Industry Responds to GetYourGuide’s Acquisition of Guidatours

We asked the founders of a tour operator, an online tour provider, and a tech company what GetYourGuide’s acquisition of a tour operator means — and could mean — for our industry.

Here are three takes on GetYourGuide’s (GYG) acquisition of Versailles-based operator Guidatours. In short: all three expect more deals to come.

Key Takeaways

Alex Grant of Travel Curious, which operates and distributes tours and activities, says this could attract more entrepreneurs and investment in the operating side of the business as investors see new avenues to a financial exit: selling their business to an OTA or another brand with global ambitions. 

Michaela Vaszi of Prague City Adventures doesn’t believe GYG’s claim that this is just an experiment, and says there’s plenty of buying opportunities now with many distressed operators in Europe’s top destinations. 

Alex Bainbridge of self-guided tours AI platform Autoura says the OTA better move quickly. Now is the time to acquire more operators, and if the recent acquisition is the sum of the news, it’s probably too late. 

Alex Grant, Founder & CCO, Travel Curious

This is a great thing and exciting for the sector. We need to attract more and more entrepreneurs, not necessarily for distribution or technology, but to the experience creation and tour operating level. Now there is evidence (albeit it’s still early) that you can build a great operator, and there is a chance you can sell that to an OTA or someone else and go on a journey with them. 

It will make entrepreneurs think twice about thinking a tour company is a lifestyle business. This will also attract more investment at that operating level too. This will help the industry with better quality experiences when investors see there is a potential exit. 

Michaela Vaszi, Prague City Adventures

When Prague City Adventures was still a franchise of Urban Adventures, we had all our best-selling tours listed on GYG, but they never represented a significant part of our sales. Therefore, we’ve never worried much about their one Originals Prague tour. 

But suppose part of their grand strategy is to start relying on the Originals more. In that case, it might be possible they’ll be looking to buy another tour operator to expand that portfolio, even here in Prague. 

A year into the pandemic and without many government subsidies for the tourism industry, the Czech market is shattered like many others. GYG would certainly have numerous choices from some of the “still-barely-standing” Czech tour operators.

However, running tours in-house and running an OTA are two very different things. I wonder how GYG envisions coping with the operational challenges? Do they plan to load their tours to other OTAs? How would that work exactly? GYG might very well have all the answers, but theory and practice tend to be two different things.

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Still, I’m not convinced by GYG’s claim they have closed this deal only to flatten their learning curve and to provide a better customer experience on their platform. Nevertheless, the more money is injected into tourism in general, the better for all of us who are still standing and waiting for the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. 

Alex Bainbridge, CEO / CTO, Autoura

I love the idea of GetYourGuide Originals. This configuration delivers better influence on the execution of the overall customer experience and differentiates GYG from the current retail or travel tech peer competitors.

However, due to GetYourGuide’s significant funding level, with this as their primary strategy (at least for non-attraction bookings), they have to move from experimentation mode to scale up quickly. At the same time, local tour operators, hit by the current downturn, are available to acquire at a reasonable price. 

Arguably if the recent news is the sum of their move, it’s too late. Tour guides will have already been made redundant, so any acquisitions now will be for the legal shell that used to employ guides, not the guides themselves.

Longer-term, they are a tech company, not a human company. They have to revert back to tech as their main focus at some point. This could be tech that delivers in-destination experiences. (Read more from Alex here).

My Take:

I agree with all three that this is likely the first of more such acquisitions to come. As travel returns — and it will, in a very big way — the big platforms want premium access to the major attractions and tourist destinations, such as skip-the-line experiences at the top museums and monuments.

GetYourGuide has realized that they do not need every walking tour or food tour in Rome, Paris, or London. But they do want a lot more of the top five or ten walking tours with attraction access that sell really well. That’s where Originals comes in. They analyze very carefully what sells on their marketplace, and they either have to work with partners to get them to deliver more or start making it themselves. 

So expect more deals with key operators in major markets, often with attraction-ticket access, as the OTA positions itself to take full advantage of travel’s rebound. 

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