The future of the tours and activities industry: The 4 most important insights from ITB NOW 2021

Ankündigungen / Features, Branchen News, Industry news  Christian Blume

The international tourism industry met again at ITB NOW 2021 after a year’s break, and in numerous digital expert interviews, conferences and face-to-face conversations it became clear not only that the industry has grown closer as a result of the shared experiences in recent months. It is also ready to take off again.

But what did other tourism companies experience in 2020, what solutions and strategies did they develop and what can tour and activity providers learn from this for 2021? We have summarised the 4 most important findings of ITB NOW and show the most promising trends.

1. Becoming and remaining visible worldwide – online

The first insight seems to come as no surprise. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the importance of online availability and digital bookings has been emphasised again and again. And although time pressure has been great, the tourism industry has pushed digitalisation with flexibility and creativity in record time. So to providers of tours, activities and attractions, Tiqets founder and CEO Luuc Elzinga offers the following tip:

“Don’t waste time! Be visible worldwide and at any time! Be bookable worldwide and at any time! Be reachable worldwide and at any time!”

The most important thing here is the perfect mix of regional and international sales channels. Because while the domestic market will provide sales during the recovery phase, it cannot fully compensate for the loss of international guests. And the signs are good for international travel this year. For this reason, the managing director of WienTourismus, Norbert Kettner, also recommends taking the complete sales ecosystem into account.

That means: use all channels and opportunities that add value to your company’s marketing mix. You want to reach future guests in Asia? Then use channels like Klook or C-Trip. You want to reach customers worldwide? Then GetYourGuide and Reserve with Google offer exactly the right platform.

But why choose? With a booking solution like bookingkit, experience providers gain access to over 50 of the most important regional and international platforms for tours and activities. At the same time, you can build your own sales network with regional partners through bookingkit Reach. Now is the time to define your personal marketing mix and try out new opportunities.

2. Your guests are waiting for you

Not only the European market will gradually recover, but also in the USA and other countries there are first signs of life from the tourism industry. And this is not happening by chance. The most successful businesses in reopening are those that have already taken precautions such as hygiene measures and time window offers and were allowed to start again immediately. Of course, the bookings are also related to relaxations and testing strategies.

But the figures from last year also give a promising outlook for the months ahead. Because as soon as openings are communicated and experiences are possible again, the booking figures suddenly shoot up and remain consistently high. This makes it all the more important for providers of tours, activities and attractions to take all measures to generate sales again from day one and to be able to react flexibly to new regulations.

revenue increase after the lockdown - bookingkit itb graphic
Source: bookingkit data


3. Trust in online bookings is king

During the lockdown, customers worldwide have become more accustomed to online availability of products and offers. And we can see four trends emerging in relation to tours, activities and attractions:

  • Customers are booking experiences primarily online and from home
  • Customers prefer time slot tickets to save time on site and avoid queues
  • Customers also book time slots on “unpopular” days if the price is more attractive
  • Customers want a flexible and uncomplicated cancellation management

According to the expert discussions at ITB NOW, there is no way around complete digitalisation. Flexible rebooking, refund guarantees, free and short-term cancellations promote trust in online booking of experiences and are now expected by customers. This is also evidenced by an ITB survey by Travelzoo, which determined which collateral end customers look for when booking travel during the Covid-19 crisis. The options of getting money back and rescheduling bookings came out on top.

ITB NOW 2021 Global Study Trust
Source: Christian Smart. Travelzoo Global Study 2021 – The Rise of Trust


So has Pandora’s box of digitisation been opened? Yes. But that is by no means a negative thing. Because for all these trends and challenges, bookingkit is already the right solution for experience providers. Time slot tickets as well as automated capacity and cancellation management are fundamental functions that enable the best possible booking experience for end customers and strengthen their trust.

4. Pre-bookings will increase massively

Experience from recent months has shown that customers are not only increasingly booking online, but also well in advance. Brad Weber, CEO of Gray Line Worldwide, reports that customers have already secured a ticket for a bus tour 364 days before the actual experience. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk also explains that the numbers are rising again, even if customers are still focusing on their region and neighbouring countries in the near future.

So tourists no longer tend to book trips and experiences directly on site. Spontaneous bookings will become increasingly rare, especially among international customers. Ilaria D’Uva, Managing Director of D’Uva, illustrates this with the example of the Pantheon in Rome. There, 9 out of 10 euros collected from guided tours in 2020 came from online reservations.

This means that tour, activity and attraction providers have to plan for the long term. With extended availabilities and a well-maintained online calendar, revenues can already be generated now, even though the actual experience will not take place for another year.

The ITB NOW conclusion

The digitalisation of the tourism industry is progressing in record time and end customers have more precise expectations of online offers than before the Corona crisis. For providers of tours, activities and attractions, it is becoming increasingly important to be bookable online around the clock worldwide and to put together the perfect mix of regional and international marketing channels. It is also worthwhile to look at booking software like bookingkit not only as a channel manager, but to discover and use all its functions. Because bookingkit offers exactly the right tools and functions for a quick re-opening. We have summarised the most important steps once again here:

  • Be visible online worldwide around the clock
  • Check your marketing mix and combine regional and international channels
  • Use all software functions and be ready for your re-opening at any time
  • Offer your customers time slot tickets and fair cancellation management
  • Anticipate bookings well in advance and adjust your availability accordingly

If you want to learn more about how bookingkit can help you to comfortably reopen and generate new revenue despite the lockdown, book a free demo now


Christian Blume
Christian is Online Marketing Manager at bookingkit and writes about trends and tips for tour and leisure experience providers. In his spare time he loves to travel and discover new exciting places with his camera.


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