My Top Highlights from Arival Orlando 2019

As a two-time Arival attendee, here are takeaways, highlights and things I learned from Arival Orlando 2019.

by | Nov 6, 2019

Jenna Blumenfeld

With Arival Orlando nearly a week behind us, I returned to my home in snowy Colorado feeling energized by the ideas I heard, and the people I met who are focused on creating the most amazing, enriching experiences for travelers around the globe. 

As I reflect on my second Arival (I attended Arival in Bangkok back in June), I’m excited to share my own highlights from the conference. 

In-Destination is Booming

I’m galvanized by the momentum the in-destination industry is having. After years of taking a back seat at travel conferences around the globe, the tours, activities, attractions, events and experiences sector is finally getting the attention it deserves with a conference completely dedicated to this category.

There was a palpable energy at the event that comes with being an integral part of progressing this $180 billion industry forward. From small operators to the largest online travel agencies (OTAs), Arival Orlando felt like a true community building a worldwide movement. 

Food Tours Rise! 

Lauren Herpich, founder and owner of Local Food Adventures based in Oakland, Cali., told me that as recent as a few years ago, many people didn’t even know what a food tour was. With not one, but two food tour-focused organizations present at Arival Orlando (Food Tour Week and Global Food Tourism Association), it’s clear food tours are a fast-growing, integral part of the in-destination industry. 

Arival research supports how important culinary is to travelers. (It’s actually one of the most important aspects.) I’m most excited by food tour operators who are using culinary experiences to share the history and culture of the destinations they operate in. 

Creativity Abounds

From indoor axe throwing to tours of Amish agriculture to clear-bottom kayaking, the sheer creativity in the tours, activity and attraction space is astonishing. It’s these such unique things to do that encourage travelers to make memories, and participate in as many as 6 to 7 activities on a given trip.

Networking Is Key

The Arival Orlando Networking Lounge was one of the most popular places to be during the conference (and not just because there was complimentary coffee). Nearly every attendee I met at the show said meeting and connecting with like-minded operators—and the biggest OTAs and reservation systems—to share and exchange ideas was a big highlight. 

Because we know it’s impossible to meet every one of the 1,200 attendees, myself and my Arival colleague, Erin, interviewed as many people as possible on camera to learn their advice for the industry in a special video studio. We call this project the Arival Idea Hub—stay tuned for videos featuring business-building tips and tricks from your peers on arival.travel in the coming weeks.

Don’t Forget About Attractions 

While much attention has been given to the rise of experiences in the in-destination industry, don’t discount the importance of attractions. 

At Arival Orlando, the attractions-focused ticketing company Tiqets announced that Airbnb led their recent $60 million fundraising round. While attraction tickets aren’t (yet) planned to be sold on Airbnb’s platform, the investment underscores that attractions are still a main driver for travelers of all ages—even Millennials and Gen Z. (After all, Grand Canyon National Park is impressive to all.)

Getting Everyone in the Same Room is Vital

If you saw the panel featuring CEOs from four major reservation technology companies (Rezdy, Peek, Checkfront and FareHarbor), you know there is tension around operators, res tech systems, payment models (commission versus subscription?), independence, and more. 

Many operators find immense value in using reservation systems to streamline their online booking, manage inventory, communicate with guests and organize staff. My biggest takeaway from the panel? It’s important to get operators and res tech leaders in the same room to discuss these important issues together. It elevates in-destination as a whole. 

Arival’s CEO Can Rock a Dinosaur Costume

As the last day of Arival Orlando was Halloween, Arival CEO Douglas Quinby celebrated by presenting exclusive Arival research while wearing a T. Rex costume. 

Missed it? Don’t worry, we were sure to extensively document this hilarity. 

The Best Part of Travel has the Best People

Whether we quickly chatted in the Networking Lounge, played a game of foosball during the Lawn party (#SorryNotSorry I won!), or I heard your story shared on the Arival Theater stage, my biggest highlight of all was meeting you! 

The in-destination industry has some of the most passionate, fun, inspiring folks ever! We’re all in the Best Part of Travel together—and I’d say we have the best people, too. 

Are you interested in reliving the Arival magic? Join us at Arival in Berlin, 1-3 March 2020! Register Now to secure your ticket. 

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