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Eight questions on ‘the best part of travel’ with Douglas Quinby

Dec 18, 2018

By Wendy Morrill

Douglas Quinby is no lightweight when it comes to travel research. He’s a 20-year veteran of quantitative and qualitative research on the industry, has authored several seminal works, and worked with some of the biggest companies in the industry. Anyone who’s seen him at work during a Phocuswright Conference knows he’s pretty much written the playbook on how to run a seriously tight executive interview on stage, getting at the good stuff with a sense of humour and acumen like nobody else can.

Now Co-founder and CEO of Arival, the platform and event serving the creators and sellers of tours, activities, and attractions, Douglas Quinby is putting the ‘the best part of travel’ centre stage and helping the sector to take the business of creating the best in-destination experiences to the next level.

Quite frankly, I was petrified to ask Douglas one question, let alone eight. Luckily he answered them all- even one with a lot of annoying parts. Turns out he has respect for hostels, has his doubts about Uber as the next distribution channel in travel, and likes rainbow socks (take note, Santa) and much more. 

  1. Arival is growing quickly as the in-destination voice; you’ve got a flagship event in the US on its third year, two new regional events in Europe and Asia, and we’ve heard about the development of Arival.travel. How is Arival.travel different than Arival the event?

Tours, activities, attractions and events – we call it the in-destination industry – is travel’s third-largest and fastest growing sector. There is so much happening, so many great stories to tell. This is the best part of travel and it deserves a media service all its own. Arival.travel is our website for news and insights so we can provide great coverage of this sector year-round. Besides, there are already more than enough websites writing about the ups and downs of hotels and OTAs.  

  1. WYSE Travel Confederation’s membership includes a considerable number of hostels that help younger travellers to discover what a destination has to offer while also being social hubs for meeting other travellers. What are hostels doing right in destination and what could they do better?

Tours and tickets have been big business for accommodation operators and well over 90% of hostels offer them, according to the hostel market research I led at Phocuswright. From small innovators, such as Rome’s Yellow Square to larger chains such as Wombats, hostels have been leading the sector. Hotels and other accommodation operators could learn a lot from them. Do the research to identify great operators with product that’s relevant to your guests, market it on property and on mobile, and tie it into your loyalty program, if you have one. 

  1. Uber as the next distribution channel for tourist attractionshow likely do you think this is?

Interesting idea, but not likely. It might be great for tour and attraction operators, but the truth is Uber has far bigger fish to fry. 

  1. Day passes for attractions and activities. They’re interesting for the ambitious, budget-conscious visitor, but sometimes difficult to get from a local tourism board or chamber of commerce office and maybe not very modern or cool anymore. Are the days numbered (no pun intended) for tourist day passes?

Just the opposite. The fact is, most travelers don’t know everything they want to do when they get there. They also don’t want to over-plan or commit. It’s their vacation, after all. Multi-attraction passes are a great option for budget-conscious travelers. They provide flexibility, they eliminate having to wait in line at each attraction (those that do their tech right), and typically provide good value if the traveler takes full advantage. Ted Stimpson of LeisurePass delivered a good talk at Arival on the key customer problem attraction passes solve.

  1. Airbnb Experiences… how corporate or mainstream will it go or is it already?

Well, Airbnb specifically still has its work cut out to make Experiences the kind of product that will have a material impact on their business. But they’ve tapped into something very human. We don’t just want to look at stuff and listen to people tell us stuff. We also want to try. Who doesn’t go to a football match and wish they didn’t have a chance at that penalty kick? And it doesn’t stop at sports. CHOCOVERSUM, a chocolate museum in Hamburg, started letting its tour guests make their own chocolate bar at the end and was able to grow visitor numbers by 400% in a very short period. We all want to try and there is a huge future in companies that give travelers a chance to “experience”.

  1. What technology developments are there to help operators sell last-minute availability in novel ways or will distressed inventory sales always be an issue?

The biggest trend over the past decade has been the rise of SaaS platforms that have made it very easy for tour and activity operators to access modern reservations and distribution technology. So more and more of this content is discoverable and bookable online. More and more, these systems and the big OTAs are investing in connectivity for instant booking. There will always be a need for last-minute sales in the sector, because most travelers still make these decisions last minute, in destination. The tech is quickly catching up to serve that customer behavior.

  1. Are there any exemplary responsible tourism initiatives in the tours, activities and attractions sector at the moment? Do you think a measurable shift in consumer awareness is taking place?

This is very much a work in process. It’s more important than ever with the need for tourist dispersal to address crowding and green environmental practices. But the hard truth is, the vast majority of tourists don’t care. Even those that are dedicated recyclers back home will be less concerned on vacation. The challenge before our industry is, how to create sustainability that is sellable. This will be a big theme throughout Arival Berlin, including a theater session “Sustainability that Sells” with Urban Adventures’ lead for responsible tourism, Anula Galewska.

  1. One thing I personally appreciate about your interviews with the big wigs of the travel industry is the light-hearted, rapid-fire ‘this or that’ questions to close out an interview. Would you indulge us in a quick round? Let’s just imagine you’re a millennial…

Well, that is pure fantasy but sure, let’s do it.

W: Hostel or hotel?

D: Both

W: Nightclub or festival?

D: Activity with my kids and then early to bed.

W: Tube socks or no-show socks?

D: Rainbow socks

W: Avocado toast or rainbow bagel?

D: Egg-white veggie omelette with a side of oatmeal.

W: Douglas, you’re not following the rules…Digital nomad or analog bro dad?

D: WTF is an ‘analog bro dad’?

W: LOL!

W: Camping or glamping?

D: Hot shower, wifi, nice red wine, and a gym.

W: Yoga or HIIT?

D: Weights

W: Nike or Reebok?

D: Whatever fits best. If your feet aren’t comfortable, nothing is right.

W: Kanye or Kim?

D: This is interesting because I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately. There are some incredible artists, but I still have a lot to learn. So I’ll say all of the above and many more.

W: Ok, so it’s clear you’re not a millennial. The last one…Bruce or Alex?

D: Ha. Very funny.

Meet Douglas Quinby and the Arival and WYSE teams 4 – 5 March 2019 for Arival Berlin, the event for the tours, activities, attractions and events sector or ‘the best part of travel’. Members of WYSE Travel Confederation, the other best part of travel, can benefit from a 20% discount on registration. See you there!