Ultimate guide to the specialist tour and in-destination activity market

This is an attempt to categorise all the key English speaking global players in tours and activities in one place (plus a few other interesting companies).

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With growing interest from GDSs, leading online travel agencies and other bigger travel companies in this sector, and with Phocuswright having recently published a key report (as previously covered on Tnooz), I thought we needed to cast some light onto who is doing what and from where the key moves may come from.


There are 60 many(!) websites listed below in eight categories. In particular the focus is on adventure travel, specialist travel and in resort tours/experiences.

I have excluded tour verticals such as educational tours, group travel, sports fan tourism, ski, sailing etc in order to make the article achievable to research and write.

I have also excluded regional companies, although a few have been added into the final group of otherwise uncategorised companies.

These are all product-focused companies, meaning I have also excluded websites that are editorial-led, are mainly travel guides or are pure applications with no tour product content.

Within each category the websites are listed in alphabetical order. The numbers are sourced from public information or have been provided specifically for this article.

NB: Four companies have revealed numbers that have never been made public before. Thank you to them.

1. Transactional companies

Definition – when they sell, they sell in their name (the ultimate supplier is obfuscated or they are delivering the product themselves)

Single day tours:

  • City Discovery – Lists 5,000 tours & activities including some multi-day. Bookings come via trade (7500 travel agents), their website (6 million visitors annually) and big website affiliations (Opodo, Travelocity Nordic, Go Voyages). 8% commission on transfers, 6% on all tours & activities. 16 languages. 200,000 pax per year.
  • Expedia – Centrally contract product for online booking.
  • Get Your Guide – Picking up great partnerships with German speaking European travel websites. 3,000 products. 6% affiliate commission.
  • Grayline – A consortium of 123 independently owned sightseeing tour companies. Annual sales $950 million USD. 25 million pax per year. 4,000 tours in 700 destinations worldwide.
  • GTA Travel – Approx 600K tours,  300K transfers sold annually. Now owned by Kuoni
  • Isango – Day tours, day tours packaged with hotels. English, German, French. 5,000 tours. From 5% affiliate commission. Size undisclosed but more pax than City Discovery and less than Viator. Partners include: Jet2, Travelsupermarket and Bestattravel in the UK; Orbitz and Hertz in the US; Qantas in Australia; Accor Group of Hotels in France; Yatra, India.com, Makemytrip in India.
  • MyDestinationInfo – Network of editorial based destination websites. Lists day tours with enquiry requests to suppliers
  • Orbitz – Centrally contracted product for online booking.
  • Urban Adventures – Joint venture between WHL Group and Intrepid. 15,000 pax in year one. Integrated with Expedia, Viator, STA Travel, Flight Centre, GTA, GetYourGuide, Qantas Holidays, Kuoni, Tourico.
  • Viator – 6,000 tours, 9 languages, 1,000 affiliates. Have 250,000 closed loop tour reviews. Partners include: American Airlines, British Airways, easyJet, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Priceline, lastminute.com, Opodo, eBookers, Zuji, AAA, ARC, Amadeus, Flight Centre, STA Travel.

Multi-day tours:

  • Gap Adventures – 100,000 pax annually, 160 million CAD annual booking revenue. 800 employees. Run a 5% affiliate programme.
  • HolidaybreakExplore, Regal Dive, Djoser, TravelWorks – group does £95 million per year in their adventure travel division. Also has camping, hotel and other divisions
  • TUI/Peak – New group formed in February 2011. The group consists of over 20 businesses with combined revenue of circa £230 million.  340,000 pax per year. Brands in the group: Adventure Center, The Adventure Company, Adventure Tours Australia, Country Walkers, Exodus, Gecko’s, Guerba, Headwater, Imaginative Traveller, Intrepid Suntrek, Intrepid Travel, Oz Experience, Peregrine, Pinnacle Tours, Sawadee, TrekAmerica and WesternXposure. Official TUI announcement.

The key challenge of this sector is that in order to be transactional you need the date/price/availability data – or be selling a product where if you send through a booking to your local supplier they are able to handle it.

Watch for moves away from working on allocations and “fax/email the supplier” towards direct reservation system connections. Thankfully this isn’t quite as traumatic as the concept of direct connections in the airline sector as there aren’t any GDSs to disintermediate.

When considering numbers (that you may privately hold but are not in the list above), in particular for single day tours, do bear in mind the proportion of airport transfers that make up the business. These are low revenue but can inflate pax numbers significantly.

2. Tour advertising

Definition: When a customer clicks on an advert they are immediately directed to the supplier or agent website (whoever purchased the advert). Normally PPC but can be CPA.

  • adprecision – UK based. Mainly link up with travel sections of leading UK newspapers.

Also, don’t forget – Google and Bing both work well for direct tour product advertising.

3. Advertising, but via a third party website

Definition: These are advertising-based models and the traffic is ultimately sent to the supplier’s own website, but before then the consumer must navigate functionality on site.

  • StepUpTravel – Advertising based, local tour operators listing directory of interesting local experiences
  • TourRadar – Nice search that publishers can put on their website. Also a facebook application for tour operators and a reviews system. TLabs article.
  • YouGoDo – CPM based activity / experience / tour directory. Multi-lingual.

4. “Request” goes to the supplier

Definition: Due to the lack of date / price / availability distribution within this sector (and some quite ropey supplier websites with poor conversion potential) a popular model is to send through enquiry requests from the website through to the supplier.

  • iExplore – Launched 1999. 1 million web visitors per month. Owned by TUI.
  • Kumutu – Also includes affiliate programme and various distribution tools for suppliers.
  • Responsible Travel – One of the most effective providers of leads in the sector. In 2010 they received over 86,000 enquiries (that were sent out to suppliers). 10% conversion. 1000 tour operators listed. 4,000 tours. 20+ staff.

The challenge all these companies have is getting access to dates, price and availability information from multiple suppliers. Extranets are too complex and rarely kept upto date by suppliers.

As a result there are quite a few on this list with little traction. TUI with iExplore could now access a major part of the sector and live dates, prices, availability as TUI have such a deep investment in the product providers themselves (and their reservation systems)

5. Incoming locals (as individuals)

Definition: Rather than dealing with tour operators, this list focusses on individual tour guides and other locals who provide interesting experiences or assistance in resort.

  • Dine with locals – Host receives $30 per person, guests pay $46 per person. Nice simple idea!
  • Omoly – Take 6% from the supplier (and credit card fee). Supplier local therefore keeps ~94%
  • Responsible Travel – Plan to enter this sector but haven’t announced exactly what they are doing. Website says: “From summer 2011 small tourism service providers – accommodation, day trip operators, guides, organic restaurants or those serving local produce, craft markets, museums, parks, etc will be able to build and manage your own page on responsibletravel.com for FREE.”  Better known for its very successful lead generation service for multi-day tours, so will be interesting to see what they do in the day tour sector.
  • Shioube – find your local guide
  • Skyara – Take 12% from the supplier (including credit card fee). Local travel experiences.
  • Tours by Locals – 3289 tours and 970 guides. 100% payment upfront, 20% retained by Tours by Locals, no affiliate programme. In 2010 sold 2530 tours and are growing rapidly. In January 2010 sold 62, January 2011 sold 434.
  • Tripbod – Currently running a travel advice and planning service using locals to provide expertise to travellers, including on the Visit Britain DMO/CVB website (See Tnooz coverage). As per a recent pitch announced a new model launching at some point soon. Based on 10% retention, 90% going to the local in the destination.
  • TripColony – A social network for travellers. Also has a “search locals” service to find local companions
  • Vayable – Take 15% from the supplier (and credit card fee) and 3% from the consumer. Local travel experiences.

The challenge with incoming locals is that named individuals do not scale too well. They may not want to work every weekend meeting travellers. Yet scale is required to sustain the marketing, technology and customer service functions provided by the central business (due to the low value nature of these experiences a high volume must be sold)

Therefore there is a temptation to work with local tour operators (in an individual capacity) to “back fill” the individuals these companies already have on their books. That scales better but at high volume the central company has to provide date / price / availability systems just like conventional tour operator businessses need – which over a multiple supplier scenario becomes complex.

The alternative temptation is to create a product without a named individual who will provide it (therefore, operationally, it can be delivered by multiple people).

However at that point the central company is recreating what a good local tour operator does anyway (but over multiple individuals that the central website must operationally manage rather than under more efficient local tour operator management).

That would also remove one of the delights of this sector and that is a traveller being able to select an individual with individual personality and interests. Kind of defeats the object of the exercise and what makes working with individuals unique.

One solution to the scale problem maybe is to run this service on top of Facebook with a social layer eg. Bootsnall Traveler connect or AFAR connect.  Plenty of companies with applications aimed at helping travellers meet other travellers but the two just listed also help connect travellers to locals. These are not travel product based solutions though (this article focusses on travel product solution players)

Heavily on the plus side this product type is very inspirational, easily distributed (until one sells tours rather than individuals) and could be an amazing way to differentiate one airline/hotel OTA from another.

However when it comes to onward product distribution only ToursByLocals are taking sufficient % off the local individual to run a successful revenue share partnership model and retain sufficient margin to run the central business, as far as I can work out from the public numbers available.

The low transaction revenue also cuts down PPC direct marketing opportunities as the companies selling the multi-day tours can dominate the destination tour keywords as their revenues are higher per clickthrough.

Tours and activities are complex but this is the really tough end as you have to deal with automated high transaction volume, handle individuals that one has little operational control over and not cross too much into the tours provision sector (which would cut down partnership opportunities as there are already many incoming tour providers available via nascent distribution channels).

This is my favourite category for where interesting things are going to come from. Well, if someone can work out how to unlock the really big marketing and operational challenges it faces!

6. Reservation system providers with distribution layers

Definition: Effectively these companies provide the back office systems to specialist tour operators. As a result they maintain the live dates, prices & availability data and also travel agent ledgers and business relationships. All distributors should be connecting through to this layer but sadly few do!

  • Rezgo – Estimate 170,000 pax for 12 months to end August 2011. Primarily scheduled activities & excursions
  • TourCMS – Estimate 150,000 to 200,000 pax for 12 months to end of 2011. Mainly multi-day. Booking engine in 18 languages. (Disclaimer, this is the business I run!)

There are many other reservation systems who could be in this list but they are either locally focussed, non distributing or non specialist in tours/activities.

Penetration of these systems is low with only 14% of tour operators in this sector having any kind of reservation system (Source: PhoCusWright). Massive opportunity!

7. GDS style

Definition: This is equally nascent! One problem these companies have is there are very few distributors and very few reservation systems. Hence the ROI for connections between players is generally met without the need for the same kind of plumbing that is required in hotels/airlines.

  • Inntopia – 250,000 activity, event and ground shuttle reservations annually
  • iSeatz – Ties in with many airline systems
  • Ticket AD – City based product content (130,000 bookable services)
  • Unaira – 10,000 products, agents/affiliates earn 40% of Unaira’s net revenue [NOW Closed]

8. Assorted others worth a mention

If you can work out where these should be positioned please say in the comments!

  • Alan1 – Leading day tour website in Japan.
  • Azur Ever – French meta-search sending bookings mainly via existing transactional online travel agents [TLabs Showcase]
  • BeTravellers – Regionally strong in central Asia but potential to go wider.
  • Epic Tomato – A tour operator selling high end adventure travel. Listed here because it is interesting to see how top end adventure travel is promoted. Website is worth a look.
  • Fobo Travel – Tours & activities in south east asia
  • Goby – US based things to do
  • GoDo – Australia – Now owned by Wotif.
  • Google – Google organic is still the largest source of business for most specialist tour operators. Additionally there is still the intrigue regarding the shut down of the Ruba travel website. Ruba used to have a great specialist tour operator search function but the team who built that are currently working for Google… conspiracy theories abound! Tnooz coverage on Ruba/Google. See this nice note left on the old Ruba homepage..
  • Lastminute.com – Non global. Have a central contracting team for tours / activities.
  • Smart Destinations – US based tours/activity discount/prepaid cards. 1 million pax in 2010.
  • TogFrog – Videos of tours/activities like this one of shooting a rocket launcher at a cow. Site includes indicative prices. Too editorial based for this article but added as it is interesting to see a video lead site…
  • Tourdust – Proving that a small agent with a great web attitude can push into this sector effectively. Not many agents in this sector actually. Not surprising when most specialist tour operators (multi-day) are running on 100% sales that require some kind of human intervention to aid the sale.
  • Trekiz – Tours of china. Has an interesting multi-day trip planning user interface
  • Trusted Adventures – Interesting to list here because it is a consortium of 10 tour operators who have grouped together to market via a single website. Perhaps a sign of how the future might be? I have also seen day tour activity operators tie up with hotels to create a single website selling multi-night tours (using the hotel for accommodation). Membership list
  • Zerve – Booking platform for day tours – but without customer facing front end featuring multiple suppliers. Understood to charge about 15% to suppliers to be listed. Mainly US based

Phew, what a list 😉

In case you weren’t paying attention, here are the companies that appear more than once…. TUI, WHL Group, Viator, Orbitz, ResponsibleTravel.com.

Feel free to suggest sites and companies I have missed out in the comments below. This was the first go at creating something of this scale (well, since Yahoo did human-edited web directories in 1995)

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Alex Bainbridge

About the Writer :: Alex Bainbridge

Alex is a contributor to tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, in destination guides and the tours & activities sector.

His most recent business TourCMS (sold October 2015) was the original leader in tours & activities distribution, connecting up hundreds of local tour suppliers with leading online travel agents. The industry architecture he put in place during that period is now the regular approach adopted globally by the entire local tour industry.

He is now CEO of a new in destination project coming soon.

Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code. Follow him on twitter @alexbainbridge



  1. Denise Richy

    Thanks for sharing wonderful list of travel, we (Royal Bike Riders) are specialize in tours to all over India. you can enjoy one of our existing trips.

  2. Mohamed

    Thanks for the discussions, we are a travel company specialist in Trekking all around Morocco including Atlas Mountains walking and Sahara Desert off road adventures.

  3. chris cameron

    Thanks for the list it was great to see, we are a tour operator focusing on private and luxury chauffeur driven tours of New Zealand.

    If we may post our link here it would be great if you could check out our site http://www.theroadtrip.co.nz and offer any feedback as to other sites where this may be useful to promote.

  4. Julie

    A great list – thanks for compiling them! we’re a travel company and we surely benefits from it.

  5. Charlie o Connell

    Hi Guys..you should check out a new portal called DayToursWorld.com and Day rez.com !!

  6. Eric Alvarez

    Excellent! Thank you. I just started following you and enjoy your articles a lot.

    Add, “DestinationServices.com” part of TUI Travel PLC

  7. Gregor

    Great overview Alex.

    Although our website http://www.re-ticket.com is not a typical tour and activity website, it’s still a marketplace where those products can be sold.

  8. Vaivhav Todi

    Brilliant list. The information really helped Alex.

    I work for Greener Pastures, a local tour operating company based in Northeast India.

    Would be great if you could let me know of some ways to promote my tours.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Varun Khona

      Vaivhav, can you please mail us to know more about Greener Pastures. We can discuss further on your query. Mail id is varun@trippy.co.in. Cheers.

  9. Andrew Berger

    Alex, great list. Please add http://www.privateguide.com to your list. We have more than 1000 professional tour guides worldwide. Here is more information from USA today

  10. Peter Sommer

    Only just discovered this. Great feature Alex. Fascinating and informative in equal measure. Really enjoyed your very first do that coincided with the WTM and thought the compere was particularly good! Keep up the good work.

  11. Andrew M

    I apologise for adding comments to this post so late, but I found the article and subsequent discussion very interesting.

    Not least, because we are starting a project to market tours in Crete (possibly wider to Greece). As a local incoming tour operator we already run excursions and transfers to around 100,000 pax per season in Crete. We have the product, the know how to deliver quality but our challenge is to be able to offer the tours on as many days of the week as possible. Any ideas how to widen our distribution – link up with Viator, Isango?

    • Varun Khona

      Andrew, would like to discuss with regards to widening your online distribution. Lets connect via mail. My id is varun@trippy.co.in.

  12. Constanza

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for the compilation!! You said you were not including verticals as it was not the idea of the note but at the moment I am developing a vertical and would be very usefull if you have some players to recomend me, Thanks a lot!!!

  13. 360 tours Manchester

    Wow, thank you very much for the very in-depth run down. No need for me to buy a guide now i have this resource.
    Most of the time when planning a holiday, it takes an age to gather this information, thanks.

  14. Paul

    Keeping you busy then!

  15. Alex Bainbridge

    Alex Bainbridge

    Right, this list is getting a bit out of control…. well actually the list is fine, its you guys who keep starting new businesses in the sector who are the problem 😉

    In the 3 weeks or so since I last updated I have added

    OK, thats fine for tours & activities businesses… but in the tour leader / individuals category I have added 9 (nine) (NINE) new entrants making 26 in total (of which about 20 look good)


    Anyone want to launch an aggregation system? 😉

  16. Paul

    Or you could add your tours and experiences to YouGoDo which is totally free and the commission rate is 0% – http://www.yougodo.com/addme

    Seems a no brainer 🙂

    • gorkreg

      Thanks for the link to yougodo.com :-). I already uploaded my products there. Do you know of any other sites where the commission is 0% or at least less than 10%?

      • Travis

        Hi Gorkreg,

        It’s free for tour operators like yourself to load their tours to http://www.TourRadar.com – any clicks originating from the site do not cost you anything and are sent to your own tour landing pages where the traveller books directly with you. You only pay if you’d like to feature your tours in our affiliate ad network (including sites like tripwolf.com, Let’s Go Travel Guides, etc) and that is on a Pay-Per-Click basis.

        Hope to see your tours on the radar soon! http://www.tourradar.com/operator-signup/

      • Alex Bainbridge

        Hi Gorkreg
        First I am not sure pitching via a comment thread is quite right…… but hey, well done for trying. In my book, better to try and be softly suggested its not quite the right thing to do…. than to not try at all.

        Secondly you haven’t disclosed what kind of tours you have or where in the world you are. This is fundamental information we need to help advise you.

        I am not suggesting you continue this pitch in the comments…. email me abainbridge@tnooz.com (with who you are and what you are selling) and I will point you in a few directions!

        Cheers. Alex

  17. gorkreg

    Thanks for the list Alex. It is really helpful as I am trying to get my new business into some of them. I am a bit puzzled about the affiliate commission though. I recently contacted two of the websites you mentioned and they answered me asking for a 25% to 30% commission on each sale. I think that is way too much (I can’t afford to pay that much). I came accross this page and I found out that one of the wesites mentioned charges a 6% commission. How does that work? Am I supposed to offer them only a 6% commission even though they are trying to get 30% initially? I don’t know if you are familiar with this process but as I am completely new in this business I don’t know how it works.
    Thanks again

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Gorkreg
      Choosing a % is normally set by the distributor not by you…

      Here are the factors (many many others, these are just some of them)

      a) Day tours / excursions / activities – tend to be much higher than multi day…. day tours 20-30% could be quite normal. Multi day would probably be 10-15% or so

      b) High value transactions (e.g. ski accommodation such as chalets) tend to be quite low… because they are high value transactions

      c) Affiliates vs agents – an affiliate will refer traffic / a lead – and you still have to “make the sale” and take the payment… “making the sale” for specialist tours can often involve answering emails and requires product / destination knowledge… that skill / resource has to be paid for. Affiliates therefore get much less than agents do (an affiliate on 6% or so might be quite normal)

      d) Don’t confuse commission with margin…. if a European company buys from an African tour operator – and then sells as their own – they could be on 50% – but thats not commission….

      e) Layers – a 25-30% range company might have affiliates as another layer above them on say 6%….

      f) Can distributors sell product you are unable to sell (e.g. last minute offers, out of season products etc etc) – if they can – and you have sunk costs already on the assets used to deliver that tour / service – then you may as well give quite a high commission…….. but maybe you don’t give commission for a sale where its something you could have sold anyway….

      I could go on….. but this is slightly changing the subject from this post! (Ok, maybe I write a new post)

      What kind of tours are you selling? And in what country? And who are your target source market?

      The alternative is to pay for, say, pay per click…. say its 50 cents (USD) a click and it takes 100-200 clicks for a booking…. thats 50-100 USD on marketing for a single booking…. which when you look at it like that – makes some of the % commissions quite reasonable!

      OK, PPC works if you start to assume that you are not getting your money back on the first transaction – so you get your money back after that new customer books several times – but if you are single destination tour op they won’t book with you several times – so you have to make your marketing money back on the first booking. If you are a single destination tour operator then probably best to leave that headache to the distributor…. as they can do their own multiple booking gamble….. as they will have a multiple supplier website so might be able to make that work…

      • gorkreg

        Thanks Alex. That is very very helpful and now everything is a little clearer. I am only a very small (single destination) tour operator and definitely can’t afford a 30% commission so I guess for now I will use other ways to find customers.
        Thanks again and looking forward for that new post 😉

  18. Alex Bainbridge

    Alex Bainbridge

    Added 4 more companies to the list……

    DoSomethingDifferent – UK based experiences website
    Spoontrip – food tours aggregator
    WhosmyGuide – book a local guide
    Zerve – a booking platform for day tours

    Isn’t this how Yahoo started, a manually edited list?!

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  20. Alex Bainbridge

    Added 4 more entries…..

    http://www.excursiopedia.com/ Interesting marketplace for tours / day tours / guides

    http://www.tripcolony.com/ Find a local guide / travelling companion. Search by relationship status. Um – not sure about that!

    http://www.trekiz.com/ Tours in china – has a trip planner that is worth a look

    http://shiroube.com/ Find a local guide

    Yes I suppose I should continue to edit this post. Might be here forever though!

  21. Alex Bainbridge

    Added a couple more sites…..

    iGottaGuide – in the dealing with locals section – who have launched and are starting off in New York

    Zozi – who are doing deals for day tours / experiences. They started as ekoVenture with 1.3 million USD funding and got to 10,000 multi-day adventure tours from 450 operators, working on 10% commission. Since then they have closed that site and taken 2 further rounds of funding to push on in daily deals (3 million USD, 7 million USD)

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  23. Alex Bainbridge

    Here is a new one I just added – Reserve123 !

    “Reserve 123 is the world’s largest independent booking service for tours, attractions and activity tickets around the globe”

    I guess here is another “worlds largest” debate about to start!

    For sure, this is the worlds largest list of these kinds of company. Think we can all agree on that…. 😉

  24. Alex Bainbridge

    Just added a few more sites!

    Goby – US based things to do (in the assorted section), Vayable and Skyara in the in resort experiences section….

    If you are in the in resort experiences sub-niche take a look at Vayable and Skyara….

  25. Florian Harkort

    Excellent job, Alex. And I’m pretty sure you’ll now have to add companies forever! (Which is a good sign!)

    Just fyi, as announced in the original post, pocketvillage.com is now live.

    Full story here: https://www.tnooz.com/2011/03/14/news/pocketvillage-launches-metasearch-engine-for-tours-and-activities/

  26. Alex Bainbridge

    A couple of new sites added

    Stepup Travel – a nice multi-supplier interesting tour site (global)
    Fobo Travel – multi-supplier site focussed on South East Asia

    I have a feeling could be here forever adding new sites!

  27. Paul

    Hi Johannes, Thanks for your comments. As I state in each of my replies above everyone is welcome to their own opinions. At http://www.yougodo.com we chose our wording very carefully – the worlds biggest activities and experiences website.

    If you go to tripadviser.com their website title is ‘Reviews of Hotels, Flights and Vacation Rentals’ – no mention of activities and experiences. The same goes for virtualtourist.com who website title is ‘Travel Guides, Hotel Reviews, Photos, Forums, Deals’.

    I apprecaite both of these sites have a huge amount of experience and activity details but they are not pure activities and experiences websites.

    Apologies if this subject is hijacking the thread – feel free to pm me to follow up off thread.



    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @paul – just a small point of order….

      TripAdvisor’s tagline used to be “Get the truth then go”, nothing to do with hotels, flights, etc.

      On its homepage when it offers people to “Plan the Perfect Trip” it lists the following sectors:

      Things To Do
      Vacation Rental

      So while “Things To Do” (tours, activities, etc) is perhaps not TA’s obvious raison d’etre, it is becoming an important part of its offering (as the deal with GYG testified last week).

      And, let’s face it, people should never dismiss what TA does.

  28. Daniele Beccari

    Thanks Alex for the work put into this.
    Now, how would the same exercise look like for the hotel industry? I believe we’d see something similar, but with 600 companies instead of 60. For the next ITB?

  29. Johannes

    @Paul: Your claim of providing the world’s largest platform for activities is incorrect. If the size of non-transactional activities listings determines the world’s largest tours & activities platform, please feel free to count the ‘things to do’ listings on TripAdvisor or VirtualTourist.

    It is unfair and pretentious towards companies like Viator, Isango or GetYourGuide to compare a listing directory with an inventory of transactional products that require direct supplier relationships.

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  31. Alex Narracott

    Hi Alex and all,

    First of all, great list. Just added a reply to Stephen’s article on the potential in this sector, and thought it might be worth reiterating here too.

    It excites me to think the technology is starting to come together that will one day allow the tiniest of one man bands in the back of beyond to efficiently sell his incredible mountain bike trips to inspired and restless travellers. Not just from an experience point of view is this exciting. When you consider the potential to direct more and more of the revenue in this huge fragmented market directly into local communities, travel might start to become the sustainable development tool it has always promised but never delivered.

  32. Robert

    Great list – we (LocalGuiding.com) are proud to be on that list; especially as we are new and not one of the big old players in the market.
    Just want to emphasize that LocalGuiding has both, an online reservation & booking system for unique tours by local guides, but also a directory of local tour guides. This enables to contact the guides directly and arrange a customized tour that suits your travel interests.

    Unfortunately I won’t be at ITB, so I’m a little bit sad not to have the opportunity to drink some beers 😉



  33. Paul

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for including YouGoDo in this article, although please make it clear that we are totally free to activity operators wishing to list their experinces on YouGoDo. We sell cpm advertising on the non activity listings parts of the site – to anyone wishing to advertise to people looking at exciting things to do around the world. Sport equipment suppliers, hotels, bars, etc.

    Thanks again for including our details.



  34. Paul

    Great list but you have missed http://www.yougodo.com – the world’s biggest activities and experiences website. In terms of activities available it’s much bigger than the likes of Isango and Viator, due to its web 2 interface which allows activity providers to self register for free. YouGoDo users deal direct with the activity providers. Please take a look for the next list! It’s especially strong for ‘unusual things to do’.



    • michelle

      Hi Paul – that is a very bold claim!
      How do you rank yougodo as the biggest is it on revenue or perhaps number of bookings?

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Paul
      OK – will add. Good catch. Interesting advertising CPM model you have (when most advertising models in this sector are CPC or CPA)

      How many activities do you have in your directory? (so we can compare with, say, Viator/Isango that you say you are larger than?) (using your metric, not mine)

      Very easy to list activities, very hard to make them transactional as you need a whole additional layer of data for that!

      • Paul

        Hi Alex,

        Thanks for the reply – we do not publish figures but from a quick reserach just now it looks as if Viator has around 4500 activities. This is from a scroll of all activities on all the location – I apologise if I have got this wrong. Depending on how you measure activities (we have many operators who offer multiple activities in multiple locations) I believe we have between 6 and 13 times as many activities on YouGoDo. Viator are stronger than YouGoDo in some countries, and visa versa. YouGoDo appear especially stronger in Europe, NZ, Australia. In places like Spain and UK we have well over 1000 activities on offer in each country. We also cover a lot more countries. Less than 75 coutries on Viator and over 130 on YouGoDo.

        As you have noticed we have a different model, being totally free to operators.

        • michelle

          Paul – when you say activities do you mean products?

          Viator promotes actual activities/products for sale, yougodo seem to promote companies with a list of activities those companies offer but very little about the activities/products themselves. It is easy to promote companies and count every activity they can provide as one of your ‘activities’ but this is not a fair comparison to Viator who offer something very different.

          On that basis I would suggest you are not ‘the world’s biggest activities and experiences website’ but perhaps are the biggest directory of companies providing activities and experiences.

          • Paul

            Hi Michelle,

            Thanks for your comments. There is a wide variety of activites on YouGoDo, and as you point out some operators add a generic description. But most realise the benefits of adding a good activity based record of what they offer, in order to attract new customers.

            Regarding our title, like Viator, YouGoDo is there to help people looking for exciting things to do in a location. My personal view when I am looking for something to do in a place like New York, Sydney or Marbella is the site with the greatest choice of activities is the biggest. But I appreciate others may have different views.

            The fact we don’t sell ‘products’ ensures that we feature many more low cost experiences and free things to do like museums, etc. Our model also ensures we can include more countries and activities easier as we do not have the complications of setting up commission agreements with suppliers, etc.

            I see pros and cons for both sites.

            Thanks again for your comments.



  35. Sally Broom

    A big hat tip to you Alex from the Tripbod team for making the time to compile this. It’s such an exciting sector that, until now, hadn’t effectively been categorised.

    Glad to see how much activity there is among the various players but given the number of us I do wonder how the market will look in 12 months time, not least post launch of various new players in the coming weeks (notably pocketvillage and Gunyah)

    We met Kijubi at Launch in SF and they were really nice guys, had plenty of good things to say about TourCMS too!

  36. Mark

    An excellent article Alex and we’re delighted to see Urban Adventures listed there with some well established and respected sites in this space. I guess a point of difference with our model is we operate what we sell and have full control over the style of our tours and quality. As a new entrant we’ve been very fortunate in receiving a lot of support for our unique day tour product range, something that everyone involved with Urban Adventures really appreciates.

    I look forward to having an opportunity to meet face to face at ITB.


  37. Alex Bainbridge

    FYI just added ooh.com to the assorted category and leaplocal.org to the incoming locals section….

  38. Liz

    I’d like to second, third, or is it fourth the thanks expressed for compiling this Alex – and great that it’s continuing to grow collaboratively, a key motivator driving many of the businesses listed above, not least we at tripbod.
    It’s certainly positive to see so many players with similar ideas working in the local travel space while retaining their distinguishing points – for tripbod this is our unique 1-to-1 service, co-creating tailor-made experiences with like-minded locals.
    We hope to see many more innovators springing up in the future who together can help disrupt the monopolized travel market.

  39. Tim B

    Great list Alex. Interesting to see how you have categorised the market. We’ve been going since 2004 and I think we have moved between a few of your categories over that time! I guess this illustrates the uncertain way in which we feel the market will evolve and also what is feasible and scalable on limited resources in such a fragmented market.

  40. Len Cordiner

    Hi Alex,

    A very interesting group of sites to watch over the next couple of years as all move to fill the gaps Phocuswright articulated. I am pleased to see two of our companies, Urban Adventures and Gunyah, featured. I would also suggest adding whl.travel to the list, although it is probably in a field of its own.
    With whl.travel we provide local inbound tour operators with a platform and web site to load, manage and process bookings for accommodations, tours, pcakages, activities etc. They select and price the products they sell and WHL’s role is as a technology provider and web marketing support organisation. We act like an ASP in this model charging a monthly service fee to use the system. We operate in over 100 countries and collectively the sites are selling some 9000 accommodations and approx 2000 tours. Sales are primarily B2C (coming from the 300 destination web sites and 1000+ hotel web sites) and via affiliate partners.

    Cheers…….. Len

  41. Kevin

    Nice Work Alex. While you’ve very much focused on tours on the list, you may want to look at companies like Smart Destinations, who focus on activities and tours. We delivered over 1 Million visitors last year and cover 14 of the top Destinations in the US and Canada. Travelers can use our Go City Cards to save as they visit attractions and tours.

    Your list may need to evolve into a full time web site!

    Best – Kevin

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Kevin
      Ok, added you into the assorted section! Hope that is OK.
      Yeah, this is a bit of a manic list. Anyway, was good to get a great stake in the ground for what we all collectively think are the important players in the sector. Its this comment process that refines the list and that is actually more important than what we started with.
      Thanks. Alex

      • Kevin

        Thanks Alex. I have a feeling this will turn into quite a project for you.!!

  42. Dario Ambrosini

    Great post, Alex. Another company in the GDS Style category is ezRez Software. We power all search and booking functionality, including destination activities, for AA Vacations, JetBlue Getaways and AirAsiaGo. Our platform allows these airlines to access inventory from Grayline, TUI’s Hotelbeds and Viator, as well as their own proprietary offerings, such as lounge passes.

  43. Trevor Crist

    Hi Alex,
    You can add Inntopia to your list in the ‘GDS Style’ category. The Inntopia platform processed more than 250,000 (and growing) activity, event, ground shuttle and equipment rental reservations in the past year.

    Activity providers manage content, rates and availability through an extranet, or by direct connections into their back office system. Activities can be packaged with lodging and transportation, or sold individually. The Inntopia distribution network is made up of local and regional DMOs, as well as international tour operators.

    Stop by the Inntopia booth at ITB and introduce yourself!

  44. Luke Ford

    Excellent article Alex and overview of this space. Of course, great to see Gunyah up there, thanks. We have a lot to deliver in the next few months. One small correction, Gunyah is not a franchise-based model, we are simply a marketing/distribution platform for small tour operators, but do offer product exclusivity to try and bring about some control over the product offered.

    We really need to catch up for a beer or two at ITB. A few things i want to talk about re Gunyah/TourCMS.

    On another note, personally not a fan of TogFrog on your list… shooting a bazooka/AK-47 at a live cow in Cambodia, throwing things at Rhinos in Nepal. Honestly, I hate to be too opinionated here as we’re talking about technology, but this is down-right stupid and quite irresponsible in the general face of tourism.

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Luke
      Yes – interesting discussion on the cow rocket launcher debate. I presume that was an editorial decision they made to feature that video. Apparently its quite popular in Vietnam and a bit of a rite of passage for backpackers. Doesn’t make it right of course.

      I didn’t express any opinion by adding that as a link but was just making people more widely aware that that kind of experience is featured on that website. It is for that website to justify their editorial decisions.

      Don’t have a go at those shining a light but think about where the light is pointed!

      Yes- up for a beer at ITB 😉
      Cheers. Alex

      • Luke Ford

        For sure Alex, it is a nice site with video showing for each product, and they’re obviously filling a demand. See you soon.

  45. Chris Illingworth

    Interesting listing – GTA would be another player in this market.
    Selling in the wholesale/Retail market. Would fit in the transactional companies section – Approx 600K tours sold last year and over 300K transfers sold additionally.

  46. Gem Webb

    Wow, what a list. Thanks. Just gave 50 more things to do. lol Honestly, I appreciate the time it took you to compile such a thorough breakdown for all of us in the tourism industry.

  47. Greg Abbott

    a page to bookmark… Alex, thanks for sharing your wealth of insight into this rapidly growing market!

    • Alex Bainbridge

      I know more 😉 Just what I can publish! Messy sector, especially if the big US OTAs move away from day tours which are pretty dull really. We shall see…

  48. Ryan

    Great list, well put together.

    Might I suggest US-based Croft Global Travel under the multi-day tours. We specialize in authentic tours to Latin America and Europe. You can join one of our existing trips our let us custom plan a trip for your own group. The company mantra is “more like a local, less like tourist.” We prefer to see, eat and do things that locals do while distancing ourselves from cruises and all-inclusives.

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Ryan
      Great suggestion. Mainly we have focussed on product companies who do more than 100,000 pax a year – or those who are on at the distribution layer of the industry. There are many wonderful tour operators that we could list but are, for reasons of space, are not listed. Multi-day is tricky, I know that.
      Thank you

  49. Travis

    Alex, that’s quite a comprehensive list you’ve compiled there… good work on putting it together! Looking forward to meeting at ITB in a few days time…

    • Alex Bainbridge

      Alex Bainbridge

      Yes Travis, I am there at ITB. Hope you are coming to the Tnooz appy hour on Thursday evening or the responsible travel evening on Friday night…

  50. jay johnson

    I really enjoyed your list. That had to of taken some serious time putting it together. I’ll definitely use it in the future. If you get a chance, take a look at our company, Tafari. I would love to grt your feedback. Thanks again and have a great weekend. Jay Johnson


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