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In-destination services: the race for the 170 billion US dollar market has begun

In-destination services – the digitally supported marketing of local activities – is currently the travel industry’s largest growth segment. Experts estimate its volume to be 170 billion USD. This raises the question of why, in the past 20 years, no one has dared reach for a slice of the big pie.

“This market is highly fragmented and very local,” says Anna Kofoed, Senior Vice President of Retail for Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe at Amadeus. “For large segments, technical standards arise quickly. The many small suppliers bring their products online little by little. That changes a lot.”

“This business is definitely complex and highly specialised. It is simply difficult to gain access to the many services, to ensure that they survive in the long term and provide what they promise, and to know what only locals can know,” added Laurent Chorivit, COO Evaneos.

Until now, organisers have handled the development of local activities. Evaneos decided to use its platform to contact over 1,300 certified, technically equipped local experts that take over individual travel planning for customers. Others such as Alex Bainbridge or Lax Poojary developed innovative platforms like Autoura and TouringBird that support in-destination self-service for suppliers and travellers.

“Why now? Well: mobile has taken over the world,” says Bainbridge, Autoura CEO. “Travellers no longer look into local activities three weeks in advance – they are used to finding prices, availability, and booking opportunities on their smartphone the night before.”

More than fee-based insider tips

In addition to wanting to see the standard attractions, there is also the desire for an “authentic” experience off the beaten track: seeing the Eiffel tower in the morning and chatting with French people at an open table dinner in the evening – today, both are possible and in demand. Because online, we are now dealing more with holiday and leisure travellers and less with flight and hotel reservations for business travellers.

This also means: „Leisure travellers are not only interested in insider tips booked for a fee, but also in attractions that don’t cost a cent,” says Lax Poojary. Those marketing in-destination services should include beach walks with fishermen at sunrise, unique photo opportunities of the Frankfurt skyline, and similar opportunities in their offerings.

Personal advice remains in high demand

“Don’t forget,” adds Anna Kofoed: “46% of all people who booked a trip with us used our chat.” A short clarifying discussion also takes place for half of all bookings. Whether we continue to work with local experts or, one day, service robots take over: we won’t get around answering questions for in-destination services, even in the long term.

Isabel Bommer

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