No part of the travel industry is facing more challenges and changes than tour operating. New technology, changes in what young travelers want from their trips, and the rise of online booking and online travel agencies (OTAs) are compelling tour companies to change what they offer and how they offer it.
For many operators, these changes are an understandable source of concern. But not for Giuseppe Matiazzo, who runs Venice Tours with his wife, Caterina Pepoli. This company offers all of the classic tours you might expect from the iconic tourist destination: romantic gondola rides, immersive full-day guided tours, and skip-the-line access into the Doge’s Palace in the Piazza San Marco.
But these types of classic tours are just the beginning.
Digital, Mobile & Tech
“There are three pillars to our success, to our future,” says Matiazzo, speaking with a boyish excitement that belies his decades of experience in tourism. “The first is, all of our customers are looking online, and more and more are booking last minute, and on their phone.”
Venice Tours has invested heavily in making it easy for customers to find them online. For Matiazzo, that means working with OTAs, keeping their listing on Google and especially Google maps up to date, and having a mobile-friendly website.
Underlying all of this is technology, which Matiazzo cannot emphasize enough. Each of their nine employees is actively involved in their technology systems. “There is no way we could support 100,000 travelers a year with so few people without technology,” he says.
All In on Experiences
The second pillar is experience. “Younger travelers, millennials, they don’t just want to listen to somebody talk. They want to experience it, they want to participate” says Matiazzo. So the company launched more than a dozen new activities, or experiences, featuring everything from cooking classes and wine tastings to glass blowing and photography shoots, which they list on Airbnb, some OTAs, and their own website.
“We don’t just show our customers the Venetian masks, they can make them,” he boasts.
Let Them DIY
The third pillar is a direct response to what is many tour operators’ worst nightmare: travelers increasingly don’t want a tour at all but prefer to experience a destination on their own. Arival research found this is the number one reason why travelers do not take tours.
Venice Tours’ response? Embrace rather than fighting the desire for DIY (do-it-yourself) with a mobile app for self-guided tours. For as little as €10, travelers can download the company’s self-guided tour app with maps, images, and an audio guide in multiple languages that they can use as many times as they want.
Amid all of the change, one thing Matiazzo remains committed to is staying on top of the constant change in traveler wants and expectations.