Tours and activities – a little reality check and some optimism
Such is the apparent progress (and interest) in the online tours and activities sector that it can get an entire session of its own at a major travel conference these days.
Hot on the heels of the release of Phocuswright’s latest research paper, “The In-Destination Experience: Shopping, Dining, Activities & Tours“, delegates at the WebinTravel conference in Singapore this week were given some signs for further optimism in the sector but also markers as to where there is still plenty to do.
Alex Kremer, co-founder and head of product at fledgeling business Actourex (and a former co-founder at tours and activities specialist FlexTrip, which later sold to Nor1), worked with Phocuswright on the paper and spearheaded a session which later featured a panel of: Eric Gnock Fah (Klook), Renee Welsh (Booking Boss), Tao Tao (GetYourGuide) and Tushar Khandelwal (Voyagin).
Here are some notes from Kremer’s trends to keep a careful on, and the discussion that followed:
· Chinese travellers have a higher propensity than other markets to book tours and activities online.
· There is a general increase in the use of online videos for marketing – it’s arguably the one sector of the industry that naturally lends itself to video as it is the most “experiential”.
· Next day availability of products is becoming commonplace on booking sites (with some same-day booking of activities more feely available).
· Open marketplaces on tours and activities online travel agencies is in vogue, led in particular by TripAdvisor which has multiple suppliers of products but allows the user to evaluate each by including consumer reviews.
· Direct connectivity between marketplaces and aggregators and suppliers is no longer a nice-to-have but becoming a standard model.
· Online travel agencies need to move away from portraying activities in the same way online as they do hotel properties – fundamentally different types of products.
· Cancellation policies must improve, so buyers of products can postpone or get refunds easier (weather issues, etc).
· Peer-to-peer marketplaces generally not getting the same kind of traction – issues remain around search engine marketing, reliability of product/suppliers.
· The sharing economy model favoured by Airbnb et al shouldn’t be considered as the same for tours and activities as “hosts” in accommodation take a passive role, whereas those activities are more hands-on with the product (leading to fundamentally different types of issues around management and reliability).
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