After a few years in the shore excursion business, Shore Excursions Group realized that the market for people traveling over land is much larger than cruisers taking shore excursions. Cruise-focused travel agencies wanted to branch out and sell more travel on land, and the idea for TourSales.com, which offers commissionable day tours and activities, was born.
“It was a natural evolution for us to launch this new brand,” says Mike Bonner, one of the co-founders. “A little over a year ago we got serious about developing tour sales. We had all of the main pieces of the puzzle already in place. What we needed was a new brand and a broader set of products, because we had products in places that cruise ships go, but we needed a broader set of destinations.”
The founders spent a little over a year developing the brand, using the same business model, resources, and infrastructure, but targeted the product toward a different market. Shore Excursions Group was always a b2b product, it benefitted both travel agents and cruisers, since agents earned commission and cruisers received a product at lower rates and perhaps a higher quality than what a cruise line may offer.
“We have an understanding given our background in travel, the importance of travel agents in the distribution of products. Travel agents still make up a very large percentage of sales that are enjoyed by many travel suppliers,” says Brad Miller, the other founder of the company. “We also understand that travel agencies are in a hyper-competitive marketplace and they’re constantly looking for new ways to generate revenue facing commission challenges. This could be something that is a compelling business proposition to them and to their clients.”
TourSales.com offers some of the highest commission rates in the industry, ranging between 10 and 15 percent depending on volume, and also offers agents a simple booking process that does not require training.
“Our expertise is in this partnership with travel agencies and figuring out how to integrate our products into the travel agencies’ sales process in a way that’s super simple for agencies so they can generate the revenue without having to do a lot of work,” Bonner says.
Miller explains that they are able to keep commission rates high for agencies because unlike consumer-focused brands, they don’t need to spend a lot of money building their brand. Instead, they can take that money and put it into agency compensation, since that is their model.
The company also stands out in the industry since it does not compete with tour operators. Agents can plug in TourSales.com’s day tours and activities with flights and hotels they find for their clients. They are careful when selecting the tours, and if they don’t meet the company’s standards, they won’t use them.
“There are a lot of companies doing classic tour operating, their focus is escorted travel; there are very few companies that focus on the FIT business. That’s the niche that we’re going after. We’re not interested in selling a hotel or an airline ticket. We are looking for the person who wants to be an independent traveler,” Miller says.
Reporting by Paloma Villaverde de Rico.