The State of Mobile Bookings for Tours and Activities

By Taylor Odgers

Booking ManagementBooking Management

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Mobile use is on the rise. Today, mobile accounts for 51.2% of global internet usage. But for tour and activity providers, we believe the impact of mobile is even greater. By nature, travelers are on-the-go, which raises questions like: Do travelers book experiences online from the comforts of their home prior to departure, and on desktops? Or do they book while in-destination using their mobile devices?

The majority of bookings are made one week in advance

Time prior to booking chart, 1 week before at 33.78%, same day at 24.50%

What did we find? To start, last-minute bookings take the lead. A quarter of Checkfront bookings are made the same day, while 33.8% are made 1-7 days in advance. From there, booking rates drop week by week— two weeks out (9.25%), 3 weeks out (5.83%), 4 weeks out (4.27%) and so on.

Next, we’ll compare desktop and mobile bookings.

Almost half of all bookings are made on mobile devices

Booking breakdown pie chart with mobile at 44.3% and desktop at 47.%

Last year, mobile bookings made up almost half (44.3%) of all bookings— more than half if you include tablet bookings (8.7%). That alone tells us tour and activity operators need to pay attention to mobile.

And mobile bookings are growing. In 2015, mobile only accounted for 29.72% of bookings. Desktop made up the bulk at 57.7% and tablet 12.58%. Interestingly, tablet bookings have decreased over the past 3 years.

Percent of bookings by device bar graph

This means that mobile bookings have increased by 49% over the past 3 years, while desktop decreased by 10.77%.

Share of bookings by device line graph

Now that we know mobile bookings have increased, let’s take a look at the behavior of sessions.

Conversion rates are higher on mobile

Booking conversion rates, mobile vs desktop

Along with a growth in mobile bookings, conversion rates tend to be higher. In 2017, 61.91% of mobile users who created a booking followed through to confirmation, compared to 45.33% of desktop users.

Next, we’ll look for some insights into why mobile conversion rates are higher.

Mobile sessions are faster than desktop

While mobile conversion rates are higher, mobile users tend to be less patient than desktop users. Over the past 3 years, mobile sessions have been an average of 62 seconds shorter than desktop.

In 2017 the average mobile session length was 2 minutes, 20 seconds, while the average desktop session was 3 minutes and 15 seconds. This hasn’t changed significantly from 2015—  mobile 00:02:10 and desktop, 00:03:28.

Average session length in minutes bar graph

Mobile users also view fewer pages. In 2017 the average mobile page views per visit were 1.98 while desktop had 2.40.

Average page views per visit bar graph

On top of that, mobile users are more likely to bounce. The mobile bounce rate in 2017 was 61.3%, whereas the desktop bounce rates were 56.4%

Bounce rate bar graph

This tells us that mobile user’s actions happen faster. They know what they’re looking for, and won’t stick around if they can’t find it.

What this means for tour and activity operators

While flights and accommodation are purchased well in advance— for fear of availability and price spikes— activities tend to be more last minute. Travelers might research the activities they’re interested in prior to departure but many will wait until they arrive to book— because then they’ll know what the weather is like. At which point they have no other choice but to book on mobile.

Since in-destination travelers are likely to visit a website with the intention of booking, tour and activity operators can win at mobile bookings by helping visitors reach their goal with a clear path to purchase.

Ultimately, the operators who invest in a mobile booking system will have more direct sales from in-destination travelers.

How to improve the mobile booking experience

Having a mobile friendly website should no longer be an afterthought. Tour and activity operators must take a mobile-first approach — or risk losing half of their online customers. Here are some tips to optimize the mobile booking experience:

  1. Remove all distractions and lead visitors to make a booking with clear calls-to-action
  2. Provide date searchability for your experiences
  3. Minimize form fields and/or offer auto-fill options
  4. Assure refunds to help visitors overcome anxiety about booking on mobile devices
  5. Easily offer assistance through instant messaging or click-to-call buttons

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To establish a booking timeline, we analyzed Checkfront’s anonymized booking data to determine the number of days in advance a reservation is made.

Then to segment bookings made by device type, we looked at the Google Analytics data anonymously collected on Checkfront’s booking pages from 2015-2017. For each year, we measured a number of baseline metrics to compare the behavior of mobile and desktop users. For the purpose of this study, we separated mobile and tablet usage. In some cases, tablet data is not shown.

While we’re unable to tie the timeline directly to the device, we’ve made some theories based on the behavioral data.