Douglas Quinby is the Co-founder and CEO of Arival.

This article is going to be a little different. We’re going to try something interactive.

If you’re reading this in print or on your laptop, then take out your phone. I’m serious. Open it up. Now, think about your last personal leisure trip or vacation. Take a moment and recall some of the best moments. Now, go into your photos, and find those pics from that trip.  (If you’re reading this on your phone, then just flip to your photos.) Don’t worry. I’ll wait right here.

OK, now I have two questions for you:

How many of those photos from your last trip were taken when you were on the airplane (or in your car or train)?

How many of those photos were taken in your hotel room?

I’m going to take a wild guess: not many.

Of course, the reason why is obvious. When we travel, it’s not for the flights or hotels. It’s for the experiences. Transportation and accommodation are the “how” of travel. Experiences are the “why.” They are the things we do, the moments we remember, the photos we take, the reason we go in the first place.

This is obvious, of course, to any travel professional. I’ve been in travel and tourism for more than two decades. And yet, I’ve always been amazed, at every conference I go to, every daily newsletter I digest, 99% of the content and discussion is about the “how,” not the “why.”

There were plenty of conferences, data and media for hotels and airlines, but nothing for day tours and experiences. That’s why five years ago we started Arival, a conference and research and news company to focus on the “why of travel” – the tours, activities, attractions, events and experiences that travelers do when they get there. We have always called it the Best Part of Travel.

It’s also a huge market. Two quick stats:

It’s the third largest sector of industry spend after transportation and accommodation, forecast to exceed 2019 levels by 2024 at more than $260 billion in global gross bookings.

There are nearly a million operators, or creators of tours, activities, attractions and experiences, all over the world.

There are also big shifts underway in experiences in what travelers want, and in how the industry is operating:

  • More intimate and small group experiences
  • More local and authentic experiences that connect travelers to a place and people and moving beyond the classic sites and attractions. For example, Philly Experiences takes visitors on tours of another side of the city, connecting them with Hood cultural and the black experience there.
  • Interactivity – travelers don’t just want to see and hear, they want to touch, taste, smell and feel. A tour of the top sites in Spain is fine, but consider adding a paella cooking experience with a local chef.
  • Digital decision-making and booking, for trade and consumer business: operators are rapidly advancing their digital capabilities to connect with trade partners, including groups.
  • Travelers are placing more emphasis than ever on experiences, especially Gen-Z and millennials. Indeed, that’s where they are spending their money: 58% say they place a higher priority on experiences vs. things. And we are seeing this reflected in travel habits and spend as the industry rebounds from the pandemic.

I could go on, and on, and on. In fact, we produce a range of research reports and a weekly newsletter, in addition to our conferences, to help the travel experiences sector and the broader travel industry connect, learn and grow together, just as the team at Leisure Group Travel seeks to do for the group tour industry.

At Arival, our mission is to advance the business of creating amazing in-destination experiences. That includes elevating the stature and importance of the experiences sector in the travel and tourism industry.

Please join us on that journey. Start by putting the “why” of travel front and center in all of your planning. Your customers will love you for it.

For more information, visit arival.travel

By Douglas Quinby

To learn more about the 2022 Titans of Tourism, visit the December issue of Leisure Group Travel.