Nearly every tour operator has had a cancellation gone terribly wrong. You block off time and resources to accommodate a large group only to find out, an hour before—they won’t be joining you. Last-minute cancellations can take a toll on your bottom line and your business morale. On the flip side, travelers can just as quickly recall a time when they were blind-sided by a cancellation policy. How do you safeguard your tour operator business—without losing credibility with your guests?
Create a fair policy for all.
When tackling this critical task, consider every possible angle. Know your risk tolerance for cancellation on any given day. In a worse-case scenario, how quickly can you make adjustments with your vendors? At what point can you still recuperate any investment made? Once you make an honest assessment of your tour operator business, you’ll know just how lenient you can afford to be. If you give your guests the courtesy of a cancellation window, they may be more likely to commit. As long as your guest gives proper notice, you may choose to offer a full or partial refund. Be flexible, and be firm.
Set yourself up for success.
Transparency is your best strategy, always. Not every savvy traveler will ask about your policy, so it’s up to you communicate your rules early on. Misunderstandings, if not handled correctly, can make your tour operator business seem unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be crystal clear with your customers upfront so there’s never any question.
Put your policy out there.
Now that we have established that you need to communicate your rules, here is a little bit about the best way to do that. Don’t rely on the fine print. Sure, you may have avoided a legal issue, but if your policy was never communicated properly, you now have a customer service problem on your hands. Let your policy be known early on, in conversation, in the contract and in every follow-up email. Always leave a paper trail. Post your cancellation policy on your website, and have it printed visibly on every piece of marketing collateral.
Offer up a backup plan.
If you need to cancel an excursion, for whatever reason, concessions must be made in the form of a refund or an alternate experience. If your hot-air balloon ride can’t take off every time it gets too windy, consider building a partnership with the vineyard nearby. Your guests will expect the credit, but they’ll always appreciate how you kept their vacation experience going.
Add another layer of protection.
When travel plans change, having a cancellation policy—and sticking to it—helps you protect your tour operator business. But when the tour is on, excursion insurance gives you all the coverage you need. Your best bet is to be prepared with a proper policy at all times.