WTM London, the event where ideas arrive, has created an area dedicated to exhibitors in the tours and activities sector, as it recognizes the market’s huge potential and rapid growth.
Major names in the sector such as Merlin Entertainments, City Sightseeing, and Leisure Pass Group have signed up for the new zone, along with regional specialists.
A study by travel industry research specialist Phocuswright found that the tours and activities sector reached $135 billion globally in 2016, accounting for 10% of global travel revenue – more than rail, car rental or cruise.
Start-ups and major brands – including Expedia, Airbnb and TripAdvisor – have moved into the sector to fuel “astonishing” growth, said Phocuswright, which forecasts the market will reach $183 billion by 2020.
iVenture Card will exhibit at WTM London to promote its city attraction passes to a global audience. Headquartered in Sydney, iVenture Card operates across five continents, offering its passes to consumers and the trade, enabling visitors to explore destinations in a convenient and cost-effective way.
Joost Timmer, Managing Director, said being at WTM London will generate opportunities to extend the firm’s footprint in new destinations.
“We can also connect with existing trade partners and meet new distributors keen to capitalize on this rapidly expanding segment,” he added.
He said attraction passes are popular with many in the trade, including online travel agents, traditional travel agents, airlines, loyalty programmes and other closed-user groups – and they also increase exposure for the providers of tours and activities.
Other exhibitors in WTM’s new tours and activities zone include:
- Merlin Entertainments
As Europe’s number one and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin operates more than 100 attractions, 13 hotels and six-holiday villages in 24 countries and across four continents.
In September, it opened a new attraction for thrill-seekers, created with adventurer Bear Grylls.
The £20 million Bear Grylls Adventure launched at the NEC in Birmingham and is designed to test adrenaline junkies both physically and mentally.
- City Sightseeing Worldwide Ltd
City Sightseeing is the world’s leading open-top bus tour operator with more than 100 tours across five continents including key destinations such as London, New York, Dubai, Cape Town, Moscow and Singapore.
It will be joined at WTM by City Sightseeing sister brands from Rome, Barcelona, London, Dubai, Amsterdam Bus & Boat and New York.
- Gray Line
Established in 1910, Gray Line says it has helped more travellers see more of the world’s most iconic destinations and attractions than any company on the planet.
The sightseeing tour provider offers more than 3,500 things to see and do on six continents.
- Julià Group
Ticketing agency Julià Group was established more than 84 years ago and is now one of Spain’s top corporations.
It specialises in global transport and tourism services, including the iVenture Card and City Tour Worldwide brands, and is present in almost 40 cities in 10 countries.
- Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil developed in Canada during the 1980s from a troupe of performers.
Now headquartered in Montreal, it produces blockbuster circus shows around the world with acrobats, dancers and actors.
- Leisure Pass Group
The Leisure Pass Group is the largest attraction pass company in the world combining the Boston-based Smart Destinations, UK-based Leisure Pass Group, and The New York Pass. The new Leisure Pass Group operates passes in more than 30 destinations across the US, Europe, and the Middle East.
- Big Bus Tours
Big Bus Tours is the largest privately owned operator of open-top sightseeing tours in the world.
In August, it launched its Dublin operation, the 20th city in its global portfolio.
Alex Payne, Big Bus Tours chief executive, said: “Dublin is a world-class tourism destination that is seeing strong growth in visitor numbers year-on-year. It complements the Big Bus portfolio perfectly.”
Meanwhile, other zones in WTM London’s exhibition halls also feature tours and activities specialists – such as Klook, which will exhibit in Travel Forward, the technology segment of WTM London 2018.
Employing 700 staff across 17 offices worldwide, Klook works with more than 5,000 merchants to offer travellers 50,000-plus travel activities and services worldwide, including tickets to attractions, tours, local transportation, food and other experiences.
It has the largest Asian user base for the tours and activities industry, and is expanding its footprint into the USA and Europe.
Eric Gnock Fah, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Klook, said: “We are confident that the tours and activities sector will continue to grow in the coming years. Many travellers are very experienced nowadays and may have already visited certain destinations multiple times. They are most likely looking for things to do and see beyond the experiences that are marketed toward first-time travellers, which opens up endless business opportunities.
“The sector’s robust growth is largely because of two main reasons – the rise of free independent travellers (FITs) and the advance of mobile technology.
“The tours and activities sector is mostly offline, with a current online penetration rate of less than 15%. So there’s a significant opportunity for growth in the online sector.
“At WTM London 2018, we are looking forward to expanding and deepening our partnerships with travel service merchants worldwide, as well as helping these merchants to reach broader audiences in a more efficient way.”
WTM London Senior Director Simon Press said: “The tours and activities sector is growing faster than other parts of the travel industry as more firms realise its potential, and technology is making it easier for consumers to book more experiences.
“There’s so much diversity on offer but that means it can be a fragmented market – so it’s important for WTM London to create this new zone to highlight the sector’s range and help develop the technology and networks to overcome these hurdles.
“Travellers are seeking out new experiences, tours, top destinations and cultural attractions, so we know this focus on tours and activities will be warmly welcomed by visitors to WTM London.”