With a reputation for identifying industry trends ahead of the curve, Douglas Quinby is Co-Founder and CEO of Arival, one of the leading global media events and community providers for attractions, activities and experiences.
Even though he usually asks questions at Arival’s conferences, we are turning the tables in the latest part of our ‘Livn it up’ series. Douglas Quinby joins Steve Martinez (Livn Founder & CCO) and Virenda Jain (Co-Founder & CEO VIDEC) to deep dive into tours, activities and attractions – the segment we collectively serve.
From looking at the post-pandemic traveller to new trends in discovery, if you are an operator in the tours, activities and attractions space, this is not one to miss! Watch the full episode here:
What prompted you to start Arival?
I worked for many years at Phocuswright, the online travel and research firm, and one of the things I learned throughout my time there was this extraordinary sector for travel and tourism was largely overlooked.
If you were in the hotel or the accommodation industry, you could spend every day attending a different hotel industry conference. You could have 50-100 newsletters from various industry publications or subscribe to two dozen other research firms. There was so much information and content about the hotel, aviation or airline industry to help professionals advance their business.
We realised that tours, attractions, events and experiences - all the things travellers do when they get to a destination were a huge underserved industry with upwards of 1,000,000 operators. They are creators and deliver experiences, whether it’s Disney World or a food tour of Bombay. But there was nothing for this sector.
If not for Arival there would not be resources and content for operators worldwide to understand what is happening.
Of course, Steve and Livn are right in the thick of this by focusing on their mission of connecting supply and distribution in the industry and supply to the new Google Initiative, 'Things to do'.
The timing of when you started Arival was really on point. Do you feel that was luck or just a lot of strategy behind the scenes?
I think it was a bit of both. I remember saying when we were first approaching key companies that we felt would be sponsors. I told them it was a new event, and even though we were facing scepticism, I told them - if they committed to sponsor and take a risk, I would guarantee 200 operators in the room. Our first event was in Vegas, and I said, if I have to go out on the strip the day before and find a tour guide and yank them into our conference centre, I will make it happen.
That is because I believed and felt it was there. To anyone interested in doing a start-up or has an idea, I would say if you have got the fire, then go forward and if you have some hesitation or doubt, then maybe do a little more work before you do.
You mentioned Google earlier. How is Google making changes to tours, attractions and experiences?
Google is stepping into the sector with this significant new initiative to transform how travellers discover tours, activities and experiences in destination, it is advancing this sector. And that is something Livn is doing well by connecting our industry with Google 'Things to do'.
What are some of the core issues or challenges you can see for those looking to get into this sector?
There are systemic issues that need a lot of help. Technology is a huge one, which is why I think we have seen hundreds of tech and reservation system providers. And then companies like Livn as well because there is a connectivity challenge. There is still so much booked offline, and the interaction between distributor and supplier is still manual or partly manual.
How do you think the sector is going to change in the next, say 10 years?
In February, we held our first in-person event in more than two years at Arival San Diego and had Stephen Joyce, the former CEO of Rezgo, come down and talk on generational shifts in consumers.
And it is really about how they are consuming and discovering data and making decisions to draw some of these conclusions.
So, as I look out in five to ten years, I think about the discovery experience of short-form video versus how discovery is made today. And I think there will be a significant shift in how travellers source or discover content and experiences.
People are reading less, and they are not going out and hunting or researching. Instead, they are open to discovery and connecting with their friends, watching videos and sharing content. They are seeing someone they admire or whose community they are a part of, and they are seeing an experience and deciding to go there.
I think it will be less about reading the descriptions of inclusions and exclusions in the future. Instead, they will see a video on TikTok that is 15-20 seconds long and decide they want to experience it. But think about what’s available now, I can’t remember the last time I saw many OTAs in our sector supporting videos etc.
Lastly, what is one hope you have for the industry before we go?
I think one objective or hope I have and will be pushing for is to return responsibly and address some of the challenges that were front and centre for the industry in 2018/2019 and will be front and centre again faster than we can imagine. Things like over-tourism and the incredible pressure that is put on destinations, experience providers and their technology.
Companies like yours at Livn can help operators manage guest flow, staggered timings, and a range of things, including pricing, to address some of these problems. So I am very optimistic about the industry this year or next.
A big thank you to Douglas Quinby from Arival for sharing incredibly insightful views about the attractions, experiences tours and activities sector.