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.
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.