How to Offer an Early Bird Discount That Sells

By Erick Tomaliwan

Marketing StrategiesMarketing Strategies

Man and woman riding moped

Every tourism business wants to know, when will people be booking activities, accommodations and adventures freely again? 

As a tour operator, continuing to adapt your business during a pandemic, COVID-19 has shown the importance of being flexible and rolling with the proverbial punches. 

With travel on the path to recovery, how are you looking to attract customers ahead of the anticipated post-pandemic travel surge

Tour operators can stand out to domestic and international travelers by creating an early bird discount and flexible cancellation policy for pending the travel boom. 

In welcoming eager guests, making use of an early bird pricing strategy might be the key to helping you sell bookings in advance. 

Couple watching hot air balloons in turkey at sunrise

What is early bird pricing? 

Early bird pricing can be defined as a limited-time offer that encourages guests to book in advance. People are eager to travel and love feeling like they scored a deal. A compelling early bird pricing strategy gives guests a reason to book with you now.

Seriously, discounts? It’s true – using early pricing strategically is one of the best ways for how to increase sales in the off season because it benefits proactive travelers.

Not to mention, selling tour and activity timeslots ahead of time helps you to plan out your season. And, one way of making tours more appealing is by promoting flexible cancellation alongside your early bird promotions.

As a tour operator, your pricing should be designed to encourage guests to book before you sell out. Using strategic pricing to drive early bookings helps build guest excitement, improve cash flow and fuel perks you can offer to loyal customers. 

Since guests might be concerned about missing out once travel picks up, the combination of early pricing with flexible cancellation rewards those who are willing to take the risk of booking in advance.

Clock on the beach at sunrise

Why offer early bird deals

One of the first travel trends mentioned in this press release from Tripadvisor highlights how people are waiting to travel, but not to book. For guests, committing early to tours and activities carries a risk. 

As a tour operator, you can emphasize the benefit of booking in advance by offering early bird pricing. Travelers may find that when borders open up, experiences and tours will be all booked up by the time people are ready to go. 

You can instill a sense of urgency by creating an early bird pricing strategy that accommodates today’s travelers. “The advanced planning window (which is the number of days between when a trip is planned and when the trip takes place) has shortened as travelers are eager for last-minute, local getaways. This shift in traveler behavior is understandable given that many governments’ rules on inbound and outbound travel remain in flux.” 

Until COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, statistics shared in an Arival survey demonstrate how the focus is going to be in continuing to inspire local and domestic travelers

Early bird promotion ideas 

People travel because they crave adventure or have the desire to explore somewhere new. And even if people aren’t travelling right now, they’re likely making plans to do so. To tap into this demand to book now and travel later, you can extend early bird deals for group pricing, making your offer even more desirable to families or friend groups planning their next trip. 

An entire year of being cooped up with restricted travel means people have full bucket lists and travel budgets at the ready. Plus, with early bird pricing, people love feeling like they’re “getting a deal.”

1. Communicate your value

Build a relationship with your guests through your online channels with storytelling and captivating images of what you offer. On your website, list commonly asked questions, making them easy for your website visitors to find.

Mention any changes or updates you’ve made to your tour offers along with how people can book early and save by securing a spot now. Listen to the feedback from previous guests and highlight your attention to your detailed cleaning/hygiene policies. Until the pandemic is behind us, social distancing and cleanliness will be expected by guests as they travel.

2. Create a specific landing page

Directing your website visitors to a unique early bird pricing page by sharing on your social channels.

On this early bird offer page, use phrases like, “Save 30% if you book before May 30”, “Secure your spot and book a friend for 50% off” and “Only 3 spots remaining to join for the 5-star rated sunset tour” to persuade people to book.

Speak to the value guests receive and how much they’ll be able to save by booking early. 

3. Use email to promote your early bird pricing offer

Keeping in touch with your guests allows you to incentivize and reward loyal, repeat customers. Offer content and stories that inspire them to plan their next trip, helping to build customer loyalty. Email is one of the most accessible and effective methods of keeping your tourism business front of mind. In your email promotion, describe how your early bird price allows them to secure an amazing experience – for less!

Scarcity in booking availability creates a fear of missing out, which leads to emotionally-driven bookings. Get more bookings by making guests excited early on because people love feeling like they “got a deal”.  

Mom and daughter enjoying paddle board yoga in the sun

4. Make it a limited time offer

Structure your early bird pricing strategy so that it expires within a specific time frame. Limit the window to book to introduce FOMO (fear of missing out). Clearly state when your pricing offer is valid until and be firm with the deadline.  

Remind people to take advantage if they’re planning to book at some point in the next 3-6 months. Set this up in your booking system to automatically apply for dates chosen X number of days in advance. This is where a flexible cancellation policy helps you to back up your offer. 

5. Drive direct bookings through your site

Focus on streamlining your guest traffic with an early bird pricing strategy. Direct your efforts to selling guests on the experience with the description and images you share on your website. Aim to proactively answer guest questions and speak to what makes your early bird offer unique for your area. 

When setting up your discounted pricing, make sure you address the following: 

  • How can I offer more value for early birds? 
  • Does this align with my booking goals?
  • What is the advantage of a guest booking now vs. last-minute?
  • Does my existing cancellation policy support this offer? 

6. Offer a flexible cancellation policy

Customers will be more inclined to book early if they can trust that they will be taken care of, even if their plans change. A flexible cancellation policy will outline how late guests can cancel, whether they’ll receive a refund and how easy it is to reschedule/receive credit. 

Consider a timeline that still allows you to fill the spot should someone cancel their booking. Early bird pricing is a perk, so explain whether fees apply and the timeframe guests have to cancel their booking without penalty. Make sure it works for your business model and gives guests the peace of mind they’re looking for when booking in advance.

7. Track your results

Have a method for tracking early bird discount codes to analyze results. You’ll want to see whether early bird pricing works for your tour business and whether it’s something worth offering in the future.

Checkfront’s online booking system helps you to create promotional codes for dynamic pricing and early bird promotions. 

Man booking early bird vacation online

Strategic pricing to sell out in advance 

When pricing your tours and activities, consider early bird offers as an incentive instead of a discount. And strategic early bird pricing may lead to being booked at capacity sooner, which supports having a sustainable, profitable business. 

Base your pricing to work with your revenue model. Typically discounts ranging between 10-20% work well for hooking guests into booking. It needs to be enough of an incentive to make the offer seem worthwhile and your early bird price still needs to be profitable.  

Bear in mind that the first price guests see on your website will set the bar for every price they compare to afterwards. This is a strategy known as anchor pricing

So, if you frame an early bird price underneath your anchor price, it helps make the other available tours seem like a deal. Position the early bird price with clear information and offer expiry after your anchor price to help seal the deal.

Be sure to factor in costs when it comes to deciding what you’re able to offer in discounts, preventing yourself from booking at a loss. Even if discounted pricing can be seen as having a negative impact on revenue, it can also be a way to reward guests who are willing to commit to booking with you in advance. 

As an experience provider, your knowledge is valuable and so is how you create memorable experiences for guests.

Early rising hiker enjoying coffee at sunrise

How to implement an early bird pricing strategy

Avoid cutting too deep into your margins, and focus on making early bird offers enticing without being too cheap. An early bird deal has to strike a balance between making sense for your bottom line and people wanting to book.

As a tour business, being seasonal impacts your capacity to host guests. With a movement towards smaller groups and socially distanced tours, advance bookings help you to plan your season. You can also explore ways of enticing guests to book longer stays by using early bird discounts.

If you use an online booking system, you’re able to create promotional codes guests can use to book. Watch the video above to learn how to create an early bird discount using Checkfront. 

When to offer early bird pricing

What are you waiting for? Do it now – only, make it available for a limited time. Early bird pricing is best used ahead of busy times, when attempting to book beyond a 2-6 months in advance.

Customers value the holistic experience from initial interaction to the brand when compared to the experience they bought, so as you percolate on offering a deal for your tours, does your booking policy:

  • Address guest concerns? 
  • Explain what happens if booked guests can’t travel? 
  • Are bookings refundable, transferable or able to be exchanged as a credit?

Grant yourself permission to experiment with early bird pricing offers, but always make the guest experience is your number one priority. Maximizing revenue from guests isn’t just about booking more tours, it’s about creating high-value individual experiences for guests. In doing so, you’ll reap the benefits of happy, repeat guests and improve your bottom line. 

Implementing an early bird pricing strategy gives guests the sense of feeling like they hit the jackpot. By booking ahead of the travel pop and scoring a great deal, they will be set to enjoy the amazing experience you’ll create for them. And, who isn’t excited about having a wonderful trip to look forward to?

Want to continue improving your tour business and promotions with strategic marketing?

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