GetYourGuide Steps Into Direct Booking with “Ticketing Solution”

Tiqets, Klook, GetYourGuide are all now offering some form of booking system to operators. Are more online travel agencies trying to get a piece of the direct booking pie? What does this mean for operators? Arival investigates.

Reading Time: 10 minutes 30 seconds

Direct bookings are the holy grail for operators of tours, activities and attractions. They mean less reliance on third party resellers, ownership of the customer, and are the fruit of all your marketing efforts. According to operators surveyed in Arival’s Technology and Connectivity report, “driving more direct online bookings” was overwhelmingly the top tech priority for large and small operators alike. 

So what happens when online travel agencies (OTAs), who traditionally distribute experience offerings on behalf of operators to a wider audience in exchange for commission, make inroads into direct online bookings as well? 

This seems to be happening, with several OTAs stepping into the booking system market. 

Tiqets, for example, has offered a booking engine to attractions and museums for several years, a move which was motivated by a desire to “help venues with their e-commerce challenges,” according to Tiqets president Luuc Elzinga.

In 2021, GetYourGuide announced a white-labeled “ticketing solution” for attractions, essentially a front-end checkout process that ties into a back-end booking system. 

“We already empower a significant amount of our supply partners with this solution,” shares Katharina Berlet, spokesperson from GetYourGuide, although she declined to give an exact figure. The objective seems primarily about getting smaller attractions and operators online and connected, however there could be other benefits – and risks. 

Arival spoke to several operators, restech providers (“restech” refers to providers of online booking systems for tour and activity operators), and OTAs to find out what this trend towards OTAs offering direct booking services means for operators. 

OTA Booking System: Should You or Shouldn’t You

In addition to a basic feature evaluation of any system you choose to use, you should consider these pluses and potential risks when considering a booking system offered by an OTA. 

THE BENEFITS

Potentially lower booking fees — OTAs may offer lower price points than restech providers to acquire customers

Potentially higher online conversion rate — the strength and expertise of OTAs is in the online booking flow and driving conversion. 

Multi-language and multi-currency functionality — many full-service booking system providers offer this as well, however some of the smaller ones have limited options

Opportunity to earn commission — from cross selling and bundling products with other operators

THE RISKS

Customer data ownership — Will you own the customer, the OTA, or both? It may depend on each OTA.

Access to your online booking data — Some operators may be uncomfortable with an OTA having access to all their online booking data

Ability to sell through other OTAs — Some OTAs may not provide connectivity to booking systems operated by their competitors. Make sure using an OTA system doesn’t limit your distribution options

Restech compatibility — Not all restech system providers will be keen to integrate with an OTA-provided booking system

Operators who are looking to get online or potentially switch booking systems should carefully evaluate their options. Arival’s Guide to Choosing a Booking System is a good place to start!

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Lower Booking Fees? 

Brian Nicholson from travel marketing company Blend wrote that if GetYourGuide is able to offer a lower fee for this service, it could potentially undercut many restech providers whose primary source of revenue is fees from online sales.  

“It is highly likely that the booking engines will adjust their pricing models to close this loophole,” predicts Nicholson. “If GetYourGuide starts taking 100% of your online sales, booking engines that rely heavily on online commissions will lose most or all of the revenue they’re generating from you today.” 

Indeed, for the operators we spoke to, low cost was a major draw. Drazen Grubisic, co-founder of the Museum of Broken Relationships explained they were thinking of creating their own booking platform in late 2020 when GetYourGuide approached them with “an offer we couldn’t refuse.” 

Another early adopter of GetYourGuide’s ticketing system is Strawberry Field, a popular Liverpool, U.K.-based non-profit attraction that features a memorial to John Lennon. According to Sue Harvey, Commercial Manager of Strawberry Field, they jumped to GetYourGuide from an older, clunkier booking system when it was originally offered to them free of charge in 2020. Now, they enjoy a commission that is “much lower than what we had when we first started,” shares Harvey.

While both GetYourGuide and Tiqets declined to share their exact rates, Elzinga shares that Tiqets’ cost for operators is “a much smaller commission, it’s like a technology fee… much smaller than if we do all the marketing (as an OTA).” 

As for GetYourGuide, “we can confirm, based on feedback from our partners, that our fee structure is very competitive,” says Berlet. 


Takeaway for operators: One important consideration is how many fees you pay if you are using multiple systems for the front and back end, and how those fees work together or compound. (This article explains how restech system pricing works.) 

However, keep in mind that cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor: as Arival’s Guide to Choosing a Booking System advises, “there’s more to cost than price.” Overall, any new competition in the booking system marketplace can be an opportunity for you to find better rates, or negotiate with your existing booking system if you’re not currently satisfied. 

How Does OTA-Provided Website Ticketing Work with Back-end Booking Systems?

For Tiqets, the intention isn’t to become a primary booking system for attractions. While they do offer a full system to some smaller operators, “we are not a specialized primary ticketer like Galaxy.” Elzinga explains their focus is on e-commerce functionality. Galaxy is the attraction ticketing and point of sale system offered by Gateway Ticketing Systems. 

Other OTAs have taken different approaches. Two of Asia’s largest OTAs entered the arena recently, KKDay with booking platform Rezio, and Klook with “res-tech lite” platform Flikket, both aimed at getting more small- to medium-sized operators in Asia connected to online booking technology and distribution channels. 

Still other OTAs have chosen instead to leave booking in the hands of booking systems, but some have acquired specific booking systems. Viator, for example, owns Bokun, and booking.com owns FareHarbor.

GetYourGuide’s ticketing system integrates with an experience operator’s website on the front end, and (in most cases) a reservation system on the back end, by providing a booking widget. According to Berlet, their ticketing system is available for all types of experience operators, including tours and activities, but is “particularly optimized for the ticketed attractions.” 

Like Tiqets, GetYourGuide does offer a full system to some small operators on their platform, however Berlet explains, “the majority of our partners are using our solution as a complement to other reservation technologies… We see ourselves as a partner for existing reservation systems and not a replacement.”

Takeaway for operators:  If you’re considering working with a ticketing system such as the one offered by GetYourGuide, talk to your restech provider first, if you already have one. Some are more compatible than others, and it may also present an opportunity to see what alternatives your restech can offer as well. 

However, keep in mind that cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor: as Arival’s Guide to Choosing a Booking System advises, “there’s more to cost than price.” Overall, any new competition in the booking system marketplace can be an opportunity for you to find better rates, or negotiate with your existing booking system if you’re not currently satisfied. 

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What Happens When Operators Put Direct Bookings in the Hands of an OTA?

Not everyone agrees that OTAs offering direct booking services is a win-win for operators. “It’s putting all your eggs in one basket,” cautions Scott Zimmerman, CEO of booking system XOLA. “GetYourGuide is just one channel, not the channel.” 

“If an operator chooses to install an OTA checkout on their website,” he continues, “it’s essentially letting the OTA stand in front of and capture the identity of all the operator’s customers, earned through their own brand and marketing spend.  Operators would be giving up a lot of control of their data and their business over time by going in this direction.”

Here are some of the important considerations for operators, when deciding whether to work with an OTA on direct bookings:

Who owns the customer?

One important consideration for operators is who owns the customer data, and who communicates with the customer. Will emails come from GetYourGuide, or from your tour company or attraction directly? 

“That’s often a negotiation,” says Elzinga from Tiqets. “Frequently we co-own the customer, and that means that we can help those customers to also go to other attractions and museums in that area… it’s a choice.”

According to GetYourGuide, data stays with the operators. “The customers who carry out transactions on an operator’s website using the software provided by us are in any case customers of the supply partner and their data remain in the supply partner’s care,” explains Berlet. “The partner alone decides how and in what way it communicates with them.” 

What about distribution via other OTAs?

One possible downside of using an OTA to facilitate your direct bookings could be a limitation on distribution opportunities. OTAs may be reluctant to integrate with booking systems offered by their top competitors. 

To this concern, Berlet shares, “In principle, we offer connectivity to all types of distribution channels, including all major OTAs. Actually, the majority of our partners are using our solution as a complement to other reservation technologies.”

However, Strawberry Field’s Harvey shares that they are still waiting on an API connection that will allow them to connect their GetYourGuide-powered ticketing to other distributors. They currently manage each OTA separately. “They said ‘soon,’” she shares, and while she gives GetYourGuide major points for transparency and responsiveness, she hints that their continuing with GetYourGuide depends on it. 

How does cross-selling work?

Both Elzinga and Berlet are quick to point out the opportunities for cross-selling are a big win for operators.

“We are getting very specialized in selling combinations  and packages,” says Elzinga, “and it’s of great added value for the local tourism ecosystem that the operators and museums and attractions also sell these packages on each other’s website, because then they are helping each other to get people in.”

“We also offer operators a possibility to integrate other GetYourGuide inventory for potential cross-sell to travelers,” says Berlet. “All of those proceeds are shared between GetYourGuide and the supply partner… This cross-sell service is entirely optional and at the discretion of the partner who uses GetYourGuide Ticketing.” 

Operator Takeaway: There are many factors to weigh if you’re considering working with any booking system, from pricing to distribution, customer data to opportunities like cross-selling, whether it’s a front-end focused system provided by an OTA like GetYourGuide or Tiqets, or an all-in-one booking system like Rezdy or XOLA. Check out our forthcoming Guide to Choosing a Booking System to dig deeper.  

Getting More Operators Online is the Real Win-Win

Back to the question posed in the title of this article, who wins here?

Although operators using GetYourGuide for ticketing might mean they’re not using similar products offered by booking systems, Chris Atkin, CEO of large booking software provider Rezdy isn’t concerned. “I actually think that it’s a good thing because it all helps to get operators online,” he explains. “Once they start to get online and see the benefits of being online… then they’re just going to start thinking [broader] and that’s where systems like Rezdy come in… they’ll end up being an entry point.” 

“It’s good for getting the operators online,” agrees Tiqets’ Elzinga. “We are still so early in getting this industry online, and we also have the responsibility to help the smaller ones to really get a more mature market.”

While some restechs may stand to lose from operators moving their front-end booking to OTAs like GetYourGuide, it’s worth noting that of the multiple restechs Arival has spoken with on this topic — many of whom had very different perspectives — a common theme was they are not concerned. “We’re just going to stay focused on building the best solution in the market, head down,” says Zimmerman. 

At the end of the day, more options can’t be a bad thing for operators, as many operators know well themselves, competition propels the best providers to improve their offerings in order to stand out above the competition. That goes both ways, and more options and competition among booking systems and ticketing platforms mean more opportunities for operators to get online and find the best options that work for them. 

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