How to Build a Winning Tour & Activity Website

Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO and Creative Director, talks great travel websites and offers some pro tips for building the best tour and activity sites.

1. Online Travel Booking Takes Off
2. Go Global to Sell More Tours & Activities
3. Mobile Friendly: A Tour & Activity Website Must-Have
4. Content is Still King On Good Tour and Activity Websites

1. Online Travel Booking Takes Off

Online travel booking is old hat for most consumers by now—nearly everyone surfs the net for the best travel websites and has a personal go-to favorite. It’s a fun digital treasure hunt for great travel deals and exciting tours and activities in your destination of choice.

With an estimated $817 billion in online bookings logged already by 2020, the Internet is obviously here to stay as the people’s DIY travel agent. Numbers from Statista indicate that US-based travelers booked 20% of their flight tickets and 33% of their hotel rooms online in 2021. At the present rate of growth, around 700 million people will have made an online travel booking by 2023.

Online travel and tour booking platforms are generating some serious money from all this traffic. Booking, the leading U.S. travel, accommodation, and experience platform, pulled in 6.8 billion dollars in 2020. And that was with revenue more than halved by the COVID-19 pandemic. Second-in-line Expedia managed to earn 5.2 billion during one of the worst travel shutdowns in recent memory.

The important thing to realize about the numbers put up by these operations is that hotel rooms, transportation, and experiences generate far more bookings than airline tickets, which are the least common item booked. This fact along with the trend and the numbers involved here should send a clear message to tour and activity operators that a high-quality, high-performance Internet presence is a “virtual” must-have for promoting, selling, and booking any type of travel, tour, and activity products.

Great Tour & Activity Websites: More Than Just Good Looks

Sure, nowadays the web is peppered with beautiful travel and tour websites packed with incredible photos, videos that make a potential visitor feel like they have already arrived, and mouthwatering descriptions of things to see and do. Upping your game is the only move left to make in the space. It’s time to rethink your online presence and make sure you are setting the standard for the competition—not playing catch-up.

Move beyond putting up a website to putting together the complete package—a fast, sticky, mobile-friendly, top-ranking, high-converting website; an effective social media footprint; a review funnel & CRM plan; online travel agent/customer service resources; bloggers, influencers, and other outreach strategies—it all has to come together for a tour and activity business to stand out and blow up.

Whatever your travel, tour or activity thing is, you need to dominate that sector of the Internet. How do you get there? Read on to find out how to build a winning tour and activity website and the web presence that goes with it.

2. Go Global to Sell More Tours & Activities

Let’s take a quick look at a few more numbers: International travel to the USA. Yes, domestic travel is coming back nicely considering what we have just gone through with COVID, although flying is even more of a nightmare than ever. But it’s time to take a serious look beyond U.S. borders. You will immediately spot demand pools of immense size, made up of consumers with lots of money and a proclivity for international travel that is unimaginable to the majority of Americans, 58% of whom do not have a passport.

Most everyone knows by now that India and China are the two largest consumer markets in the world by a long shot. Well, they are also massive travel and tourism buyers.

Expected to become the most populous country in the world by 2024, in 2018, India broke into the top-10 list of sources for inbound visitors to the US. Back in the pre-pandemic days of 2019, the International Trade Administration logged 1.5 million visitors from India.

China was the fifth-largest source of international travelers to the United States in 2019, sending 2.83 million travelers over. The Chinese are also the biggest-spending visitors, averaging $11,849 per person on their trips to America.

One of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, Korea is not as big as the other two, but Koreans are amazing when it comes to international travel. More than half the country’s population, 28.7 million Koreans, traveled abroad in 2019 and 2.3 million of them came to America.

An ideal web presence has an effective international reach—note that over 70% of web searches are not done in English. You need to think about developing a multi-lingual web presence. It is becoming more and more common, and most Americans are already familiar with the Click for Spanish option. There are various easy ways to put a few translated pages on an existing website or you can go full global from the domain up.

Localize Your Site

The ultimate approach is to get some international domain registrations and build country-specific websites, with targeted marketing campaigns and appropriate local-language tech and customer service support. A project like this might only be feasible for the largest operators, but it is not that difficult to reach into at least one international target market. For example, a large portion of India’s population speaks English. A country flag on the landing page, some content tweaks, and price listings in local currency are all you need to get started there.

There are a few easy hacks that can get your business more international views. For example, most tour and activity operators know the importance of listing with the big fare aggregators like Expedia and Priceline. The large international markets have their own versions; leaders include Ctrip, Fliggy, and Mafengwo for China, MakeMyTrip and Yatra in India, Hana Tour and Interpark Tour in Korea. Look into registering on one or more of these. If nothing else, it’s a way to drive traffic to your site.

International online marketplaces are another possibility for the same strategy. Put up your logo products to create a revenue stream and generate free advertising. Get creative—print a ticket for your parasailing tour on a t-shirt. Top players are Alibaba in China, Flipkart and Snapdeal in India; Korea has GMarket, CollectKorea (operated by eBay Korea) and more.

Social media and mobile internet are critically important to effectively marketing U.S. travel and tourism in China.
International Trade Administration

And don’t forget s-commerce–you might be surprised to know that people in other countries do a lot of shopping on social media sites. Social media access via mobile platforms is an important source of news and information in China. According to the International Trade Administration’s China – Country Commercial Guide, U.S. travel and tourism providers wishing to reach the Chinese market need to be aware of and reaching out via popular social media outlets.

You are probably already on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Think about internationalizing some of your content there. Then go local-social with Weibo, WeChat, Tiktok, Mafengwo, and Meituan in China. Kakao Story and Naver in Korea. WhatsApp will get you started in India and across the Middle East.

3. Mobile Friendly: A Tour & Activity Website Must-Have

Websites in the U.S. began optimizing for mobile platforms not long after the first iPhone hit the streets. In 2019, mobile devices powered 63% of organic search traffic on Google. On a global basis, around 55% of website traffic in 2021 came from mobile users.

In-destination searches will be 95% smart phone searches so your site must be mobile-friendly for sure.
Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO

In the travel and tour business, optimizing for mobile is absolutely essential — travelers on the move rely on their smart phones. Sure, long-range planners will be at their home or work computers setting up flights and maybe hotels. Some might add a few tours and activities to their itinerary. Once a visitor arrives in-destination, mobile is where everything happens.

Peter Downie, CEO of Wodu Media, a successful tour and travel website development firm, operator of top-performing sites like and, notes that “In-destination searches will be 95% smart phone searches, so your site must be mobile-friendly for sure.”

In America, 74% of consumers use their mobile device to do in-store product research while shopping. The habit certainly carries over when folks are on vacation looking for the best trolley tour in San Diego.

The World Goes Mobile

Looking at the international markets, the International Trade Administration reports that mobile internet is critically important for effectively marketing U.S. travel and tourism in China. There are over 1.1 billion mobile phone users in the country, and Chinese consumers spend an average of 43.4 hours per week on mobile Internet.

The Chinese conduct their lives through the WeChat and Alipay apps, relying on them to a degree that very few Americans comprehend. Many young people there never handle cash or cards in daily life; rent, utilities, and other household bills go through the phone as well. Street vendors with no more than a bicycle and a hibachi full of grilled hot dogs will take payments via QR code and the Alipay or WeChat smart phone apps.

Mobile Internet usage is growing fast in India, where 53% of the population went online from their phones in 2020, a number expected to reach 96% by 2040. India has an expanding middle class of well-educated, technology-oriented people and an average age of 28 across the whole population. Young folks under 25 comprise almost 50% of the population. Combined with the fact that mobile access offers the only Internet connection available for millions of India’s people, the end result is a large mass of humanity that sees the world through a smart phone screen.

The Korean population is highly tech-savvy as a whole, and some of fastest fiber Internet in the world is universally available in Korea. 70% of the population was on broadband by 2004 and the country was fully wired with high-speed fiber years before smart phones arrived. Fully 99% of Koreans from all age groups access the Internet on smart phones, most of them on a daily basis. They have been using their phones to pay at the grocery store and most other places for well over a decade.

It all adds up to a huge market comprised of mobile web experts of a caliber that would put most American teenagers to shame. And the Asian telecoms tend to make things work seamlessly (and cheaply) abroad, including in the United States. A mobile-friendly site featuring payment apps like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and maybe even some buy-now-pay-later alternatives like Klarna and Afterpay, can do wonders when it comes to picking up traffic and boosting conversions.

Star On the Small Screen

The take away here is that, if your business caters to visitors, whether it’s a multi-million-dollar yacht charter operation or simple walking tours, future prosperity will come from being online, fast, high-ranking, and mobile. Not only to pull in and deliver to local American traffic, but to tap into the limitless global market.

Notice how content & link-dense Korean websites are? That’s terabyte-speed Internet.

Untold thousands of people are sitting in airport departure lounges across the world right now, scrolling their phones for something to do in New York, Key West, Chicago, Seattle or LA and anywhere in between. You need to reach out and touch them.

4. Content is Still King On Good Tour and Activity Websites

Content is king—an online marketing truism that has been worn threadbare since Bill Gates used it as an essay title in 1996. Cliché maybe, but no less true for that, and particularly so in the travel and tourism sector. When asked about the absolute essentials for a winning travel, tour, and activity website, Wodu Media CEO & Creative Director Peter Downie put “High-quality photos that show off your activities and if possible, video” at the top of the list.

A large, beautiful image elicits an emotional response. It’s the perfect lead-in to an inspiring CTA (call to action) that encourages visitors to translate emotion into action by planning their own adventure. Use images that leverage maximum advantage from your location while highlighting your offering. Remember that large images need to be very high-quality, and be sure to optimize file sizes to minimize impact on page load times.

A great tour and activity website needs high-quality photos that show off your activities and if possible, video.
Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO

The use of videos on landing pages has been shown to increase conversions, but keep in mind matters of page complexity and load times, your audience, and how, where, and when they are likely to be accessing the content. In many cases, tours and activities are products that are presented more readily and effectively by means of a few well-chosen photos in a slideshow rather than a video. Consider a fishing trip product—a video of a customer fighting a trophy gamefish is great. Now contrast a video of an art museum tour—not so engaging.

Combine those attention-grabbing images with clear CTAs and easy routes to conversion. Don’t make visitors have to wade through too much text, think too much, or make too many decisions before having the opportunity to buy. Make a concise offer that clearly tells visitors what you can do for them. Consider leading with a verb and making the headline a CTA: Enjoy a VIP Sunset Dinner Cruise vs. VIP Sunset Dinner Cruise.

Then drop in a Book Now button, ideally linked to a booking engine with live inventory. Follow this lede with a brief overview of about 155 characters that has enough descriptive power to pull conversions but also fits as a meta description for search results pages.

Everything to this point has happened ‘above the fold’—on the portion of the web page that can be seen without scrolling. In the best-case scenario, you already have a booking at this point. If not, you need to close the deal below the fold with well-written, interesting, useful content.

The Long and Short Of Great Tour & Activity Websites

Conversion rate optimization studies produce conflicting information about short- or long-form content. Short-form landing pages work better for some audiences. Other research shows long-form content increasing conversions by up to 220%. The decision about what works for you comes from deep knowledge about product, audience, and their relationship combined with a clear set of objectives for your website and the design needed to reach those goals.

But remember—the travel, tour, and activity sector is a bit of a different animal. Yes, you are putting up what is essentially an e-commerce shopping site, but these are not your typical widgets, and there is a good argument for offering some engaging reading below the fold on a landing page.

Some people are booking their trips from home, maybe thinking about Florida in the dead of winter where they live. They will consume your longform content. And longform also helps with your SEO. Other people are booking on the go, just 2 or 3 days out, so there should be some content that is quickly and easily digestible for them.

So think about a balance between the short horizon bookers but also detailed info for the long term planners.
Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO

The Best Tour and Activity Websites Sell the Dream

As most of us know, travel and related topics are the subject of daydreams and pleasant imaginings. Think about creating a virtual travel experience. People enjoy looking at pictures and reading a descriptive, detailed presentation about an adventure they are considering. Such reading helps the prospective customer confirm that the activity will fulfill their expectations for enjoying an interesting, pleasurable experience.

The reading is actually part of the experience; it is an aspect of the lead-up, anticipation-building phase. Most people really enjoy whetting their appetite in this way. The proof of this is evident in the popularity of media centered on exploring exotic places and doing amazing things. Look how people devour content about the activities they love to do—scuba diving, mountain biking, skiing, surfing, fishing, golf—or wish to try.

Long-form landing page and product description content, especially when accompanied by high-quality photographs and links to genuine reviews, can be particularly effective on a tour and activity website. These are ecommerce sites, but they sell experiences—subjective, often primarily psychological phenomena—rather than objective, physical, material goods.

Because experiences are ephemeral, not physical items that can be examined and evaluated, the importance of content increases on a tour and activity website. An experience must be clearly described to the potential buyer via the use of text and photos to convey a positive story, one that helps readers envision themselves participating in and enjoying the experience. Learning, planning, anticipating—relishing before, during, and after—these are all part of any desirable experience.

Good Tour & Activity Content is Both Pleasant and Practical

And be sure to add some business to the pleasure. Useful content brings people to your site, creates loyalty, adds value to your brand, and pleases search engines.

The more information on your web page, the less customer support you need to provide.
Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO

Handy airport, accommodation, and transportation information; details needed to access and enjoy the product being offered; general good advice, local knowledge, and recommendations—all great ingredients for an engaging piece of long-form content. Thoughtful content anticipates and fulfills your guests’ needs. Comprehensive content can also lessen the workload on your side of the counter.

Addressing the short- vs. long-form question, Peter Downie offers the sort of practical, grounded take you might expect from a veteran with decades of experience in the sector:

“In the past several years, there has been a trend for websites to move toward a marketing format, with information taking a backseat to lush images. However, travel websites are just the opposite. You can turn your website into the flashiest magazine format possible but all you are doing is setting yourself up for thousands of phone calls. People will call and ask the same questions over and over.”

Peter’s advice? “Learn the questions that will be asked then answer as many as possible with your content and your FAQ sections. The more information on your web page, the less customer support you need to provide.”

Leverage Your Online Reviews

Always remember that reviews are a key part of content.
Peter Downie, Wodu Media CEO

Finally, the most critical aspect of your content strategy is the effective use of social proof–evidence that real people have experienced your tours and activities and loved them. Pictures, videos, social media links, and reviews are the ticket here.

Peter Downie emphasizes “Always remember that reviews are a key part of content—the ones on your own site as well as on Tripadvisor and other review sites. You want to showcase your reviews, and there are many different software tools that can take the work out of aggregating and displaying them.”

Peter points out that a rich About page is a great place to build rapport for your brand, answer basic questions, and highlight your positive reviews. Readers visit this page for many reasons, but you have only one objective for the page: to inform visitors why your site and brand is the right choice for them. Use page design and content elements to engage, convince, and convert while telling visitors who you are and why you do what you do.

This is also the place to let others introduce your brand and products—a stream of positive online reviews is a powerful marketing tool and, done right, possibly the most cost-effective component of overall marketing spend. Consider deploying review management tools to remove barriers to generating and leveraging the review flow that is such a critical component of any modern online marketing effort.

Review management is part of any coherent approach to customer relationship management (CRM), a concept aimed at driving sales growth by improving customer service and enhancing retention. CRM is carried out by implementing strategies, practices, and technologies to analyze and manage the interactions that make up the customer experience.

Building an effective review funnel, nowadays usually automated by software, is a foundational CRM practice. Getting control of reviews for your business and optimizing the flow to your best advantage puts you on the path to achieving and maintaining a top online reputation.