Avital Ungar, the founder of Avital Tours, a food tour operator in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, knew she had to move quickly.
“Our three markets – food and dining, corporate groups and travel – they all went down in March almost overnight,” said Ungar. “We moved quickly. I rebuilt the company in five days.”
And that’s what she did. She reconceived the business from the bottom up, and wrote about the process here.
“You have to have an experimental mindset. The first product we launched wasn’t the top seller,” Ungar admitted. “If you put out a virtual tour, and nobody’s buying it, then you didn’t market it well or didn’t have product-market fit. You have to listen to your customers. I think you need to sell it first and then build it.”
Letting Go of Leisure
A key early learning for Ungar was where the bigger virtual opportunity lied: corporate and group experiences. While most tour operators are focused on the independent leisure traveler, Avital Tours always had a significant group business with a focus on custom corporate events. That’s where they hit their stride with virtual.
“People were booking individual experiences. There is a market for it,” Ungar noted. “It just wasn’t as big an opportunity for us as corporate and groups. It doesn’t make sense to split our focus. I should be focusing on a 3,000 person holiday party vs. three people on a leisure tour.”
Avital Tours is now completely focused on corporate and group events: virtual company meetings, holiday parties, virtual conferences. “None of my events are publicly available. We started with it, but it wasn’t where we focused. So now we’re 100% corporate,” Ungar added.
As of October, Avital Tours has hosted more than 10,000 virtual guests and grown from four to seven employees, with big plans ahead.
“I don’t think virtual is going anywhere. I think virtual is here to stay,” says Ungar.”
In Virtual, the Human Connection Matters More than Ever
Ungar believes key to her company’s success with virtual experiences is that each event is not just a virtual tour but a unique experience.
“My tours were always about interaction and the human connection. Food is the commonality that brings people together. It should not be a spectator experience,” she said, emphasizing that this applies to the experience hosts as well as the guests. “If I’m going to be doing something that’s never going to be the same twice, then people will be willing to pay for that.”
Join Avital’s Ungar at Arival 360, where she and Scott Weiner of Scott’s Pizza Tours will share their learnings on creating amazing virtual experiences on Arival’s Digital and Distribution Day, Monday, Nov. 2.