In just over a month, the Arival event kicks off for the very first time in Europe, in the wonderful city of Berlin.
Now I know we’ve all seen the ads, we’ve all seen Arival mentioned on social media, but I also know many of us are asking, can we afford to go?
There is flights, hotels, registration, food, taxis, time away from the business, time away from family. So I thought it would be a really cool idea to speak with Douglas Quinby, who is one of the co-founders at Arival. He share with us the mission of Arival, what are they trying to achieve, as well as why we, as tourpreneurs, should attend the Arival events.
This is transcript of our TourPreneur podcast interview – which you can listen to here.
Don’t forget to check out our Tourpreneur Weekly Digest. I’ve been sending that out every week. I curate the news in our space, so saving you time, because I remember in my days, at GetYourGuide, I really struggled to keep up with all the news that was going on, as well as people on the move.
Shane Whaley: Douglas Quinby, welcome to Tourpreneur. How are you sir?
Douglas Quinby: I am good, Shane. Thank you so much for having me.
Shane Whaley: Before we get into the Berlin event, can you share a bit more with our listeners who are not familiar with Arival, what it is, what you do, and what your mission is?
Douglas Quinby: Look, I’ll just say, I’ve been in the travel and tourism industry for, boy, it’s now approaching two decades, and spent a number of years in marketing, but also in research and analysis. I’d go to all of these conferences, and everything is about transportation and accommodation.
One of the sectors that I had studied quite a bit in my work at Phocuswright was this world of tours, and activities, and attraction, and events. All of the things that travelers would do in destination.
Douglas Quinby: It was this incredible market, so huge, so many interesting and exciting companies, and new companies, and new ideas coming into the market almost every day, but there was never any forum that would really serve them and their business needs.
All these changes in the market around technology, and distribution, and how to reach customers, and what customers want. Yet if you were a tour operator, if you were a tourpreneur and you wanted to learn about this stuff at a travel conference, most of the time you’d be sent to some session that was really geared for hotels or for airlines.
Their needs are totally different. We saw a need, and that’s our story.
Shane Whaley: The first Arival was in 2017, correct?
Douglas Quinby: That’s correct. You took center stage there, and you made quite the splash. I remember it well.
Shane Whaley: That was fun. I will admit, I was incredibly nervous.
Douglas Quinby: Oh, you didn’t show. It didn’t show at all. You looked like an old pro
Shane Whaley: I shared on Episode 1, something that I really respected about you, Douglas, was that when you called me and vetted me because I was a last minute substitute for our CEO who couldn’t make it. I remember you vetting me for an hour. I’ve always said to people, that shows how much you care because it’s not cheap to come to events when you add up flights, and hotel, and everything else.
Douglas Quinby: Especially for small businesses, yeah.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely, and time away from the business. You want to make sure that there’s no empty suits on the stage, right? That everyone’s offering value.
Douglas Quinby: No, I mean every session that we put together there, our threshold is what are the three, five, what are the 10 things that every tour, activity, and attraction operator in the audience is going to come away with, that they can go back to the office and implement in their business Monday and Tuesday, and have a real impact.
Douglas Quinby: I don’t want the CEO of TripAdvisor or some other company talking about the feature, blah, blah strategy, and the share price, and the value for investors, and all of that stuff.
Our audience and people who are running businesses day to day, I don’t think they really care. What they want to know is what are these big businesses doing that’s going to impact my business?
Why are they doing this change in their terms and conditions?
Why did they acquire this company? Why are they changing their commission policy? What does that mean for me? How can I work with them more effectively?
It’s just all about what does this mean to the operator of tours, activities, and attractions on a day to day.
Shane Whaley: I remember, not just the session that I was appearing on, but others that you didn’t throw any softballs. I remember you asking me, for instance, about the GetYourGuide commission structure, and then also getting a question from the audience about why GetYourGuide didn’t offer lower commissions when there was higher revenue.
They’re tough questions to answer when you’re a director of an OTA, but they’re the questions that the suppliers, the tourpreneurs want to hear you ask.
Douglas Quinby: It’s tough. I’ll say too, that the executives that are onstage, the expression is, well you’re in the hot seat, but it really is because as you know very well, Shane, when you are operating a distribution company, you have to serve several masters.
Of course, you need to have a great service for the operators. Those are your supply partners. You don’t have the business without them. But at the same time, you’ve got to get customers into the door. That’s your primary job. Then you have to serve investors.
Douglas Quinby: It’s a very tricky thing. Sometimes you’re stuck where a business has to make decisions. Maybe it’s gonna make one group happy, but not another. It’s a dance. I think the most important thing that we focus on certainly at my discussions and my interviews is, let’s have an honest conversation, and let’s get real answers.
Douglas Quinby: I will say, one of the things that I saw very clearly at both Arivals is that when the audience would hear an answer, maybe they didn’t like the answer, but they always respected an honest answer that was real. Because that they would understand, ’cause they are business people too. It’s like, “Okay, you’re doing what you think is the best thing for your business, so now I got to make a decision on how it’s going to affect me, but just give it to me straight.”
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. I think we’ll talk about this in a little later on about how tourpreneurs can get the most out of Arival. But I remember after speaking, suppliers coming up to me and asking me questions. It is a wonderful opportunity where every tourpreneur who is at Arival can speak to Johannes Reck at GetYourGuide, or Luuc Elzinga at Tiqets there and approach them.
My advice is to approach the CEOs and the directors, ’cause that’s why they’re there. They want to talk to you, they want to hear about your business and challenges.
Douglas Quinby: Yeah. I think I remember speaking at one point to Tao Tao, one of the co-founders of GetYourGuide. He relayed to me that I think in the early days of GetYourGuide, basically him and Johannes, a couple of others, they were running around all over Europe just trying to sign up suppliers, and operators, and meet them on the day-to-day.
If you speak to Rod Cuthbert, the original founder of Viator, which we all know was subsequently acquired by TripAdvisor, that was his story for the few years of Viator as well.
Douglas Quinby: They’re the big guns, as you say. You’re right, they were founders once, and they are in fact incredibly approachable, and do want to hear from operators.
Shane Whaley: I have to congratulate you because I do believe the first Arival, you had 500 attendees. Then in 2018, you doubled that to 1,000, which is testament to the work that you’ve done at Arival.
Douglas Quinby: Oh, thank you.
Shane Whaley: When did the decision come about to hold an event in Europe? How did that all happen?
Douglas Quinby: That happened over the course of last year, but it was a pretty easy calculation to make, which is that the heart and soul of this industry are small to medium-sized businesses.
A lot of them are really family-owned, and family-run. These are not large multinational corporations with lots of executives on expense accounts. I think for us to really fulfill our mission, and have the impact on the market, and to advance the industry, and to support operators, we have to bring Arival to them.
Douglas Quinby: It was a difficult decision to operationalize and to execute, as I’m learning, but it was a very easy one to make in terms of the fundamental mission of why we started Arival.
Douglas Quinby: The Arival Berlin program is a bit different from how we’ve done the U.S. That’s really because we’re very focused on the operators that are in the European markets. We’re really, really delving into issues that are highly relevant to operators in Europe, and there are some important things.
Douglas Quinby: As an example, sustainability and over tourism, a huge issue within Europe, especially with some of the major destinations. We’ve seen things like the new city taxes for day visitors, whether it’s in Amsterdam, for cruise passengers, or in Venice, and a whole range of issues from Spain, to Ireland, and so forth. That’s a huge focus.
Douglas Quinby: We have a number of talks, as well as a session dedicated specifically to how operators can focus on sustainability, but also create a sustainability platform that sells. We have Anula Galewska from Urban Adventures, who’s responsible for their sustainability practice, will be leading a session with Tom Jenkins, who’s the CEO of ETOA, and Rebecca Skevaki from Grecian Lux, and also another speaker [inaudible] from Florence, who is the CEO of the, and a fixture in the tourism community in Florence, Italy.
Douglas Quinby: But we’ve also got speakers from some of the big digital brands, such as TripAdvisor. We’re kicking off with an interview with your former CEO, Johannes Reck, one of the co-founders of GetYourGuide. We’ll ask all the tough questions that we know operators want to hear around your favorite, Shane, around commissions.
Shane Whaley: Oh yes.
Douglas Quinby: There’s so much. I will say that the things that I enjoy programming the most and discovering the most, and really it’s the feature of program is what we call Big Voices. These are a series of talks over the two days from really interesting, innovative operators in the space, where they get to come up and tell their story.
Douglas Quinby: One example is the founder of ScotBeer, a young woman who had a fantastic job and a great career, but wasn’t quite satisfied. She said, “Hey, why not start a craft brewery and pub crawl tour in the heart of whiskey land, in Scotland?” That was a few years ago, and it’s grown fantastically. She is going to share her story as a woman founder in a underdog type of scenario, starting a business, starting an unexpected type of tour business, which I think is really exciting.
Douglas Quinby: Then we have a talk from Dominique Sidley, who is a senior executive at Merlin Entertainments, which is one of the largest attractions companies. She’s gonna talk about how they’ve addressed the outbound Chinese market. They’ve done some really interesting things to not only attract that outbound Chinese traveler, but also to really deliver on-site, on-property. That’s more than just translation that you have to do to really meet increasing demanding, but very important outbound Chinese travel markets.
Douglas Quinby: There’s so many of these talks. I think really for me, they’re the heart of the program. I hope we’ll deliver the inspiration for operators to create new ideas or make changes in their own business for the better.
Shane Whaley: I’m really excited to hear David Schelp, Managing Director at TUI Destination Experiences. They obviously recently acquired Musement. They were one that I haven’t heard a great deal about, so I’m really intrigued to hear what he has to say about what they are planning.
Then also some things from my hotel past, which are interesting to see crop up now with the experience is dynamic pricing. You’ve got Sebastian from Moulin Rouge, to talk about dynamic pricing. Then also yield management, and the future of pricing with again, Sebastian from Moulin Rouge, Melanie from Redeam, and Tim from 365Tickets.
Shane Whaley: I’m interested in all of the sessions, but these ones in particular. Of course, who doesn’t want to hear about Sara Robertson at ScotBeer. These are very intriguing sessions you’ve got lined up.
Douglas Quinby: Oh, yeah. No, we’re excited now. Thank you. With in the case of TUI, and for those who are not familiar with the TUI brand, especially if you’re an operator in the U.S., TUI of course is one of the largest travel brands really, in the world, and the largest outbound tour operator in Germany, and across several markets in Europe. They’re a huge player, but a little bit under the radar, while the likes of TripAdvisor, and GetYourGuide, and Klook, and Airbnb.
They get a lot of the headlines, but TUI is a huge player, and they made some really interesting investments. That could have some big implications for operators around the world. Felt it was a really important session to have David come on stage and explain what they are doing.
Douglas Quinby: That’s a great point about yield management. This is something that we see being … This is one of the big trends that we see really transforming this industry over the next couple of years. It’s standard practice, and airlines, and hotels, it’s been there for decades really. But it’s now just getting its legs, or maybe it’s baby toes, you could say, within this sector, but it’s gonna be hugely important. It’s our mission to let operators know that this is what’s gonna be important two years, three years. It’s gonna be a must-have five years down the road. Let’s start learning about it now.
Shane Whaley: I’m also interested to hear from David O’Kelly, the CEO at SANDEMANs NEW Europe because I’ve seen their free walking tours everywhere, and I never quite understood how they make their money. I know they do an upsell or something, but I’m really quite interested to hear his segment, his talk.
Douglas Quinby: He’s promised to divulge all the secrets. If he doesn’t, we’ll pry them out of him.
Shane Whaley: We’ll, I’m glad you record these sessions, otherwise, I might have carpal tunnel syndrome with the amount of notes.
As well as the theater sessions, you also have workshops, and demos. We’re gonna talk to Chris Torres shortly on the show. He’s presenting on video marketing. Can you share with us some of the other workshops that you guys are hosting in Berlin?
Douglas Quinby: Yeah, sure. I think it’s also important to explain the difference between the workshops and the theater. Whereas our theater sessions that we were just talking about, are really the big picture, strategic discussions, and to really understand where the industry is going over the long-term, and what are the big trends, the workshops are roll up your sleeves, let’s get down and dirty, if you will, into the tactics of making things happen.
range of sessions on marketing, and managing your funnel, improving conversion. A really important session on payments with Will Plummer from Trust My Travel, which not something that we do in the U.S., but important in Europe because the ways in which travelers across Europe and inbound travelers from Asia to Europe want to pay is much more complex. There are many more challenges there, and also how operators have to pay out to suppliers. It’s a bit more complex, and we felt it was important to have a session on a tough topic, which is payments.
Douglas Quinby: Then the Demonstration Labs, this is a unique feature to Arival. It’s a little bit of my personal … I like to think of it as my baby around the event, quite frankly, ‘, we have no sponsored content in our workshops or in our theater. That’s really important ’cause we want to make sure the editorial is independent of any sponsor influence, and that we as the designers of the program can just focus on what’s meaningful to the operator community.
Douglas Quinby: But we wanted to have a forum because there’s so much change in technology and distribution in this industry, it was no place where an operator could come, and just look at a bunch of different technology solutions, and compare them side by side.
Where you could sit down and say, “Okay, let me see what it’s like to work with BookingKit and use their system. Let me see what it’s like to use the FareHarbor system. Let me see what it’s like to use this system, TrekkSoft, or and whatnot.” Or, “Let me see what it’s like to set up a product in TripAdvisor, or Viator, or GetYourGuide, or some other distributor.” Or, “What is it like to work with this particular marketing automation tool?”
Douglas Quinby: We tell all of our Demonstration Lab partners, “Hey, don’t do a sales pitch, but open up your system. Give the operators a chance to really feel what it’s like to work with you, to use your system. It will pay you back in spades because that’s what operators want, answer to the business questions that they’re dealing with every day.”
Shane Whaley: I remember from 2017, various OTAs showing how to register your tour, and how to add your photos, add pricing, etc.
You get to see it all in-person, and then get to speak to the company involved.
Shane Whaley: What comes across very strongly from some of the tourpreneurs I’ve spoken to recently is the networking benefits with attending Arival.
You’re able to go and speak to someone, say, “Hey, so what’s your experience like with FareHarbor? Or with GetYourGuide? Or with Tiqets?” And actually be able to speak to other people who have used them, and you will get the honest truth from your fellow tourpreneur.
That is really important ’cause it will help tourpreneurs make the decision of who they’re gonna work with for their booking platform, or to hire for their digital marketing for the distribution channel. I think that’s a crucial component of attending Arival.
Shane Whaley: Then there is a party on the Monday night, correct?
Douglas Quinby: Yes, we do parties too. We can’t just be going to content sessions and I’m doing homework. For sure, that’s not all work. Mostly work, but yes, we have a cocktail reception, and then late night on Monday, on the fourth of March, we’ve got an amazing party planned.
Shane Whaley: What tips would you have for first-timers, and how they can get the most out of attending Arival?
Douglas Quinby: Definitely I would say, just first and foremost, just come open. This is something that it’s … It’s hard to explain.
Douglas Quinby: Everyone is an expert in their own business. I know this especially with entrepreneurs, ’cause you’re living your business 24 hours a day. I’ve been experiencing this since we started Arival.
Honestly, it’s the first thought that pops into my head when I wake up, and it’s the last thought before I go to sleep, much to the chagrin of my wife, but I think it’s part of the entrepreneurial life.
Nobody is gonna know your business better than you, but the opportunity is to come and to clear your mind to a certain extent of your day-to-day, and your business, and listen to what other companies are doing, and to connect with operators that are maybe experiencing similar challenges.
Douglas Quinby: I think to your point about the networking, one of the most extraordinary things that we hear is this opportunity to connect with other operators that may be in the same sector, but because you were in a different market, you’re not competing.
A food tour operator from Key West can connect with a fabulous food tour operator from Toronto, Canada, and have all of this great stuff to talk about, and there’s not that same type of competitive dynamic. It’s amazing how much they encounter some of the same problems like contracting with different restaurants, and a range of things.
Douglas Quinby: I would say, definitely come with a clear mind. Come review the program. We do pre-registration for workshop, and also for Demonstration Lab. Do your homework in advance and pre-register.
Also, look at who is attending by company. We list all of the attending companies on the site. If you’re an operator in a particular area, and you want to connect with other operators that are in your particular field, whether it could be adventure, and zip lining, or ecotourism, or in a particular type of cultural tour, or culinary experience, you can find them on there, or let us know.
We will connect you as well, and connect you on-site to try to meet people, and plan meetings in advance to make the most out of your time there.
Shane Whaley: I think that’s fantastic advice, about remaining open minded, and not being afraid to go up and talk to people, shake someones hand, explain where you’re from, what tourism activities you offer, and find out more. Don’t sit in the corner and be scared to speak to people. Everyone is very, very open about their business, and their challenges, and how they’re overcoming them.
Shane Whaley: That’s one of the things that interesting about the Tourpreneur Show, is speaking to the two shows we’ve just put out. They’re not selling anything, right Douglas? They are tours in Asheville in North Carolina. They’re not coming on the show to sell anything, they just want to share their experience with other tourpreneurs.
That really does warm my heart that tourpreneurs are willing to come and do that to help other people out, especially because I know you’ve hit on this a few times in various talks that I’ve heard you give.
It can be quite lonely being a tourpreneur because there isn’t that same networking support as there is in airlines and hotels. For tourpreneurs to come to Arival, whether that be in Orlando later this year, or Bangkok, or Berlin, and really connect with others.
Douglas Quinby: Yeah. That to me has been one of the most extraordinary learnings from the two Arivals that we’ve done so far, is to see the friendships, and the relationships that have emerged from those two conferences that I’ve just heard about.
Douglas Quinby: Although, I will say, Shane, myself, I’m not surprised at all to see the operators being so willing to come on your podcast and share. It’s one of the things that I’ve been amazed with this industry, is how willing people are to share, how willing they are to connect, and everyone wants to …
Douglas Quinby: The people who are in this industry, yes, they want to make money, and grow a business, and be successful, but no, it’s not the sole motivation or even the primary motivation. they love what they do.
They’re passionate about delivering a particular experience, and they want to love what they do every day. That just comes across. It came across in the great interview that you did with Alice and Torin. That’s very different, as you know, from other industry conferences, you get a bunch of hotel executives on a stage. There’s posturing, and you can see the politics emerge on stage.
But I haven’t seen this yet at Arival. I have a feeling we won’t because culturally it’s a very different type of community, and it’s supporting one another, first and foremost.
Shane Whaley: No, I absolutely agree. Before we wrap up here, have you gone on your ax throwing?
Douglas Quinby: Well I said it was a New Year’s resolution, so it will happen. I’ve got a little bit of time. But you can hold me to it, it will happen.
Douglas Quinby: The story that I tell, to me this just encapsulates what’s going on in this industry, ’cause this past summer, as we were preparing for Arival last year, we did all of this work to try to map the industry, and to identify how many categories there were. You have zip lines, and food tours, and walking tours, and Segway tours. There’s hundreds of business categories, and we did this incredible amount of work, and built this database, and all of this stuff.
Douglas Quinby: Literally, we had just finished this work and were about to publish something on it. A day later, we had two registrations from James Anderson and his partner Bret up in Whistler, and their axe throwing business. We didn’t have a category for it.
That’s what this industry is all about, what new experiences are some crazy entrepreneur gonna come up with that suddenly is gonna be a standard popular thing that we’re all clamoring to do on weekends?
Shane Whaley: Are you gonna have time to go on any tours in Berlin?
Douglas Quinby: I am. I’m there for the whole week, and I definitely have some plans. There are a few museums and a couple of tours that I’ve got my eye on. Do you have any recommendations?
Shane Whaley: Yeah. It’s March. It can be a little bit chilly in Berlin, so it depends on the weather. But my favorite things I ever did was a bike tour. It was a four-hour bike tour all along what would have been the Berlin wall. It was a really interesting tour because they stop at one of the watch towers. But it was a whole four-hour tour.
Shane Whaley: There’s also one that takes you down to Kreuzberg, a great bike tour. Kreuzberg was a part of Berlin. I’ve been to Berlin many times but I had never really gone to Kreuzberg, which is a very bohemian part of Berlin. That was fantastic to get the whole tour of areas of Berlin that I wasn’t familiar with, the TV Tower is always fun, depending on the weather. Make sure you get a good view.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, there’s a ton of things to do in Berlin. It’s one of my favorite European cities, so I am really excited to come to Arival this year, not just for the events, but to go and enjoy Berlin again.
Douglas Quinby: Great, well yeah. I’m looking forward to it as well. I’ll definitely have a look. That bike tour sounds really interesting, if we can brave the cold.
Shane Whaley: Great. Well Douglas, thank you very much for coming on the show. I would absolutely love it, and I know our listeners would love it if we could connect after you’ve had some rest after Arival Berlin, and we can talk a little bit more about the trends, and insights, and what you’re seeing happening in our industry.
Douglas Quinby: Happy to. Thanks so much for having me, Shane.
Tourpreneur View – I started off this blog post by asking if Arival is worth attending. I hope when you read through this interview that you see the value in what Douglas and his team are delivering at their event.
Arival is not about a big name guru strutting the stage giving it the big one. There are no ‘Empty Suits*’ on the stage at Arival
Douglas and his team only invite speakers that can give you practical tips to help grow your business. I ask myself as tourpreneurs if we can afford not to go and attend such a fantastic event? If you are attending please do come and say hi!
*by empty suits I mean people who only talk about themselves or their product, the speakers who talk at you and do not engage with you, they are not solving any of your problems or helping you will your challenges.
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