The traveller is active; he goes in search of people and adventure. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him” – Daniel J. Boorstin.

This quote epitomizes the changes facing the tour operator.  Social media and rich media have exploded in popularity, and holidaymakers are gaining a better understanding of the kind of sights and activities of interest to them. They want to ensure they get the most value from their purchases, and there has been a recent surge in consumer demand for do it yourself (DIY) holidays and travel options.

This year’s Destination Show hosted much discussion on ‘off the cuff’ and low budget DIY travel options, so how are traditional tour operators and holiday providers shaping up to meet this change in consumer demand?  And how can a tour operator compete in an industry where travel can be purchased at half the price through DIY travel providers such as Lastminute.com?

Major online travel providers such as AirBnB appear to have grown drastically over the past year with more and more users opting to book their own accommodation through the provider. Although the core market addressed by AirBnb is considered to be the “homeowner” and “DIY Traveller” it is only a matter of time before they enter the tour market. Adding tours and excursions would not be a difficult function to build into the business model through a simple travel itinerary.

Firstly, the itinerary commonly described as ‘a planned route or journey’ within travel marketing must change. The ‘planned route’ must become one of many options, rather than the sole choice. Suggesting inspiring excursions for each location will enable the user to build an itinerary tailored to their own tastes.

Tour operators may still find it difficult to compete with travel websites on destinations that are heavily price led, but they do still have a strong advantage. Consumers looking for more individual holiday experiences and tailored activities will inevitably be looking for more detailed information and personal experiences. Tour operators are uniquely placed to provide these things, which will aid customers in their purchasing decisions.

Rich media also plays an important role in highlighting this knowledge. Blog posts and guides allow the user to familiarise themselves with the destination and gain inspiration for excursions and activities, while video content and imagery allows tour operators to visually describe the experiences on a tailor-made tour.

To summarise, much like the famous quote by Daniel J. Boorstin, tourists are increasingly becoming more traveller orientated and as such, tour operators and holiday providers must adapt their marketing strategies.

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