With advances in technology tours and activities can now be integrated into the online booking experience but is that what travellers really want? The beauty of vacation experiences is surprise, delight and discovery in real-time. So for the suppliers of tours and activities there is a real challenge when it comes to what many are saying will be the holy grail in 2015 – personalisation. Tours and activities are the last piece of the itinerary booked. However, aside from the historical technology barriers that desire for a real-time experience may be the true reason consumers book most of their activities when they arrive at their destination. So while research shows that if done correctly, personalisation can yield positive outcomes, it may be particularly difficult to successfully implement in tours and activities in the near-term. Brett Asbury, Executive Vice President of Gray Line, a tours and activities provider, cites the following reasons why: - The sector has less direct correlation and causation data that successfully predicts consumer behaviour. This is partially due to lack of technology systems and behaviour data compared to other established travel verticals. - There are unique considerations for tours and activities that may not be present in other travel sectors. As an example, it may be nearly impossible to predict that a business traveller may want to swim with the dolphins on a family vacation. - Tours and activities often represent once in a lifetime experiences and sometimes they satisfy a consumer’s vacation persona rather than their everyday social profile. Using big data to populate hotel offers or flight itineraries will likely prove to be easier. “Companies like Adara which are using multiple data sets to populate intelligent advertising, which is awesome, still have little knowledge about tours and activities as their booking patterns relate to other verticals,” says Asbury. Still, it’s all about timing and Gray Line has been working hard to ensure that, wherever possible, analytics and data can be used in a game-changing way in 2015. Over the past two years, the group has invested in getting thousands of products and hundreds of suppliers onto one common technology platform. “For us it wasn’t just a technology system or data management change, but an operational change on the ground for our suppliers to use technology in a new way that has never been done in our sector,” says Against the backdrop of challenges facing tours and activities, Asbury believes that the best thing that companies in the tour and activity sector can do is pay attention to trends happening on consumer driven resource sites for in-destination experiences. By this he means the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare and so on. Rosie Akenhead, Manager Of Local Business Outreach,Yelp UK & Ireland agrees and backs up the point with research that shows that 78% of consumers now turn to review sites to find local businesses. “It's clear that many people are looking to pre-qualify where to shop before they spend money,” she says. So as consumers across the globe increasingly turn to sites like TripAdvisor, FourSquare or Yelp to help find things to do and places to go, it is imperative that business information and photos on a page are kept up to date. According to Asbury, it will also be important for suppliers in tours and activities to accumulate data from other companies, which have information about consumer behaviour happening earlier in the purchase funnel. In conclusion Akenhead has this to say: “You need to become a bigger part of the conversations happening about your business online if you want to help consumers make those all-important buying decisions," Akenhead adds. Brett Asbury, Executive Vice President of Gray Line will be speaking next month in New York at Smart Travel Analytics, North America (Jan 28-29). Early Bird rates expire this Friday (December 19th). Contact julia@eyefortravel.com for details on how to secure your discounted pass.