GetYourGuide Originals in the AI era
December 18th, 2023by Alex Bainbridge
If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the 2019 version of the GetYourGuide Originals would likely be in place providing 50% of GetYourGuide’s current net revenues, their IPO would have happened, the executive team would have retired to their Swiss lakefront homes, and everyone else would be scrambling to work out how to compete against the dominant tour operating model of the generation.
However, the story didn’t quite end that way. The pandemic hit all of us and GetYourGuide Originals has changed course, gone up market, now operating experiences that you really cant get anywhere else. No longer is it about operating mainstream tour based experiences, its about retailing unique but low volume attraction centric experiences. Probably better for their TV adverts, but not so great for supporting their valuation.
Why is this relevant now as we head into 2024?
For the 2019 version of the GYG Originals model to work as planned they must have expected to attain dominance in many markets (US & EU), operating guided tours in the GetYourGuide brand. This was likely to have lead to the “Starbucksification” of the sector, a product available everywhere (Starbucks is now available in 84 countries), delivering a consistently “good enough” customer experience but not transformative experiences as leading local tour operators like to say.
This same “Starbucksification” outcome is what is ahead of us as we look at AI operated experiences. (Although I believe it is possible to operate transformative experiences with AI, when combined in a hybrid approach including human tour guides).
Tech is naturally a centralising force with “winner takes all” the VC preferred, and likely, outcome. Expect to see a single AI tour guide platform dominating. If it is GetYourGuide that becomes the dominant AI tour guide platform, expect to see GetYourGuide branded tour experiences everywhere, just like their 2019 Originals vision. They haven’t announced this, yet, but it is inevitable that the leading OTA marketplaces introduce AI tour guides into their offerings in 2024/2025.
We must make all efforts to prevent this homogenous outcome as we collectively go through this AI initiated transition
As an AI tour guide tech platform provider [Autoura], my mindset is currently around these key pillars:
- Enable destination differentiation – we can’t have a global experience, we have to ensure a Seville experience is completely different to a New York experience
- Enable operator differentiation – two operators within a single destination should be empowered to compete with and differentiate from each other (no destination exclusives)
- Enable tour operators to trade directly – e.g. with my platform today ensuring that a booking can come from an OTA > rez tech > tour operator, rather than forcing all transaction revenue to come via the Autoura central legal entity
- Convincing non-GetYourGuide OTAs – that when they finally adopt the AI tour guide model, that they do it in such a way that keeps the above local differentiation in place
In rez tech, when I was in that sector, we could support multiple companies competing with each other easily. Our role was to serve tour operators and enable them to compete with each other at the consumer layer. Commercial issues barely came up, unlike for the B2B web design or marketing layers where supporting direct competitors was troublesome.
In AI based tour operating you can’t have 1000 tour operators with 1000 different consumer facing tech solutions, if we do that, GetYourGuide or someone else with a singular platform would become the prevalent force purely because consumers seek familiarity.
As a result some element of consumer facing shared tech is inevitable with AI tour operating. Just like when you watch a video on Youtube as a consumer, you know you are watching on the familiar surroundings of Youtube, but the reason you are there is because you care about the video creator and their content. Creators can (and must) be distinct from each other and be mostly responsible for building their own audiences. All Youtube commits is that when a consumer presses play, the tech will play the video and the most industry leading way possible. Plus some secondary exposure and great tools.
That’s the AI tour guiding model tour operators should support. Stay distinctive. Stay transformative. Stay away from OTAs if they announce homogenous AI tour guide plans.
In early 2024 catch me talking about this at
- Purposeful travel summit – Banff – 7-9 February
- Travel Trends AI summit – Virtual – 21/22 February
- Arival Berlin – 2-4 March – I am talking practical steps tour operators can take
- ITB Berlin – 5-7 March – in the Technology, Tours & Activities forum
Or see me pitch my vision at Phocuswright Conference last month (5 minutes):
Image: Bing AI / Dall-e-3
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