In recent years, experiential travel has evolved from buzzword to pillar, becoming the cornerstone of how the tour and activities industry perceives itself. Driven in large measure by the global rise of social sharing, travel brands of all kinds see themselves as purveyors of experiences, beyond just products and services. This is what Recode calls the “experience economy” — and travel is at the center of it all.
Whether its Airbnb Experiences or TripAdvisor’s recent rebrand to “TripAdvisor Experiences,” in-destination experiences are a big driver across the industry. Skift identified tours and experiences “the next great untapped market in online travel.”
One underserved area has been multi-day package tours — an industry worth nearly $300 billion that has been slow to digitize. Tours are often spread across many travel agents, which makes them hard to evaluate and compare side-by-side. Due to the high-cost — the average multi-day trip is over $6,000 — these experiences have proven challenging to book online. That’s why we saw such great potential for Stride, a metasearch platform with over 30,000 multi-day tours and over 100,000 validated reviews. We’re excited to today announce our investment in the startup.
Stride targets the $52B global market for English-speaking tours, which is projected to grow significantly with the rise in Baby Boomer purchasing power and experiential travel interests.
Travelers experience massive fragmentation when researching and booking multi-day tours. There are 18 million tour-takers served by over 2,000 tour operators offering more than 300,000 itineraries in the global marketplace. Out of the 105,000 travel agents in the U.S., no single agent knows all 300,000 itinerary options. Without a central location for the many itinerary options and a trusted set of reviews, travelers are frustrated with the online search for tours and activities and as a result, transition to offline travel agents for booking. While 90% of tour-takers start trip planning online (Google Travel Study 2017), Stride’s own traveler survey found that 70% of packages end up being booked offline and manually with the operator or through travel agents. (Also, some operators still rely on printed catalogs, which can become a nightmare to manage for travelers seeking transparency about an operator’s reputation or reviews on a specific itinerary.)
To tackle this fragmentation, Stride’s platform features details and user reviews on over 700 tour operators and showcases over 30,000 expert-planned trips in 130 countries. Users can review trips, select the best fit, and book directly with tour operators using Stride as a one-stop connector — ultimately replacing hours of tedious research. These trips are all highly complex, as they include a complete itinerary, full transportation, and lodging. That’s an incredible level of detail that is a testament not only to the company’s technical chops but also to the richness of its understanding of how travelers search and book package tours. With its impressive inventory and full transparency of validated reviews, Stride is transforming the way that multi-day tours are marketed and sold worldwide.
When it comes to active travelers with time and money to spend, Boomers are one of the strongest target markets in travel today. Of the $300 billion spent on package tours and adventures, the majority is spent by Boomers — travelers over the age of 55 — followed by Millennials. Skift research shows that these two generations of affluent travelers desire to spend more on tours and experiences than products (see below) and as the Internet matures, consumers are far more comfortable purchasing big-ticket items online than ever before.
In addition, travelers are starting to show a preference for booking travel in one place. A recent study from the Center for Generational Kinetics and Expedia determined that 80% of Americans want to book all aspects of travel in one place. While this refers to the OTA model, it nonetheless underscores consumer comfort with all-in-one booking platforms. Consumers seek a single platform to help them curate, book and manage their trips, and up until recently, multi-day tours were fragmented and hard to navigate. Stride has extended the single platform experience to multi-day adventures and has also realized how challenging it can be for travelers to find trips best suited to them.
To more efficiently match travelers to adventures, the company also today announced its TripFinder feature. After answering a few questions on style, pace, party size, budget, and the desired type of experience, TripFinder analyzes Stride’s 30,000 global adventures and presents three curated options. The objective is to reduce decision fatigue so travelers can easily (and enjoyably) discover the types of trips that they’re looking for, says Stride CEO Gavin Delany:
“The internet has greatly expanded our options for travel but has not given us the tools to match the right trip for our needs. And increasingly, travelers want everything done for them. We’re making finding the perfect experiential trip easier and faster than ever.”
Stride’s detailed understanding of travelers’ needs and commitment to improving the customer experience were driving forces in our decision to invest. We know consumers want to have amazing travel experiences made as seamless and easy as possible for them, and we love that Stride offers a scope beyond that of single travel agents.
Since launching in 2016, the company has earned substantial traction from both consumers and suppliers. In 2018 alone, Stride sent $330 million in trips to tour operators and experts. It’s clear that travelers seeking multi-day tours welcome a platform like Stride that cuts through the complexity and offers the convenience of a single touchpoint. We’re excited to support Stride on this next phase of growth as they continue to shake up the future of the tours and activities industry.