Tours tech land grab intensifies as TripAdvisor acquires Bokun

It wasn’t that long ago that TripAdvisor boss Steve Kaufer was talking about making much more of its non-hotel division.

In line with that strategy it has announced with acquisition of Iceland-based tours and activities distribution platform Bokun.

A statement from the reviews giant says the acquisition expands its offering by providing suppliers with technical solutions.

Many will remember that TripAdvisor acquired Viator for $200 million just under four years ago, and the company has talked recently how well its non-hotel business, which also includes vacation rentals, is doing.

In its statement, TripAdvisor president Experiences and Rentals Dermot Halpin says:

“We’re committed to taking the experiences sector far beyond its current online penetration of just 20%, and Bokun will play a critical role in this mission.”

He adds that this signals a new phase for the company which aims to simplify distribution for suppliers and improve the shopping experience for travellers.

CEO Kaufer said during its Q4 2017 earnings call that the company will invest in mobile growth and product enhancements for its non-hotel segment. Revenue for the division increased 24% for $360 million for the full year.

It was only yesterday that Booking Holdings announced its own acquisition in the tours and activities space, namely its agreement to purchase FareHabor.

That just leaves Expedia to ramp up its own ambitions in this sector.

Bokun was founded in 2012 and has grown its business recently through partnerships with airlines and tourist boards.

Neither Booking or TripAdvisor disclosed terms of their respective acquisitions but one interesting element is that both online travel players are looking at automating the segment from both ends.

TripAdvisor has been criticised recently with some industry observers questioning the Viator strategy.

Bokun CEO Hjalti Baldursson says of the acquisition:

“TripAdvisor gives us the opportunity to serve customers in every corner of the world, and we’re excited about the significant growth that’s to come.”

 The statement also says Bokun will remain in Iceland and plans to expand the team.   

Phocuswright has estimated the tours and activities sector will double to $27 billion gross bookings in 2020.

So, who is left?

GetYourGuide recently raised $75 million in Series D funding and is now concentrating its efforts making better recommendations through on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Then, there’s Peek, which announced its own $10 million funding round in mid-2016, and then last year acquired its troubled rival Zozi.

Germany-based Bookingkit announced its seven figure Series B earlier this year as well as its distribution deal with Amadeus.

And, what of TrekkSoft which has been quietly snapping up companies in the space including Acteavo and more recently Myobis.

Others such as tech player Redeam should also get a mention. The company helps tours supplies automate the ticketing process. It announced its Series A of $7.7 million in March.

The Asia market is also interesting to watch. Klook announced $60 million in Series C in October 2017 saying it had plans to expand to Europe and North America.

And, also in the sidelines is BeMyGuest which has raised $11.5 million in funding having decided to focus on the B2B market in 2016.

And, companies such as Ctrip and Fliggy, will no doubt be closely watching moves from their US-based OTA rivals in tours and activities.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list but more a sign of the activity in the sector and the keen interest from investors.

tnooz spoke to Bokun’s Baldursson about trends in tours and activities distributing for tnoozLIVE@TTE:

Related reading:

Skyscanner’s evolution under Ctrip becomes aspirational

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda worked at tnooz from September 2011 to June 2018 in roles including senior reporter, deputy editor and managing editor.



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  1. Max Starkov, Founder & Director, HEBS Digital

    This is one of the smartest acquisition by TRIP, and I can compare it only to Booking’s acquisition of FareHarbor and Expedia’s acquisition of HomeAway. Similar to vacation rentals, the tours and activities market is super fragmented and dispersed. How do you get access to this highly fragmented inventory supply, quite often consisting of mom and pop activity shops? By buying Bokun or FareHarbor, the technology platforms that enable these tours and activities to become bookable online and provide onward global distribution. The OTAs tried to create a B2B technology offering aimed at hotels (Expedia and Alice App, Booking and Hotel Ninja, etc.), only to find out that Hoteliers are reluctant to use B2B services provided by the OTAs, fearing to put all of their eggs in one basket.

    The acquisition of FareHarbor by Booking and Bokun by TripAdvisor is a signal that TRIP and the OTAs are now focusing on what matters most: securing their inventory supply of a growing range of services, above and beyond their core offerings, such as private accommodations, vacation rentals, dining, tours and activities, etc.


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