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Published by Lucy Fuggle | Mar 7, 2018 | | 3 MIN READ

Last-minute booking trends & best practice for tours and activities in 2018

How many days in advance are tour and activity bookings happening? How does this vary by channel? This is what we set out to answer before ITB Berlin 2018, the world's largest travel trade show from March 7-11.

According to Phocuswright in Tours & Activities Come of Age: The Global Travel Activities Marketplace 2014­-2020, two in five bookings happen within two days of a trip.

Phocuswright put the low number of last-minute bookings down to a few factors, including:

  • Many suppliers require cut-off times at least one day in advance to serve their guests, due to the "nature of the activity".
  • Only 45% of tour & activity suppliers are using a reservation system like TrekkSoft, although this is up from just 14% in 2011. Many suppliers still check bookings manually and don't have live inventory, making the coordination of last-minute bookings problematic.

What are we seeing at TrekkSoft?

Looking at TrekkSoft booking data from the last year, we've also seen that tours and activities are still far from last-minute – even for those using a booking system like oursHere are the numbers:

13 days before a trip is the average time that bookings are made for TrekkSoft users. This decreases to 5 days for bookings made on mobile, and increases to 24 for frontend and direct bookings on a supplier website.

Last-minute bookings for tours and activities

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Why are tour & activity suppliers not getting more last-minute bookings?

Mobile bookings are more last-minute... but mobile isn't the majority (yet!)

Bookings on mobile are made 5 days before a trip, making it the most last-minute channel in our data. Currently, 46% of bookings are made on mobile devices, but this is growing fast – and up from just 31% of bookings in 2016.

The thing is: travel consumers want to be booking on mobile devicesMany people don't pack their laptop when travelling and do their browsing in-destination on their phone. So, tour & activity websites need to be mobile-optimized to provide consumers with what they're looking for (and increasingly, expect) when they travel.

If you think your website has areas for improvement on mobile devices, speak to your booking software Account Manager about how they can help you out.

Read: 9 ways mobile has changed travel (and what tour and activity operators can do about it)

Higher basket values equal more advance planning

$81is the average basket value of tour & activity bookings made via TrekkSoft in mid January-February 2018.

Broken down, this was $236 for bookings via our POS Desk, $149 for marketplace bookings, and $84 for bookings on supplier websites. For many consumers, they're amounts to consider and plan in advance – rather than booking shortly before the activity if the mood strikes.

On the other hand, the average basket value for bookings on mobile devices is $29. That's a much more appealing amount to book closer to departure!

Higher-priced trips are more likely to be booked further in advance – and consumers are less likely to pick up their smartphone to book them currently.

How can you be ready for last-minute bookings as a tour & activity supplier?

Firstly consider your basket value. If your average trips are several hundred dollars, it's unlikely that your customers will want to book spontaneously within two days of departure. However, if you have cheaper walking tours or an afternoon cooking class that people can quickly book if there's a change of weather, you want to be attracting last-minute bookings.

  1. Your most important first step is to be using an online booking system like TrekkSoft. Then your availability is always up-to-date on all channels and your prospective customers know how many spaces you have left.
  2. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized! It needs to be easy for customers to book your tours on a mobile device.
  3. Connect your inventory to marketplaces like Viator, GetYourGuide, and Expedia so you can reach more people looking for things to do in your area.
  4. Consider if you really need a cut-off time. If it's to simplify admin, can you streamline these with technology? Is it worth hiring seasonal staff to cover last-minute bookings?

In our Travel Trends Report 2018, we shared our most comprehensive range of data from the TrekkSoft booking system yet. This covered where bookings are made, the proportion of bookings on mobile, and the age and gender split for bookings made via TrekkSoft.


Get you copy of the Travel Trend Report for the latest booking data to know:

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Lucy Fuggle
Published by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy spent three years building TrekkSoft’s content strategy and inbound marketing approach. She now helps companies to find their voice, kick-start projects, and bring in processes that actually work for them. Lucy writes and shares her solo adventures on lucyfuggle.com.
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