During the talk both Ben and Kristin highlighted learnings since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, how traveler sentiment has shifted, and shared key takeaways for what operators must do to optimize their business for these times. Shiyi Tay, Manager, Business Planning at Tour East Group also spoke during the keynote about their excitement surrounding Viator’s product quality standards and how they are applying these learnings to their business.
Ben kicked off the talk noting traveler preferences are changing quickly. He said that Viator is seeing “a very different traveler, a traveler that seeks different experiences, a traveler that shops differently, and a traveler that cares differently.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the traveler trends we’re seeing here at Viator, and how you can prepare your business to attract more customers in this changing world.
Last-Minute Bookings are on the Rise and Not Slowing Down
The experiences industry has typically relied on bookings that are made face-to-face, and often in an informal way. Four out of every five dollars spent within this industry never touches the internet, according to Phocuswright. Sometimes travelers prefer the serendipity of exploring a destination and stumbling across their next great adventure.
But, these days, those last-minute bookings are increasingly shifting online. Instead of taking a chance while they explore, many travelers are researching experiences online, while in-destination, and booking the experience beforehand.
“We’re seeing travelers on Viator book closer and closer to the time of departure,” Ben said. “The proportion of bookings made at the last-minute are up 38% compared to pre-COVID times.” As an operator you need to ensure your business can accept bookings as late as possible to attract those travelers who wait until the last minute to decide.
Reducing your cut-off time for bookings is the best way you can capture these last-minute bookers. To learn more about why you should lower your cut-off time—and how to do it—click here.
COVID-19 Precautions are Top of Mind
COVID-19 has caused deep behavior changes for travelers. When booking an experience a traveler wants to know the operator is taking the added precautions and following all of the recommended additional safety protocols. A recent Tripadvisor survey saw 62% of global travelers and 72% of Asian travelers indicate that COVID-19 measures are the most important deciding factor when booking.
On Viator, we’re seeing this translate into how travelers search for experiences. Our filter “Good for avoiding crowds” is the most popular filter these days. Ben explained how letting travelers know the precautions you’re taking directly affects bookings: “Operators with COVID-19 information got higher booking conversion rates, all else being equal, by 38% than those who did not enter that information.”
Ben urged operators to ensure they have this information filled out on their product pages. “Now is the time to update that info because you’re missing out,” he said.
It’s easy and important to add your COVID-19 health and safety measures to your Viator product. Reference this Help Center article to learn more.
Product Quality is Key for Converting Lookers into Bookers
After Ben spoke, Kristin Dorsett, VP of Supply at Viator, spoke about the importance of product quality—making your product listing as attractive as possible to travelers. She highlighted three key areas to focus on: last-minute availability, product content, and photos.
“We’ve seen the percentage of bookings coming in within 24 hours as our fastest growing segment in the last few years; and it’s going to continue to grow,” Kristin said. Kristin highlighted that a reservation system can help operators be prepared to capture these bookings. The reservation system allows you to be ready to accept reservations 24/7. If you’re interested in learning more about how a reservation system can benefit your business, click here.
It’s not only the availability that will convert a traveler, however. Your product listing needs to have complete product details to ensure the traveler knows exactly what to expect, Kristin said.
“The last-minute traveler wants to sit down at the breakfast table, scan through available options and quickly find the information they’re looking for. If you don’t have complete content, they’ll move on to your competition.”
Curious about what an excellent product looks like on Viator? Take a look at this article to see a product that checks all the boxes and gives travelers everything they need to know before booking.
Finally, a traveler needs to be able to imagine themself on your experience. The best way to do that? High-quality photos that transport them. “We see photos as one of the main differentiations between top selling products and those with lower performing sellers. Can a traveler imagine booking your product?” Adding more photos of the traveler experience and smiling faces helps them know what to expect.
Uploading high-quality photos to your product listing is one of the best steps you can take to improve your chances of receiving a booking.
While 2020 has not been the year anyone imagined, and the travel industry in particular has been hit hard, Ben closed the keynote with some encouraging words. “COVID-19 has tested every part of the travel industry, and whilst it isn’t over yet, we do see signs of recovery and we are optimistic about the future.”