From ecotourism to the home-sharing boom to the $150 billion global tours and experiences marketplace, today’s travelers, particularly the younger generation, aren’t looking for manufactured, cookie-cutter experiences. Thirty-seven percent of millennial and Gen Z consumers are likely to spend extra money for food or drink experiences while traveling, and they also rank activities as a major factor for travel happiness, according to a study from the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation. For travel suppliers, getting these travelers to book tours and experiences means targeting them with the right tour or experience offer via the right channel at the right time.


When planning a trip, traditionally, most travelers picked a destination and booked their hotels first, and then figured out what to do and where to visit. That planning sequence has evolved, and travelers today often think about what they want to see and do in parallel with choosing a destination (or even in advance), and then book their travel, including tours and experiences, based on that. Therefore, travel suppliers need to be in front of travelers with tours and experiences earlier in the traveler’s booking journey.


However, understanding a traveler’s booking journey is more complex than one may initially realize. First, the booking journey doesn’t start when travelers show up to your website. It starts when they’re talking with friends and family about trip ideas and researching destinations on travel sites or social platforms like Instagram. Because of the proliferation of information out there, it might be too late to influence them when they actually show up on your site to book. Consider how early you need to get in front of them, how much pre-planning or research they might be doing, and whether you can get them to come to you for that or meet them where they are.


Second, the booking journey and the types of experiences that travelers are interested in often depends on the type of trip they’re planning. Tours and experiences booked for a girls’ trip, honeymoon, or family trip with kids will be vastly different. Understanding the mission of the trip is key in ensuring the right offer.


Because booking journeys aren’t one size fits all, travel suppliers need a plan to identify and engage travelers by segment (based on demographics, trip mission, destination, budget and even profiling characteristics like last-minute travelers vs. planners). It will take time to build a traveler segment-aligned engagement strategy that’s super sophisticated, but there are basic things that you can do as a starting point, like using readily available customer data, such as loyalty program data, for targeting and executing basic offer testing.  


In the end, knowing your audience by better mapping the booking journey will help you offer the more personalized, unique experiences that consumers crave.