At the end of 2016, Airbnb launched its Trips platform to offer tours, activities and experiences to visitors in 12 cities across the globe.
Not only does this indicate that Airbnb is serious about becoming an end-to-end travel brand, but also that tours and activities are becoming a big focus within the online travel industry in general.
Here’s a look at why (and how) brands have been incorporating the trend.
Demand for adventurous travel experiences
While hotels, hostels and flights have long been the bread and butter of many travel companies, the once side-lined tours and activities sector has recently seen a greater focus.
Why? Well, it appears to be in recognition of the changing consumer mind-set, with travellers seeking out adventurous travel experiences and choosing to spend money on memorable moments rather than souvenirs.
TripAdvisor is one brand that has introduced bookable tours onto its site, recently redesigning its homepage to make this feature more visible and easier to use.
The decision has apparently been a success. TripAdvisor reports that its non-hotel segment, comprising rentals, restaurants and attractions, grew 35% in the third quarter of 2016, now making up 24% of its total revenue.
Considering that TripAdvisor’s hotel segment declined 6% – it is clear that consumers are keen to use the platform for more than just reviews.
— TripAdvisor UK (@TripAdvisorUK) November 25, 2016
Desire for curated and personalised customer experience
It’s not just the travel mindset that’s changing.
With the expectation for a seamless and convenient experience across all channels, it makes sense that consumers would prefer to use a single company for all travel requirements.
Why would you book accommodation with Airbnb and use an aggregator like Kayak for flights, if you could do it all in one go? Brands are now recognising this opportunity, aiming to capture interest and deliver a curated and personalised experience across all key touchpoints.
Indeed, it’s not just traditional tours and activities that sites are now introducing – many are expanding to include airport transfers, trains and even money exchange to provide this end-to-end experience.
Naturally, there are still big barriers, and for consumers, a pressing issue remains being able to book tours and activities direct.
— Airbnb UK (@Airbnb_uk) November 17, 2016
While some do include this feature – a large percentage of TripAdvisor’s tours are bookable, for instance – there are still challenges in providing consumers with relevant and up-to-date offerings, mainly due to the complex nature of syncing with ticket operators.
Capturing mobile moments
Despite the aforementioned issues, mobile innovation is beginning to bridge the gap. Airbnb Trips also allows consumers to book tours, restaurants and activities directly, delivering on both inspirational and functional elements.
While Google’s new travel guide app, Google Trips, does not have this feature – currently sending users to third-party sites to make reservations – it still aims to meet the consumer demand for contextual and in-the-moment discovery.
Bookable or not – this is certainly a key priority for travellers. Research from Google found that 72% of travellers using a smartphone look for the most relevant information, regardless of the travel company providing it.
Consequently, it suggests that travel brands should create a ‘micro-moments’ strategy in order to meet customer demand across four key areas – dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing.
As it stands, none of the big players currently offer this.
However, with suggestion that Airbnb is currently in the process of developing a flight-booking tool, it might not be too far off.