The Top 5 Stories of 2020

It’s that time on the calendar when we all look back at the big stories that shaped our year and contemplate what will define the year ahead.

Reading Time: 2 minute 24 seconds

We took a look at traffic across Arival.travel to see what you read and clicked on the most.

While Covid has defined so much of our 2020, your clicks confirm that there has indeed been much more to this tough year than just a pandemic. Here are the top five topics you read and researched in 2020. 

No. 5. Self-guided mobile tours

A surprise at number 5, this article on self-guided mobile tours was among our most widely read, and our research report on the topic was also a surprise seller. What started pre-Covid – or so we thought – as an emerging niche with a few interesting startups quickly became an important new product trend—the reason: pandemic-induced interest in small-group and self-guided experiences.  

No. 4. Google, of course

For tours and activities, Google is both top of mind yet also lurking around the edges. The gatekeeper of the online shopping funnel for our industry (along with just about every other) quietly rolled both Reserve with Google, the booking widget for operator Google MyBusiness listings, and TouringBird, the metasearch discovery startup for experiences, into Google’s travel division. The implication is clear: Google has big plans for our industry in 2021, and we got a  sneak preview of what it could look like this past summer. 

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No. 3: How operators responded to the crisis

We have written extensively about how various operators and attractions have responded to travel’s pandemic-induced crisis, as well as featured many incredible operator stories at Arival’s online events since March. Some are stories of successful pivots, but it’s the stories of those who have shown true grit and endurance that we – and you – have found most moving.

Here are some of the top articles

No. 2. OTAs’  Brave New World

The pandemic has changed our world and all of our businesses. That includes even the largest and deep-pocketed of online travel agencies (OTAs). The most-read articles on Arival broke the news of high-flying startups hobbled – such as layoffs at Klook – or long-standing OTAs scaling back amid the new realities, as with Expedia’s recent news on Local Expert

Another top story was how Airbnb all-but-ignored Experiences amid the IPO hoopla. The lack of attention by the newly public company shows how even companies as innovative as Airbnb won’t find easy success in tours, activities, and attractions. 

The most read and debated OTA story was, not surprisingly, about Viator. The company introduced new product standards and listing fee over the summer. Viator remains the most widely used OTA by operators, and even small changes affect many operators. The biggest complaint: the new $29 fee to add new tour listings to the platform. 

No. 1: The Outlook – When Will Travel Come Back

It’s the number one question we’ve gotten from operators since March: when will this end? When will travel come back? For how long will we have to endure? So it’s not surprising that the most read articles and research reports have been on our market forecasts. 

Our industry outlook from May 2020, Arival’s Coronavirus Pulse Report, has held up well as we head into 2021. Our forecast of a 74% decline in global industry sales was off by just two percentage points. Our most recent research on the state of reopening and recovery from November tracked global industry sales down 76%. 

The big question we all face, of course, is what will 2021 look like. There is good reason to be cautious, and virus case numbers continue to rise globally. We advise you to review our forecasts in Arival’s Coronavirus Pulse Report. There is also reason for optimism, for an eventual end to the pandemic and in the long-term resilience of travel. Indeed, more than a dozen startups have collectively raised $266 million since the pandemic began.  

The pandemic has changed our world and our industry,  Many operators, distributors and tech companies have proven resilient. They are determined to survive, and in some cases thrive. 

The biggest story of 2020 is what comes next. How will the In-Destination Industry look in 2021 and beyond? As we head into 2021, join with us at Arival and let’s create the future of our industry together: a new world of tour, activity, attraction and experience businesses serving a new customer in a changed world. 

See you in 2021! 

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