7 Things I Learned at Arival Berlin

by | Mar 14, 2019

It was quite a week for the inaugural Arival Berlin. Some 700 attendees from across Europe and around world assembled to dig in to the big trends and key themes defining the Best Part of Travel. Here are seven things that stood out.

1) Europe Is Digitally Behind? Um… no. I kept hearing this from industry executives as we were getting closer to Arival Berlin. “Europe is behind the U.S. in technology adoption.” “Europe is not as sophisticated digitally.” Well, after two days of Arival Berlin, my take? Nonsense. From online booking to connectivity, digital marketing and yield management, European operators were all in, and expressed levels of engagement and interest with these topics as high as–or higher than–at other Arival events.

And here’s a quick data point: For the first time ever, our conference mobile app was used by 100% of our attendees (yes, 100%). They sent 10,000 in-app messages to schedule nearly 1,000 appointments. If Europe is behind (and it’s not), it’s catching up pretty fast.


2) Attractions Can Lead the Distribution Debate: One of the most talked-about presentations was from The Van Gogh Museum’s Kay Bartelink, and how the museum completely restructured its approach to ticketing and distribution by ending commissions and developing co-operating marketing partnerships with OTAs (online travel agencies). This is a clear example of how major branded attractions have an opportunity to lead our industry in the growing distribution debate and chart a path for others to follow.

3) “Experiences” Are Not Just an Airbnb Thing. Everyone was talking about “experiences,” or creating new types of locally immersive tours or activities that connect travelers with a place through experiences beyond traditional sightseeing. Operators from Athens to Iceland and Portugal to St. Petersburg are redefining tours and activities for the future. Our industry may finally be getting over Airbnb.

4) Everyone’s Wondering about Booking.com. The world’s largest seller of accommodation, Booking.com, is a relative newcomer in Tours, Activities & Attractions, and it’s still finding its way. But this brand holds enormous sway in Europe, as evidenced by the standing-room-only Demo Lab their team conducted to walk attendees through new features of Booking Experiences for operators.  

5) Yield Management Is Coming. It’s a long-standing practice across hotels and airlines to use technology to vary pricing dynamically according to demand and supply. It’s still in its infancy in our industry, but that is changing fast. The in-depth walk-through from the famed Moulin Rouge on their journey toward dynamic pricing, and the audience’s intense engagement in the follow-on debate, made clear that our industry recognizes that standard, seasonal pricing may soon be a thing of the past. Even small operators are becoming more sophisticated with pricing to grow their sales and improve their margins.

6) Sustainability is the “S” Word. My favorite expression from the Arival Berlin Theater program by far. Sustainable tourism growth is a huge issue confronting our industry in Europe, but how we tackle it in a way that serves operators, the environment and local communities is hardly easy. And what’s more, most travelers don’t care. For some in our industry, “sustainability” may be the dreaded “S” word. But not for Urban Adventures’ Anula Galewska, who walked us through a terrific presentation and roundtable debate on how sustainability can actually help us all sell more (that’s an “S” word we can all get behind).

7) This is the Best Part of Travel. There’s no debate about that. From learning about how Sara Robertson left her lucrative private equity career to build a beer tour company from scratch in Scotland to the incredible shifts made by Merlin Entertainments, one of the world’s largest attractions companies, to win the outbound Chinese traveler, extraordinary things are happening in our industry. We love being a part of it. We love telling these stories.


And we’re just getting started.


What stood out for you? Email me and let me know.


























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