How tours and activities will evolve in the European tourism market to 2025

This is a viewpoint from Lukas Hempel, managing director at BookingKit.

2025 is only seven years from now – before looking into the future, you have to know the past, so let’s look back.

In 2011, Phocuswright’s “What they do when they get there” report was one of the first to highlight this “young” market, despite tours and activities as part of the travel journey having been around for ages. It was finally beginning to see some traction from the major players like Expedia.

When focusing on the demand side, the dominant players in those days were: Viator (acquired by TripAdvisor 2014) founded back in 1995 in Sydney, Australia, was still standalone.

Expedia Local Expert was only launched in 2014, GetYourGuide was still a young Swiss startup, founded in 2008.

On the booking technology side it was even earlier days, with the “first wave of tours and activities startups being around”.

Canada based Checkfront was only founded a year before. Players such as Australia-based Rezdy and US-based Xola were founded and most other platforms were still trying their luck in the B2C game.

What has happened in the past seven years?

The tours and activities market is currently one of the hottest markets in tourism and has unfortunately often been underestimated. But this has changed!

In recent years the B2C sector really hit the road and moved forward in terms of booking share, besides still covering only 5% of the market (coming from 1% in 2011!).

B2Cs got major financing rounds and M&A transactions were done, including TripAdvisor’s $200m acquisition of Viator and GetYourGuide’s $170m funding.

The B2B software players, a lot slower to take off initially, but seeing new pace now with Redeam’s $7m Series A, bookingkit’s and Rezdy’s Series B.

Today, after years of slow development in the market for tours and activities, more has happened in the past 12 months than in the past 12 years.

The B2B infrastructure is getting more and more important. The starting signal was given a few weeks ago with the Hotelbeds/TUI deal – then followed by the acquisition of FareHarbor by Booking Holdings in April 2018 and TripAdvisor’s acquisition of Bokun.

How will the landscape look like in 2025?

Suppliers see a lot of pressure to digitize themselves coming from both sides: First, their own customers operating more and more digital and second, the distribution channels getting more and more requiring them to provide real time bookability.

In result B2B software will see a lot higher adoption rates and will become a prerequisite for using distribution channels. Both segments – B2C and B2B – will have seen some consolidation: the now known stars of B2C services came under pressure, because large travel corporates entered the area and consolidated the market.

The players such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are selling tours and activities directly sourced from the supplier and B2B saw some consolidation and three main players per destination continent remained, leaving the others consolidated or not relevant anymore.

Asian players like Ctrip and Klook have become worldwide companies supported by a strong home market. Given different European structure with different countries we’ll always see more differentiation in distribution partners amongst the countries compared to the USA and China, where the consolidation will be clearer/more significant.

Our vision for the future

In our view tours and activities products, like attractions and experiences, will be the central point of all travel planning in the future. With the activity being the reason to go to a destination by booking hotels or flights, the tours and activities sector will become the reason for the trip itself, and will not be a leisure “only” event anymore.

In the future, the organization, booking and management of activities for every destination will be just as digital as flight and hotel bookings. The suppliers will grow stronger on both ends of the market: long-tail suppliers will get more visibility and bookings through offers via Airbnb and more professional top-tier suppliers will evolve.

This is a viewpoint from Lukas Hempel, managing director at BookingKit.

Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Alex Bainbridge

    This article as a few factual errors and omissions that should be corrected:

    Expedia Local Expert was around at least from 2006 (not 2014). According to Expedia history page – they rebranded from Expedia Fun to Expedia Local Expert then, so selling experiences probably predates 2006.

    On the supplier tech side – many suppliers had reservation system tech since PCs were available onwards – just it was not web connected – and tended to be bespoke built – and everything was email / telephone. e.g. TourCMS (the company I founded) was available from 2003 and was the early leader – e.g. did the first distribution connection with at least 4 of the leading OTAs (won’t mention names but they are the obvious ones)

    Then you shouldn’t forget Rezgo of course.

  2. Maarten Cox

    The recent acquisitions of Fareharbour and Bokun confirm that online bookings for activities are key focus for OTAs in the next years.

    I totally agree with Tnooz’ view that tours and activities will become the reason for the trip itself.

    When asking someone why they visit a certain destination they won’t tell you it’s because of the hotel. More likely they will describe the tours & activities or sights to visit at this destination.

    This is also exactly the long-term view of GeckoRoutes. We want to start with showing users the activities of a country or region of interest. The next step is to decide which activities are most interesting to them. In the last step they can decide which destination to visit, based on the activities they put in the of their bucket list,

    One of the reasons why hotel booking technology developed more quickly than activity booking platforms is because there was more commission to earn. Now this market is becoming highly penetrated by OTAs, travel companies need to search for more sources of revenue. I expect that this trend will continue and also drive a lot more innovation in booking software for tours&activities.

    Let’s hope that this new wave of innovation in travel will make trip planning more efficient!


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