Six Dirty Truths about Tours, Activities & Attractions

Tours, Activities & Attractions have become one of travel’s hot topics. General travel industry media are paying more attention. It’s becoming a standard session at major travel industry conferences. Everybody is talking about the big themes: it’s growing fast, consumers want experiences, online booking is accelerating, mobile is the future, and so on.

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Tours, Activities & Attractions have become one of travel’s hot topics. General travel industry media are paying more attention. It’s becoming a standard session at major travel industry conferences. Everybody is talking about the big themes: it’s growing fast, consumers want experiences, online booking is accelerating, mobile is the future, and so on.

But this sector has its less savory, dirty little truths that people generally don’t talk about.  We at Arival believe in avoiding the PR headlines and focusing on what’s real, and what really matters to creators and sellers of Tours, Activities & Attractions. So here are six dirty truths:


  1. OTA market share is tiny.
    Online travel agencies get all of the media attention. When TripAdvisor tweaks its website, everyone gets worked up. But the truth is, OTAs account for less than 10% of global activities ticket sales. So our industry spends 90% of its breath on less than 10% of global industry sales. Now, it’s changing fast, and OTAs are trying to increase their share of the pie. But there’s a lot of distribution opportunities out there. We’re going to shine a light on all of them through Arival conferences and reporting.

  2. Airport transfers butter a lot of bread.
    The hot trending products are “authentic experiences” and connecting travelers with locals. These are the types of sexy products that high-profile brands like to talk about. But for some big resellers, it’s the not-so-sexy airport transfer that drives a lot of volume. (We’re fine with that by the way. We’re all for selling stuff people want – trendy or not. And some pretty interesting transportation providers attend Arival.

  3. “Experiences” is just a buzzword.
    Ever since Airbnb launched Experiences in 2016, suddenly everyone is offering “experiences.” Now, there’s no question that new, alternative “experiential” types of tours and activities are growing, but the big volumes for many in this industry today are still in the big attractions and, yes, airport transfers. However, if “Experience” sells more attraction tickets than say, “Attraction,” then by all means

  4. Travelers love free tours.
    This will get me in trouble with many of our tour operator readers. But free tours are big business, especially in Europe, and a thorn in the side of paid tour operators everywhere. We’ll dig into the story behind free tours and the big issues around them when we interview David O’Kelly, Chief Executive of SANDEMAN’s New Europe, at Arival Berlin.

  5. Some cruise lines and concierges are like the mafia. 
    They are huge points of sale for operators in some markets, but some wield their influence in ways that vastly favor them to the detriment of some operators (exorbitant commissions) and, worse, travelers (limited options). Technology innovation has the power to change that. In some markets, it already is. We’re going to shine a light on it.

  6. Distribution is super local.
    And it can get dirty. From local kiosks to aggressive street sellers in popular tourist areas, local distribution can get messy. Some operators work with hundreds – even thousands – of resellers. This won’t change overnight, but it is, in fact, changing, as more travelers trust their mobile apps over everything else. See just how complex distribution in our industry is with Arival’s Distribution Landscape Directory & Map.

What other dirty truths should we shine a light on? Email me at [email protected]. And join more than 500 of the brightest minds in Tours, Activities & Attractions at Arival Berlin March 4-5, 2019.

4-5 March, 2019

in partnership with

June 24 – 26, 2019

Oct. 27-30, 2019
Orlando, FL

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