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The FutureProof Blog

Web Design for Tour Guides – Travel Website Guide

Having a captivating and user-friendly website is crucial for tour guides who want to thrive in the highly competitive travel industry. Your website is the shopfront for your tours, enticing potential customers to take their holiday journey with you. In this post, we will explore the process of crafting a tour guide website that not only showcases the uniqueness of your tour but also pleases visitors with a seamless navigation and stunning visuals. We’ll look at web design in general, but the focus will be on WordPress, our platform of choice for this type of client, renowned for its ease of use and limitless customization options.

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Whether you’re an established tour operator looking to revamp your existing site or a passionate guide taking your first steps online, these insights and practical tips will help you create a website that leaves a lasting impression on your customers. From identifying your target audience to setting up tour bookings, this post will guide you through all of the essential steps. The enhanced functionality of WordPress will be a focal point, with an emphasis on the booking and reservation processes, as well as customer support. We’ll also look at the aspects of SEO particularly relevant to the tourism sector; increasing your website’s visibility and attract organic traffic.

Included in this post are several real-world examples, FutureProof Digital clients that we have worked closely with in the recent past. One is a tour operator on the island of Inis Oírr in Co. Galway and the other is The Galway Tour Guides Association. Both had very specific requirements and there’s a lot you can learn from their tourism websites, and their digital marketing in general.

So, fasten your seatbelt, and let’s embark on this journey through Web Design for Tour Guides…

Web Design for Tour Guides

Understanding the Needs of Tour Guides

As a tour guide, your website is not just a digital brochure; it is a powerful tool that can make or break your business. It’s crucial to gain an understanding of the specific needs and expectations of your customers. By doing this you create a website that appeals with your target customer and grows your booking numbers.

Identifying Your Target Audience

The foundation of any successful website lies in knowing your target audience inside and out, and tourism is no different. Take the time to research and identify what they like, their interests, and the demographics of the people you want to attract. Understanding your potential customers will allow you to tailor your content and the design to meet their expectations.

The best place to start is with your existing customer; who are they, where are they from, what income bracket do they fall into? For a recent client, Wanderly Wagon, we used an industry report from Failte Ireland, The Connemara Coast & Aran Islands – Visitor Experience Development Plan because they had no data on previous customers. The report identified two customer segments, the Culturally Curious and the Great Escapers. These two customer personas combined, constitute the majority of travellers from the UK, the USA and mainland Europe, heading for the Aran Islands. The data collected and analysed in this report was extremely helpful to a business like Wanderly Wagon. Without their own customer data it would be difficult to target their customers correctly through their marketing because they wouldn’t know what they are looking for in terms of travel activities.

click here to learn about Wanderly Wagon…

Web Design for Tour Guides - Failte Ireland, The Connemara Coast & Aran Islands - Visitor Experience Development Plan

Highlight Your Tours & Tour Packages

Once you have a clear understanding of your customer, it’s time to showcase your tours. Highlight your tours, your tour packages or other products in an engaging way. Use the best visuals you can, high-quality images and videos, to give visitors a glimpse of the incredible experience they can expect. Complement these visuals with compelling and concise website copywriting that really sells what you do best. Keep in mind that visitors often “scan” so write in a digestible format.

A user-friendly navigation that directs customers through your website, is equally important. Ensure that your website’s menus and internal links are easy to follow, and direct the traffic where you want it to go. By understanding your customer and designing your website, and its content for them, and their needs, you create a compelling online presence that inspires them to choose your tour.

learn more about USP in the tourism sector…

Homepage 09.04.2023 Crop 2 min 2

The homepage above, Wanderly Wagon again, shows what can be achieved; striking design, eye-catching visuals, simple navigation and calls-to-action. No need to compromise. Tourists expect the wow-factor from their holiday, and your website tells them that’s what they get with you.

The Fundamentals of Website Design

First impressions matter. An exceptional web design, better than the competition, is the key to the hearts and minds of tourists, your customers. As a tour guide, your website should showcase the beauty of the destinations you offer, because you’re selling that as well as yourself. It is also a reflection of your professionalism and dedication to providing an unforgettable experience.

User Experience (UX) Drives Ticket Sales

Intuitive Navigation

Imagine your website as a virtual tour guide leading your customers on a journey of exploration. A clear and intuitive navigation system directs them to the desired destinations effortlessly. The destination you want them to reach is your sales page; booking a ticket. Start by organising your website’s content logically. Use descriptive labels for each section, ensuring customers can easily find the information they need. Avoid using too many menu items and instead, opt for a clean and uncluttered navigation layout.

check out this sliding menu…

Mobile Responsiveness

More travellers than ever before are using their smartphones to plan and book tours, a mobile optimised website is no longer just an option, it’s a necessity. Ensure that your website adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes, providing an equal experience for mobile users as for desktops users. Mobile-friendly design yes, but it also plays a vital role in search rankings. Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in their results, making it essential for every site, tour guides included.

Wanderly Wagon Booking Mobile View 23.07.2023

Designing a Visually Stunning Website

Travel WordPress Theme or Custom Design?

The answer is… it depends. We never use a WordPress Theme. Every FutureProof Digital client gets a custom design and development. Every business is unique, and their websites should reflect this; colour scheme, fonts, layout, everything. When you install a WordPress theme some, or all of the design freedoms are taken away from you, and that just won’t cut it for us. We design and develop everything from scratch; posts, pages, layouts, forms and all the other elements that make up a website. We start with a white, blank screen, and build the client’s digital brand from there.

Having said that, if you’re a travel business just starting out, and you’re brave enough to have a go at designing a website yourself, a WordPress theme might just be the way to go. There are hundreds of themes out there, free and premium, specifically for tourism websites, travel websites, a travel agency website, and for tour operators. For all the reasons we don’t use a WordPress theme, they could be exactly the reasons you should; much of the design is taken care of.

take a look at some travel blog themes…

High-Quality Images and Videos

A picture really is worth a thousand words, and tour operators run a hugely visual business. Invest in high-quality images and videos that showcase the beauty of the destinations and experiences you offer. Beyond stunning visuals, ensure that the media is optimised for fast loading times; file type, pixel size and file size are all important.

Web Design for Tour Guides - Image Optimisation in Photoshop

The screenshot above shows an image optimization in Photoshop. This is an old thatched cottage on the island of Inis Oírr. Colour, levels and contrast are optimised, followed by size and format.

learn more about image optimisation with WP Engine…

Enhanced Functionality with WordPress

As a tour guide, providing a fast and efficient experience for customers on your website should be a priority. WordPress is the number one CMS on the web for good reason. It offers a huge selection of software solutions to enhance your website’s functionality and streamline critical processes. Whatever type of business you run WordPress has the answer, that’s why we use it exclusively for our clients; design freedom combined with unlimited functionality.

Integrated Booking Software

Today, tourists expect to book everything on their holiday wish list before they even leave home. WordPress has got your back; check tour availability, select preferred dates, and reserve tickets with ease. A smooth and hassle-free booking experience increases conversion rates and keeps your customers coming back time after time. We really like YITH Booking (seen below), but a newcomer to the market, FareHarbor, is specifically designed for tour operators, and we’ll be testing it very soon.

Booking Calendar - WordPress Custom Post Types

Online Payment Gateways

FareHarbor takes care of everything for you, including payments, while YITH is a WooCommerce addon, so PayPal integration is the easiest path to take, it’s also a provider that most of your customers will know and trust. Another option is Stripe, a dedicated card processing platform. It’s cheaper than PayPal but it’s way more complicated to set up and pay-outs are less frequent.

Contact Forms and more...

What if you don’t want to book tickets directly on your website, maybe you’re just starting out, testing the water. In which case you need your contact form, phone number and email address to do the work. Make sure they are easily accessible wherever someone is on your site, and don’t ask for too much information, you can get that later, it can put some people off.

Travel Business Directory Websites

We spend a lot of time researching and testing software for our clients, and when we find the right options we spend big and licences. One example is Crocoblock, a suite of WordPress plugins that cover every aspect of web design and development. We recently worked with the Galway Tour Guides Association to redevelop their website, and the cornerstone of this project was Crocoblock Jet Engine, a custom database and dynamic content management tool.

click here to view this project…

GTG Homepage Header 20.02.2023 1

Jet Engine Custom Post Types

Jet Engine allows us to create custom post types tailored specifically to the client, not just “post” or “page.” By defining a custom post type as “Tour Guides,” we can structure and organise the directory content more efficiently. Each tour guide is represented as a unique WordPress instance with its own set of meta fields (see below); name, location, contact details, guide bio, and more.

learn more about Jet Engine…

Advanced Meta Fields

Jet Engine provides an array of meta fields that improve UX hugely for users and the client. WordPress, as standard, only has two types of field; a text editor and the ability to select categories, not so with Crocoblock. As well as those listed, you can incorporate custom fields for ratings, reviews, languages spoken, tours offered, and other relevant details that will assist potential travellers in making informed decisions, and at the same time hugely speed up the entry process for site admins.

What types of meta field can I use…

Search and Filter Options

One of the standout features of Jet Engine is its seamless integration with search and filtering options, allowing visitors to narrow down their search for tour guides based on location, language, tour types, and any other field specified above. This level of personalization enhances the user experience and ensures that customers find the ideal guide for them.

discover the possibilities of Jet Smart Filters…

Dynamic Maps and Geolocation

Jet Engine enables the integration of dynamic maps and geolocation features, a feature that will appeal to many tour guides. With this functionality, users can easily identify guides near their desired destinations, enhancing the overall usability of a directory. Tour Operators can also display route options on their sites, or their directory profile pages.

Crocoblock advanced map features…

Customer Reviews

Crocoblock includes the ability to add a ratings and reviews system to a directory website, although Galway Tour Guides didn’t go for this option. Positive reviews help build trust and credibility for tour guides, while constructive feedback offers insights for improvement. For a paid, premium directory, along the line of TripAdvisor, this would be essential.

learn how to get more customer reviews…

Creating a Dynamic User Dashboard

FutureProof Digital websites are built with a client focus. Our goal is to make a website as easy to run for the admin as a Facebook page. Our clients never have to worry about design and layout, only to enter text and images, everything else is taken care of automatically. Each website has a custom user admin, that’s easy to learn and navigate using the video guide that every client gets on completion.

Web Design for Tour Guides - Search and Filter Guides

SEO for Tour Guide & Tourism Websites

Ensuring that your tour guide website reaches your target audience is vital. By optimising your website for the search engines, you can increase its visibility and attract organic traffic. SEO is hugely important for every type of business, and every type of website. Let’s take a look at the basics.

Keyword Research and Optimization

Keyword research is the foundation of effective SEO. Begin by identifying relevant keywords and phrases that potential holiday makers may use when searching for tour services, or tourism activities in your area. Focus on long-tail keywords at first, that are very specific to your tour offerings and location. For Wanderly Wagon we started with branded terms like “wanderly wagon tours” and then branched out, “tours of Inis Oírr” for example. We also targeted locations and tour stops, “plassey shipwreck” and “pubs on Inis Oírr” for example. All terms that you would expect tourists to use. Incorporate your target keywords strategically into your website’s content, landing page titles, meta descriptions, and URLs. Aim for natural and informative content that showcases your expertise and what your customers, and holiday makers in general, will be interested in.

discover the most popular travel industry keywords…

Web Design for Tour Guides - SEO and Location based Blog Posts

Local SEO Strategies

Guided tours are in many ways the definition of local, the service cannot be provided anywhere else. Local SEO strategies can significantly boost your website’s visibility in the search results, and the visibility of your business within your region. Some basic local SEO can have a huge impact on your level of inquiries and bookings.

Google Business Profile Optimization

Create and optimise your Google Business Profile listing, providing accurate and up-to-date information about your tours, location, contact details, and business hours. Encourage customers to leave positive reviews and respond to these reviews. This profile optimization is the most important factor in the local pack and maps listing, capturing traffic from searches like “tour operator in x” or “guided tour near me.”

learn more about Google Business Profile…

Local Directory Listings

List your tour guide business in every local, national and international directory you can find. TripAdvisor is the big one in the travel business, but every link counts, and can potentially bring in bookings. Ensure that your business name, address, phone number and other details are consistent across all listings, Google checks. Local directory citations add credibility and improve your chances of appearing in local search results. Travel bloggers are also a great source of links.

Location-Specific Content

As described above in the keyword research section, location based content can be hugely valuable in the travel sector. This is what travel bloggers do, you should too. Write content that highlights the unique experience and attractions in the locations of your tours. Incorporate keywords naturally into your content, meta tags, and headings to signal to search engines the relevance of your content.

For more info on SEO Copywriting click here…

Website Performance and Technical SEO

In addition to content optimization, technical SEO plays a significant role in your search rankings. Get the best hosting you can afford, and do your best to make the site fast-loading, mobile-ready, and user-friendly. Google tells us that page speed and responsiveness are ranking factors, so we should listen, and your customers will thank you as well. Don’t forget to optimise your images, as well as browser caching and a CDN to further improve load times. If this sounds like gibberish, don’t worry, we can help.

Web Design for Tour Guides

Great web design, the power of a WordPress site, and a robust SEO strategy is the foundation of all successful tourism websites and this foundation can make a real difference to your business. Your website becomes more than just a digital platform; it becomes a captivating story that invites holiday makers to embark on an unforgettable journey with you. By understanding the needs of your customers and setting clear goals, you can tailor your content and design to meet their needs.

With each element outlined above in place, your tour guide website becomes a dynamic platform that connects you with your customers and fosters a genuine connection with them. As tourists find your website, they’ll be enticed by the promise of unforgettable experiences and exceptional service. In the competitive landscape of the travel industry, your web design, WordPress implementation, and SEO strategy become the pillars that elevate your tour guide business. Embrace this knowledge and apply it to your website, letting your passion for travel and expert knowledge shine through.

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About Adam Bermingham
This blog is dedicated to helping you stay ahead of the curve, with insights into the latest trends, tools, and best practices. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or web designer, we have something for everyone. We bring you expert advice, tutorials, and case studies to help you optimise your online presence.

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