An open letter from Ben Drew about the future of Viator and what it means for you.

To our partners and operators,

We’re now several months into what was once unthinkable – millions of people have been infected by a virus, our world in lockdown, with many of us only now beginning to leave our homes. The impact on our sector has been swift and it is significant, but as restrictions ease and destinations reopen, know this: travel will return and travelers’ desires to explore and connect with the world remains strong. Like all of you, I can’t wait to see the other side of this. Until then, I hope you’re keeping happy, safe and well.

In Viator’s 25 years, we’ve been many things – the founding OTA in tours and activities, then a handpicked collection of amazing travel experiences, and now an open marketplace of 395,000+ products from every corner of the world.  

Today, it’s time for a change. I’m writing to tell you about Viator’s future – a future which fuses our past with our present.

We spent much of our history with strong, proud opinions on what made an activity outstanding, while our present focuses on the power of vast, unparalleled choice. Now, with the insight earned from decades of working with all of you, we’re forging a new path. A path that takes into account both the quality of selection and quantity of choice, and finds a balance between a highly curated shopping experience and an unfettered marketplace. 

We’ve heard your feedback. We know recent program updates caught you by surprise and left you with questions. You deserve to know what’s coming, and my aim today is to communicate what’s next for Viator, and what that means for you. But allow me to be upfront – while we know our destination, we haven’t yet finished charting the course. This journey is a work in progress, and we’ll be finding our way, with your help, over the next few months. We’ll be sharing more information as we do, and this is the first of many communications. 

Our path forward: a fusion of quality and quantity

As we rediscover and modernize our view on what makes a tour or activity truly awesome – easy to book, expectation-exceeding and memorable – we’ll identify, reward and celebrate quality.  

To do this, we’ve introduced product standards for listing on Viator; we’ll give great products greater exposure; and, yes, it also means we’ll part ways with products that fall below expectations.

How will we define quality? It’s about providing an excellent experience both on and off the site: complete and accurate listings that lead to seamless bookings, and memorable experiences that lead to great reviews.   

What comes next

This will be an evolution, and one we’ll work closely with you on. We won’t make any sudden changes, and we’ll be in touch with you every step of the way.

Our evolution comes in four parts:

  • Firstly, we’ve introduced new Product Standards:  we, and all of you, want to provide travelers with great service both off and on the site. Our newly-published product standards aim at this, and we’ll be asking some operators to make changes to their current products to ensure they meet these standards. These standards will apply to all new and existing products, and will provide:
    • Clear guidance on what makes an ‘excellent’ product listing, with details on things like photo quality, product titles and more;
    • A new set of post-sale operational standards like courtesy best practices for managing travelers and cancellations; and
    • Specifics on our safety, ethical and legal standards.

While the standards are live now and you should carefully review them, you’ll hear from us before we take any action. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll provide operators with plenty of time and help to make necessary changes. 

  • Secondly, we’ll part ways with products that don’t meet our new standards.  But not without fair warning and help for affected operators. This means more exposure for great products.
  • Thirdly, to raise the bar and keep it high, we’ve completely re-built our onboarding processes and tools, and we’re introducing a product quality review process, which will cost $29 per product submitted for listing. This covers a manual review of every new product, giving you the support you need to position your product in the right way from the start, helping you find success faster.

Now’s not the time to catch anyone off guard with new costs, and for that reason, you’ll be able to add products for free through August 1st. And to be clear – there is no fee to maintain or update existing products.

  • Fourthly, we’ll reward quality: Over the years, you’ve asked us for more exposure – and we’ve listened. Right now, we’re working on a free program to reward excellent products and set them apart from the rest with enhanced visibility. There’s no cost to this program and we’ll introduce details early this summer. Expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks.

Beyond this, we’re exploring new marketing tools to help your business grow even further, which we’ll make available in exchange for an additional commission.

The above programs and tools are only successful if they work for you. With that in mind, we’ll be piloting, refining and building these programs with a small number of operators over the summer, before more widely launching later this year. Stay tuned for more information.

Why we’re doing this

It’s what all of our customers, both operators and travelers, deserve.

Quality makes the biggest difference to a product’s success, and we see this come through loud and clear in what matters most to you — bookings. Our data shows that travelers choose high-quality experiences 3x more often than lower quality ones. Last year alone, our highest-rated products saw a significant growth in bookings. Quality matters for your – and our – customers, so we’re leveraging our insights to help you create the best quality products for them.

You’ve told us it’s hard to stand out. Travelers have told us they’re lost in options. We’ve heard you, we’ve heard them, and we’re making these changes to help greatness shine through.  

What you need to do

As we chart the course towards our future, you can expect to see some improvements to the site, including a new look for Viator. For now, we encourage you to read our new product standards and begin making changes where they’re needed. But remember – we’re not making any sudden moves – with 395,000+ products on the site, this will take time. We’ll be in touch with guidance specific to your products and business over the next few months. Keep an eye out for an email.

We know you’ll have questions and while we don’t have all the answers yet, we want to be as transparent and informative as possible. We’ve posted an FAQ, and we’ll also be holding webinars for APAC and Americas + EMEA on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Please send us your feedback, questions, comments and requests, and we’ll use these submissions to inform what’s covered during the webinar.

Lastly, and most importantly: thank you. Our business is where it is because of operators like you. We appreciate you, we’re grateful for you, and we thank you for the millions and millions of amazing memories you’ve given to travelers.

Keep safe.


Ben Drew
President, Viator

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