While it's common for travellers to book a tour or activity offline in your office or at your destination's visitor information center, the ability to book and pay for a trip online, one day in advance, via mobile, is relatively new.
Previously, last-minute bookings have mostly revolved around bed nights sold by hotels and other types of accommodation providers. But that trend is slowly, and surely, seeping into the tours and activities sector as more tour and activity operators invest in a professional website with online booking and payment capabilities.
Fact 1: 38% of bookings happen in the same day or up to two days before the trip
Research by Phocuswright (an unpublished report that we were lucky enough to get a glimpse at) found 38% of bookings for tours and activities happen in the same day or up to two days before the trip. On top of that, these bookings tend to take place “in-destination”, while consumers are already traveling. That number grows to 53% when looking at bookings within a week, while only 19% of these activities were booked more than a month in advance.
Fact 2: Mobile booking systems for tours and activities deliver sub-par experiences
While Google reports that most of these last minute bookings happen on mobile, and mobile bookings continue to grow, Smart Insights claims that the overall conversion rates for travel booking is still lower on mobile.
One reason for this discrepancy in behaviour is that the mobile booking experience is still horrifically sub-par.
Google found that "54% of leisure travelers and 69% of business travelers say that mobile limitations or mobile usability are their main reasons for booking on another device".
The real kicker here is that 80% of travelers with smartphones said that they would switch to another site or app if yours doesn't satisfy their needs. This means that you could be losing out on bookings and that they might be booking with your competitors instead.
Fact 3: Last-minute bookings on OTAs don't work because most trips require advanced planning and coordination
When it comes to last-minute bookings for tours and activities, Phocuswright found that unlike hoteliers, same-day bookings via Online Travel Agents are a no-go.
This is mainly due to planning and logistical restrictions. They found that 41% of operators require a booking to be made at least one day in advance, while only 24% allow for same-day bookings.
Fact 4: Last-minute travel search is usually done for a party of one
Interestingly, Skift published a research by Sojern claiming that many travellers from North America (71%), South America (68%) and Europe (67%) search for last minute trips for just one traveller.
However, there is a discrepancy of roughly 10% between search behaviour and actual bookings.