Travel industry trends: the rise of multi-day tours

By Checkfront Marketing

Marketing StrategiesMarketing Strategies

tourists off-roading in the desert

Multi-day tours are proving popular, but what are they and should you be getting in on the action? 

According to a 2021 survey by Arival, there are about 10,000 tour operators in the worldwide multi-day tour market. Three in five are small businesses, and one in three are relatively young, having started operations in 2015 or later. 

The most exciting part, though? Arival estimated these multi-day tour operators made US$89 billion in gross sales in 2019. 

That’s a whole lot of action within a segment of the industry that both travellers and operators still have yet to fully grasp. All told, the multi-day market feels more than ripe for a deep dive.

Here’s everything you need to know about the rising travel industry trend of multi-day tours.

What is a multi-day tour? 

On the surface, multi-day tours are what they sound like: tours that span longer than one day. But what these tours actually include can vary wildly. They can take place in one location or take guests through multiple destinations, activities, and attractions.

They could be highly specialized — focusing on a travel trend like culinary travel, wellness, or volunteering, for example — or combine things like adventure, sightseeing, food tours, and other activities into one multi-day experience.

Multi-day tours can be: 

  • Scheduled tours: These are pre-planned tours with fixed destinations and dates. Guests simply book to join, and the itinerary is already set and perhaps run by the tour operator a few times a year. For example, Spirit Bear Lodge.
  • Customized tours: These are personalized experiences that use tour operator dynamic packaging to piece together multiple pre-set activities into one larger multi-day itinerary. For example, Eagle Wing Tours.
  • Self-guided tours: They aren’t just one of the latest digital marketing trends; they’re also big in the multi-day tour market. These tours have a pre-planned itinerary, but guests are free to explore without a guide. They also may include accommodation, activities, and single-day experiences that guests can choose to add to their booking. For example, Church Farm, Ardeley

They can look like anything from an adventure tour in Indonesia, complete with chartered boat, guided hike, and climb, to a multi-day bike tour, including overnight accommodation, of Iceland’s Ring Road. National park stays paired with activities, wine tour packages and multi-day bus tours are other common examples you may have even taken part in before.

Couple on scenic bike tour of winery

What do multi-day tours include? 

Every tour and tour operator is different, of course. But multi-day tours might include: 

  • A tour leader or guide
  • Local or step-on guides to run select tours or activities
  • Accommodation
  • Food and drink
  • Equipment rental
  • Visits to national parks, attractions, or monuments
  • Transportation

Why are multi-day tours so popular? 

Pre-planned itineraries eliminate a lot of stress and admin for guests, but multi-day tours come with the added benefit of often being customizable. 

Guests can “pick and mix” what they’d like included to craft a personalized tour. This way, they’re not paying for things they don’t want to do, and everything they do want to do is taken care of by a single tour operator.

Before their trip, guests don’t need to worry about booking individual tickets, and when they’re on vacation, there’s no need to juggle multiple reservations. 

Multi-day tours sit at a higher price point than hourly or single-day tours, which is good news for tour operators, but guests are willing to pay the higher price tag to pack much more into their trip. 

Because these tours include custom experiences that are hard to organize as a traveller, guests see the value in having options and tour operators are learning that variety sells. Offering hourly, single-day, and multi-day tours with plenty of optional extras are one way to meet the market.

What’s more, after the pandemic, travellers have begun seeking “meaningful travel,” which could include everything from bucket list experiences to reconnecting with family and friends or sustainable and responsible trips — another travel industry trend in itself. Multi-day tours are an easy and simple way to bring these meaningful trips to life. 

Want to offer multi-day tours yourself? 

If you already run a successful tourism business, multi-day tours could be your next step. 

You’ll first need to decide if you’ll offer scheduled tours on set dates, organize customized tours and charters for guests, or develop self-guided options that span multiple days. 

For example: 

  • If you specialize in one region, you could string together a multi-day itinerary that takes in several nearby attractions and activities. 
  • If you offer day tours around a national park, you could extend this to create three-day packages with more activity options, adding a kayaking day and a wildlife-spotting day to your popular single-day hiking tour. 
  • If you already offer different tours, activities, and rentals, you can learn how to create a tour package to combine these offerings into a multi-day experience. 

Extending a one-day tour you already offer into a multi-day tour makes it easier to upsell, but you could also create a brand new multi-day itinerary from scratch. 

Family on camping trip fishing

What extras to include 

Aside from your tour itinerary, you can consider whether you’d like to offer accommodation, food and drink, transport, or multiple activities as part of your multi-day package. You may want to partner with local vendors or businesses for this.

To hire or not to hire  

Depending on the size of your business, you may need to hire tour directors who can manage groups over long periods of time, recruit step-on guides to take over short portions of the tour, and look into working with well-suited booking platforms or online travel agencies (OTAs) to help sell your new multi-day tours.  

Technology and software make it easier 

Get ahead of the competition by adopting the latest travel tech. The 2021 Arival survey found only 53% of multi-day tour operators used a tour reservation system. The rest used a mix of spreadsheets, email, itinerary builders, and OTA extranets to manage their businesses. 

Using a tool like Checkfront, you can reduce the amount of admin you and your team need to do and make booking more accessible and streamlined for your guests. 

Guests can book hourly, daily, nightly, or multi-day experiences with you, all through the same platform. So, whether you offer single-day tours, multi-day tours, activities, equipment rental, or accommodation — or all of the above — you have one tool that covers them all. 

Multi-day tour providers can also use Checkfront to offer packages and automatic discounts when customers book more than one product with you and offer group discounts to encourage larger groups to book. 

Final thoughts 

Multi-day tours are a travel industry trend that’s here to stay. They appeal to those who want big bucket list trips, those who want to build the perfect custom tour for them, and those who want to make the most of their precious time off. 

You can tap into this market by extending successful single-day tours into multi-day options, combining your current offerings into a longer tour package, or crafting a new multi-day tour from scratch. 

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