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Seven Reasons Why Travelers Prefer to Book Online

So much of our lives takes place online, from remote work to connecting with friends through social media. The same is true for travel planning, both before and during a trip. While human interaction is a huge part of our industry, when it comes to booking, customers simply prefer booking outline. Why? Here are 7 reasons.

 

  1. Most travel research happens online: What’s the first thing you do when you’re planning on visiting a new destination? You Google it! And you’re not alone. In 2018, 82% of travel bookings were made online via a website or mobile app (Condor Ferries). With travelers spending so much time online reading about the best things to do, the best time to visit, the top landmarks to explore, and more, it only makes sense that they want to easily book tours and activities online.
  2. They can conveniently book at any time, from any place: If travelers are flying across the world to their destination, chances are they’re on different time zones than tour operators. In the past, that meant trying to figure out the best time to call, but when booking online, the time or place is no concern. In fact, 39% of travel bookings are made outside of office hours (Acteavo). 
  3. They can follow their inspiration: Millennial and Gen Z travelers are heavily influenced by social media. A beautiful photo of a destination can inspire them to book an impromptu trip, and online booking is perfectly suited to these impulses. A quick Google search and a few clicks are all it takes.
  4. It accommodates last-minute decisions: Not all travelers plan their activities before they arrive at their destination. In fact, 72% of mobile bookings happen within 48 hours of last-minute Google searches (Condor Ferries), likely when travelers are already at their destination. These travelers typically search for bookings available on the same day, and businesses can capture these bookings with a website optimized for local search and a simplified online booking process.
  5. All the information they need is easily accessible: There are many factors that influence the decision to book. Most travelers look to online reviews to make their decision, with 9 out of 10 travelers worldwide reading testimonials before making a purchase (Oberlo). What do they want to know? Travelers look for mentions of friendly guides, tour inclusions, and good communication before the tour. Others look into who is running the company and where they stand on sustainability or supporting the local community. One of the benefits of booking online is that all this information is easy to access, simplifying the decision to book.  
  6. Easily compare options: Some destinations have endless options when it comes to tours and activities. Online booking makes it easy to compare operators and find the best option for each traveler, whether they’re looking for the most affordable, the most kid-friendly, or the most luxurious tour. 
  7. They prefer to book directly: A recent poll found that many travelers are opting to book directly with businesses (39%) over OTAs (17%) (GlobalData). This is a shift from just a few years ago, when OTAs were preferred. One of the reasons is that often businesses offer more flexible and straightforward cancellation and rescheduling policies, which became more important than ever during the pandemic. It’s also a great way to directly support local businesses! 

 

Travelers expect quick, convenient online booking, and having a seamless experience can put your business ahead of the competition. Learn more about how FareHarbor’s online booking platform can help your business.  

Travel Trend: Vacation Rentals Are Booming (And Tour Operators Can Benefit)

One of the major travel trends of 2021 is that many travelers are opting to stay at vacation rentals, allowing them to avoid crowded common areas and keep contact with others to a minimum. Major rental apps like Vrbo saw their summer properties get fully booked months before they typically do, and the most sought-after stays are at cabins, lodges, and campgrounds in the great outdoors. 

Compared to those staying in hotels, travelers staying in a vacation rental tend to spend a few more days at their destination, giving them more time to plan activities or tours. This offers opportunities for property managers and tour operators to work together and offer guests a well-rounded experience during their stay — encouraging them to come back and make even more memories! 

How to Make the Most of the Vacation Rental Trend

Connect with Local Businesses to Improve Offerings 

If you’re a tour or activity operator, partner with property managers in your area to promote your tours. For example, you could offer a special discount to guests staying at a local vacation rental either by providing a promo code or reselling your tours on the property’s website.

If you manage a property, work with local tour and activity providers to offer deals on local experiences, such as a 20% discount on a tour in the area, to make staying with you even more attractive for travelers. Having a list of operators you work with also makes it easier for travelers to find a tour or activity during their stay. 

When guests plan tours or activities in the area, they tend to stay a bit longer, which helps you increase your occupancy length. It can also bring in repeat customers who had a great time while staying with you.

 

Offer Equipment Rentals 

Property managers looking to attract more customers might be searching for ways to provide resort-like amenities, such as rentals guests can use during their stay. This is another opportunity for property managers and tour operators to work together to offer rental equipment — such as bikes, kayaks, snorkel equipment, paddle boards, scooters, and more — for hourly or daily rentals. This gives operators an additional source of revenue and helps property managers make their listings more desirable to travelers. 

 

Keep the Whole Family in Mind 

Don’t forget about your youngest guests! Cater to families traveling with kids by offering options that the whole group can enjoy, such as kid-friendly wildlife tours that include complimentary beer and wine for the parents. 

Families tend to prefer certain time slots, such as early morning and late afternoon tours that allow for naps and other routines for the kids during the middle of the day. Offering the right tours that take into account families’ needs can help bring you more business from travelers staying at vacation rentals. 

 

Offer Flexible Booking Policies 

As we know, travel plans can change from one moment to the next, so it’s important to maintain flexible rescheduling and cancellation policies, whether it’s for vacation rentals or tours and activities. This gives travelers peace of mind that they’ll be able to change their reservation if needed, and it provides a positive experience with your business overall. 

We know travel trends will continue to evolve as the course of the pandemic changes, but the current vacation rental boom is a good opportunity for local businesses to work together and try out new strategies to attract customers. Take this opportunity to reach new customers and find alternative sources of revenue!

What to Look For in Your Next Booking System

Researching your next booking system can be a long, arduous process. At some point you probably have found yourself on review platforms such as Capterra or G2 to compare the various booking and reservation management solutions that exist today. Whether you’re transitioning from a previous booking system or looking to adopt one as a new business, the question still remains – what exactly do you need to look for in a booking system?

To aid in your search, we break down the top qualities you need to factor into your decision:

1. Costs

The first factor in most of your business decisions likely comes down to “how much is this going to cost?” Within the software industry, you’ll encounter different pricing structures, each with their own pros and cons. Here are the most common models to consider:

  • Tiered pricing – This tends to be the most frequent pricing model used among SaaS (software as a service) companies. At its core a tiered pricing structure provides several options or packages that contain different combinations or features at various prices. This generally is broken down into a monthly payment plan but allows you to select the package that best fits your business.
  • Commission pricing – As the name suggests, in this type of model you, the business owner, are required to pay a specific percentage to your booking software provider whenever a guest completes a booking. While you might only be charged when a booking or reservation is completed, these commissions can also be hurtful when you experience high volumes of transactions. Additionally, depending on the provider you choose, the rates can also change year over year, making the variable costs each year difficult to predict.
  • Booking fees – This is the pricing model used by FareHarbor. In some ways it’s similar to a commission-based model, however, in this scenario, a booking fee is transferred to the guest at checkout. Generally speaking, this is a free booking software, omitting the need for any monthly payment plans or upfront costs. The main consideration for your business is determining if a booking fee will affect your customer’s ability to purchase. Fortunately, nowadays, customers are well accustomed to paying a service or booking fee for their purchase, using websites like Fandango, Ticketmaster, and other ticketing services.

2. Customizable Features & Functionalities

Customizable solutions are the next important factor when it comes to choosing a booking system. The tours, activities, and attractions industry is very diverse, so the features and functionalities you’re looking for can vary from tour operator to tour operator. You may also have several employees at different levels who need to access your booking software for various needs. 

At FareHarbor, we understand that no two businesses are alike. That’s why we’ve worked tirelessly to create the only platform flexible enough to support all of the specialized needs of your tour, activity, attraction, or rental business.

For example, FareHarbor’s Seating Assignment feature allows you to build and integrate seat maps, whether you are running a boat cruise, dinner show, axe-throwing lane, and anything in between. Another feature that our clients love is the flexible payment options we provide – from selecting the deposit amount for specific items and splitting payment across customers, to even offering Bluetooth EMV readers to streamline in-person purchases. 

3. Ease of Use

At the end of the day, a booking software should make life easier, not harder.

FareHarbor was designed specifically for tours, activities, and attractions businesses with an intuitive customer interface to ensure your business is up and running in no time! When you join FareHarbor, we build your Dashboard alongside you to ensure your business needs are met, and we schedule a training to walk you through every last detail. Clients can also schedule re-trainings in the event your business has new employees or you simply need a refresher!

Lastly, you can access your FareHarbor Dashboard through any web browser or by downloading our mobile app for iOS or Android devices. For more tips on getting the most out of our services, check out the 7 Ways FareHarbor Makes Life Easier For Tour & Activity Operators.

4. Customer Service

The last factor you need to consider before you make your final decision is the quality of customer support and service from your next booking software provider. Outside of the features and functionality, what ultimately separates one booking system from another is the people behind it. 

At FareHarbor, we take immense pride in providing the industry’s best customer support (with reviews to prove it!). We offer friendly 24/7 multilingual support, and are always accessible by phone or email! In addition to connecting with our great team, you can also access an extensive online Help Center for your most common questions, which is a great solution for those looking for self-service. 

We know choosing your next booking system is a big decision. We’re here to help! Get a demo today to see what we can do for your business.

3 Ways the Pandemic Has Made Travel Better (Yes, Better!)

After over a year in some form of lockdown, we’re all itching to get back out there and start traveling again. With the help of vaccine rollouts, we can see a return to full-fledged travel on the horizon, and we’re expecting the industry to come back better than ever.

The shift in priorities brought on by the pandemic has forced us all to evaluate why we travel and how we want to travel in the future. This period of self-reflection has us hopeful about the future of the industry and the unintended positive outcomes that are here to stay. Here are three ways we think travel will be better after the pandemic.

1. A Renewed Focus on Sustainability & Community

Sustainability was already a growing trend in our industry, and it will now be one of the most important considerations for travelers when planning future trips. The halt of travel and tourism at the beginning of the pandemic shed a new light on the impact our industry has on the environment, especially in destinations that experience negative effects from over-tourism. As travelers begin to venture out further from home and take longer trips, they’ll be more intentional about keeping the impact of their travels to a minimum.

In line with considering the potential environmental impact of their trip, travelers are more aware than ever of their power to impact local economies and businesses – and that starts with how and where they spend their money. . According to a Booking study, 27% of American travelers plan to book independent hotels or accommodations. This enriches travelers’ experiences, allowing them to truly connect with a destination, and supports the local community. Now that’s a win-win!

There are so many ways to demonstrate your commitment to sustainable, community-conscious tourism, from working with local vendors to going paperless and purchasing carbon offsets.

2. A New Appreciation for the World Around Us

In the past year, we’ve learned we don’t have to go far for a great vacation. Hiking excursions, weekend camping trips, biking adventures, and visits to nearby cities provided solace during a difficult time, and they helped us realize how much there is to discover right outside our doorstep. Local trips will be popular this year — 66% of American travelers said they prefer to travel close to home in the foreseeable future (Booking).

When planning a local getaway, many travelers opt to immerse themselves in nature. Being stuck at home has reminded us how important it is to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and move our bodies. And the best part? These trips are better for the environment because they have a relatively low carbon footprint compared to flying or cruising.

3. More Intentional, Fulfilling Trips

You know what they say about absence and the heart.

As travelers begin to plan their first trip since the pandemic began many of them are choosing to be more intentional about their trips, choosing quality over quantity. Travelers will seek to slow down and spend more time at a single destination, getting to know the community and enjoying local experiences. Of those planning to travel in 2021, 24% plan to visit less frequented destinations (Booking).

The Healing Power of Travel

It comes as no surprise to those of us in the industry, but travel has real benefits for our mental health. Research has shown that visiting new places can help improve empathy, energy, attention, and focus. And travelers agree — 61% of Americans said they realized travel is critical to their emotional wellbeing (Booking). People will be looking to make the most of these benefits by choosing truly fulfilling vacations where they can learn about different cultures, connect with the local community, learn about history, and get in touch with the things that unite us as humans.

Travelers are putting more thought into how their vacations impact the world at large. The pandemic allowed us to slow down and remember what is at the heart of travel: a desire to see the world and connect with our fellow humans.

7 Ways FareHarbor Makes Life Easier For Tour & Activity Operators

With many different booking software options available today, it may feel difficult to select the provider that’s best for your tour or activity business. If you’re lost in a sea of pros and cons, or not sure what to look for, remember that your booking software is meant to help streamline your daily operations, grow your business, and make life easier for you and your customers.

At FareHarbor, every member of our team is wrapped up in your success. From our top-rated 24/7 customer support to our intuitive, highly-customizable features, there are many reasons why over 15,000 businesses love our software and services. But let’s dig a little deeper. Here are 7 ways FareHarbor makes running your tour, activity, or attraction business a whole lot easier.

1. No Subscriptions, Contracts, or Hidden Fees. Ever.

You read that right. Our pricing model was created with the success of your business top-of-mind and that includes ensuring an experience free of billing surprises! Unlike some software providers, FareHarbor will not charge you any monthly or startup fees.

2. Support That’s Got Your Back, 24/7.

We pride ourselves on providing the industry’s best customer support, so that no question goes unanswered or unresolved. You can rest easy knowing that our friendly, multilingual support team is available by phone or email any time of day or night — even on holidays! Prefer self-service? Our extensive online Help Center includes step-by-step guides and answers to many common questions. It’s a quick and easy way to find the information you need and get back to running your business!

“Customer service is outstanding – FareHarbor stands alone in the industry in the support and education of its clients. From a live training session with a real human being, to a huge online library of video and copy resources to 24-hour service help, there’s simply no one out there that cares for the success of its tour operators [more] than FareHarbor.” – Sally Siko, Birdwatching NC

3. Streamlined Booking Process = Intuitive Online Conversions.

On the front end, FareHarbor’s integration to your website makes it easier for customers to book online and therefore, helps increase the overall conversion of your website. In addition to making sure your website has highly visible book buttons, we’ve also created an overlay that allows visitors to easily view and purchase your offerings, called the FareHarbor Lightframe. Our Lightframe booking tool is user-friendly and optimized to sell, with easy navigation and a one-page layout that expedites purchases.

FareHarbor makes booking easier for us and our customers. It has increased visibility of our products on our website, and helped us increase sales.” –  Marcus Konradsen, Newton Flight Academy 

4. One Size Does Not Fit All: Customized Business Solutions.

Your business needs are unique, and your booking software should be, too. Unlike other out-of-the-box software solutions, FareHarbor is highly customizable to the unique needs of your business and customers. Whether you’re a boat charter company that requires guest seating assignments or a tour operator who wants to provide contactless solutions like QR scanning, we have a feature for you!

“This program is a workhorse! We started off using it to allow guests a booking venue online for the beach. We now use it for the beach, online and in house sales, for our scarecrows with no cost, and for online booking of our Rydables. Each year we add more to this program.” – Candace Forsythe, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

5. Ever-Expanding Suite of Resources to Grow Your Business and Digital Presence.

The fun may happen in-destination, but we know your customer acquisition process likely begins online. That’s why we offer a full range of resources to help you grow your business and optimize your online presence. FareHarbor Compass transforms our years of industry experience into hours of free, exclusive content to help your business thrive. From digital marketing and SEO advice to handy seasonal checklists and hot industry insights, Compass guides you every step of the way in building your business. 

6. Robust Reporting Functionality to Easily Access Your Data.

With FareHarbor, you can manage, track, and report on all your booking activity through one centralized, convenient Dashboard. Whether it’s for accounting, marketing, or sales purposes you can pull a variety of data for any of your business needs. Generate sales reports, access contact information for marketing purposes, break down your top revenue channels and more. The best part? All this data can be customized to your liking!

7. Expand Your Reach With Seamless API Connections.

FareHarbor expedites your connection to the largest selection of travel platforms and all the major OTAs in the industry, allowing you to expand your reach and manage these channels in one Dashboard. Our team of experts handles everything from contracts to payments, so all you have to do is sit back and watch the extra bookings come in! 

 

Ready to start using FareHarbor? Get a demo today to see what we can do for your business.

Come One, Come All: Why & How to Make Your Tours More Accessible

One of tourism’s core tenets is creating opportunities for all people to experience different places and cultures. To further this cause and progress our industry and our own businesses, it’s crucial to accommodate tourists with different needs and to make our tours and activities more accessible. By taking the time to fully consider the diverse needs of your future customers, you will enable more people to enjoy the experiences you provide.

Read on to learn how accessibility can benefit your business and the steps you can take to make your experiences more accessible.

What Does Accessibility Mean? 

Simply put, accessibility is the practice of ensuring that a product or service is usable and enjoyable for as many people as possible, regardless of their unique needs or limitations.

People often associate accessibility with accommodating those with physical disabilities, such as mobility impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and some forms of neurodivergence. However, accessibility also includes invisible disabilities and other needs that would not typically be considered disabilities, such as chronic illness, age, not being fluent in the dominant language of the location, and more.

True accessibility takes a holistic approach. Piecemeal solutions that only address a specific need can introduce further complications and draw arbitrary distinctions between people with accessibility needs and those without. Rather than catering to a specific need, accessibility begins with creating environments that benefit everyone.

Why Is Accessibility Important to My Tourism Business?

First and foremost, accessibility creates an inclusive environment that is welcoming to all. Beyond being the right thing to do, improving accessibility also has economic benefits for your business:

  • People with different accessibility needs represent a large segment of the tourism industry. In the E.U. and U.S. alone, the accessible tourism market represents a $70 billion opportunity (Amadeus).
  • When your tours are not accessible, you’re not just losing out on one person’s booking. People tend to travel in groups, and if one of them can’t participate in your tour or activity, you’ll likely lose the entire group’s booking.
  • Improving accessibility increases bookings, builds customer loyalty, and is likely to lead to better reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.

How Can I Make My Tours More Accessible?

Making your offerings more accessible is an evolving process that is different for every business, but here are some places where you can start:

  • Consider your whole experience from beginning (the moment someone starts searching for an experience) to end (the moment they complete the experience) to identify what barriers exist and what you can do to remove them. Common barriers include:
    • Steps or curbs that don’t allow a person with mobility impairments to access a space
    • Visual or auditory messaging that doesn’t accommodate people with different needs (such as braille, American Sign Language, or captioning)
    • Lack of accessible transportation, such as vehicles or watercraft that can accommodate people in wheelchairs
  • Make information about accessibility easy to find during the booking process. Lack of information is one of the biggest barriers to booking for people with specific accessibility concerns. Include this information in your activity description and FAQ page. For example, for a food tour, call out how you accommodate food allergies and sensitivities and what information you need from guests to do this.
  • Listen to feedback from customers with various accessibility needs. If a guest leaves you a negative review regarding the accessibility of the experience, consider how you can improve your tours in the future. If a potential customer contacts you with an accessibility question, think about how you can make that information easier to find on your website.
  • Educate yourself and your employees on how to accommodate different needs. Tourism is a customer service industry, and aiming to make every guests’ experience a positive one is paramount. Excellent, personalized customer service equates to positive reviews, return business, and good vibes all around.
  • Remember that inclusivity is not just for your customers — try to employ people with different accessibility needs than your own. Having a diverse employee base brings a variety of perspectives to your business, and your employees can provide insight that you otherwise wouldn’t have. A truly accessible business considers the needs of both their customers and employees.

Through advances in technology, the increased availability of information, and a growing understanding of the needs and viewpoints of all human beings, our world is slowly but surely becoming a more accessible place. People who haven’t been able to travel in the past now have more opportunities to do so, and you can make a positive impact by contributing to increased accessibility. 

Making your tours and activities more accessible not only opens up a new market for your business, but it also exposes your experiences to new groups of people, and that’s what travel and tourism is all about. 

Do you use FareHarbor? View the full guide to making your tours more accessible on FareHarbor Compass! This article offers even more actionable advice you can implement today.

Building a Sustainable Travel Industry: FareHarbor Achieves Carbon Neutral Status

From bioluminescence kayak tours in Puerto Rico to hot air balloon rides above the Cascade Mountains, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef to hiking the Italian Alps, the awe-inspiring experiences that many tour, activity, and attraction operators share with the world are at risk. As humanity collectively emits over 50 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year, scientists agree that if we do not alter our energy consumption habits, temperatures will continue to rise and oceans will become more acidic. We want to help.

At FareHarbor, we are committed to going beyond booking software to support operators across the globe, and that includes taking steps to offset our operations’ impact on our planet. As a result, we are proud and excited to share that FareHarbor, as part of Booking Holdings, was operationally carbon neutral in 2020 and we intend to remain carbon neutral every year moving forward.

This means that FareHarbor will continue to actively reduce our carbon emissions. Emissions we cannot eliminate will be neutralized by purchasing carbon offsets from verified sources. Our summarized emissions and offsets will be available for review each year in the annual Booking Holdings Sustainability Report.

View the 2020 Report Now

Although carbon neutrality is a big step forward, it’s not the end of the journey. We acknowledge that there is much work remaining to confront the dangers of climate change and protect the beautiful places that travelers frequent and our clients call home. As a leader in our industry, we know that we have an important role to play. ? ?

Do you use FareHarbor? View our sustainability checklist for tour operators! This list offers small steps (that make a big difference!) to take within your business to reduce the environmental impact on your community and beyond.

Six Trends To Help You Navigate The New Digital Market

This year will be the time to reinvent and reconnect. As travel restrictions lift with the help of vaccines and other technological advancements, we must rethink old methods and keep our customers at the center of every decision.

To help kick start your digital marketing strategy revamp, we’ve identified six digital marketing trends for 2021 and how to take advantage of them.

1. Shake Up Your PPC Platforms.

Incorporating new platforms into your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing strategy will keep you ahead of the curve in 2021. Google Ads, the most widely used PPC platform, revealed an increased reliance on machine learning in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down over the coming year.

If you are actively running PPC campaigns, consider experimenting with different platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok. Identify where your target audience spends the most time and start by testing and comparing one or two new platforms.

Bonus Tip: Take this opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone by going beyond text-based ads and playing with visual elements like images and videos!

2. Digital Connections Are Genuine Connections.

Connecting with your customers actually happens long before they arrive at your business and keeping a pulse on your online presence is one of the most effective ways to keep them coming back for more. Creating a social media gameplan is essential, but understanding how to appeal to the changing needs of your customers is the most important strategy of all.

Try to approach your social media management the same way you would an in-person conversation. Listen to your customers, colleagues, and neighbors to engage in an authentic conversation based on what you hear. Be empathetic in your response and prepare to adapt your gameplan at any time. If you want to dive deeper into social listening, try a free trial of a tool like Sprout or Sprinklr to see if it’s right for your business.

3. Automations Are Your New Best Friend.

When our normal routines are disrupted, the simplest tasks can easily slip through the cracks. Give yourself peace of mind in knowing that certain tasks will always be taken care of with the help of automation. From automating welcome messages for new subscribers who join your email list to streamlining important safety and operational updates for your existing subscribers, automation tools can help ensure you never again have to worry about checking certain tasks off your to-do list again.

If you’re new to automation, start by checking out Zapier, which can connect to your FareHarbor Dashboard to enable the easy transfer of information from other tools you use to run your business. Discover how FareHarbor’s integration with Zapier can streamline your day-to-day operations and communications!

4. Search Intent Will Drive It Home.

In 2021, the quickest route to a winning search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will start by putting search intent in the driver’s seat. The top-ranking sites on a search engine results page understand what their audience wants to find. SEO fundamentals like using schema makeup and structured data and writing meta descriptions with best practices in mind have not completely gone out the window — they’re just enjoying life in the passenger seat on this year’s SEO journey.

To leverage search intent in your SEO strategy, start by analyzing what you find on the first page of Google when searching for the keywords and phrases you want to rank for. By digging into the content that already ranks well for a particular query, you will see which topics and subtopics are worth expanding on in your own content and you’ll also get an idea of adequate content length and page type. Take this trend a step further by writing content to address users’ concerns, simplifying your site navigation, and adopting an approachable writing style aimed at attracting humans first, search engines second.

5. Take Things Personally.
When you check your personal inbox, are you more likely to open the impersonal emails with generic subject lines or those that seem addressed specifically to you and answer your individual needs and concerns? We promise, your audience wants the same! One of the best ways to get personal is to use their name in the email subject line, increasing your email’s chances of being opened by 25%, according to Campaign Monitor.

Hyper-personalization takes this trend to the next level by adjusting your email marketing strategy to write different versions of emails for various segments of your email list. Leveraging data-based insights can help you create different content based on location, interests, age, and past tours/activities they’ve booked.

Bonus Tip: Try mixing a few text-only emails into your regular email schedule. Eye-catching visuals will always be an important principle of email marketing, but text-only emails can give your audience the feeling of receiving a personal email, like one from a friend or family member!

6. Virtual and Hybrid Experiences Will Stay in Play..
Whether you’re already offering fully or partially virtual experiences, or you’re still considering testing the waters, it’s safe to say the demand for virtual and hybrid experiences will remain strong well into 2021. With the safety concerns of the pandemic not quite behind us, virtual events like cooking classes and at-home crafting tutorials, and hybrid events like self-guided beer tastings and walking tours can open your offerings to new audiences and new revenue streams.

With so many options available, the best way to stand out in this growing market is by rethinking traditional virtual engagement tactics. Consider which parts of your tours and activities best engage guests and how you can adapt them to a virtual or hybrid experience. From incorporating a live stream on your social media to leveraging the newest technology for self-guided tours, there is always a new method to test! For more inspiration, check out our Virtual Experience guides on FareHarbor Compass.

When considering how your business can leverage these digital marketing trends, don’t lose sight of the most important strategies of all – reinventing and reconnecting.

Trend Alert: Top Activities for 2021

Our Booking Data Reveals Next Year’s Most Popular Activity Types

The events of 2020 provided a sharp reminder that nothing is guaranteed. With distant adventures out of the question, we turned closer to home and found a renewed appreciation for the experiences waiting just outside our doors. While we have become experts at seeking out activities that are safe enough for our enjoyment right now, we still can’t resist looking ahead.

So, we asked ourselves: What types of activities will we seek out in the new year?

To answer this question, we consulted FareHarbor’s own booking data to gain deeper insight into the top activities for 2021. From summer to winter, oceans to mountains, leisurely to adventurous — these are the activities we will see trending throughout the new year:

1. All About Experiences: Exhibits & Attractions

Local attractions like aquariums, museums, and zoos provide a delightful combination of entertainment and education, while new measures such as reduced capacity and strict sanitation policies provide peace of mind for guests. Before COVID-19, attraction bookings already accounted for roughly half of all bookings seen across the tour, activity, and attractions industry. With the added help of creative adaptations like drive-through experiences and timed entry, attractions operators have proven they’ll continue to innovate to ensure you and your family can share new experiences together.

2. Just Add H2O: Boat & Water Activities

Few activities spell “adventure” quite like the open water. The natural lack of crowds makes most water activities an easy way for you to get out there while staying safe. By operating in small groups and private charters, boat tours gain a significant advantage in keeping up with the latest safety guidelines. Many travelers plan to spend time fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, and snorkeling in 2021, especially as temperatures start to warm up in the spring and summer. Experiences on the water are popular all across the United States’ coasts, major lakes, and throughout Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Australia.

3. The Chill Factor: Snow-Powered Excursions

Winter is always the perfect time to escape to the mountains or enjoy a wonderland of fresh snow, and 2021 will be no different. Experiences like snowmobiling, dog sledding, and skiing will prove that snow-powered and socially-distanced easily go hand-in-hand. With measures like limited group sizes and plenty of space to spread out, many winter activities are ready to adapt to keep travelers safe. We anticipate the steady popularity of dog sledding tours in Alaska, snowmobile tours in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, and ski adventures in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, and Minnesota to continue to increase this year.

4. Sights, Camera, Action: Outdoor Adventures

With the proven health benefits that being outside can bring, it’s no surprise that the demand for all things outdoors will only gain more traction in 2021. Adventure activities like hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, and ATV adventures are most popular in locations like Utah, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Arizona, and British Columbia. But you don’t have to travel far or live in close proximity to a national park to get outside! Sightseeing tours will continue to be enjoyed through many modes of transportation, from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle to a stroll or roll on your own. We will see the continued shift in 2021 toward private and self-guided sightseeing tours, allowing you to discover new destinations and cultures on your own terms, with the help of pre-planned routes and expert tips, of course! With 97% of people learning more about local businesses online than anywhere else, you might even be surprised at how many adventure and sightseeing activities are available “near you!”

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen that resilience is directly tied to success and that the most adaptable operators have been the most successful. Through solutions like private tours, drive-through experiences, and adherence to health and safety guidelines, tour and activity operators continue to find creative methods to provide the experiences travelers are looking for while keeping them safe. In 2021, this will be more important than ever as people start to plan their future adventures.

For more resources on how to market your offerings during this time, check out FareHarbor Compass.

Shared Experiences Ignite Progress at FareHarbor Spark: Our Top 3 Takeaways

On October 19 and 20, 2020, over 800 tour, activity, and attraction professionals embraced the opportunity to revitalize the tourism industry at FareHarbor Spark. The fully-virtual event united diverse perspectives from more than 30 countries around the world, encouraging attendees to challenge one another to find sustainable solutions to adapt to the year’s unprecedented challenges and reimagine a more inclusive future for our industry.

Attendees were eager to come together to explore new ideas from industry thought leaders, connect through shared experiences with peers, and ignite the spark to rebuild our industry at FareHarbor’s third-annual conference. Check out our top takeaways from this immersive two-day event!

1. Demand for local, “COVID-safe” activities is here to stay.

Though we may not be able to venture far from home during these times of uncertainty, the basic human desire to seek out new experiences persists. As a result of COVID-19, our definition of exploring has shifted from flying to a far-off destination to packing up the car and taking a closer look at our local surroundings.

Eight out of ten bookings processed in July, August, and September were for locals — people that live within 250 miles of the activity they booked. This was a huge increase, almost double what we saw in 2019.

— Ted Clements, COO, FareHarbor

In his Industry Insights session, Clements explained that this snapshot of local demand only paints half the picture. The remainder is driven by an activity’s perceived safety level as consumers seek out activities they feel comfortable engaging in during this pandemic. In fact, demand for local and perceived “COVID-safe” activities is up 95% year over year, and we don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon. 

Knowing that the appeal of local, safe activities will remain strong in 2021, it’s important to ask yourself, “how can I appeal to my safety-conscious neighbors?” As a business owner, remember that you are also a consumer. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can better understand how to appeal to their needs during this time.

Confidence converts! FareHarbor makes it easy to support the demand for“COVID-safe” activities by adding clear communication of your health & safety policies throughout the booking process.

2. Resilience is directly tied to success.

This year’s challenges have pushed the boundaries of our adaptability, both as individuals and as an industry. From turning your kitchen table into an office and celebrating life’s milestones over video calls, to implementing contactless technology and redefining your company’s training procedures, we’ve all had to adjust to extraordinary new challenges.

Of the operators surveyed at Spark, 68% said they’ve become more flexible as a result of COVID-19, and we hope this trend continues. During these unprecedented times, businesses that have been able to adapt most efficiently have seen the most success. Whether it’s shifting your schedule to offer more private options or redesigning your offerings to be more flexible, your ability to adapt may be your greatest defense against future bumps in the road.

It comes down to the willingness to try new things and the ability to take new concepts, new ideas and get them into the marketplace at scale… When I think of thought leaders and pioneers in the industry, I think of FareHarbor and the [operators] that use FareHarbor.

— David King, Senior Director of Global Account Management & Sales, Viator

When crafting your own adaptation strategy, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your business, your customers, and solutions that will allow you to keep up with the changing times while staying true to your mission and identity. After all, the collective strength of our industry lies in the unique nature of our individual businesses.

Learn how to adapt to any circumstance! Check out FareHarbor Compass, our extensive, free resource library available exclusively to FareHarbor users for insightful strategies on the most important challenges facing your business today.

3. Profit and principle are not mutually exclusive.

It’s no coincidence that two of our highest attended sessions at Spark tackled the pressing social topics of diversity and inclusion and sustainability. In a thought-provoking roundtable discussion, industry leaders from Booking.com, Black Travel Alliance, and Invisible Cities explored accessible approaches to creating a more inclusive industry, while publishing powerhouse and sustainability pioneer, Lonely Planet, encouraged us to consider how even the smallest actions can help reduce the travel industry’s environmental impact.

As an industry, we must hold ourselves accountable for the wellbeing of the diverse communities, cultures, and environments that inspire us to travel. At Spark, we aimed to provide actionable resources for attendees to better themselves, their businesses, and the lives of those who depend on them (and yes, we believe that you can accomplish each goal without sacrificing the other)!

The benefits of creating a more open, accepting, and environmentally-responsible industry speak for themselves, but your bottom line can benefit from embracing diversity and protecting our planet at the same time. By creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all employees and potential customers, you can tap into entirely new or previously undeserved market segments. Your commitment to sustainability ensures that future generations have the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of our planet and appeals to the increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer.

Start small. It can start with a conversation within your organization.

– Zakia Moulaoui, CEO, Invisible Cities

If you’re not sure where to begin, simply opening up a dialogue within your business can be a great first step. Now is the time to take a step back and reevaluate your approach to inclusivity and sustainability, knowing that even the smallest changes help to improve our industry and lead to a more prosperous travel industry for all.

Looking Forward

Although we were not able to gather in person this year, we learned that Spark’s shift to virtual was a major opportunity to connect with and empower an even larger, more diverse audience than ever before. We were reminded that our desire to connect has not been dampened by an inability to meet face-to-face, and that tour, activity, and attraction businesses are more resilient and eager than ever to build a brighter future for the industry we share.

FareHarbor Spark may be over, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to better ourselves, our businesses, and our industry has passed us by. We believe that every one of us has a role to play in revitalizing tourism and that together, we can turn challenges into opportunities.

Ignite your Spark!
All sessions are available on-demand through the Spark Platform through November 30, and will later be made available on FareHarbor Compass.