There has been a noticeable drive by some hotels in recent years to position themselves as gateways to the wider destination in which they reside.
Chains and independent properties have taken a view that online they should be thinking about replicating, to varying degrees, what they are able to do with their staff and concierges.
In particular: giving guests the ability to search and book tickets to attractions, activities and tours in a destination.
It is, lest we forget, the sector with a huge potential ahead of it as more suppliers of product come online.
Hotels have a crucial position in this regard as they are arguably in the so-called sweet spot of decision-making for destination products – once the guest is at a property, rather than weeks or months in advance, before they even start thinking about what to do.
They also do not just see it is a value-add service to what they do, but an ancillary revenue opportunity.
This begs the question as to why airlines, fellow lovers of ancillary products, have largely not embraced the tours and activities as an additional way of making (some) money and slot the sector in alongside hotels, car rental or insurance as an option to merchandise.
Speaking at the Phocuswright Europe conference last month, Trekksoft CEO Jon Fauver says airlines have been “slow to non-existent” with realising what tours and activities could bring to their overall offering to passengers.
There have, of course, been some collaborative efforts in over the years (just recently, EasyJet switched provider of attraction tickets on its website from Viator to GetYourGuide, for example) but, generally, airlines have not considered tours and activities as something to bring into the ancillary fold.
Some have tried and given up (EasyJet’s rival European low-cost carrier Ryanair and Isango in the late-2000s) and others claim it is something they might consider in the future.
Until recently, arguments around the buying timeline for attractions not being in sync with air ticket purchases may have held true.
But mobile should be changing that perspective, especially as airlines have a critical role in being at the front and end of a traveller’s journey to a destination and interact regularly via apps and emails (flight schedules, boarding passes, etc).
Fauver says airlines have a “captive audience”, detailed profile data (especially gathered over time, with regular flyers) and the opportunity to target passengers with relevant offers of products to purchase once at a destination.
More importantly, airlines can do this at the moment when they arguably have their customer’s complete attention – at the airport, on departure, when a traveller might be thinking about what to do.
Rezgo CEO Stephen Joyce goes a step further, arguing that carriers should use the advanced technology and connectivity that they are putting into in-flight entertainment systems to showcase and sell destination services such as attractions.
Unfortunately for the tours and activities sector, perhaps the biggest hurdle to embracing the product as an ancillary option is in the processes and strategic minds of airlines.
Fauver says airlines are “complicated and slow-moving businesses”, where the focus is still mainly “on the core” – i.e. selling air tickets and air-related services (car rental notwithstanding).
NB: Airlines beach image via BigStock.