The Covid-19 pandemic has hardly been kind to the in-destination industry. Even the mightiest in our sector have seen their fortunes tumble.
Online travel agencies (OTAs), which had been the fastest growing distribution channel in tours, activities and attractions over the past decade, have lost market share in 2020.
According to the Arival Recovery Survey of nearly 700 tour and activity operators worldwide, OTAs as a percentage of all sales slid from 33% in 2019 to 31% in 2020, while sales on operator websites jumped four percentage points to 40% over the same period.
The shift is even more pronounced for attractions, which reported a slide from 21% in the summer season of 2019 to just 18% in 2020 for sales via OTAs. Meanwhile, attractions saw a jump of 10 points in sales through their own websites to 53%.
A Covid Blip or Long-Term Trend?
The shift of traveler consumption to local and domestic experiences is likely the key driver. Consumers are more familiar with activities locally and may have less need for OTAs to discover experiences and activities nearby.
Travelers are also planning and booking more in advance, checking directly with operators to ensure tours and experiences are open and to see what health and safety measures are in place. Many operators, especially attractions, are requiring online booking in advance to manage capacity due to governmental regulations on capacity limits. Operators have also been placing an increased focus on marketing locally.
However, the shift may be short-lived. OTAs have typically out-performed during recessions and led travel’s recovery. We expect this to be no different as travel recovers in 2021 and 2022. Operators, hungry for new business, will seek to add distribution partners and get bookings wherever possible. A majority of survey respondents – 60% – said they expect OTAs to grow faster and become more important in the rebound.
Arival Recovery Survey
Arival conducted its Recovery Survey between September 10 and October 9, 2020, to track the state of reopening and recovery among tour, activity, and attraction operators and the steps they are taking to address the challenges of the pandemic and related travel downturn.
Interested in more distribution trends and the role of OTAs in tours, activities, and attractions. Get your copy of Arival’s Sales & Distribution Report: Trends & Outlook 2020