by Seth BUTERA July 8, 2021
A big number of multi-day tour segment operators have unfortunately closed down the doors across the globe with limited or no hopes of ever returning to business!
This segment has had a tough 15 months, with many operators still not seeing any bookings coming in.
While international arrivals declined 74% in 2020, according to the World Tourism Organization, multi-day tours providers may have suffered disproportionately, with an 84% decline in bookings, according to a new report.
A recent study by Arival reveals insight on the multi-day tours market highlighting its made-up of small, young businesses that lack technology sophistication.
However, the segment has a lot going for it, with the report revealing its $69 million in gross sales for 2019 and potential for further growth.
The study estimates the market is made up of 10,000 players, of which about 60% are small businesses offering bespoke and scheduled escorted tours of small numbers.
About 60% of businesses were established in the past six years which often means they are more digitally savvy than older businesses and well-positioned to sell directly to consumers.
This is one of the reasons the pandemic may play to their strengths in addition to the fact that tours are often small groups as well as the experiential nature of the tours themselves.
Consumers have not only been driven online during the pandemic, often taking up virtual tours and experiences as an escape but also the trend towards experiences has only been heightened in the past year.
Many consumers are now looking to shake off the confines of their homes and are seeking cultural and wellbeing trips and more sustainable travel generally.
The passion from many of the businesses can also be looked at in an optimistic light with multi-day tours operators determined to come out fighting – 72% say they have been investing in technology and marketing in recent months to raise their game.
Bookings are already returning for many with 51% seeing an increase in bookings compared with 2020 although a quarter has had no bookings in 2021 yet.
The segment is behind in its technology usage, according to the study, with just over half of providers using a tour reservation system and many simply relying on spreadsheets and email to put together itineraries.
In addition, about 90% say they handle supplier bookings manually.
Multi-day tour providers raise concerns about the cost and value of technology and feel the processes they use currently are “good enough for now.”
Of those that do use a system, about 20% intend to change their technology in the next two years while about a third say they plan to adopt a system.
When it comes to distribution, there is a gradual shift to online channels, such as online travel agencies but almost half of all bookings are made direct with about 25% coming from Online travel agencies.
It will be interesting to observe how the multi-day tours segment emerges from the pandemic.
We are seeing a strong technology-led engagement and focus on safety measures that are giving tour operators a strong hope of recovery that seems rather sooner than anticipated