Last-minute travel booking is on the rise, thanks to the immediacy of the Internet age.
Forty-four percent of leisure travelers and 56 percent of business travelers in the United States book at the last minute, and 34 percent of these travelers book a trip of 0 to 3 days in duration. Further proof that the majority of travelers are making plans on the go and not spending weeks mapping itineraries: 72 percent of mobile bookings on an OTA site or through an OTA app were made within one day of the stay.
In fact, the last few years have seen an explosion in mobile bookings—reservations made via a smartphone or tablet—with at least 38 percent of travelers booking on a mobile device in 2014 alone. And, experts say, many travelers use their smartphones for booking last-minute hotel rooms and other travel-related purchases.
What's driving this trend?
Many travelers now travel on impulse. Experts at HotelTonight report on research that shows many last-minute mobile bookers are drawn to the idea of "impulse rates," where companies post deep discounts for a short period of time or run 24- or 48-hour sales and special offers to generate business. In addition, last-minute travel bookings can help travelers save some money, reports Time magazine.
What last-minute travel trends mean for tour and activity operators
While many of these statistics pertain to hotel bookings and related travel bookings—car rentals, shopping, etc—the fact that travelers are waiting until the last minute to create an entire trip itinerary on a smartphone gives tour and activity operators some indication of what many travelers are looking for. If you can make your online booking process extremely simple for these mobile-savvy travelers, you may be able to capture some of this market.
Here are some ideas for marketing your offerings to the last-minute traveler:
Promote last-minute travel offers
Create artificial booking window "deadlines" of 24 to 48 hours so that travelers can take advantage of a last-minute deal. You could drop your rates for a certain time period or promote an exclusive offer as a "flash sale" to generate business. This may be attractive to both locals looking for something interesting to do and travelers who are in town for a few days and are feeling spontaneous. Promote this offer on your website, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and also via email newsletters to your subscriber base throughout the year.
Extend a discount for online bookings
If you offer the option of booking over the phone and online, encourage more travelers to book their reservation online and receive a discount. This can attract tech-savvy travelers who are shopping for last-minute deals, and also encourage more traditional travelers to try the online booking process. Using an online booking system, such as ZOZI Advance, makes it easy to create promo codes that customers can redeem online during checkout. You can set custom pricing for group discounts and large parties.
Promote the value of single-day trips
Put the spotlight on tours and activities that are of a shorter length to promote the idea that travelers or visitors looking for something fun to do in an afternoon or early morning can head to your venue for a unique experience. For example, you could promote your one-hour sunset boat tour or a two-hour beginner's kayaking course to guests who are only in the area for a day or two. Highlight the fact that these are single-day experiences and perfect for locals and last-minute travelers on your website or on social media sites. Those shopping around for a fun activity for a single day may be more keen to book something like this since they do not need to create a complex itinerary or do too much planning.
As more travelers become reliant on their mobile device to book travel and are comfortable with booking trips at the last minute, you can position your company as the perfect addition to the guest's travel plans. Offering online booking options and catering to the demands of travelers looking for local activities at the last minute could help you generate more revenue each season.