Does GetYourGuide get what their position in the future sightseeing sector is?

June 29th, 2024

by Alex Bainbridge

Why this question today?

In the last few weeks:

  • Google (Waymo) now open access in San Francisco with their robotaxis (i.e. available to tourists with no waiting list), becoming one of the largest growing US city based attractions and a significant sign of what is to come to all US cities in the next few years – Read the official announcement from Waymo
  • SoftBank invested over 1 billion USD in WayveRead the official press release
  • GetYourGuide bans all these products from their distribution platform – Read the coverage in PhocusWire

When GetYourGuide’s leading partner/competitor (Google) and their leading investor (SoftBank) are both going in the same direction, and it is the opposite direction to where GetYourGuide is strategically heading, this is blog post worthy, even on a Saturday morning.

What did GetYourGuide actually say?

From their email to suppliers (which I didn’t get, as we are not a GetYourGuide partner):

As part of our ongoing efforts to optimize our platform and offering, we have made the decision to remove certain categories, including:
– ‘Vehicle rentals without an associated tour/activity/driver’
– ‘Self or mobile-guided audio tours/exploration games/scavenger hunts’

i.e. GetYourGuide has just banned:

  • Autonomous vehicles (as they have no driver)
  • Self guided tours (presumably also AI tour guides)

What is going on exactly with this GYG decision?

YES its hard to deliver a tour experience digitally, super hard indeed. I have always said that its the first company to accept sub-par experiences at scale that wins the future, as we have to evolve through that. No one has yet.

YES these digital experiences are low value and cause issues when put in a side by side comparison with human operated tours. But best that you disrupt yourself than have someone else do it?

YES they are hard to integrate into the purchase flow as first people have to book on the online travel agent, then download an additional app from a third party platform, and this causes all sorts of customer service issues, branding issues etc.

YES these digital products can trigger app store rules for iOS / Android, meaning 20-30% shared with Apple or Google, which is difficult to justify if you as the online travel agent are presenting as the 30% distribution fee layer.

So a number of problems today. I get it.

However these experiences are:

  • personalised
  • scalable
  • on demand

And platform issues will evolve over time, we wont always be downloading apps to access AI tour guides.

There is also no doubt these experiences are the future.

For example see what Meta is doing with hologram glasses. In particular hardware example 2 (of 3) in this 1 minute video. Now all banned by GetYourGuide. X won’t embed any more so tap on the link like we did for 10 years 😉

Or see what Verne is bringing to Germany in 2026:

Now also banned by GetYourGuide.

I predict

  • decision will be reversed – e.g. now the default is set to no, they will quietly allow some back in over time
  • or this is in preparation for them launching their own AI tour guide platform

If neither is the case, no chance that GetYourGuide survive the transition to AI & AGI and have closed their overall corporate exit paths as who wants to acquire a loss making entity that has no future role in the sector?

They now have rejected suppliers who are taking them on the road to AI & AGI and other online travel agents will plug the distribution gap for those suppliers. The other online travel agents don’t know what they are doing with AI & AGI either, but they know enough to accept it is inevitable so have to work with suppliers helping them get there.

If I were SoftBank

If I were SoftBank and there are no other big plays here that are not public I would be asking why GetYourGuide are dismissing contributing to the wider SoftBank fund strategy & ambitions?

But as SoftBank are investing considerably more in other companies that are on their vision than they are investing in GetYourGuide, this is a minor wrinkle for SoftBank. The sightseeing sector can be sacrificed on the alter to win the leisure experience opportunity.

If I were GetYourGuide

  1. I would set a 5 year vision for what is the role of GetYourGuide within an AI & AGI context, including how they will work with AI agents which are imminent. I was on stage straight before Johannes Reck at Phocuswright last year in Fort Lauderdale so he should have caught this 5 minute presentation where I outlined the future industry structure that OTAs like GetYourGuide have to evolve to (see video below)
  2. From that vision, define requirements that digital experiences have to meet, including how they are personalised, how they are priced, how they are operated. They have done this exercise for reztech so can do similar for digital experiences
  3. Accept distribution of the experiences that meet these new stringent requirements

Now, as it happens, this would still, in 2024, mean binning the same products they binned today as audio tours do NOT currently fit within this new AI vision either due to lack of personalisation. BUT at least they would open the door for suppliers building product that GetYourGuide DO want and keep GetYourGuide still able to say their business model is going to be relevant in the AI & AGI era.

Further reading:

5 big themes for the AI tourism era after 2030. What IS the AI & AGI era that GetYourGuide are positioning for?

Now with 40+ commments over on LinkedIn


Image: OpenAI

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2 responses to “Does GetYourGuide get what their position in the future sightseeing sector is?”

  1. Jan Koch says:

    Alex, you are on the forefront of discovery. Yes, AI and Waymo et al are disruptor. BUT tourism at large happens worldwide and in many developing nations ie Latin Ameria, Africa etc. It will be decades (??) before the local infrastructure/technology catches up with our/your vision of AI. There will be many course corrections for the industry and GYG will have many chances to adjust their planning. Tourism is ultimately about people experiences. I see such need for tourists globally to connect on a local level with…well, locals. There are masses who still believe that using online payments are not safe (Europe: Data/privacy) or electricity cars will ‘never happen’ and are just ‘a fad'(my current hometown in the sticks of AZ). While I absolutely agree that GYG eventually will need to integrate AI/VR etc I think the tourism industry will benefit from more global demand and more choices everywhere but it is still a net increase overall. Please keep reporting because, as agreed, there is a huge opportunity to integrate. For now, my GYG experience in April at El Yunque PR will be safe. Long live the local guides and operators…for now.

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