Silver linings in the dark clouds of Covid have been rare, most
especially for the travel industry. But peep behind those clouds and
there is one sector that has fared better than most: the attractions
sector. Theme parks, zoos, aquariums and cultural sites among others.
Reasons for the popularity of these attractions are that many are
close to people’s homes at a time when travel has been restricted. The
pandemic has driven a sea change, as travellers favour outdoor and
leisure activities that do not require them to venture too far from the
Covid-induced cocoon that has shielded their lives during the pandemic.
the tours and activities sector is estimated to be worth US$180 billion
annually, but it has been a late developer, only recently joining the
digital age and being recognised by investors and travel retailers for
its huge potential.
The e-Conomy SEA Report 2021 – co-authored by Google, Temasek and
Bain and Co - indicated that South-east Asia is entering its “digital
decade” as the internet increasingly becomes an integral part of
consumers’ daily lives.
Since the pandemic began, 60 million new digital consumers have come
onboard in South-east Asia, of which 20 million joined in the first half
That’s a lot of itchy fingers out there waiting to buy food, fashion and travel – given the chance.
For theme parks and the like, it’s been something of a roller-coaster
ride through the pandemic. Where once thousands of people might queue
at the gate at any one time to buy a ticket for admittance, attraction
operators now work with partners to control everything from creating
demand, pre-sale of tickets, capacity control, contact tracing and
The way back from the pandemic has been forged by domestic
travellers,” according to Eric Gnock Fah, chief operating officer and
co-founder Klook, the app for booking travel and leisure experiences in
“Domestic travel has always been there but it's actually expanding now, given people can’t travel overseas,” he says.
The challenge is capturing domestic travellers on the new media channels.
“A lot of players and platforms tend to spend on search advertising,
which is quite expensive and low return. But within the domestic travel
landscape, we find that working on social content and key opinion
leaders (KOL), has done much better. TikTok will be one of the key
channels to create demand going forward,” Fah adds.
Jon Owen, chief executive of GoCity, the world’s largest sightseeing
pass business, also likes the new channels for stimulating demand. “I’m
of an age where TikTok is my kids’ platform. So, I’m learning. But those
kinds of channels, and using key opinion leaders, to complement Google
acquisition and the affiliates’, is the way forward,” Owen says
By and large, those attraction operators who have dived into the
digi-sphere have come through the pandemic with the fewest scars and
will be the fastest to accelerate out of Covid as border restrictions
ease and travel resumes more regular patterns.
Museum of Ice Cream works with GlobalTix to drive marketing and ticketing. Photo Credit: Museum of Ice Cream
“Attractions need to be digitally connected – it is no longer an
option. The new world of attractions needs data and technology. And
attractions need strong distribution channels,” says Tao Tao, chief
operating officer and co-founder of GetYour Guide.
Transport and accommodation bookings have already moved online but
experiences have been slow to the digital party. It’s estimated that
around 80% of tickets for tours and activities are still purchased
Tickets are mostly bought over the phone, via email, through hotel
concierges and tourist offices, leaving more than 100,000 tour and
activity providers and 800 airlines looking for a simple solution to
sell tours and activities online.
Reasons given for online purchases are convenience, and the
expectation – not always true – that the OTA would offer a cheaper price
than buying directly through the operator’s website.
“Overall, there’s been a real push into technology improvements to
drive online and advance booking, and to facilitate direct connectivity
to third party distributors and OTAs,” says Douglas Quinby, co-founder
& CEO of Arival, which creates in-destination experiences.
“This trend was underway pre-pandemic, but really accelerated because
of the need to manage capacity limits and handle contact tracing during
Covid - two things that were not feasible with paper tickets and
same-day walk-up purchasing.”
How Museum of Ice gained traction in the digital space
In Singapore, the new Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) teamed up with
GlobalTix to drive marketing and ticketing to allow direct bookings on
the attraction’s website.
Pirakash T, head of APAC, Museum of Ice Cream, said GlobalTix has been “a great and effective partner” since launch.
“In the initial stages of setting up MOIC’s ticketing platform, they
provided valuable advice as thought leaders in the industry.
“From customising a branded ticketing page to streamlining the user
experience, they managed to help us achieve our objectives in ensuring
that the ticketing process was smooth, with added functions like add-ons
that helped generate more revenue for our business.”
Currently, MOIC Singapore distributes most of its tickets directly
through the main website. All tickets must be reserved in advance as
MOIC is a cashless establishment.
As more Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) are established, MOIC intends
to establish strategic partnerships with OTAs “that have a strong
presence in international markets to expand our reach,” Pirakash notes.