The Rapid Rise of the Private Tour Taker

Private tours may carry an air of exclusivity, but the latest Arival research shows they are anything but — nearly half of U.S. tour takers took a private tour in 2023. We delve into who these travelers are, what they want, and why they booked a private experience.

Experiences exclusive to a group or travel party are increasingly common – and sought-after. Nearly half of all U.S. travelers who took a tour in 2023 – 47% – booked a private tour or experience. 

With the growing demand for private tours, we dove into our latest consumer research to uncover who these private tour takers are, how they travel, what they want, and what motivates them to go private. 

Affluence Is the Biggest Indicator

Not surprisingly, private tour takers are typically more affluent. Nearly three in five bookers of private tours have a household income of US$100K or greater. 

Men Prefer Privacy

While it is often assumed that women do more of the travel planning, men are far more likely to book private experiences. Three in five private tours were booked by men, while more than half of public tours were booked by women.

More Private Tours on International Trips

Travelers who went overseas were more likely to book a private tour. Travelers generally take tours in destinations where they are less knowledgeable. While more travelers take tours for international travel vs. domestic travel overall, the likelihood of taking a private tour for an international trip is greater. 

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Four Reasons Why Travelers Go Private

There are four key drivers for private tour booking. 

  1. Exclusive experience for their travel party. The biggest driver for private tours is the demand to have an exclusive, controlled experience without other travelers outside of their family or travel party.
  2. Ease of planning. Another – and perhaps surprising – driver of private tour booking is simply ease of planning. Booking a private, exclusive experience allows the traveler to organize the specific experience for their group that is most convenient and satisfies the most people in their travel party (as opposed to adapting the pre-set schedule of a public tour departure).  
  3. Access. A close third in importance is simply access or availability. For one in five private tour takers, they booked a private experience because this was the only way they were able to access the attraction or have the specific experience they wanted. 
  4. Control. For many travelers, especially younger travel tour takers, they prefer control over the itinerary and schedule, and booking a private tour enables travelers to design the specific experience they seek for themselves and their travel group.  

So What? Top Three Operator Takeaways for Private Tours

Go Private. Travelers want private experiences, and they are willing to pay for them: so provide them. More and more travelers are seeking exclusive, stand-out experiences for their travels. If you don’t offer private tours, consider adding them to your portfolio, especially if you serve a lot of international travelers.

Be flexible. Design private experiences that speak to the wants of those private tour takers: give travelers flexibility to customize itineraries, schedules and tour components.  

Use marketing messages that speak to traveler wants. Highlight the value of exclusivity for the traveler’s group, unique access to special experiences, and the ability of the traveler to customize the experience for their group. 

Learn More About the 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler

This deep dive into private tour takers is part of a larger research study on the 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler.

Based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. travelers, this research series looks at different aspects of the tours, activities and attractions traveler: who they are, what they book, why they book and what they want, how and when they book, what matters most to them, and much more. This is an essential research series for any creator or seller of in-destination experiences serving the U.S. traveler, and each report is available exclusively to Insider Pro Access members. 

Also, join us for Arival 360 | San Diego in September 2024 to learn more about the experiences traveler, 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.

Header photo: Pexels / Carlo A

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