Skift Take

The pandemic reluctantly drove operators towards online tech solutions to survive. Now in a strange reversal of fortune, those online solutions are holding their own, especially as the tours and activities sector gets back to pre-pandemic capacity. Travel 102 floors to the top of the Empire State Building Observatory and learn more.

Tour operators need to catch up in digitizing their systems to improve booking efficiency, brand reach and the overall quality of their experience. In a nutshell, the traditional way consumers find and book an attraction or activity needs to be more convenient. 

The pandemic drove operators towards online tech solutions to survive. And now in a reversal of fortune, adopting those online booking platforms and business management software means they are now in an even better positioned for growth, especially as the sector recouped during the U.S. and European revenge travel surge. 

Case in point: Attendance for the Empire State Building Observatory in early December, 2022 reached 95 percent of the 2019 (pre pandemic) level, and that’s without the world’s former biggest traveling population, China not being fully on the move yet.

Jean-Yves Ghazi, president of the Empire State Building Observatory, said the iconic attraction has indeed noted changes in what travelers are looking for and how they want to book post-pandemic.

He said the new way of doing business is here to stay. 

Helping the Consumer plan Ahead

As booking patterns see consumers start their planning and booking of experiences much earlier instead of last minute, tech efficiency for the tours and activities sector can be a simple adjustment to see maximum impact. 

Ghazi said timed ticketing, implemented in 2020, gives guests the ability to reserve a timeslot has helped both the attraction and its guests plan ahead, especially for popular times before they sell out.  

With some four million visitors per year, the implementation of timed-ticketing reduces overcrowding and enhances the quality of the experience. 

Harness Quality Immersive Experiences

When it comes to tours and activities, the last thing any traveler wants is a queue, let alone an overcrowded experience.

Ghazi added that dynamic attractions that have a variety of interactive aspects must allow guests of all ages to immerse themselves in the experience in a way that is unique to them.

“The Empire State Building Observatory with its nine interactive, museum quality exhibits encourage guests to interact and learn about the building from its conception to its modern-day place in pop culture, creating an authentic and immersive experience.”

Thus the timing of that experience is vital especially when everybody wants to make their way to the world-famous 360-degree, open-air observatory on the 86th Floor and the redesigned 102nd Floor Observatory with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Search, Discovery and Relevance

Echoing this sentiment, GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck speaking at the New York launch of Skift Megatrends 2023 on January 10, said serving the customer in a unique and better way requires travel platforms to focus on their core.

“Search, discovery, relevance and being the best vertical search engine for consumers” is central to this, he added.

What does vertical search mean exactly? Essentially, it is about more than just being all things to all people since the intent for experiences is very different from the booking searches for flights and hotels.

For experiences, it’s about quality, the type of experience, whether you are with kids or whether you are in a destination for the first time. It’s a complex problem across a very diverse, layered supply base that is easy to solve with the correct tech solutions, according to Reck.

Empire State Building’s Ghazi further underscored the need for relevance and authenticity of experiences specific to a destination as he said, “We hear from guests that they crave authentic experiences they can connect with that are representative of the destination. For the past 91 years, for example, millions of guests from around the world have created countless memories at the Empire State Building.

“But now with the new $165 million reimagination of the Empire State Building Observatory, guests have the opportunity to enjoy the authenticity of a classic New York attraction while making new memories and traditions. ”


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Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

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Tags: empire state building, getyourguide, new york city, online travel, online travel agencies, tour operators, tourism

Photo credit: New York City at sunset, with view of the Empire State Building. Source: EPS

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