How has Covid impacted booking behaviour?

As the world looks to the future and begins to switch to a post COVID mindset, we decided to take a deep dive into our data and see what has changed in tours, attractions and activities sales, and if we can see any emerging trends in buyer behaviour. 

I must also mention this was in part driven by the fact that we recently saw the year to date sales of tickets surpass the total for 2020, so we are now confident that many areas are moving forward and returning to some sense of normality.

The chart below shows the percentage of sales made through each channel over the last 5 years and the 2021 numbers are year to date.  Ventrata is a multi-channel sales platform and we categorise sales channels into 5 main categories

  • Terminals – point of sale devices powered by the Ventrata App
  • Web – Direct web sales either on our website builder or widget
  • Concierge – Sales made through the 3rd party sales and concierge portal
  • Backoffice – Sales made in a booking office or telephone sales
  • Direct API – Sales made via API from a third party, such as an OTA

Tour sales channels

So what do the numbers tell us?

Terminals – These have remained largely unchanged over the period and consistently generate approximately 1/3 of all sales.  The major change here which the numbers do not show is the increase in contactless payments and paperless ticketing. This is a topic for another blog, but as you can imagine this is on the increase.

Backoffice – This channel has been in steady decline and it is no great surprise as it is the one that requires the most manpower; transactions require a staff member to input and process each sale, often over the phone.  It is clear from this that savvy businesses have been driving sales towards more automated channels in order to free up staff for other tasks or reduce staff numbers and wage bills.  Whilst still important and still responsible for more than 1 in 10 sales, it is likely that this channel will continue to decline in high-volume lost-cost tours, attractions, and activities but it will remain relevant and important to more complex sales such as packages and multi-day tours.

Web – This channel can be accessed through 2 options, either on a site built with the free Ventrata website builder and CMS or via the checkout widget which can be embedded on any website.  Interestingly the share of sales going through this channel has not increased as one would expect over the years as we have seen more and more people buying online.  It is however a significant source of revenue and contributes a quarter of all sales.

Concierge – The concierge portal is a versatile sales channel which can be accessed through a web browser and while it is in wide use with Concierges in cities around the world it is also used in third party ticket sales offices to book guests onto tours and for managing commissions.  The channel had grown in popularity in 2019 as it was embraced by sellers and tour operators as it allows for live sales inventory and easy commission management.  Due to the pandemic this has declined to almost zero over the past 18 months but we fully expect this to return to be a more significant channel.  It may however not return to its former glory of 20% of sales as guests use more online channels and purchase via mobile

Direct API – To say this channel has exploded over the last 18 months would be a massive understatement.  The growth in API sales now makes it the second largest channel and this can be attributed to a number of factors.

Firstly, there have been moves towards standardisation with adoption of the OCTo API specification, which has reduced the time and cost involved in connecting via API.

Secondly, businesses have used the down time to reevaluate businesses process, and where possible implement digital processes to streamline booking, check-in and reconciliation processes, API connectivity can help with all of this.

In addition, businesses have looked at new sales channels and smaller local OTAs which have enhanced their connectivity to allow for API connectivity.  Previously these channels may have been ignored as the volume of sales did not justify the time to process and manage, now with low cost API, access these channels can be connected and automated so the bookings can flow with minimal effort.

So what should you be doing to boost your sales in 2021?

Based on the data we have shown the key area to focus on is API connectivity.  This will allow your business to open up new sales channels and automate processes.  The goal is to reduce or remove repetitive manual process through the entire customer journey from initial booking through to redemption.  The digitisation of this process should also feed into payment gateways to process refunds and also connect to accounting processes for invoicing.

The end result for any business which adopts a truly digital booking process will be an increase in sales and a reduction in staff costs and ultimately increased profits, not to mention an enhanced customer experience!

If you would like to know more about how your business can benefit and grow with a digital booking process you can book a free, no-obligation consultation.

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