These trends are that it’s growing fast, consumers want experiences, online booking is accelerating, mobile is the future and so on.
But this sector has its less savory, dirty little truths that people generally don’t talk about.
We believe in avoiding the PR headlines and focusing on what’s real and what really matters to creators and sellers of tours, activities and attractions.
So here are six dirty truths:
1. OTA market share is tiny.
Online travel agencies get all of the media attention. When TripAdvisor tweaks its website, everyone gets worked up. But the truth is, OTAs account for less than 10% of global activities ticket sales.
So our industry spends 90% of its breath on less than 10% of global industry sales. Now, it’s changing fast and OTAs are trying to increase their share of the pie.
But there’s a lot of distribution opportunities out there.
2. Airport transfers butter a lot of bread.
The hot trending products are “authentic experiences” and connecting travelers with locals.
These are the types of sexy products that high-profile brands like to talk about. But for some big resellers, it’s the not-so-sexy airport transfer that drives a lot of volume.
3. “Experiences” is just a buzzword.
Ever since Airbnb launched Experiences in 2016, suddenly everyone is offering “experiences.”
Now, there’s no question that new, alternative “experiential” types of tours and activities are growing, but the big volumes for many in this industry today are still in the big attractions and, yes, airport transfers.
However, if “Experience” sells more attraction tickets than, say, “Attraction,” then by all means…
4. Travelers love free tours.
This will get me in trouble with many of your tour operator readers.
But free tours are big business, especially in Europe, and a thorn in the side of paid tour operators everywhere.
5. Some cruise lines and concierges are like the mafia.
They are huge points of sale for operators in some markets, but some wield their influence in ways that vastly favor them to the detriment of some operators (exorbitant commissions) and, worse, travelers (limited options).
Technology innovation has the power to change that. In some markets, it already is.
6. Distribution is super local – and it can get dirty.
From local kiosks to aggressive street sellers in popular tourist areas, local distribution can get messy.
Some operators work with hundreds – even thousands – of resellers.
This won’t change overnight, but it is, in fact, changing, as more travelers trust their mobile apps over everything else. See just how complex distribution in our industry is with Arival’s Distribution Landscape Directory & Map.