AttractionsAttractions and theme parks are getting the right connections in the distribution channel to enter the digi-sphere.

Tik-Tok, time is ticking for the attractions business

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Much more can be done to boost the attractions sector; around 80% of tickets for tours and activities are still purchased offline.
Much more can be done to boost the attractions sector; around 80% of tickets for tours and activities are still purchased offline. Photo Credit: gettyimages/Lugaaa

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. 

Globally, 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 of 2021.

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 e-commerce.

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 APAC.

“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.
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 offline.

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.



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