The Flybook, the Bend, Oregon-based reservation system provider was quietly acquired at the beginning of 2020 by Fullsteam, a holding company for providers for payments and SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition stands out from previous acquisitions among tour and activity systems. The most well known deals have been acquisitions by online travel agencies (OTAs) TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings, which acquired Bokun and FareHarbor, respectively, in 2018. German media conglomerate ProSiebenSat.1, the owner of Germany OTAs mydays and Jochen Schweizer, acquired Regiondo in 2019.
Reservation system companies have also acquired other systems, typically to expand their product portfolio or acquire their customers. FareHarbor, TrekkSoft Group and Peek have all acquired other reservation system companies.
Fullsteam, on the other hand, does not have much direct presence in tours, activities or travel. Its portfolio includes companies providing software into various industries, including self-storage, organization membership, healthcare and vehicle repair among other sectors. It does own HoldMyTicket, an event ticketing company, and Party Center Software, a platform for family entertainment centers.
Craig Langer, CEO and co-founder of The Flybook, is continuing with the company.
“We were bootstrapped from the beginning, never took outside capital, and we’ve been profitable,” he said. “The acquisition provides us the backing to reinvest in new product features around payments like contactless pay and membership programs, as well as continuing to support our clients in the way we always have.”
Asked about how the business is fairing in 2020, Langer acknowledged that their business is down along with most of the industry, but that the diversity of their client base has been a benefit during these tough times. He said Fullsteam has been supportive of The Flybook throughout the pandemic and they have been able to avoid layoffs.
Flying Under the Radar
The Flybook has operated relatively under the radar compared to other reservation system companies, a fact Langer readily acknowledges:
“We’re a strong product and customer service company, but we haven’t focused as much on marketing.”
Nor did Langer indicate that would change with the acquisition. “While our company will continue to grow, we do not currently have plans to scale a sales force to do the mass cold calling like others in our industry. We prefer to rely on referrals and relationships,” he said.
The Flybook’s website highlights adventure parks, ziplines, rentals, rafting, fishing, tours, and lodging among the key activity segments it serves. Langer said the company’s clients are largely in North America but was tight-lipped about the number of customers.
Transactions such as the acquisition by FullSteam are typically viewed as “financial” as opposed to “strategic.” A holding firm of similar businesses can consolidate certain back-office operations, such as finance and administration, enabling the businesses to continue their growth strategy with lower costs and increased profitability.
The pandemic and global travel restrictions are putting significant pressure on reservation system companies worldwide, especially those dependent on a transaction-based pricing model. Bokun, the TripAdvisor-owned booking system, recently announced a shift from fee-based pricing to a monthly subscription, which many industry observers suggest is a move to provide more stability and predictability in their revenues.
The Flybook does not publicly disclose its pricing terms, but Langer said the company’s pricing model is generally a monthly fee plus a flat transactional fee, however they also customize it for each client.
The longer the pandemic and global travel lockdown persists, the more likely it is that there will be further consolidation among reservation systems.
FullSteam itself has been on an acquisition tear. The company has made at least six other acquisitions in 2020, albeit of software firms in other industries. Langer declined to comment on whether FullSteam was considering further software acquisitions in tours and activities.