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Online channels surge as Australia, New Zealand experiences sector steams toward recovery

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Online bookings surge in Australia & NZ tourism, with operator websites and OTAs now the main channels.

New York – Online channels have become the leading way travelers book tours, activities and attractions in Australia and New Zealand, according to new research from Arrival, the global research authority for the travel experiences sector.

Arival’s The State of Experiences in Australia & New Zealand, based on a survey of more than 300 tour, activity and attractions businesses across the region, details the rapid growth of operator websites and online travel agencies (OTAs) and growing importance of technology for distribution, marketing, business operations and future growth.

On line channels“The travel experiences sector in Australia and New Zealand is near full recovery on a revenue basis and poised to do very well in 2024 and 2025 as the return of international tourism arrivals accelerates,” said Douglas Quinby, co-founder and CEO at Arival. “But that recovery has been uneven, and the industry is markedly different from before the pandemic. Businesses that became digital first in their thinking, that made key investments in booking tech, in connectivity and now in GenAI are poised to benefit most from an industry and a traveller that is much changed over the past five years.”

Arival’s The State of Experiences in Australia & New Zealand is the first in-depth study of its kind on tours, activities and attractions in the region. The report covers the following for the online channels :

  • the size and structure of the operator landscape, including the number, size and type of operator business by country, state and territory
  • the state of recovery and outlook
  • key trends in booking channels from 2019 to 2023
  • the adoption of technology across the sector, including, booking systems, APIs, channel managers and AI
    marketing trends and challenges, from search and social media to Google Things to do
    overall business priorities for operators.
Key Findings

Business is back: The industry has recovered on a revenue basis, helped in part by rising prices, but remains below 2019 in terms of online channels .
An uneven recovery: Approximately half of operators are ahead of 2019, but half remain at or below pre-pandemic levels.
Operators are optimistic: More than three in four operators are optimistic about 2024 – gross bookings are expected to far surpass 2019 with the return of international tourism arrivals.
Digital sales channels soar: Digital booking platforms have seen significant growth, accounting for 56% of total bookings in 2023 compared to 43% in 2019. Operator websites and mobile apps saw the most significant rise, accounting for nearly one-third of bookings.
OTAs: A double-edged sword: OTAs represent a quarter of bookings (up significantly in 2023), nearly half of operators say are not so satisfied with their commercial partnerships.
Multiple OTA use: Most operators reported working with multiple OTAs and resellers; large operators work with an average of 25. Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook and the Big Red Group brands are the most widely used by operators.
Shift towards automation: Operators are increasingly embracing automation for managing OTA bookings. In 2023, 56% utilized APIs (application programming interfaces) and nearly half used a channel manager, a significant increase from 11% in 2019. Manual booking processes (email and extranet) are in decline (but still very much in use!)
This report by Arival provides in-depth insights for on the travel experiences sector in Australia and New Zealand, and key operating benchmarks in distribution, marketing, business performance and marketing for operators of tours, activities and attractions.

Arival fielded this online survey with the help of industry partners operating in Australia and New Zealand from November 2023 through February 2023/24, and received more than 300 responses from local travel experiences businesses.

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George, in his capacity as an intern, diligently oversees the flow of news, assists in the publication of content, and delves into the strategies of social media distribution. He is currently pursuing his studies in Business Administration at the Athens University of Economics and Business.