Effective ancillaries help hoteliers tap into the tours and activities business

Inigo Valenzuela By Inigo Valenzuela
Uploaded 24 May 2019

Smartvel CEO Inigo Valenzuela speaks about how effective ancillaries will help hoteliers to tap into the lucrative local tours and activities business.

Increasing your booking value in the hotel world means growing your ancillary revenue and there are lots of ways hoteliers are already doing this.

Check into a hotel today and you will find additional things you can purchase, from their cellar wine to the sheets and wallpaper that adorn your room. This is all great but the big revenue opportunities are in local tours and activities.

This is a multi-billion-dollar business and big industry brands have made it no secret that they are investing more money and resources in this growing sector. TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings acquired tours and activities software developers last year and Expedia announced that it is growing its sales fivefold in the local activities business.

In 2017, it reported that revenue from their Local Expert brand was just over $500 million, with a total revenue in 2017 of around $10 billion.

The potential revenue opportunities for hoteliers are clear, but to make a serious move into this market, there needs to be an effective marketing and customer experience strategy.

Guests book an experience, not just a room, and what to do or see when they are staying at a hotel is all part of that.

If you consider local activities as something that sits outside of this then you have less chance to influence their decisions. Do not think of these as ancillaries but as your product - they make up the total guest experience and that is what you are selling. 

Implement a destination marketing strategy

By working with other tourism business professionals in the area, you are able to promote the region as a whole.

A destination marketing campaign allows you to target powerful inbound tourism markets and drive more traffic to the general area. Identifying and evaluating large events taking place throughout the year gives you opportunities to develop promotions that coincide with the activity.

Many travellers, particularly the millennial generation, value the opportunity to earn rewards with companies they do business with. A guest sales strategy that rewards for purchasing activities often generates repeat bookings.   

However, to capitalise on the potential of the tours and activities market, hotels will have to overcome several complications.

Phocuswright reported that while spending on tours, activities, attractions and events accounted for ten per cent of global travel revenue, more than 80 per cent of the bookings were still being made offline.

The main problem is that this sector is hugely fragmented.

These companies vary in size, from small family businesses running a pottery for kids experience, for example, to global companies like Merlin Entertainments. OTAs have been acquiring industry suppliers such as reservation systems because this sector is not set up the way other travel businesses are.

That said, you have to remember that hotels are local businesses.

This is their major advantage when selecting and recommending local activities, restaurants and experiences and this makes them best suited when it comes to offering these to their guests. They know the areas, the local activities and can connect with them on a much more personal level.

Hotels can bundle local tours and activities with what to do in a city, and their rooms while negotiating a decent commission with the businesses in question. If a hotel proposes a plan that includes their room, a selected tour and activity, a cosy restaurant and some places in the city where you can take the best selfies, that will make the difference. 

Destination content technology companies like Smartvel provide the local information in real time.  The information they provide enable hotels to enhance the customer experience, allowing customised plans for travellers but also opportunities and scope to negotiate a fair kick back from subsequent bookings and reservations. 

Hotels can proactively offer local tours and activities at all touchpoints throughout the booking phase - from the initial search through to room reservation. 

Technologies like Smartvel's provide hoteliers and other travel segments with a complete destination content solution that includes, not only the top things to do at any destination, but also all the up-to-date events taking place. Hoteliers are also able to add their own services, ancillaries and partnerships with tours & activities providers.

This makes the hotel the focus of the destination for advance bookings. During the guest's stay, feature local tours and activities on the guest portal version of the property website for on-property guests or in-room TV.

The tours and events market is huge and has become a multi-billion dollar global industry. By positioning the hotel as the focal point of the destination and offering this as part of your product, hoteliers will increase revenue and room occupancy while gaining competitive advantage in this global market. 

For more information, visit the Smartvel website here.

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