The One Reason Why Most Tour & Activity Bookings Have Been Offline – And Why It’s Changing

According to a new Arival report on sales and distribution, the pandemic could do in 12 months what OTAs and tech companies have struggled to do for decades.

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Online selling, whether through OTAs such as Viator or GetYourGuide, or via operators’ own websites, have dominated the industry discussion on sales and distribution. However, according to Arival’s Sales & Distribution Trends & Outlook 2020 report, these channels remained a relatively small part of total sales in 2019.

At under 20% of total sales in 2019, online selling in tours and activities was far below online sales in other sectors of travel, such as flights and hotels. 

Fewer than 1 in 5 Bookings Made Online in 2019

The largest portion of tour and activity ticket sales had been by “Phone and In-Person,” where visitors simply walk up to the museum or into the tour operator office to purchase the ticket.

We often get the question: Why is so much still offline? When most consumers are perfectly comfortable purchasing just about anything and everything online, why have tour and attraction tickets always lagged? 

There have been several inhibitors to online growth in the sector, but one key reason has always stood out: traveler behavior. 

Most travelers don’t plan or book their in-destination activities until they are in the destination. Travelers want flexibility on their trips, and do not want to be tied down to specific departure times and dates for many of their activities. For most activities and attractions, it has been easy enough to walk up and purchase a ticket. 

Online Booking Share Could Gain Five Years of Growth in 12 Months

With Covid-19, all of that is changing. Consumers are rapidly shifting to advance planning and booking. More than seven in 10 travelers say concerns about the pandemic are significantly affecting their future travel planning, according to the Longwoods-Miles Partnership Traveler Sentiment Wave.

This means travelers are doing more advance planning and booking than ever, especially for in-destination experiences. They want to know that the experience is open and safe. The changes taking place in how travelers plan and book will outlast the pandemic.

For operators, the implication is clear: offering clear information about health and safety with online booking in advance is essential.  

Will the behavior last?

A notable shift in consumer behavior rarely reverts in the travel industry. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic won’t last forever, operators should expect an increase in online booking to remain the norm going forward. Once global travel demand begins to recover, online booking will help operators deal with a much more pleasant problem from the past: efficiently managing throngs of travelers.

Arival’s Sales & Distribution Trends & Outlook 2020 provides a comprehensive view of the state of tour, activity and attraction sales and distribution, with key benchmarks on distribution channels by operator type and region. In this report you will find:

  1. An overview of the major distribution channels and how they trended from 2018 to 2019.
  2. An assessment of the impact of the pandemic on distribution and likely impacts as travel recovers.
  3. Key benchmarks on distribution channel share for operators by size and region, with segmentation for tour and activity operators and attractions. 
  4. An overview of the OTA landscape, with a review of key OTA developments in 2020
  5. Strategies for working with OTAs, including benchmarks to measure your OTA sales against other operators

Learn more about Arival’s Sales & Distribution Trends & Outlook 2020. 

Join as at Arival 360 as we delve into the state and future of sales, marketing, and distribution for tour and activity operators, featuring interviews with the leading OTAs, in-depth workshops on how to optimize your distribution strategy.

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