per year. The only cost outside of the license fee is the cost of credit card processing. Don’t pay for more than you need – Sign up for a free trial today!