As one of the technology leaders in the industry, Lemax sponsored the first (of many, we’re sure) Multi-Day Tours Forum hosted this month by the Arival, a platform that creates unique in-destination experiences and is constantly publishing valuable and relevant research and insights. We attended most of the presentations, workshops, and Q&A sessions at the event and hosted a few. Our Head of Marketing, Igor Kranjcec, led a round table and presented our insights and learnings. After many interesting conferences and speakers, we summed up two key takeaways of the event and drilled them down in this blog post.
1. Lack of tech adoption among multi-day tour operators
The general feeling is that the multi-day tour operator industry is well behind other travel and tourism sectors, at least when it comes to digitization and adopting modern reservations software. The main reason is that the sector is fragmented. There are so many different types of multi-day tour operators, and each of them is run differently. Every business has its processes, and the procedures are generally very complex.
“1/3 operators said they do not use any system. They are using emails, spreadsheets, or even pen & paper…”Douglas Quinby, Co-founder & CEO at Arival
They feel somewhat neglected by the tech industry, disappointed even – with old websites, inaccurate pricing, outdated systems, etc. Especially smaller operators. However, most larger multi-day tour operators build their own solutions because they can’t find acceptable software for their specific needs.
“My opinion is if you’ve never been an operator, you can’t build SaaS for the multi-day sector.”Jared Alster, Chief Strategy Officer & Co-founder at Dune7
2. Online Travel Agencies as distribution channels for multi-day tours
The second topic widely discussed on the Forum was the lack of online travel agencies’ support. The main question was, why haven’t the big OTA players, such as Booking.com or Expedia, stepped up to multi-day tours’ distribution?
Big OTA players don’t understand multi-day tours
The agreement is that online travel agencies do not understand the multi-day tours business, so they can’t sell them. They are not investing in that channel and are trying to sell multi-day tours as an ancillary product to flights, instead of the main thing that drives customers. This creates a bad buying experience and fails, so OTAs backed off.
Some of them have tried, and the smaller ones have succeeded – an example of TourRadar was given: they specialized in multi-day tours and invested in creating the right buying experience. The big players, however, stepped out of the game.
Solely online selling doesn’t work
Another issue with utilizing OTAs for selling multi-day tours is the fear of commercialization. Multi-day tour operators pride themselves on unique experience and customer service, and if they sell their products massively over OTAs, the quality and authenticity would be degraded. Even OTAs aside, it is hard to sell multi-day tours online even on operators’ own websites, as it is a high-touch product. It requires multiple channels to convince the guests to buy (brochures + online + call center). Just solely putting it online won’t work.
Inconsistency in terminology
Even if a multi-day tour operator invests their time and money into excelling their online presence, there’s another issue they need to deal with: their tour types are called entirely differently from one multi-day tour operator to another: guided, private, scheduled, adventure, walking… So the question is how to adjust the keywords and search engine optimizations?
Conclusion: untapped market yet to be conquered
After listening to these discussions between professionals from the multi-day tour sector, we concluded that they want to adopt tech and sell through OTAs as distribution channels; it is just hard for them to find the right tech and channels. But once that happens – whoever adjusts to their needs first will have a huge and untapped market to conquer.