Xavier Boixeda, chief executive at Globick, says the time may come when travellers secure their holiday experience first before buying their travel and accommodation
Despite people travelling to London for Buckingham Palace or Barcelona for the Sagrada Familia, ironically the last thing they do is buy the entrance ticket – and even more ironically, they often queue in line to do this in person.
Of course, this is quickly changing. In 2019 the market registered a 22% increase in online sales compared to a 6% for the overall market.
Travellers demand certainty and convenience more than ever, especially for the biggest attractions and shows where there’s a risk of sell outs.
Airline tickets, hotel rooms, and even transfers are all bought first and almost exclusively online, perhaps because close to 100% of all flights and 80% of all hotel rooms around the world are bookable online.
But when it comes to activities in-destination, only around 21% of the total entrance tickets, tours and activities are available online.
There is a long way to go, but the sector is catching up quickly because the opportunity is huge.
Estimates vary, but a consensus figure for entrance tickets, tours and activities is that the market is worth around €250bn worldwide, meaning almost €200bn is still offline.
A vast digitalisation is underway. In just a few years from now the landscape will look remarkably different.
So, what is the barrier when it comes to traditional attractions such as the Tour Eiffel, the London Eye or smaller ones like a hiking operator in Turkey? What kind of technology are we talking about to digitalise the whole travel journey?
You might be pleased to hear that this won’t depend on anything futuristic. In fact, there isn’t even much of a need to reinvent the wheel.
The distribution and sales model can work in very much the same way that GDS, bedbanks, PMS and channel managers do for aviation and hospitality.
First, we need operators of all sizes to embrace reservation systems and APIs, which connect them to major OTAs, distributors and travel technology providers. Thanks to the cloud and a new generation of software, this is quickly becoming a reality.
The existence of such models and the technology they depend upon means that the costs for distribution have been falling for many years, now making this a possibility to the many smaller companies that exist in the long tail of the highly fragmented tourism industry or even for traditional tour operators.
Second, we are seeing many providers focused exclusively on the in-destination experiences pop up in recent years, including B2B services that the consumer never knows about allowing to connect all the entire value chain through API connectivity investment.
Third, these technologies open new opportunities in a sector that needs to offer more and better products in the most integrated way possible.
They will allow the parts of the chain that are in contact with the end customer, airlines, hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, rail operators, etc, to offer a new vertical of products without resorting to white label solutions where all the control on the customer experience is handed over to a third party, and therefore, to be present at all stages of the travel journey.
Could we then see a world where travellers start their travel planning by first buying the experience tickets and only from there considering where to stay and how to get there?
Certainly yes. In fact, this is already happening when purchasing a ticket for a musical in New York or a football match in Madrid, as tickets sell out very quickly, or even in the world of business travel particularly for trade shows and big events; the entrance ticket is the first thing bought.
This will not happen overnight and maybe not for every product. It’s great to leave room for some last minute inspiration, but even in that case there’s the opportunity to become the trusted supplier for your customers.