Digital Leadership failure in the tours activities and attractions industry

Digital Leadership failure in the tours, activities and attractions industry

Another day and several more approaches from businesses in the tours, activities and attractions sector to discuss their challenges. I have extensive experience, and some even call me an expert!

Well, folks having experience is no longer an advantage. It means that those of us who are in the grey zone are experts of the past. The future of this $180 Billion fast-growing sector of tourism will look nothing like the past, and the whole of the tourism ecosystem is changing so quickly that keeping up is an impossible task.

Think about that though. Who the hell wants to keep up? Surely all the clever incredible people in this industry want to be out front leading the change?

That is not the case though. What we have is an industry addicted to incremental change when the World has moved to experiential change. Businesses are happy with 3-5% growth when 100% plus increase is available. The small operator who makes up the vast majority of this industry is sleepwalking into a future with a smile on there face because they love what they do. They are not aware of the digital tidal wave that will sweep over them and change, control or maybe even kill the businesses that they have built with heart and soul over the years.

The medium-sized and large operators often with thousands of team members and revenues in the hundreds of millions are more aware of the changes that are happening but are equally not executing leadership and strategy that will help them survive in the medium to long run. There very scale and traditional structures make transforming an incredibly difficult task.

If you are a traditional tour, activity or attraction operator, and you are not focusing on transforming your business, then others will change it for you. They are customer led, digital savvy and think off the scale big.

There is nothing you can do about the pace of this change, do not try; it is only going to get faster. There is no excuse anymore to be caught unaware by disruptors. Many are visible and already impacting. What about the ones you cannot see or feel yet? They are there but probably not who you think they are but they will explode on the sector at scale and win customers, your customers at scale.

These disruptors do not think small. In theory, a digital-focused business in our sector could control the whole digital landscape meaning all customers globally! In reality that will not happen but when you start thinking all customers globally between say ten-twenty digital-focused businesses then do you think that is possible?


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Many industries are facing the same challenges, threats and opportunities, but the very diversity of this sector which is a strength is also a weakness. I have yet to see another industry that is so far behind. Hundreds of thousands of small operators are still not online and not using modern technology. They think digital means a better website, and more online connections. All day to day requirements for their businesses but all incremental and at the same time the digitally native companies are zeroed in on the customer demand at scale!

The majority of tours, activities and attractions businesses are not ready for what is happening. It is not going to happen in the future; it is happening now. The leaders of these businesses can feel things are changing, but they do not know what to do about it so do nothing.

The digital transformation journey that all businesses need to get on is not a destination; it is a never-ending journey. If you do not keep pace on this journey, you will be left behind and eventually fade away. Businesses need to get ahead and will have to reinvent themselves constantly. If you do not change yourself, others will change you.

I have had tour businesses argue with me that change is nothing new they have changed in the past and you do not get to last 30 or 50 plus years if you cannot change. What they are missing is the disruption this time is driven by digital technology which reaches into every single part of our lives fundamentally and does so at a speed that is near impossible to comprehend.

Those tours and activity businesses that are progressive and are reacting to change are also missing the point. They are focused on taking their existing business model and applying digital to it. This approach is an incremental change, it will give you more breathing room, but it will not keep you alive.

New digital native businesses will eat traditional companies for breakfast. Getting a conventional business model to work in this digital economy is near impossible. Transforming a traditional business model is exceedingly tricky, and the vast majority of attempts fail. Why? They focus on what is, and how to make it faster, and more connected. They should be focused on not what is but what could be without taking into account the legacy of the business.

It is much easier for a startup to change and adapt that a 30-year-old business and that lack of ability to adapt is a massive disadvantage in today’s Digital World.

Business leaders in the tours, activities and attractions sector are fantastic at what they currently do but do they have the ability to understand and drive the transformation of their businesses? I would argue that they are vastly unprepared to do this. Also, this is not a project to survive a period of time; it means transforming as you deliver continually and forever at speed.

Many of the business leaders in charge of the businesses are the reason the companies are not grasping the opportunity that digital transformation presents. It is only human nature to avoid what you do not understand and perceive as a threat. However, that is not leadership folks that is a dereliction of duty. It is no good stepping up to the leadership role when the hordes at the door. The disrupters are coming and the vast majority of leaders know this in the gut they are just caught in the headlights or worse spending time, effort and money focusing on incremental changes believing it is going to transform their business,

Digital transformation is not an event; it is a never-ending role of leadership.

Stop thinking like a tours, activity or attractions business that is becoming more digital. Start to dream, think, plan and then act to grow a digital business that provides tours, activities or attractions. Quickly!

A parting thought at this stage

Most traditional businesses have a strategy and the ones who are thinking digital develop a digital strategy. Having two strategies will result in conflict, and with most cases, the conventional business strategy will win resulting in a declining business.

Digital has to be the enabler of the one business strategy.

In a further article, I will ramble about some actions a tour, activity or attractions business can take to transform and survive.

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