Arival Wrapped 2023: Your Top Articles & Research

Exploring the themes of 2023 for the in-destination experiences sector through the lens of Arival’s most-read articles and a review of the year’s top research insights

You’ve heard of Spotify Wrapped, now get ready for Arival Wrapped: here are the top stories on our site throughout 2023, chosen not by us but by you, the reader (collectively: these are based on top page visits and views from January through December 2023). This year we’re presenting the top content in three different categories: news stories, resources (tips and guides for operators) articles, and research insights from articles and reports in 2023.  

Top 5 News Stories 

When Airbnb announced they were “hitting pause” on new Airbnb Experience listings in early 2023, it came as a shock to a lot of operators that rely on the platform for their sales. For many small operators in particular, Airbnb Experiences isn’t just a distribution channel but the platform they’ve built their business on. Although Airbnb has remained fairly tight-lipped on the future for Airbnb Experiences, this article exploring perspectives from a number of operators using the platform and industry pundits was the top news story of the year on Arival. (Although it could’ve just been the goat yoga photo). 

By the end of 2023, there unfortunately hasn’t been a resolution yet or much information at all from Airbnb regarding the future of the platform. At least, they did restore the ability for some existing experience hosts to add new experiences. However, at present according to their website new experience listings are still on “pause” — without indication of when this will resume. Speaking at Arival 360 | Orlando, Arnaud Azoulay of Babylon Tours and Kara Ricciardi of Stretchy Pants Food Tours both said their bookings through Airbnb continued to perform well through 2023 despite the company’s broader pullback on Experiences. 

Status of Airbnb Experiences as of Dec. 14, 2023

2. Checkfront and Rezdy Merge

Checkfront CEO Jason Morehouse explains the background of the Checkfront-Rezdy deal and the addition of Regiondo to the company fold

3. Israel Tourism Recovery Reflecting Post-Covid Trends

The escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza was the news nobody wanted in 2023, but this article on one Israel-based operator’s outlook took the number three spot for Arival news, followed closely by another article on how some operators in Israel and Palestine are working together to build bridges of understanding and support their communities.

4. Google Adds Dedicated “Activities and Tours” Section to Search 

Google Things to do has been a recurring hot topic over the past couple of years, as the search engine giant has been making regular changes and updates to the travel booking features on its platform. Getting listed on Google Things to do gives operators the opportunity to attract more direct bookings, so we’ve kept up to date with these changes, including with the article coming in at number four for news, when Google added a dedicated “Activities and Tours” section to their search.

5. GetYourGuide Steps Into Direct Booking

Direct bookings are the holy grail for operators of tours, activities and attractions. They mean less reliance on third party resellers, ownership of the customer, and are the fruit of all your marketing efforts. So what happens when online travel agencies (OTAs), who traditionally distribute experience offerings on behalf of operators to a wider audience in exchange for commission, make inroads into direct online bookings as well? We spoke to several operators, restech providers and OTAs to find out what this trend towards OTAs offering direct booking services means for operators, in this article that came in at number five for news.

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Top 5 Resource Articles

1. Top OTAs to Watch in Asia Pacific

With the comeback of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region and Arival returning to Asia in 2023 with our Arival Activate | Bangkok event in June, we put together a list of tours and activities OTAs in Asia Pacific to help operators grow their bookings in this region. Many of the OTAs on the list were also present at Arival in Bangkok. 

Working with OTAs in general was a popular topic in 2023, and we put together several resources to help operators navigate this, many of which also made it high in the reader list, including How to Set Net Rates for Tours, OTA Marketing and Strengthening Your Business with a Diverse Sales Mix

2. Arival Guide to Booking System Pricing

With more operators getting online, the options for bookings systems have exploded, and there is quite a bit of variation from one company to another. So how do you decide? For many operators, price is one of the biggest factors, however there is no simple comparison, with some systems charging subscription fees, others charging percentage fees on online bookings, and still others adding fees for third party bookings through OTAs and other resellers. Furthermore, the best fit for any operator will depend greatly on several factors, such as their booking volume, and sales and distribution strategy.

Originally published in 2020, we updated this guide to evaluating booking system pricing in late 2023, which quickly became one of the most-read articles across our entire site. The guide includes an overview of up-to-date terms and pricing structures of some of the most popular booking systems for the experiences sector, and outlines the different models and the pluses and minuses of each for operators. The update follows the release of our complete guide, earlier this year, on How to Choose a Booking System. 

3. Which Tour Operator Insurance is Right for You?

Finding the right insurance has been a persistent challenge for operators in the tours, activities and attractions sector. Experience businesses are unique, and often involve a variety of risks — that’s what makes them so fun! It’s also why one-size-fits-all policies simply don’t fit the majority of businesses in in-destination experiences. 

This walkthrough of how to select the right insurance for your tour, activity or attraction company provides an overview of the different types of coverage options and factors any operator should consider in selecting an insurance policy, and introduces Arival ProShield, an insurance option tailored specifically for U.S.-based tour, activity and attraction businesses.  

4. Savory Marketing Strategies for Wine, Beer and Food Tours

Culinary tourism has been one of the fastest-rising experience categories this year as Arival research has confirmed, and this article on marketing strategies for wine, beer and food tours featuring Renee Ventrice from Cork & Keg Tours, Oliver Mernick-Levene from Secret Food Tours and Lauren Shannon from Arigato Travel made the top five. Ventrice also hosted the Culinary Experiences Forum at Arival 360 | Orlando, which she shared highlights from in this interview on what other operators can learn from the culinary sector. 

5. AI Resources for Experience Operators

With the advancements in generative AI arriving in experiences, several travel companies moved quickly to develop tools and training specifically for operators of tours, activities and attractions. A selection of these tools and resources are listed in this article on AI resources for experience operators, which made spot #5 on the resource article list. A lot has happened since this article was published, and the different ways to use AI were a huge part of the discussion and sessions at Arival 360 | Orlando, and will continue to be a focus at the upcoming Arival 360 | Berlin.  

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Top 5 Research Insights

1. Checking in on 2023’s Tourism Trends & Predictions

This overview of 2023’s top tourism trends and predictions and what operators should be doing about it made the top spot this year by a landslide. The article explored trends from AI in travel to the shift to online booking to how short form video is influencing travel decisions among younger generations of Gen Z and Millennial travelers. Immersive experiences and responsible travel also made the list, as younger travelers in particular are driving a shift towards experiential travel that also prioritizes their values of authenticity, sustainability and inclusiveness.

Looking ahead to 2024, some of the trends we expect to continue include a shift for operators towards diversifying their distribution channels and moving away from dependence on a single channel (such as OTAs), and experiences playing a greater part in trip planning, a trend our latest research confirms is continuing.

2. Fewer Trips, More Experiences: 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler

Our consumer research on the 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler, based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. travelers, was just released a couple of weeks ago, and this preview of the report has already skyrocketed to the #2 spot. The report found travelers spent significantly more per trip on average in 2023 vs. 2019, with the spend increase driven in part by travelers booking more experiences per trip: experience travelers reported doing an average of seven experiences on a trip in 2023. 

The 2024 Experience Traveler Outlook report itself is available exclusively to Insider Pro Access members, and delves deeper into key traveler trends, behaviors, sentiment and trip intentions for 2024. More reports focusing on different aspects of this consumer research study are slated for release in early 2024, including reports on:

  • The 2024 Tour Taker
  • The 2024 Activity Traveler
  • The Black & Latino Traveler
  • The LGBTQ+ Traveler
  • The Affluent Traveler
  • The Values-Based Booker 

3. Visitor Attractions & the New Booking Paradigm

Advance purchase, timed entry and variable and dynamic pricing are key trends shaping how attractions market and sell their tickets. But what do attraction visitors think and how is this affecting traveler behavior? The Visitor Attractions & the New Booking Paradigm report from Arival and Go City, based on a survey of 1000 U.S. attractions travelers, delves into key trends and preferences in visitor attractions.

Findings include trends shaping the future of attractions marketing and this little nugget that one in three customers want to pay more — not less — for things like flexible entry and skip-the-line ticketing. This report is available at no cost, simply log in to an Arival Insiders Free or Pro account to access. 

4. Arival Guide to Channel Management

Channel management has been a rising buzzword in tours and activities, but what exactly is it, and why should tour and activity operators care? The Arival Guide to Channel Management explains what it is and why it matters, presents channel management strategies for different types of operators, and provides a directory of channel manager vendors to help operators evaluate potential partners.

5. The Power of Chat

Released in early 2023, The Power of Chat provides an overview of best practices and recommendations for operators to use messaging and chat to improve customer service and increase sales in tour, activity and attraction businesses. Arival surveyed operators on their use of chat, conducted a series of interviews of both platform providers and operators using chat today, and analyzed more than 20 chat platform providers to develop this guide which includes a review and features matrix of the available chat and messaging platforms.

Onward and Upward to 2024

What will be at the top of the Arival playlist in 2024? Only time (and our website analytics) will tell, but we are already working hard to implement a content plan packed with resource and research-rich articles and reports. Our team is also well underway assembling a program for Arival 360 | Berlin 2024 full of thought leadership on trends and research insights, the latest industry opportunities and challenges, and breakout sessions and workshops full of practical how-tos and takeaways for tour, activity and attraction operators. 

We hope you’ll join us for an in-person event in 2024, in Berlin or San Diego. Keep an eye on our online content as well by signing up for our newsletter if you haven’t already, and get access to all our research with an Insider Pro Access membership. Onward and upward to 2024!

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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