Booking.com Will No Longer Contract Directly with Operators

As part of the deal with Musement, Booking.com will not contract directly with operators or source inventory from FareHarbor
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Booking.com, one of the largest global online travel agencies (OTAs), will work through other OTAs to offer tours and attraction tickets. Musement, the tours and activities OTA owned by TUI, the large Germany-based tour and travel company, will provide content for Booking.com. Other OTAs may be added in the future.

The news was not unexpected. Booking Experiences downsized its account management team in late 2019, and back in March Skift reported that Booking had planned to work with Musement. 

Sources close to the deal who asked not to be named say FareHarbor, the tours and activities reservation system acquired by Booking.com partner Booking Holdings in 2018, will provide content into Booking.com through Musement, rather than providing content directly. While this may seem like a technical connectivity issue, it could represent a strategy shift with important implications for operators. 

Booking Hands-Off with Operators

If it is true that FareHarbor will not directly power Booking Experiences, this would mean that operators, including those that use Booking-owned FareHarbor, could only sell their products on Booking.com by listing their products on Musement.

This development would also imply that FareHarbor customers would not get preferential treatment on Booking.com, a concern frequently voiced by competing OTAs and reservation systems.

A spokesperson for Booking Holdings said “As per the announcement, Booking.com will be accessing Musement supply. We recommend that suppliers reach out directly to the Musement sales team if they are interested in distributing their product through this partnership.”  

The decision to use another OTA to power tour and attraction content indicates that Booking may pursue a more “hands-off” strategy with experiences, an approach it has adopted with other non-accommodation travel products. Booking.com has used Kayak, Priceline, or other travel sites owned by its corporate parent for flights. 

As travel brands emerge from the global travel lockdown, they are likely to focus on reviving their core business first. For Booking.com, that means hotels and accommodation, long the engine of the company’s success, will come first. For Booking Experiences, sourcing content through existing third-party aggregators such as Musement will be far less costly than building out supply teams and contacting and managing thousands of operators directly. 

Currently, Booking.com’s attractions are not accepting bookings due to the pandemic.

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