Tours have a significant impact on multiple aspects of a traveler’s journey, including trip planning, spending and overall travel experience.

Those are among the key findings of a comprehensive traveler study fielded by Arival and produced in conjunction with Context Travel.

The research study, The Arival Guide To The Future of Touring, was undertaken to determine key trends and drivers around tour takers’ needs and behavior and to identify the primary factors shaping the evolution of tours and touring.

Tours shape trip planning, spend and experience

The increased importance of tours has emerged alongside a relatively recent influx of new tour companies, concepts and experiences that has redefined tours and touring.

Two-thirds of U.S. tour takers surveyed say that tours are very or extremely important when planning a trip.

The greater the importance of the tour within the planning process, the more likely the traveler is to plan and book well in advance.

Tours also play a significant role in the overall trip spend. On average, U.S. tour takers are spending 25% of their trip budget on tours alone.

The study also identified the tours are a major contributor to a travelers’ overall trip experience. More than 70% of U.S. tour takers had a very memorable tour experience on their most recent trip.

Tours also are a key component of the in-destination experience for a majority of travelers.

More than half of U.S. travelers – 54% – took some type of tour on their last trip, and the number is even higher if the definition of tour is expanded beyond traditional sightseeing.

U.S. tour takers on average experience two types of day tours per trip.

U.S. tour takers: Who they are, what they do

Those tour takers include both young and older travelers, according to the research, although there are some segments of the traveler population that are more likely to take certain types of tours.

Travelers under 35 and 55 or older are far more likely to take tours overall.

Tour consumption falls with travelers between the ages of 35 and 54, likely due to changing traveler patterns as they begin to raise families during these years.

Tour types also vary with age. Younger travelers under 35 are driving the growing interest in thematic, or experiential tours, such as culinary tours, outdoor and adventure tours, and specialist tours on cultural themes.

These younger travelers also take classic sightseeing tours, especially for long-haul trips and when visiting a destination for the first time.

The Arival Guide to The Future of Touring

Additional information and a link to download the report.

While travelers visiting a destination for the first time are far more likely to take classic sightseeing tours, interest in tours does not diminish when travelers return to a destination.

What does change is the type of tour they take. Repeat visitors are more likely to take a smaller, specialized tour that goes deeper into a cultural experience or activity.

The cultural enrichment traveler

Travelers who put a high degree of importance on cultural enrichment when they travel are among the most avid tour takers.

These travelers are far more likely to take tours; two in three incorporate tours into their travel plans, vs. just over half of all travelers.

The cultural enrichment traveler is an especially valuable tour customer. On average, they take trips that are two nights longer than other travelers.

They spend 50% more on their trips and 33% more on their in-destination tours, outspending the overall U.S. tour taker base by a significant margin.

What tour takers want

The Arival study revealed a big gap between what tour takers say they want in a tour and what they actually do.

While more than half of tour takers previously took a large group tour, many say they want a more intimate tour experience for their next trip in the form of a small group or private tour (43%).

Only 17% say they prefer a larger group tour in the future.

The lack of availability of smaller group tours and higher price points are likely among the factors contributing to the gap between travelers’ stated preferences and their actual behavior.

Redefining the tour industry

The Arival study identified three factors that are reshaping tours and creating opportunity for every segment of the tour industry, from small operators to major tour companies and technology platforms.

These include:

  • The growth in experiential tours that delve into a topic or activity with a true expert as a guide
  • Smaller tour groups and private tours that go deeper into a theme or area of interest and deliver a more intimate tour experience
  • The emergence of standards through the rise of brands.

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