The tourism landscape has been reshaped in recent years, with tour and activity operators tapping into their resilience and creativity, as they navigate the highs and lows of an ever-evolving sector.
It doesn't matter if you've been in the game for two years or ten - the dynamic nature of the tourism industry keeps things fresh, with consumer preferences, technological breakthroughs, and global happenings always shifting the scene.
But success in the world of travel and activities isn't solely rooted in gorgeous destinations. It's the immersive experiences you offer, the personalised touch of your customer service, and the savvy blend of cutting-edge technology that truly set you apart.
To help you stay ahead of the curve and keep you updated on what's hot, we've handpicked 8 must-watch trends for tour and activity operators to keep on their radar in 2024.
1# Excellent customer service
Tourism, as an industry, has always been about offering experiences. However, the trend of excellent customer service has grown in importance and has become a key differentiator in recent years. The heart and soul of any tourism operation, customer service is the key to attracting and retaining customers. In fact, according to Zendesk, 3 in 4 consumers say a bad interaction with a business can ruin their day.
A satisfied customer is not just a returning visitor, but also a potential brand ambassador for your company. They can recommend your company to others, both online and offline, expanding your customer base. "According to The State of Customer Service report published by Netomi: 39% of people have less patience now than before the pandemic" - a clear indicator of the importance of excellent customer service.
Tracking and analyzing customer experience can provide insights that help identify areas for improvement and enable necessary corrective actions. This can be done by reviewing feedback, testimonials, and online reviews. According to TripAdvisor, three out of four respondents said online reviews were "extremely or very important" when making travel decisions, so keep up with the reviews you receive.
Here are some strategies tour and activity operators can work on to enhance customer service:
- Have feedback systems. Provide accessible ways for customers to share their experiences. This could be an online form, an email survey, or a quick chat at the end of a tour.
- Training your staff. Ensure that your team understands the importance of customer service and has the skills to handle various situations.
Learn more about recruiting the right people and training them up to become extraordinary guides with our webinar How to recruit and train extraordinary guides.
2# Generative AI: the future of customer engagement
Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence systems that can create content, such as ChatGPT, Jasper, PepperType, and others. These systems can write text, design images, compose music, and even generate ideas. Also, the technology has become popular; 40% of US adults are interested in AI-powered virtual travel agents. But how does this tie into tourism?
Tourism businesses can leverage AI to build meaningful customer relationships. AI can personalize customer interactions and instant customer service via chatbots, write blog posts, emails, and social media content, or customize tour recommendations based on past behaviors and preferences.
Generative AI technologies are reshaping customer engagement in various industries, including tourism. According to Forbes, business leaders claim chatbots have increased sales by 67% on average.
Adapting to these new technologies may seem overwhelming, but you can start small and gradually integrate AI into your operations. For example, begin by using AI to help you generate content ideas for your social media channels, then expand to using a chatbot for customer service. Then, gradually implement AI in other areas of your business.
Watch our exclusive webinar Master ChatGPT: Enhance tour descriptions & increase sales and learn how to use ChatGPT to create persuasive copy that resonates with your target guests.
3# Creativity over originality: building memorable experiences
With so many activities being created daily, consumers are getting frustrated with the lack of originality. They want unique, creative experiences that resonate emotionally.
According to a study by Eventbrite, 74% of Americans prioritize experiences over products or things. In the tourism sector, this could mean creating immersive experiences that incorporate local culture and traditions or designing tours around specific themes.
Tour businesses can satisfy this demand by focusing on creativity rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. This could mean creating themed tours, incorporating local culture and traditions, or designing immersive experiences that allow tourists to step into the shoes of a local.
Here are some tips to increase creativity in your tour business:
- Listen to your customers. Understand what they enjoy, what they'd like to see more of, and design your tours around their preferences.
- Collaborate with locals. They can provide unique insights and help create authentic experiences.
- Embrace storytelling. Use stories to make your tours more engaging and memorable.
4# Technology: less is more?
As the world becomes increasingly digitized, there's a rising trend towards mindful use of technology. According to a report, while 58% of smartphone users have admitted to trying to limit their device usage, only 41% succeeded in lessening their cell phone usage.
For tourism businesses, this means using technological offerings that genuinely enhance the customer experience and are easily integrated into people's lives.
The goal is to make technology work for us, not against us.
Tourism businesses need to be thoughtful about their use of technology. It's crucial to consider how your technological offerings will fit into people's lives and what they will demand of them. Simple and intuitive interfaces, personalized experiences, and tech that genuinely adds value to the customer experience are priorities.
5# Sustainable tourism
The demand for sustainable travel experiences is on the rise. Tourists are increasingly conscious of their ecological footprint and seek ways to travel green. According to Booking.com, 72% of travelers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations.
All operators can integrate eco-friendly practices into their offerings. This could be as simple as promoting local transportation, using digital guides instead of paper, or partnering with local businesses that prioritize sustainability. Such practices reduce your environmental impact and cater to the evolving preferences of the conscious traveler. Also known as ecotourism, this form of travel has gained popularity in recent years. A report about sustainable tourism worldwide indicates that 81% of global travelers consider sustainable travel to be important.
For small operators, it's about making small changes that have a big impact. This could involve using renewable energy sources, reducing water use, or promoting local and ethical products.
6# Culinary tourism: savoring the experience
Culinary tourism is a growing niche, appealing to travelers who want to explore destinations through their unique food cultures. The World Food Travel Association reports that 93% of travelers have participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out. This trend offers vast potential for the tourism business.
Creating unique food-related experiences could involve organizing food-tasting tours, cooking classes with local chefs, or farm visits. The goal is to immerse tourists in the local culinary scene and create memorable experiences.
Remember, culinary tourism is not just about eating. It's about storytelling, cultural exchange, and creating memorable experiences. It's about taking tourists on a gastronomic journey that tells the story of your locality through its unique flavors.
To learn more about working with local businesses, read how to increase bookings with partnerships.
7# Wellness and adventure
The emerging trend of combining wellness activities with adventure tourism opens new avenues for tourism businesses. This fusion offers travelers the thrill of adventure while maintaining a focus on health and well-being. The current value of the global wellness tourism market is $451 billion; however, a report from Grand View Research in 2022 projects a significant increase, reaching $1.02 trillion by 2030.
Opportunities in this niche could include:
- Yoga retreats in the mountains
- Meditation sessions by the beach
- A hike followed by a healthy cooking class, and more
The idea is to provide a balanced experience that satisfies both the adrenaline junkies and wellness enthusiasts.
8# Digital transformation: streamlining booking and customer engagement
Advanced booking systems and digital platforms are revolutionizing customer engagement in the tourism industry. Digitalization offers a seamless customer experience, from booking to post-trip reviews. According to research, 35% of business executives claim that digital transformation helps them meet customer expectations and improve operational efficiency.
Adopting digital platforms can streamline operations. They reduce manual work, minimize errors, and allow for easy tracking of bookings and customer feedback. Moreover, they offer customers the convenience and flexibility they demand.
The tour and activity industry is evolving, and it's essential for operators to stay abreast of trends and adapt accordingly. Innovation is key. Whether it's integrating AI, offering culinary tours, or adopting digital platforms, these trends present opportunities to enhance your offerings and stay competitive.
Remember, the goal is to create memorable experiences for tourists. Embrace change, stay adaptable, and leverage these trends to make your tour and activity operation thrive. Tour and activity operators worldwide use TrekkSoft to sell on multiple sales channels, automate workflows, manage bookings, and a lot more.