Online Booking & Search Surges For Activity Travelers

While travelers in general are booking more online, the activity traveler segment researches and plans differently than tours and attractions

Outdoor adventure and activity travelers may love to get outside and offline, but they are increasingly researching and booking those experiences online — and on mobile, in particular, according to Arival’s report on the Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler.

Based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. travelers, this recent report from the 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler research series delves into the mind of the outdoor adventure and activities traveler: who they are, what they want, and how they choose, book and share in 2024.

One highlight from this study with regard to outdoor adventure and activity travelers in particular is how — and how many — places they look for information about activities before booking.

Activity Travelers Research Multiple Sources Before Booking

When travelers are researching activities, which include everything from land- and water-based activities such as canoeing and caving, outdoor adventure and recreational activities such as paragliding and surfing, and cultural and wellness activities such as culinary classes and yoga retreats, they use a variety of sources to plan their trip. 

Bar graph showing the top 5 sources activity travelers use to research and plan their trips - Google Search, YouTube, recommendations from friends and family, travel websites, and Instagram. Google Search is the most popular source, followed by YouTube and friends/family recommendations.
The top five sources of information for travelers researching and planning activities, according to the results of the Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler.

Google search, YouTube video, friends and family and travel websites are the top sources of information for activity travelers, followed by social media, which is actually quite different from how travelers research tours, where social media is more important. 

Why the difference in research methods for activity travelers? Activity selection can be more complex than tours and attractions. When booking a scenic day tour, for example, it’s much easier to just pick something that looks fun and go along for the ride. When planning to do outdoor adventure-type activities in particular, however, travelers require specific information about the experience, including safety considerations, provided equipment, age-appropriateness and required skill level. All of this requires more information gathering in advance of booking. 

What does this mean for operators? To increase online bookings and conversion, activity providers should be sure to provide easily accessible and digestible information in the form of FAQs and clear, short explanatory video content, especially for adventure experiences with higher risk profiles or skill requirements. The goal is to address as many of your prospective guests’ questions as possible up front and quickly, to give customers the confidence to book. 

Online & Mobile Bookings Pass 50% For Activity Travelers

As in all sectors of travel experiences, more and more travelers are booking activities online and on their mobile phones. Online booking surpassed 50% in 2023, with 28% of activity travelers booking by mobile (up from 11% in 2019) and 27% on a computer (up from 19%). 

Bar graph showing an increase from 2019 to 2023 in activity travelers booking online via mobile phones, computers, in-person/walk-ups, and travel trade channels, with the largest increases for mobile phones and travel trade channels.
More activity travelers booked online in 2023 than in 2019, according to the results of the Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler.

Despite this, three in 10 activity operators do not use an online booking system, Arival’s Technology & Connectivity report found. 

What does this mean for operators? Your potential customers are researching their trips in a variety of places online, and they increasingly like to be able to book online also. Take a digital and, ideally, mobile-first approach to marketing and the guest experience. As customers increasingly go online to plan their trips, they expect an online experience that answers all their questions, provides flexibility, and allows them to complete their booking with ease. If you meet these needs with a seamless online experience, they will be more likely to book with you! 

Learn More About the Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler

Learn more about today’s tour taker in our latest report, the Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler, available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access members — sign up and/or log in and download your copy today.

The Outdoor Adventure & Activities Traveler report is the latest in a series of reports based on Arival’s U.S. consumer research. Look for more reports and articles in this series, focusing on:

Also, join us for the next Arival event to learn more about what travelers are looking for and how to reach them, as we explore the latest travel trends, research results and experiences industry insights, with practical tips and takeaways for operators of tours, activities, attractions and experiences.

Become an Insider Pro Access member today and get access to the full library of Arival research, plus many other benefits such as free consulting sessions, special discounts and 20% off in-person events, starting from $179 per year.

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Header photo: Pexels / Elle Hughes

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